RE: [neoplatonism] what is reality?
> Tzvi Langermann writes:The best on this subject is Aristotle in the Physics and elsewhere. Time is
> 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
> 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
> 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.
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
- 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.
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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.
Dept of Arabic
Bar Ilan University
Ramat Gan, ISRAEL
- 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
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
- Le vendredi, 30 jan 2004, à 14:13 Europe/Paris, ytl a écrit :
> My original query concerned not the question of the reality ofM.C. I agree that translating *phusis* by "reality" is incorrect and
> I would be happy if a thread developed on the topic--but the way the
> 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
> mind--but also with regard to the basic question--Sorabji's
> translation of
> phusis and hupostasis as reality is confusing.
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*.
>M.C. This strikes me as a fairly sweeping generalization. "Being" does
> In any event, every discussion I can think of "reality" or "being" in
> or Hebrew has been traced indeed to to on, or to ontos on.
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*?
CNRS UPR 76/
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
>2. Themistius is said to have denied that time has a reality of its owncomments have been quite interesting on this question, and i certainly don't
>3. Boethus is said to complain that a measure has no existence in reality
>(hupo tes phuseos).
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
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)?
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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
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.
Dept of Arabic
Bar Ilan University
Ramat Gan, ISRAEL