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1857Re: [neoplatonism] Re: What's the fuss all about ?

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  • Michael Chase
    Oct 1, 2007
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      On Sep 30, 2007, at 8:58 PM, Bob Wallace wrote:

      > Dear Mike,
      > You wrote:
      > >
      > > The Aristotelian answer would be that the universe is such that
      > >when a thing reaches its perfection, it
      > >reproduces/engenders/creates/shares its goodness. The supreme
      > principle
      > >is perfect, therefore it reproduces/engenders/creates/shares its
      > >goodness. I'm not sure whether this is a metaphor or rather an
      > analogy.
      > >If one were to continue the chain of Why-questions and ask, Why is
      > the
      > >universe such that this is the case ? I suspect both Aristotle and
      > >Plotinus would either find the question not worth answering, or else
      > >simply point to the ultimate principle of teleology : because it is
      > >best for the universe to be full of the widest possible variety of
      > >forms. This is Lovejoy's "principle of plenitude", in IMHO it's still
      > >hard to beat his exposition (The Great Chain of Being, pp. 62ff. of
      > the
      > >1976 reprinting).
      > Here is a probably ignorant question: Where does Aristotle say that
      > the supreme principle reproduces/engenders/creates/shares its
      > goodness? Are we supposed to infer this from the fact that he says
      > God is alive?

      M.C. Far from being ignorant, it opens a huge can of worms and shows me
      I spoke too quickly and/or carelessly.

      Clearly, there is no anthropomorphic Supreme Deity in Aristotle who
      might be ascribed intentions such as "sharing goodness" : I simply [?]
      meant that Plotinus took over Aristotle's biologically-based scheme
      (that which is perfect/fully developed reproduces) and applied it,
      mutatis mutandis, to his own First Principle.

      Aristotle was no creationist, of course, and the closest one comes to
      the idea of a Supreme Being in his thought is that of the Unmoved
      Mover. But what precisely the Unmoved Mover *does* has never been fully
      clear, even after more than 2000 years. Current scholarship (Kahn,
      Broadie, Berti, Bradshaw) has tended to attribute to it final and
      perhaps even efficient causality; others disagree (Natali).

      > (In Plato, I take it, the supreme citation is Timaeus 29e: "being
      > free of jealousy, [the demiurge] wanted everything to become as much
      > like himself as was possible." What you've been discussing is, in
      > effect, why would the demiurge want this?

      M.C. I guess so. In the part of my message that the internet *daimones*
      refused to transmit, I argued that this is one of the main Platonic
      arguments for creation. It works by reductio : if the Demiurge did not
      create, it would be becuase he is jealous. But he is not jealous.
      Therefore he creates (in a non-temporal sense, of course).
      > There's also the very positively tinged discussion of "birth in
      > beauty," in the Symposium, culminating in the possibility of "giving
      > birth to true virtue" (212a). [Are there other passages in Plato that
      > I should be thinking of?])

      M.C. You're absolutely right that the ancestors of what I've called
      the "Aristotelian" conception are already present in nuce in Plato. The
      Symposium is indeed the key dialogue here, but see also, for instance,
      Phaedrus 251a, Theaetetus 150b, Timaeus 91a.

      > It's been a long time since I looked at Lovejoy. I'll do so as soon
      > as I can. If you can clarify the Aristotle question in the meantime,
      > I'd appreciate it.

      M.C. Not sure the above will do the trick, but it's the best I can do
      before breakfast.

      Best, Mike.

      Michael Chase
      CNRS UPR 76
      7, rue Guy Moquet
      Villejuif 94801
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