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  • vaeringjar
    I just wanted to bring to the attention of the group a book I have been working my way through recently, which might not normally appear on the Neoplatonist
    Message 1 of 11 , Jul 20, 2003
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      I just wanted to bring to the attention of the group a book I have
      been working my way through recently, which might not normally appear
      on the Neoplatonist radar - it's called <Nature Loves to Hide>, by
      Shimon Malin (Oxford, 2001). Prof. Malin is an expert in Quantum
      Mechanics and teaches Physics at Colgate University.

      For some time, in my own amateur way while studying Neoplatonism, I
      have had a strong intuition that its ontology, specifically the
      concept of the One and all that entails, is fundamentally in
      agreement with modern physics at its basic level. I have not thought
      this at all thoroughly, and most likely am not qualified to do so
      effectively, but nonetheless I have this intuition, albeit merely
      that, intuition. And I had always wondered if any qualified scholar
      had pursued this notion.

      Malin's book is indeed such a study, at least from the perspective of
      a physicist, concentrating mostly on Plotinus on the philosophical
      side, but also Alfred Whitehead, and on the scientific side, on
      Heisenberg and Schroedinger, both of whom by the way wrote
      fascinating essays and books which try to find a common ground
      between modern advanced physics and philosophy. Malin in fact
      strongly advocates the modern relevance of Platonism, reproducing the
      famous quote of Russell - or Whitehead, who was it really? - that all
      philosophy is really a footnote to Plato. I actually would say
      Parmenides, but that is another discussion.

      I would like to post more on this later after I have finished the
      book, but I just wanted to see if anyone else had read this yet. It
      is fortunately (for those of us who only got through basic college
      physics) intended for the layman audience on the physics side, and
      Malin uses a number of literary devices to explain the basics of
      quantum physics, relativity, etc. He also includes some intriguing
      biographical points about Bohr, Einstein, and Heisenberg; for
      instance, how one day Heisenberg was lying in the sun on top of a
      government building in Munich after the revolution there in 1919, in
      which he served as a soldier. He was bored on duty and wanted to get
      away for a while and read Plato. He got into the Timaeus, and then
      found his thought radically and unexpectedly changed, in ways which
      he considered crucial to the development of his later theories in
      physics. Another link perhaps in the Great Chain of Being?


      Dennis Clark
      San Francisco
    • Giannis Stamatellos
      Dear Dennis, I think that you mention a very interesting issue; especially with regard to the connection between the Neoplatonic One and modern Physics. In my
      Message 2 of 11 , Jul 26, 2003
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        Dear Dennis,

        I think that you mention a very interesting issue;
        especially with regard to the connection between the
        Neoplatonic One and modern Physics. In my view, this
        can be justified by the fact that the Neoplatonic One
        and more clearly the Plotinian One presents some
        Presocratic properties, which are somehow accepted by
        modern physicists. It is noteworthy that Plotinus
        himself in Enn V.1 ch. 8 refers to Parmenides' One as
        a predicate of Being (cf. also VI.6.18) and in ch. 9
        to Heraclitus, Empedocles and Anaxagoras on the One
        and the unity of Being (currently I am working on
        Plotinus and the Presocratics in my doctoral thesis).
        In the light of these direct references Plotinus
        accepts the originality of the Presocratic One and by
        bringing together the idea of the Platonic Good
        (particularly in VI.9) he seems to establish a new
        radical conception, that of the One as a supreme
        principle of everything beyond being and intelligence.
        Thus, since the Presocratic idea of the One related
        either to the 'oneness of being' or to the 'unity
        beyond plurality' survives in the Neoplatonic
        tradition then the whole concept of the One that
        influences modern Physics and especially Quantum
        Theory is apparent in Greek philosophical tradition. I
        do not know if the Heraclitean title of Shimon Malin�
        book is another evidence towards this position.

        Giannis Stamatellos
        Doct. Cand. UCW


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      • bradley Skene
        I heard a lecture once along simialr lines, about how many members of the Israeli Physics community were keen on synthesizing the outer limits of physics with
        Message 3 of 11 , Jul 26, 2003
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          I heard a lecture once along simialr lines, about how many members of the Israeli Physics community were keen on synthesizing the outer limits of physics with the Neoplatonism ofthe Kabbalah. However, I thought then and have not had reason to change my mind, that this is because of a basic lingusitic problem. When the basic premises of Astrophysics or Quantum mechanics are expressed in English, they assume a form that seems reconcilable with philosophy, with, as you say, the thought of the PreSocratics or the Neoplatonists. But it seems to me that this is an effect of translation. The proper language of physics is mathematics. Physicists, after all, work in mathematical terms, not in vernacualr languages, and their ideas cannot be expressed but only approximated in any other form. The thought of Parmeindes or Plotinus, on the other hand, cannot be translated into mathematical terms. So I would say that any percieved convergence of Physics and Philosophy must be an illusion caused by
          the limits of the human intellecutal process. After all, Plotinus would not have have accepted the propositions of either sub-atomic particles (or atoms for that matter) or an infinite universe, so it is hard to see how he could have been finding the same sorts of truth as physicists who do accept those propositions.

          Cheers,

          Malkhos

          Giannis Stamatellos <gstamap@...> wrote:
          Dear Dennis,

          I think that you mention a very interesting issue;
          especially with regard to the connection between the
          Neoplatonic One and modern Physics. In my view, this
          can be justified by the fact that the Neoplatonic One
          and more clearly the Plotinian One presents some
          Presocratic properties, which are somehow accepted by
          modern physicists. It is noteworthy that Plotinus
          himself in Enn V.1 ch. 8 refers to Parmenides' One as
          a predicate of Being (cf. also VI.6.18) and in ch. 9
          to Heraclitus, Empedocles and Anaxagoras on the One
          and the unity of Being (currently I am working on
          Plotinus and the Presocratics in my doctoral thesis).
          In the light of these direct references Plotinus
          accepts the originality of the Presocratic One and by
          bringing together the idea of the Platonic Good
          (particularly in VI.9) he seems to establish a new
          radical conception, that of the One as a supreme
          principle of everything beyond being and intelligence.
          Thus, since the Presocratic idea of the One related
          either to the 'oneness of being' or to the 'unity
          beyond plurality' survives in the Neoplatonic
          tradition then the whole concept of the One that
          influences modern Physics and especially Quantum
          Theory is apparent in Greek philosophical tradition. I
          do not know if the Heraclitean title of Shimon Malin�
          book is another evidence towards this position.

          Giannis Stamatellos
          Doct. Cand. UCW


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        • Malcolm Schosha
          Kabbalah is NOT Neoplatonism. Your conclusion may be correct, but do not asume your understanding of Neoplatonism gives you a basis for understanding Kabbalah.
          Message 4 of 11 , Jul 26, 2003
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            Kabbalah is NOT Neoplatonism. Your conclusion may be correct, but do not asume your understanding of Neoplatonism gives you a basis for understanding Kabbalah.
            Malcolm
          • ytl
            Some brief comments: (1) Physics and Neoplatonism. Yes, mathematics is the language of physics. However, it is a fact that all of the major physicists of the
            Message 5 of 11 , Jul 26, 2003
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              Some brief comments:

              (1) Physics and Neoplatonism. Yes, mathematics is the language of physics.
              However, it is a fact that all of the major physicists of the 20th century,
              from Einstein down, and many minor ones, felt the need to explain their
              findings in non-mathematical terms. I have nearly a whole shelf of such
              books. Some of their attempts necessarily are or at least sound
              philosophical.

              (2) Kabbalah and Neoplatonism. Yes, the kabbalah is not neoplatonism; but
              the "origins" of the kabbalah are said to lie, inter alia, in neoplatonism.
              Moreover, the trend in scholarship to search mainly or exclusively for
              "sources" only reinforces the bonds that are drawn between kabbalah and
              neoplatonism. But this is not all. Consider this remark, from the hand of
              Gershom Scholem himself, writing of the German pietists (hasidei Ashkenaz),
              in his Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, Schocken paperback, p. 115: "...
              the highest of the five worlds of the spirit--a half gnostic, half
              Neoplatonic conception borrowed from Abraham bar Hiyya, an early twelfth
              century writer in Northern Spain who belonged to the Neoplatonic school."
              Can anyone tell me what half gnostic, half Neoplatonic means? What would
              Plotnius have thought of this?

              Tzvi Langermann
              Dept of Arabic
              Bar Ilan University
              Ramat Gan, ISRAEL
              tel: 972-2-673-7837
              fax: 972-2-673-3480
            • Malcolm Schosha
              Tzvi, Gershom Scholem was a scholar of the history of Kabbalah, he was not a kabbalist. Few traditional kabbalists would credit much to his understanding of
              Message 6 of 11 , Jul 27, 2003
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                Tzvi,

                Gershom Scholem was a scholar of the history of Kabbalah, he was not a kabbalist. Few traditional kabbalists would credit much to his understanding of the subject. Although it is certain that some similarities can be found, the differences are very substantial. A reading of, for instance, Yehudah Ashlag; or any of the earlier important kabbalistic writers would make this clear just how great the differences are.

                Malcolm
                .....................................................................................................

                ytl <ytl@...> wrote:

                (2) Kabbalah and Neoplatonism. Yes, the kabbalah is not neoplatonism; but
                the "origins" of the kabbalah are said to lie, inter alia, in neoplatonism.
                Moreover, the trend in scholarship to search mainly or exclusively for
                "sources" only reinforces the bonds that are drawn between kabbalah and
                neoplatonism. But this is not all. Consider this remark, from the hand of
                Gershom Scholem himself, writing of the German pietists (hasidei Ashkenaz),
                in his Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, Schocken paperback, p. 115: "...
                the highest of the five worlds of the spirit--a half gnostic, half
                Neoplatonic conception borrowed from Abraham bar Hiyya, an early twelfth
                century writer in Northern Spain who belonged to the Neoplatonic school."
                Can anyone tell me what half gnostic, half Neoplatonic means? What would
                Plotnius have thought of this?

                Tzvi Langermann
                Dept of Arabic
                Bar Ilan University
                Ramat Gan, ISRAEL
                tel: 972-2-673-7837
                fax: 972-2-673-3480



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              • ytl
                Yehudah Ashlag was a twentieth-century kabbalist. Does that make him early? Perhaps for my kids, who were born in 2000. This is taking us off the topic of the
                Message 7 of 11 , Jul 27, 2003
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                  Yehudah Ashlag was a twentieth-century kabbalist. Does that make him early?
                  Perhaps for my kids, who were born in 2000. This is taking us off the topic
                  of the list--but I'll add a few brief points that should be relevant to the
                  list:

                  1. The perennial problem of practitioners vs. scholars. For neoplatonism,
                  Thomas Taylor is perhaps the prime example. Henri Corbin is another one.

                  2. Forgive me for a personal recollection. For some 15 years I worked at the
                  JNUL, Jerusalem, cataloguing microfilmed manuscripts. From time to time (and
                  it still happens) I would get calls from people who wanted to show me "very
                  old" manuscripts; almost invariably these were 19th century or later. In
                  fact I've found unique copies of early medieval texts in twentieth century
                  hands, but that's the exception. I suppose for perennial philosophers the
                  point is moot anyway.

                  Tzvi Langermann
                  Dept of Arabic
                  Bar Ilan University
                  Ramat Gan, ISRAEL
                  tel: 972-2-673-7837
                  fax: 972-2-673-3480
                • Malcolm Schosha
                  I did not say he was early. As I recall I had an and in the sentence. I mentioned Ashlag because he really was a kabbalist, and was a contemporary of Gershom
                  Message 8 of 11 , Jul 27, 2003
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                    I did not say he was early. As I recall I had an 'and' in the sentence. I mentioned Ashlag because he really was a kabbalist, and was a contemporary of Gershom Scholem (who was not a kabbalist, but a historian.)

                    Malcolm
                    ..........................................................................................

                    ytl <ytl@...> wrote:
                    Yehudah Ashlag was a twentieth-century kabbalist. Does that make him early?



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                  • vaeringjar
                    Dear Giannis, Thanks for the kind remarks - Malin indeed is quoting Heraclitus, on the first page of the Introduction to his book, p.xi, and goes on to write
                    Message 9 of 11 , Jul 27, 2003
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                      Dear Giannis,

                      Thanks for the kind remarks - Malin indeed is quoting Heraclitus, on
                      the first page of the Introduction to his book, p.xi, and goes on to
                      write in the next paragraph:

                      "'Nature loves to hide.' This statement resonates in us, as it did in
                      the ancient Greeks. Behind the display of phenomena there is a hidden
                      reality. But what is this hidden reality? What is its relationship
                      with the sensory world? Do we have a world-view that can encompass
                      both the hidden and manifest aspects of nature?"

                      I have almost finished this book now, and in some ways it has proved
                      to be disappointing to me personally, because Malin does not tie
                      modern physics and Neoplatonistic ontology together directly in any
                      grand and cohesive way. Rather he introduces Plotinus near the end of
                      the book more in support of his epistemological argument, in
                      conjunction with Schroedinger's 'principle of objectification,' which
                      he rightly sees as the reigning principle of modern science - that
                      the observer can step back as if totally separate from the object of
                      observation, and place himself outside the rules of the universe, in
                      order to make judgements about those rules and laws. Malin
                      nevertheless does have some very interesting things to say about
                      matter and form and the nature of reality (p.204):

                      "As we probe deeper into this idea that the actualization of
                      potentialities is the interface between the eternal and the time-
                      bound, the parallels between Plotinus' view ['experiencing the Nous
                      as the source of the phenomena of Nature'] and the view introduced by
                      quantum physics become truly surprising. First...for Plotinus matter
                      is not; it has the 'being of non-being.' This is in full agreement
                      with Schroedinger's statement:

                      The habit of everyday language deceives us and seems to require,
                      whenever we hear the word 'shape' or 'form' pronounced, that it
                      must be the shape or form of something, that a material substratum
                      is required to take on a shape...But when you come to the ultimate
                      particles constituting matter, there seems to be no point in
                      thinking of them again as consisting of some material. They are,
                      as it were, pure shape, nothing but shape.

                      Second and even more remarkable for Plotinus matter is not only that
                      which is not, it is also the expression of pure chance, pure
                      randomness, the absence of order. Order comes from the Intelligible
                      realm; the order that is found in the sensible world is due to the
                      presence of Nous; matter, 'the last of the Forms,' is the negation of
                      intelligibility and the negation of order. The framework of quantum
                      mechanics is in full accord with this perspective. The appearance of
                      an elementary quantum event as a result of a collapse is ruled by
                      both randomness and order. The events are random, but...the
                      randomness is subject to [orderly] probability distributions...They
                      are determined precisely by wave equations, such as Schroedinger's
                      equation. Since wave equations are expressions of laws of nature,
                      they are perfectly ordered and fully determined, as befits the
                      noumenal realm."

                      Sorry for the length of the quote, but this is a key passage in the
                      book I think and shows how closely and neatly Malin argues how
                      suggestively similar the Plotinian and Quantum world-views appear to
                      be. (What I don't believe he ever specifically alludes to that is
                      also a very fertile area of comparison is Plato's view of matter as a
                      receptacle in the Timaeus, etc., although of course we are in the
                      same arena with Plotinus' view.) So there is indeed much here and all
                      very well written, that I find responds to my desire to tie the two
                      together, even if not as comprehensively as I would like - and likely
                      I would go too far with that desire, and as I have said need to think
                      it out much more.

                      I will just throw out a couple of questions - can we think of what
                      science calls energy as the One? And with Schroedinger's principle of
                      objectification in mind, ask how can we ever truly know anything
                      beyond the formal (if not the Forms), if we are all a part of that
                      One, as just in fact science and quantum mechanics now tells us, that
                      we all, mind and body, are myriads of almost infinitesimal
                      declensions of that One energy collapsing or declining or
                      intersecting into that physical time-bound universe we normally
                      consider reality?

                      Dennis Clark
                      San Francisco
                    • vaeringjar
                      ... This part of your post reminded me of another (thoroughly untested) thought that came to me recently - as anyone ever interpreted the second part of
                      Message 10 of 11 , Jul 27, 2003
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                        --- In neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com, Giannis Stamatellos
                        <gstamap@y...> wrote:
                        > In the light of these direct references Plotinus
                        > accepts the originality of the Presocratic One and by
                        > bringing together the idea of the Platonic Good
                        > (particularly in VI.9) he seems to establish a new
                        > radical conception, that of the One as a supreme
                        > principle of everything beyond being and intelligence.
                        > Thus, since the Presocratic idea of the One related
                        > either to the 'oneness of being' or to the 'unity
                        > beyond plurality' survives in the Neoplatonic
                        > tradition >
                        > Giannis Stamatellos
                        > Doct. Cand. UCW
                        >

                        This part of your post reminded me of another (thoroughly untested)
                        thought that came to me recently - as anyone ever interpreted the
                        second part of Parmenides' poem as referring to what Plato called the
                        Infinite Dyad (if you accept the Unwritten Doctrines) or Speusippus
                        as Plethos?

                        I am not clear on Parmenides' relationship, if any at all, to the
                        Pythagoreans, but if you view the poem in a Pythagorean light, and
                        the first part of poem is clearly about the one as true and single
                        reality, then would it be reasonable to interpret the opposing way as
                        the way of multitude, the infinite splitting of that one into
                        reality? The way of seeming - but that's what we think of reality
                        normally in our everyday life. Again, just a thought.

                        Dennis Clark
                        San Francisco
                      • Giannis Stamatellos
                        Dear Dennis, Firstly, with regard to the idea of plurality in Parmenides poem, Plotinus criticizes the Eleatic at V.1.8.23-25 for saying, on the one hand,
                        Message 11 of 11 , Jul 28, 2003
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                          Dear Dennis,

                          Firstly, with regard to the idea of plurality in
                          Parmenides' poem, Plotinus criticizes the Eleatic at
                          V.1.8.23-25 for saying, on the one hand, that the
                          Being is One (en) and, on the other, that this One
                          discovered in Parmenides' writings to be Many (polla).
                          The plurality that Plotinus refers here is not the
                          plurality of the second part of Parmenides' poem (Day
                          - Night) but the plurality of the 'sings' (semata) in
                          fr. 8. On this, Plotinus correctly distinguishes in
                          V.1.8-9 between the One as a property of Being in
                          Parmenides and the One as a unity of Being in
                          Heraclitus, Empedocles and Anaxagoras. For this
                          reason, Plotinus identifies Parmenides' One with his
                          Intellect as One-Many and not with the supreme One. On
                          this basis, there is a possible connection to the
                          Indefinite Dyad. Plotinus at the end of V.1.8 speaks
                          clearly on Plato's Parmenides and the clarification
                          between the One, the Intellect (One-Many) and the Soul
                          (One and Many). Finally, another issue that arises
                          from these passages is the direct reference of
                          Plotinus to Parmenides works (en tois eautou
                          suggramasin). This testimony brings again in light the
                          discussion of the Presocratic sources in late
                          antiquity.

                          Secondly, with regard to Miles' book, his thoughts are
                          very interesting for the history of ideas as well as
                          the connection of philosophy with other disciplines
                          such as Physics and Mathematics. Your remarks are also
                          very important and highlight a long philosophical
                          discussion on the relationship between Natural
                          Sciences and Philosophy (especially Epistemology and
                          Metaphysics). In particular, I think that Plotinus
                          definition of the One as the Seminal Power of All
                          (dunamis panton) give us clearly the idea of the
                          ultimate source of everything. But, I do not know how
                          far I can relate this to the modern notion of energy.
                          In addition, I think that the connection of Matter to
                          randomness and lack of order is an old issue starting
                          from the Atomists. Plotinus' criticises them at Ennead
                          II.4.7. Plotinus radical idea can be connected to the
                          identification of Matter to Non-Being, the sterile
                          nature which is incapable of anything (steresis
                          panton) in contrast to the One which is capable for
                          everything. Thus, the connection between Quantum
                          Theory and Plotinus is not clear. In my view,
                          Schroedinger's Theory is more related to Berkley's
                          Theory of Knowledge than to Plotinus. On the other
                          hand, the whole idea of Matter as the substance
                          formless and unordered can be clearly found in
                          Plotinus and actually is step towards this position.

                          Best Wishes
                          Giannis Stamatellos


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