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Re: Damascius on Iamblichus

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  • vaeringjar
    ... Damascius is ... Porphyry -- ... needs to bear ... lowest element ... lower, taken ... Unlimited, ... is also ... with four ... Yes, thanks, I do
    Message 1 of 3 , Jul 26, 2006
      --- In neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com, John Dilon <jmdillon@...> wrote:

      > Dennis -- you are right to lodge a complaint, I think, as
      Damascius is
      > probably over-simplifying, and working to set up a contrast with
      Porphyry --
      > whom he also somewhat oversimplifying, no doubt. One thing one
      needs to bear
      > in mind, though, if I am right, is that, for Iamblichus, the
      lowest element
      > in a higher hypostasis is also the highest element in the next
      lower, taken
      > from a different perspective -- so the 'mixture' of Limit and
      > while being on the one hand, I think the sum-total of the henads,
      is also
      > the monad of the noetic world. OK? Other than that, one is left
      with four
      > principles, the first, however, being totally ineffable! JMD

      Yes, thanks, I do understand those nuances, and have read your
      latest article on the henads in Iamblichus, and I don't see,
      especially given that neat evidence from the Psellus excerpts on
      theological numbers, that anyone can easily counter your argument.

      I went back and looked at Damascius' Greek again, and noticed some
      things which I think are significant. Damascius does indeed always
      refer to the four elements each as "arche" in the text, so there is
      consistency of nomenclature there, no differing terms for any of
      them that might let us distinguish one or the other as not true
      moments of the first hypostasis; so they are four for sure, it

      But in the very beginning of the passage, in 43, where he talks of
      two principles (and not four), he actually does so by naming the
      first two right off, the Ineffable One and the Simple One, the
      latter as asyntaktos, which as you know is used not only
      consistently by Damascius but Proclus too to refer to this Simple
      One of Iamblichus. So it really isn't that he is saying only two,
      rather there isn't just one, but there are these two, these FIRST
      two. I think it's just his way of laying out his exposition of this
      whole issue. I am probably not getting this across actually as well
      as his Greek (!), but I think he is just working his way up the
      line, as it were, because later on he is going to say almost the
      equivalent of, oh, by the way, here are two more "archai", the dyad
      and the One Existent. If he hadn't named the first two explicitly,
      then I think the apparent inconsistency would be stronger. Also he
      didn't actually say, there are ONLY two, he just says two.

      As for the apparent contradiction with 4 elements rather than the
      expected 3 for the Iamblichean Unparticipated/In Participation/Mixed
      and Shared with next hypostasis down triad, I missed what must be
      the key phrase: in section 50 Damascius describes the Dyad of
      Limited and Unlimited and the One Existent as "tou henos ontos kai
      en autoi dyadikes physeos ton stoicheion". So that "en autoi" is
      telling; he sees the Limited and Unlimited in one way as an arche,
      but definitely inherent (as you translated it! I missed that too) in
      the One Existent. Also obviously even Neoplatonists can reach for
      words when trying to describe these technical matters, and not
      always find exactly what they need, and so it may be that "arche"
      has to suffice for both elements. So in real terms, viewed certainly
      functionally, there are really the expected three moments, with
      Limit and Unlimited inherent in the One Existent.

      But, as you have argued, with this implicit limiting of the One
      Existent, using as you say the Simple One as the paradigm, is that
      One Existent not also a henad by another name?

      Two points contra Saffrey-Westerink's objection to Iamblichus having
      originated the henads. First off, it's clear that Proclus says that
      Iamblichus put god and the gods into the First Hypothesis, and they
      do not argue that is not the case. Granted that point then, quite
      simply, stepping back from the texts and all the arguments con, just
      how else would Iamblichus accomodate multiple entities of the same
      type at the same, highest level, i.e. the first hypostasis, other
      than with a henad? What else would easily fit the realm of the One
      than One(s) if multiples are required, gods to God as henads to the
      Hen, as it were?

      Only one other point, and that is a little more complex but I think
      interesting and helpful, though I may be wrong. In the first
      propositions of Proclus' ET on the henads, 113 through 116, it seems
      to me that he offers more supporting evidence for your view,
      although I have to say I think it also flatly contradicts what he
      says in his Parm. commentary, regardless of what help it may or may
      not offer your position. I will just give Dodds' translation here,
      to keep it simple. In 114 he claims that gods are self-complete
      henads (self-complete being defined in 64), and says "for qua henad
      it [god] is most closely and especially akin to the One, and qua
      self-complete, to the Good." In 115 the heading is "Every god is
      above Being, above Life, and above Intelligence"; now where else
      would that place the gods but in the realm of the One? He says also
      in this proposition, "Again, if the First Principle transcend Being,
      then since every god qua god, is of the order of that Principle
      (prop. 103), it follows that all of them must transcend Being."
      Further on in that same proposition, "if, then, the primal Godhead
      transcends Being, all the other gods will resemble it in this

      The clincher then, I think, which places the gods as henads on the
      level of the One Existent, which is "kata methexin" as you have
      argued, is the next proposition, 116. Its heading reads "Every god
      is participle [methektos], except the One." This proposition
      includes the following: "For in the first place it is clear that the
      One is imparticipable...That with the other henads we reach the
      participable, we shall prove as follows...What is self-complete will
      then be this unity whereby it is linked to the One itself, so that
      once more the god, qua god, will be this component (prop. 114),
      while that which came into existence as not-one exists as one by
      participation in the unity. Therefore every henad posterior to the
      One is participable; and every god is thus participable."

      Thus gods appear here to be in the realm of the One, since they
      transcend Being, Intellect, and Life, and they are participable, so
      they are also at the level of the One Existent. This may not be
      a "smoking gun", but it seems to me at least to bring us awefully

      So, on the one hand, if you put the passage in the Parm commentary
      on Iamblichus' gods at the first hypothesis together here with what
      Proclus says about divine henads, then unless Proclus (or Syrianus?)
      has gone off in some completely different direction regarding divine
      nature, you also have henads that must equate to Iamblichus' view of
      gods, as indeed henads as here described. The fact that they
      are "methektoi" fits in very nicely with the main argument of your
      last article contra Saffrey's and Westerink's objection.

      But why then, given these passages, does Proclus have a problem with
      gods being included in the first hypothesis? Isn't this quite

      This is long enough, obviously, and I better stop now.

      Dennis Clark
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