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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
    • 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 2 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 3 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 4 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 5 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 6 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 7 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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