Re: [neoplatonism] what is reality?
- 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