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Moderatus' Three Ones

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  • vaeringjar
    Recently I have been curious about the passage in Simplicius in Phys. 230.34 ff which includes one of the few substantial fragments of Moderatus, reported by
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 23, 2007
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      Recently I have been curious about the passage in Simplicius in Phys.
      230.34 ff which includes one of the few substantial fragments of
      Moderatus, reported by Porphyry, and was the subject of E.R. Dodds'
      well known article in CQ of 1928. Here is the portion of the passage
      that interests me the most, in Prof Dillon's translation in Middle
      Platonists (p.347):

      "It seems that this opinion concerning Matter was held first among
      Greeks by the Pythagoreans, and after them by Plato, as indeed
      Moderatus tells us. For he (sc. Plato), following the Pythagoreans,
      declares that the first One is above Being and all essence, while the
      second One - which is the 'truly existent' (ontos on) and the object
      of intellection (noeton) - he says is the Forms; the third - which is
      the soul-realm (psychikon) - participates (metechei) in The One and
      the Forms, while the lowest nature which comes after it, that of the
      sense-realm, does not even participate, but receives order by
      reflection (kat-emphasin) from those others, Matter in the sense-
      realm being a shadow cast by Not-Being as it manifests itself
      primally in Quantity, and which is of a degree inferior even to that."

      And Simplicius continues with a fairly long direct quotation of
      Porphyry on Matter. Dodds and others have covered many of the
      difficulties of this text, including how much is from Porphyry and
      how much is from Moderatus, and the antecedent of "he" in the second
      sentence. Dodds' interpreted the three Ones as deriving from the
      first three hypotheses of the Parmenides in that same article, and it
      is on that subject that I have been concentrating.

      As much as Dodds is one of my idols, I rather think - quite
      arrogantly, I admit! - that there is another basis for Moderatus'
      original formulation here. Yes, I do think it's quite reasonable and
      natural to relate these three Ones to the Parmenides in that fashion,
      and Prof Tarrant has applied this same reasoning I think in a really
      fascinating and perspicacious way to this same passage in his book on
      Thrasyllus, which helped me a great deal in studying this passage.
      But I think the original intent was purely Pythagorean, and some help
      for my view I found in Festugiere's comments in Revelation IV pp.18-
      31, and in another, much later Neoplatonist, oddly enough, Hierocles
      in his Commentary on the Golden Verses.

      First, as Prof Dillon points out, there are really 4 levels here
      under discussion, the three Ones and then the sense-realm,
      the "lowest nature" ("teleutaian physin"). It was in part that 4th
      level which made me wonder about this passage and particularly the
      use of that term "kata emphasin", which I don't think has gotten too
      much notice in the secondary scholarship, or at least not what I have
      been able to read. (One recent article, by Christian Tornau, "Die
      Prinzipienlehre des Moderatos von Gades. Zu Simplikios in Ph. 230,34-
      231,24 Diels", Rheinisches Museum für Philologie, N.F. 143, 2000, 197-
      220, is most interesting but not of any particular help to the points
      I am making here.) Hierocles in Chapter XX of the Commentary
      addresses the Pythagorean oath of the Tetraktys, and comments at
      length on the importance of the tetrad, which he even sees as a
      demiurgic god. In describing its crucial position in the decad and
      its geometric importance as the first solid as the four points of the
      pyramid, Hierocles writes, "Also, the first implicit trace of
      solidity is found in the tetrad; the point is equivalent to the
      monad, the line to the dyad...the surface belongs to the triad..."
      (Schibli's translation, p.280) The phrase "first implicit trace" is
      Schibli's translation of "prote emphasis", and he has an extensive
      note on the term emphasis, same as is found in Moderatus, both used
      of the level of the sense-realm. A look in LSJ does not reveal too
      much about the term, but Schibli refers to Dodd's notes on the use of
      the term, fairly extensively, in Proclus' E.T., who in turn cites in
      general its much earler use in Philo and Plotinus with the same
      meaning of reflection or impression in a lower order of an element of
      a higher order. Unfortunately, Dodds nor the LSJ gives an exact
      citation for Philo; his usage would appear to be the earliest extant,
      and it would be very useful to know exactly how Philo used the term
      and if it was in a context influenced by any Neopythagoreans, thus
      putting the usage perhaps in the same arena as that of Moderatus.

      Schibli does note the term's later usage in Hierocles, in Chapter
      XXIII, very like to a passage in Plotinus IV.4.13.19-21, which
      Schibli quotes, where Plotinus uses the verb form of emphasis in his
      discussion of Intellect and Nature and the difference between the
      two: "But how will intelligence of this kind differ from what we call
      nature? It differs in that intelligence is primary, but nature is
      last and lowest (eschaton). For nature is an image of intelligence."
      (IV.4.13.1-3)...but intellect itself is origin and activity which
      comes from the active principle itself. Intellect, then, possesses,
      and the Soul of All receives from it for ever and had always
      received, and this is its life, and what appears at each successive
      time is its consciousness as it thinks; and that which is reflected
      (emphantasthen) from it into matter is nature, in which, or indeed
      before it, the real beings come to a stop, and these are the last and
      lowest realities of the intelligible world: for what comes at this
      point is imitation." IV.4.13.15-19. (Armstrong's translation)

      I think the similarity with the Moderatus fragment of this last is
      quite striking, and Schibli also refers in the same context of the
      usage of emphasis in Chap. XXIII (p.291) to Proclus ET Prop. 140, on
      how the "powers of the gods" extend down as far as possible, "to the
      uttermost existents (ton teleutaion); and hence it is that even in
      these appear reflections (emphaseis) of the first principles."

      What of the three Ones? I think Festugiere sums up what I think is
      the proper view of them in Moderatus very nicely on p.31 of
      Revelation IV, in Chapter II, "L'un transcendant aux nombres", in
      which he considers not only this passage of Moderatus above but also
      relevant ones in Eudorus and Philo: "On obtient en effet une
      hierarchie de trois "hen": l'Un principe universel (arche); l'Un
      stoicheion oppose a la Dyade indeterminee; l'un numerique racine des
      nombres. C'est de cette elaboration que temoigne Eudore." But I would
      say the hierarchy is also the one set out by Moderatus above, whose
      first one, just as that of Eudorus', is above being, the second
      likely that of the One that is the One of the One and the Infinite
      Dyad, and then the third, the one of third level, the first counting
      and also of soul as the third member. These three ones along with the
      fourth level, the tetrad commented upon by Hierocles in language
      describing the fourth level so similarly as what is found in
      Moderatus, are a sort of expansion or explication, I think, of the

      This I would put forth as more likely the original intent of
      Moderatus, though given the nature of the text in its third(fourth?)-
      handedness, I would be the first to admit it can be easily
      challenged, especially since we can't be sure how much of this is
      Porphyry. I rather suspect the relative and explanatory clauses on
      the three ones are glosses or whatever from Porphyry, but also we
      can't be certain that the term emphasis originated with Moderatus
      either, so that my linking to Hierocles may be falsely based, if the
      term is Porphyry's addition and not to be found in by Moderatus'
      original text, though the concept could still have been Moderatus'
      usage if not the exact terminology, I think. I may also be putting
      too much weight on that same term even if it is original as unusual
      enough to create a link to Hierocles.

      So I will quit now, as this is already long enough, and would
      definitely like to hear from others their opinions and criticisms of
      this idea.

      Dennis Clark
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