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RE: [neoplatonism] what is reality?

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  • Icastes
    ... The best on this subject is Aristotle in the Physics and elsewhere. Time is nothing but a measure of motion, and it has no being. It is merely a number, a
    Message 1 of 9 , Jan 29, 2004
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      > Tzvi Langermann writes:

      > Richard Sorabji opens his justly acclaimed book, Time Creation, and the
      > Continuum, with the question, Is time real?
      >
      > But what is reality? Specifically, assuming that reality is a technical
      > term
      > in philosophy, what Greek words are used to convey the concept? I observe
      > that on a single page of Sorabji's book (p. 95), three different
      > formulations, employing Greek terms that enjoy other, more usual
      > translations, are rendered as reality:
      >
      > 1. Critolaus and Antiphon are said to have said that time is not a reality
      > (hupostasis).
      > 2. Themistius is said to have denied that time has a reality of its own
      > (phusis oikeia).
      > 3. Boethus is said to complain that a measure has no existence in reality
      > (hupo tes phuseos).
      >
      > I would be thrilled to be enlighented.

      The best on this subject is Aristotle in the Physics and elsewhere. Time is
      nothing but a measure of motion, and it has no being. It is merely a number,
      a measure. Time does not exist on its own. Moreover, there is no past and no
      future. The past is just the wake of the boat, and there is no future. We
      live in the present at all times, and the only reason we think about time is
      when we need a measure. Otherwise, we are totally unaware of it.

      As for being enlightened, you already are. All you have to do is to
      recollect that.

      Best regards,

      Kalev Pehme
    • John Dilon
      ... You have a good point there. Something like to ontôs on is the best bet, I think. JMD
      Message 2 of 9 , Jan 29, 2004
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        on 29/1/04 12:44 pm, ytl at ytl@... wrote:

        > Richard Sorabji opens his justly acclaimed book, Time Creation, and the
        > Continuum, with the question, Is time real?
        >
        > But what is reality? Specifically, assuming that reality is a technical term
        > in philosophy, what Greek words are used to convey the concept? I observe
        > that on a single page of Sorabji's book (p. 95), three different
        > formulations, employing Greek terms that enjoy other, more usual
        > translations, are rendered as reality:
        >
        > 1. Critolaus and Antiphon are said to have said that time is not a reality
        > (hupostasis).
        > 2. Themistius is said to have denied that time has a reality of its own
        > (phusis oikeia).
        > 3. Boethus is said to complain that a measure has no existence in reality
        > (hupo tes phuseos).
        >
        > I would be thrilled to be enlighented.
        >
        > 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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        >
        >
        You have a good point there. Something like to ontôs on is the best bet, I
        think. JMD
      • Giannis Stamatellos
        Following John Dilon s claim and by considering Plotinus’ definition of Time as the restless (intelligible-discursive) movement of the Soul we can admit that
        Message 3 of 9 , Jan 30, 2004
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          Following John Dilon's claim and by considering
          Plotinus� definition of Time as the restless
          (intelligible-discursive) movement of the Soul we can
          admit that for the Greeks time was a reality. A
          reality related to the nature of Being. Actually as
          Sorabji shows in his book the discussion of eternity
          and time is a long issue in Greek philosophy which
          begins with Parmenides� timeless Being. Actually, the
          whole concept of aion and chronos in Greek philosophy
          is strongly related to the idea of Life. Just to
          mention the connection of Plotinus� thought with the
          earlier tradition and the continuation of his
          philosophy within the flow of Greek thought.

          G. Stamatellos

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        • ytl
          My original query concerned not the question of the reality of time--though I would be happy if a thread developed on the topic--but the way the concept would
          Message 4 of 9 , Jan 30, 2004
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            My original query concerned not the question of the reality of time--though
            I would be happy if a thread developed on the topic--but the way the concept
            would be expresed in Greek. I aproach the subject mainly as an historian of
            Arabic and Hebrew science, who would be interesed inter alia in tracing the
            lineage of dscussions in materials I study to Greek sources. With that in
            mind--but also with regard to the basic question--Sorabji's translation of
            phusis and hupostasis as reality is confusing.

            Joh Dilon's remark is most pertinent. See e.g. Proclus, Elements, para. 88,
            where the phrase to ontos on is used to convey the idea of the relationships
            between "true being" (Dodds' translation) and Eternity. Note that more than
            one relationship is specified, and they all appertain to Eternity; time
            (khronos) is not mentioned. This would fit in neoplatonic and, I suppose
            Platonic teachings about the reality not of time as experienced down here,
            but as it stands (but does not move) up there (or no-where).

            In any event, every discussion I can think of "reality" or "being" in Arabic
            or Hebrew has been traced indeed to to on, or to ontos on. Phusis is
            rendered by words that mean, or have come to mean, nature. Hupostasis--well
            that's another story, for some other time.


            Tzvi Langermann
            Dept of Arabic
            Bar Ilan University
            Ramat Gan, ISRAEL
            tel: 972-2-673-7837
            fax: 972-2-673-3480
          • Melanie Brawn Mineo
            PS...A Perseus (Liddell-Scott) lookup gives several references to the use of hupostasis as substance, actual existence, reality ...See esp. refs. @ III, ktl.
            Message 5 of 9 , Jan 30, 2004
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              PS...A Perseus (Liddell-Scott) lookup gives several references to the
              use of hupostasis as "substance, actual existence, reality"...See esp.
              refs. @ III, ktl. M

              http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0057%3Aentry%3D%23109195

              Hupostasis--well that's another story, for some other time.
              >
              >
              > Tzvi Langermann
              > Dept of Arabic
              > Bar Ilan University
              > Ramat Gan, ISRAEL
              > tel: 972-2-673-7837
              > fax: 972-2-673-3480
            • Michael Chase
              ... M.C. I agree that translating *phusis* by reality is incorrect and misleading; reality for *hypostasis* seems better attested, although it often has
              Message 6 of 9 , Jan 30, 2004
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                Le vendredi, 30 jan 2004, à 14:13 Europe/Paris, ytl a écrit :

                > My original query concerned not the question of the reality of
                > time--though
                > I would be happy if a thread developed on the topic--but the way the
                > concept
                > would be expresed in Greek. I aproach the subject mainly as an
                > historian of
                > Arabic and Hebrew science, who would be interesed inter alia in
                > tracing the
                > lineage of dscussions in materials I study to Greek sources. With that
                > in
                > mind--but also with regard to the basic question--Sorabji's
                > translation of
                > phusis and hupostasis as reality is confusing.

                M.C. I agree that translating *phusis* by "reality" is incorrect and
                misleading; "reality" for *hypostasis* seems better attested, although
                it often has the nuance of "concrete, objective reality" as compared
                to, say, imaginary or purely mental existence (*epinoia*).

                Part of the problem, it seems to me, is that the English term
                "reality" is itself a *pollakhôs legomenon*. The OED gives six main
                meanings, each with various sub-meanings, for the term. Which one are
                we talking about? If we're speaking in a Platonic context of the
                contrast between appearance and reality, then John Dillon's *ontôs on*
                or perhaps just plain *ousia* would do. If we're using the word to
                describe substantive existence, I might choose *hupostasis*. Finally,
                if we're speaking of the non-metaphysically charged sense of the "the
                everyday realities of life", then I might translate by *pragma*.
                >
                > <snip>
                >
                > In any event, every discussion I can think of "reality" or "being" in
                > Arabic
                > or Hebrew has been traced indeed to to on, or to ontos on.

                M.C. This strikes me as a fairly sweeping generalization. "Being" does
                strike me as the standard and correct translation of *to on*, but
                "reality" can, with the qualifications stated above, just as well be
                rendered by *hupostasis*, *pragma*, *ousia*, *eidos* or, at least from
                the time of Porphyry and Damasicus, *huparxis*. Which Arabic term are
                you thinking of : *al-haqq*?

                >
                Michael Chase
                (goya@...)
                CNRS UPR 76/
                l'Annee Philologique
                Villejuif-Paris
                France


                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              • Sarah Pessin
                ... comments have been quite interesting on this question, and i certainly don t mean to stymie discussion by raising the following, but there seems another
                Message 7 of 9 , Jan 30, 2004
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                  >2. Themistius is said to have denied that time has a reality of its own
                  >(phusis oikeia).
                  >3. Boethus is said to complain that a measure has no existence in reality
                  >(hupo tes phuseos).

                  comments have been quite interesting on this question, and i certainly don't
                  mean to stymie discussion by raising the following, but there seems another
                  kind of answer which is simply this:

                  of course 'phusis' does not literally translate to 'existence' or 'reality',
                  but isn't part of the job of a translator to try best to grant readers
                  access to the idea (and not the individual words) being conveyed in the
                  original text?

                  granted, perhaps some footnoting is helpful in cases where one translates
                  'hupo tes phuseos' as 'existence in reality', but that aside, it seems the
                  translation is helpful in getting across the point

                  what would a better translation of 'hupo tes phuseos' be (note: a better
                  translation which gives readers a chance of understanding the point)?


                  sarah pessin

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                • ytl
                  It seems clear that in any discussion in the Platonic and neoplatonic contexts, a hypostasis stands below some higher entity. Obviously the ultimate entity is
                  Message 8 of 9 , Jan 31, 2004
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                    It seems clear that in any discussion in the Platonic and neoplatonic
                    contexts, a hypostasis stands below some higher entity. Obviously the
                    ultimate entity is real, but whether the hypostases are real, or how real
                    they may be, must be clarified. If these hypostases are called ousia, then
                    they are real, insofar as a substance does exist. But in the passage I cited
                    from Sorabji, ousia does not appear.

                    Speaking specifically of time, we can get a good idea of the possible
                    terminological embroilments--but also the possibility of clear Engllish
                    expression without misleading translations--from this passage in Sambursky's
                    essay, in the introduction to Sambursky and Pines, The Concept of time in
                    Late Neoplatonism, p. 12:

                    "...with Iamblichus, there began a radically new conception,
                    substantializing time as a hypostatic entity of its own in a way that
                    differed from anything said before of the nature of time."

                    Well, here we have just about all of the buzz words that have come up in
                    this discussion--except reality. A nitpicker could have fun with the
                    combination of substantializing and hypostasis, given that substans is the
                    literal translation of hypostasis. But I won't do that, nor will I pick on
                    the phrase, "the nature of time" (remember phusis?), because that's not
                    fair. In fact Sambursky's explanation is far clearer than anything I can get
                    out of Iamblichus. Moreover, the discussions in my medieval Arabic souces
                    follow Sambursky quite well, rephrasing (or anticipating) some of his
                    explications.

                    In sum: if time is a substance it is real. Fakhr al-Din al-Razi says that
                    according to Plato, time is a jawhar, or substance. If it is a hypostasis,
                    its reality is unclear. In fact, Fakhr al-Din, following (sorry,
                    anticipating) Sambursky, points to the ambivalence of the middle entity in
                    Iamblichus system. If it is real, we can perhaps speak of its nature--unless
                    it be one of those higher hypostases that are above nature.

                    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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