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Re: [neoplatonism] Re: Plotinus on Selfhood, a question

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  • Sebastian Moro
    Malcolm Schosha wrote:
    Message 1 of 24 , Sep 1, 2004
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      Malcolm Schosha <malcolmschosha@...> wrote:

      <Of Stoic philosophy, little remains except some of
      the late Roman
      texts. What I have been trying to understand is if
      there is in Stoic
      philosophy a developed idea of the self, or if this
      did not come
      until the Neoplatonists. For instance, Epictetus
      discusses the
      abilities of the intellectual faculty to understand
      and to form
      judgments. But he does not say if he considers the
      intellectual
      faculty, and the faculty of choice, as themselves
      faculties of a
      conscious self. It seems to me that the Stoics must
      have had some
      concept of the self as a consciousness with the
      potential of
      controlling human life, and that perhaps some of this
      was carried on
      into Neoplatonism. Or, was the entire concept of the
      self as the
      center of human consciousness a new development in
      Neoplatonism?>

      Let me recapitulate several things.
      This thread of discussion started with a very
      interesting question about the notion of �self� in
      Stoicism and whether we have to wait until the
      Neoplatonists for a developed idea of self. I wouldn�t
      say that there are developed ideas. First I�d like to
      say that this is an evolutionist prejudice, and I
      don�t think ideas or philosophical doctrines evolve or
      are created by particular philosophers in a particular
      time. The Neoplatonists themselves would have said
      that the idea of self (or inner man, or soul) was
      present in the inscription in the temple of Apollo:
      �know thyself� (somebody in the thread has already
      mentioned this). The inscription is both previous to
      Stoicism and Platonism. See, Proclus� �Commentary on
      the Alcibiades�, and Plato�s �First Alcibiades� for
      this subject.
      So, if the Ancient Greeks wrote: �know thyself� in the
      temple, they have an idea of self, and manifestly
      Plato has meditated about it. With these antecedents
      the Stoics could have talked about the notion of self
      in terms of �pneuma�, as other person wrote here in
      the forum. We can add to this that it�s interesting to
      study the doctrine of the �hegemonikon� located in the
      heart, as the centre of the person (all the sensations
      and life cohere in this centre) in connection to the
      notion of self.
      I think we can talk in Stoicism about a contrast
      between the peripheral movement of sensations and
      sensible objects, which are changeable in a
      Heraclitean way, and on the other hand, the centre or
      �hegemonikon� (like the Sun as �heart of the world� in
      the Macrocosm), which is immobile. The notion of true
      self has to be connected with this permanent principle
      (the logos, that maintains things unified with
      different tensions from a centre from which this
      �tension� starts and pervades everything in the
      monistic system of the Stoics), while the soul (the
      incomplete self) follows a path of concentration and
      likening to the permanent principle microcosmically.
      This �hegemonikon� is like the charioteer who makes
      the whole a unified thing symbolized through the reins
      that connect the leading centre to the periphery of
      external things. The comparison between the Sun, its
      chariot, the reins (as luminous rays) etc. is related
      to the Apollinean cult (and we find it in the
      Phaedrus).
      This Apollinean imagery is also present in Stoicism
      and has been studied by E.von Ivanka in his book
      �Plato Christianus� (p. 301 of the French version,
      German original: Plato Christianus. �bernahme und
      Umgestaltung des Platonismus durch die Vater,
      Einsielden, 1964, 315-351; there is also an Italian
      version).
      This section of the book is a very interesting account
      of Stoic psychology; he studies there mainly the
      symbols of the centre of the soul and the �apex
      mentis� considering the Stoic source of them. But they
      are not exclusive to Stoicism as E. von Ivanka seems
      to claim; although he studies the relationship between
      this and Neoplatonism, he affirms a Stoic origin of
      these metaphors when it�s very clear that we can find
      them in Plato and before him. I think that this
      presentation of the notion of true-self as a central
      �scintilla anima� (a central tension of logos) in
      Stoicism, is a distorted and materialized version of a
      previous Orphic or Pythagorean doctrine (as the result
      of interpreting literally or cosmically, doctrines
      that had a metaphysic meaning), which the
      Neoplatonists (and others like Philo of Alexandria and
      the Fathers of the Church) restored to its original
      meaning.
      This means that we don�t have to wait to the
      Neoplatonists to have a doctrine of the real and
      true-self, they were clarifying previous forgotten
      doctrines and they saw themselves as Platonists and
      Pythagoreans and not as neo-Platonists and
      neo-Pythagoreans. The Stoics presented them, as
      intermediaries, many doctrines and symbols that helped
      the Neoplatonists to developed a more complex and
      systematical theory of the inner self.
      Maybe I�m neoplatonizing Stoicism, but I have seen
      recently a text in Plutarch�s �On the Delphic E� which
      confirms that this interpretation of the self (along
      with that of the Delphic maxim) is at least earlier to
      Neoplatonism.
      Plutarch says, in the section in which Ammonius talk,
      that the soul is in the world of change, alteration
      and difference, so the symbol of the �E� means, in
      contrast to this, the permanent being of the god. It�s
      a salutation of the person who enters to the temple of
      Apollo, meaning �You are�; the soul has not a complete
      being like the god. The �know thyself� is also a
      salutation (cf. Plato�s Charmides 164 D ss.), an
      exhortation to direct the self (particular, or partial
      soul) toward the unification of the true-self through
      the ablation of the divisible and in imitation to the
      �nous� in Neoplatonic terms (or logos in stoic terms).
      The person who enters in a temple (i.e. the Delphic
      temple) receives and gives a salutation, we can see in
      it a microcosmic parallel of the soul entering to a
      more divine level (like when the chariot of the soul
      in the Phaedrus climbs out the sphere of the world).
      The soul needs to give a salutation, which is the �E�,
      recognizing the permanence and absolute being of
      Apollo, and her own weakness and changeability,
      understood in the other salutation �know thyself�
      which enables the self to give up egoism and
      egocentrism, when the soul begins a path of conversion
      (in Neoplatonism the �know thyself� and Plato�s
      Alcibiades were the beginning of the philosophical
      curriculum).
      I don�t know if this is present in Stoicism, but it�s
      present in Greek religion.
      Plutarch is intermediate between Neoplatonism and
      Stoicism, I think that this orientation toward the
      true self or inner self (which in Neoplatonism is
      �epistrophe�, conversion or return) in stoicism is
      expressed in terms of concentration toward the heart,
      where a fiery particle of the �aither� is located.
      The problem is: do we need to interpret this location
      of the divine principle of the self in a material and
      physical sense in Stoicism, and �pneuma� as material
      and not spiritual? The answer (or clarification) to
      this was Neoplatonism, that clearly defends the
      immaterial interpretation of the centre of the self,
      an interpretation also shared by the Christian
      writers. One could say that already in Stoicism this
      fire was a symbol of an immaterial reality even though
      the expression of it was in material terms, because
      after all they needed to express things in this way
      because they were talking about the body and the
      centre of the life of the body (the heart and the
      �hegemonikon� located there). May be the Stoics were
      adapting these teachings to the mentality of the
      epoch, the same as the Academics adopted scepticism
      externally, according to Saint Augustine, but only as
      a disguise, maintaining secretly the true Platonic
      doctrine (see Tigerstedt, E.N. �The Decline and Fall
      of the NeoPlatonic Interpretation of Plato�
      Commentationes Humanarum Litterarum. Helsinki:
      Societas Scientiarum Fennica, 1974. V.52 (1-70), the
      section about Augustine and the New Academy.)
      The other option is that probably, previous doctrines
      of Pre-Socratic and Platonic philosophy were
      misunderstood and materialized by the stoics, so the
      Neoplatonists viewed the need of recovering their true
      meaning. For example the �self� and its two levels
      (let me use terms from other context: anima and
      animus): the soul and its centre (�nous�) symbolised
      with a subtle fire or �aither� called �pneuma�,
      �scintilla�, �apex mentis�, etc.
      These symbols (the spark of divine fire, etc.) are
      present in Orphism, and Pythagoreanism and also in
      other pre-socratics as Diogenes of Apollonia and we
      find them also in many Stoic fragments.

      Sebastian Moro






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    • Tzvi Langermann
      Please note this new book, still up for review at Bryn Maw Classical Review: *Ousager, Asger, Plotinus on Selfhood, Freedom, and Politics. Aarhus Studies in
      Message 2 of 24 , Sep 7, 2004
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        Please note this new book, still up for review at Bryn Maw Classical Review:

        *Ousager, Asger, Plotinus on Selfhood, Freedom, and Politics. Aarhus
        Studies in Mediterranean Antiquity, VI. Aarhus: Aarhus University
        Press, 2004. Pp. 397; ills. DKK 318.00. ISBN 87-7934-098-9


        Tzvi Langermann
        Dept of Arabic
        Bar Ilan University
        Ramat Gan, ISRAEL
        tel: 972-2-673-7837
        fax: 972-2-673-3480
      • Bradley Skene
        I beleive someone asked for refernces on Harran. Here are some observations on Sabian Harran from a forthcoming review of mine. As I recall Talon s article
        Message 3 of 24 , Jun 2, 2006
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          I beleive someone asked for refernces on Harran.


          Here are some observations on Sabian Harran from a forthcoming review of
          mine. As I recall Talon's article seemed reasonably sound, but its
          importance should not be exaggerated.

          Lamear's article cited in the excerpt below is the most important work on
          this topic, and is frequently cited a corrective to Tardieu in recent
          literature.

          cheers,


          Malkhos



          Francis E. Peters, "Hermes and Harran: The Roots of Arabic-Islamic
          Occultism," (1990), 55-85, addresses the general problem of the Islamic
          reception of Greek philosophical occultism. He views the city of Harran (on
          the upper Tigris) as key in this transmission. Harran was unique in the
          Islamic world in maintaining its traditional 'pagan' religion into the
          10thcentury under the cover that they were among the 'Sabians'
          (actually a term
          referring to the Mandaeans), a 'people of the book' (along with Jews,
          Christians, and Parsees) marked out for toleration in the *Koran*.
          Interpreting Arabic sources, Peters surmises that at some unknown time in
          the Hellenistic era these 'Sabians' created a Hellenized form of their
          traditional (Mesopotamian) religion, largely through syncretism with
          Hermeticism, [1]<http://mail.google.com/mail/?&ik=58a5ee3b5e&view=cv&search=inbox&th=10b0bc1768c4f441&lvp=2&cvp=2&qt=&zx=awuxu031nfqz#_ftn1>and
          that this
          *melanges* must have been the source of Islamic occultist learning. Peters
          missed considerable support for his thesis in the works of Michel Tardieu,
          [2]<http://mail.google.com/mail/?&ik=58a5ee3b5e&view=cv&search=inbox&th=10b0bc1768c4f441&lvp=2&cvp=2&qt=&zx=awuxu031nfqz#_ftn2>who
          theorized that inasmuch as Simplicius, when expelled from the Roman
          Empire by Justinian, eventually settled the Platonic Academy in Harran and
          Arabic sources treat the Sabians as the source of much of their received
          Greek philosophical tradition, Islamic esotericism must be the direct
          descendent of the exiled Academy. Unfortunately for Peters, however, as well
          as for Tardieu, their theses actually find little support in the evidence.
          Arabic understanding of Graeco-Roman intellectual history tended to the
          fantastic and Romantic (Peters relates accounts of Empedocles having learned
          philosophy from King David), and the Arabic account of the Academy moving
          from Alexandria, to Antioch, to Harran, and finally to Baghdad is quite
          unreliable. The Neoplatonic school had been exiled from Alexandria in the
          fifth century and thereafter subsisted only in Athens for the last century
          of its life. [3]<http://mail.google.com/mail/?&ik=58a5ee3b5e&view=cv&search=inbox&th=10b0bc1768c4f441&lvp=2&cvp=2&qt=&zx=awuxu031nfqz#_ftn3>The
          more fantastic version is now believed to have come about from the
          fact
          that most of the translations of Greek philosophical works into Arabic
          (often based on Syriac intermediaries) was undertaken by Sabians form
          Harranand by Nestorian Christians, whose centre was Antioch.
          [4]<http://mail.google.com/mail/?&ik=58a5ee3b5e&view=cv&search=inbox&th=10b0bc1768c4f441&lvp=2&cvp=2&qt=&zx=awuxu031nfqz#_ftn4>Greek
          philosophy as a whole was often attributed to Hermes (no doubt because
          of the prominence of Hermes Trismegistus within the alchemical tradition),
          who was identified with the Islamic Idris. In fact, there does not seem to
          have been much translation of either the philosophical Hermetica (as opposed
          to the alchemical works) or of Neoplatonic books such as Simplicius must
          have brought with him to Harran. While much later Islamic speculation was
          pseudepigraphically attributed either to Hermes or to mysterious 'books of
          the Sabians' in accord the early established historiographical romance,
          early Islamic esoteric movements seem to have been centered not at Harran,
          but either in the centre of learning at Baghdad, or more widely in the
          Islamic world (the Brotherhood of Purity, fore example, seems to have arisen
          in Basra and Cairo). Such Neoplatonic learning as was received by Islamic
          scholars need have no origin more mysterious than the translations of well
          known works such as those of ps-Dionysius the Areopogite, or the epitome of
          Plotinus' *Enneads* (which circulated In the Islamic world under a false
          attribution to Aristotle, showing how little was understood of the context
          and history of Greek philosophy), or of numerous works of Porphyry.



          ------------------------------

          [1]<http://mail.google.com/mail/?&ik=58a5ee3b5e&view=cv&search=inbox&th=10b0bc1768c4f441&lvp=2&cvp=2&qt=&zx=awuxu031nfqz#_ftnref1>T.
          Green,
          *The City of the Moon God: Religious Traditions of Harran* (Leiden: E. J.
          Brill, 1992), gives a more through exposition of the entire history of the
          religion of Harran, while A. Kuhrt, "Nabonidus and the Babylonian
          Priesthood," *Pagan Priests and Power in the Ancient World* Mary Beard and
          John North, edd. (Ithaca: Cornell Universe Press, 1990), 117-55, especially
          good on Harran's prominence in the Neo-Babylonian period.



          [2]<http://mail.google.com/mail/?&ik=58a5ee3b5e&view=cv&search=inbox&th=10b0bc1768c4f441&lvp=2&cvp=2&qt=&zx=awuxu031nfqz#_ftnref2>"Les
          calendries en usage à
          Harran d'après les sources arabes et le commentaire de Simplicius à la
          Physique d'Aristote," *Simplicius, sa vie, son oeuvre, sa survie: Actes du
          colloque International de Paris (28 Sept.-1er Oct. 1985)* I. Hadot, ed.
          (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1987), 40-57, and "Sâbiens coraniques et
          <<Sâbiens>> de Harran," *Journal asiatique* 274 (1986): 1-44.

          [3]<http://mail.google.com/mail/?&ik=58a5ee3b5e&view=cv&search=inbox&th=10b0bc1768c4f441&lvp=2&cvp=2&qt=&zx=awuxu031nfqz#_ftnref3>On
          this see Damascius,
          *The Philosophical History: Texts with Translation and Notes* Polymnia
          Athanassiadi, ed. and trans. (Athens, 1999), as well as the accounts of
          Hypatia's murder: Socrates, *Ecclesiastical History*, 7.14; John of Nikiu, *
          Chronicle*, 84.87-103, and the so-called 'apocalypse' attached to the end of
          the Hermetic *Asclepius*, an *ex eventu* 'prophecy' of the Christian
          destruction of the last remnant of the Museum.



          [4]<http://mail.google.com/mail/?&ik=58a5ee3b5e&view=cv&search=inbox&th=10b0bc1768c4f441&lvp=2&cvp=2&qt=&zx=awuxu031nfqz#_ftnref4>Joep
          Lamear,
          "From Alexandria to Baghdad: Reflections on the Genesis of a Problematical
          Tradition," *The Ancient Tradition in Christian and Islamic
          Hellenism*Gerhard Endress and Remke Kruk, edd. (Leiden: Research
          School CNWS, 1997),
          181-91.


          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • vaeringjar
          ... &ik=58a5ee3b5e&view=cv&search=inbox&th=10b0bc1768c4f441&lvp=2&cvp=2&qt =&zx=awuxu031nfqz#_ftnref4 Joep ... Problematical ... Thanks for all the references
          Message 4 of 24 , Jun 2, 2006
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            > [4]<http://mail.google.com/mail/?
            &ik=58a5ee3b5e&view=cv&search=inbox&th=10b0bc1768c4f441&lvp=2&cvp=2&qt
            =&zx=awuxu031nfqz#_ftnref4>Joep
            > Lamear,
            > "From Alexandria to Baghdad: Reflections on the Genesis of a
            Problematical
            > Tradition," *The Ancient Tradition in Christian and Islamic
            > Hellenism*Gerhard Endress and Remke Kruk, edd. (Leiden: Research
            > School CNWS, 1997),
            > 181-91.
            >
            >


            Thanks for all the references - without going to a lot of trouble,
            could you summarize this last one a bit, what the main thrust is? I
            was not aware of it, and am curious. Thanks!

            Dennis Clark
            Issaquah
          • Bradley Skene
            the section from The most fantastic... on is a summary of it. It basically demonstrates how the idea that Arabic occultist lore had its origin in Harran
            Message 5 of 24 , Jun 2, 2006
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              the section from 'The most fantastic..." on is a summary of it. It basically
              demonstrates how the idea that Arabic occultist lore had its origin in
              Harran developed as a myth within Arabic culture because of the activity of
              scribes from Harran in translating Greek and Aramaic texts (it seems that
              translations into Arabic from Greek often depended on Aramaic
              intermediaries, now lost), rather than from an actual store of Neoplatonic
              books kept at Harran. Arabic scholars were far more interested in Alchemical
              texts rather than the philosophical Hermetica or Neoplatonic treatises, and
              these do not seem to have played much of a role in Arabic culture except for
              the ones mentioned.

              On 6/2/06, vaeringjar <vaeringjar@...> wrote:
              >
              >
              > > [4]<http://mail.google.com/mail/?
              > &ik=58a5ee3b5e&view=cv&search=inbox&th=10b0bc1768c4f441&lvp=2&cvp=2&qt
              > =&zx=awuxu031nfqz#_ftnref4>Joep
              > > Lamear,
              > > "From Alexandria to Baghdad: Reflections on the Genesis of a
              > Problematical
              > > Tradition," *The Ancient Tradition in Christian and Islamic
              > > Hellenism*Gerhard Endress and Remke Kruk, edd. (Leiden: Research
              > > School CNWS, 1997),
              > > 181-91.
              > >
              > >
              >
              >
              > Thanks for all the references - without going to a lot of trouble,
              > could you summarize this last one a bit, what the main thrust is? I
              > was not aware of it, and am curious. Thanks!
              >
              > Dennis Clark
              > Issaquah
              >
              >
              >
              >
              >
              >
              >
              >
              > Yahoo! Groups Links
              >
              >
              >
              >
              >
              >
              >


              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            • Michael Chase
              ... M.C. I guess you mean Syriac. By the way, can you give us some further information about these scribes from Harran ? ... M.C Utter nonsense, I m afraid.
              Message 6 of 24 , Jun 3, 2006
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                Le 2 juin 06, à 19:51, Bradley Skene a écrit :

                > the section from 'The most fantastic..." on is a summary of it. It
                > basically
                > demonstrates how the idea that Arabic occultist lore had its origin in
                > Harran developed as a myth within Arabic culture because of the
                > activity of
                > scribes from Harran in translating Greek and Aramaic texts

                M.C. I guess you mean Syriac. By the way, can you give us some further
                information about these "scribes from Harran"?



                > (it seems that
                > translations into Arabic from Greek often depended on Aramaic
                > intermediaries, now lost), rather than from an actual store of
                > Neoplatonic
                > books kept at Harran. Arabic scholars were far more interested in
                > Alchemical
                > texts rather than the philosophical Hermetica or Neoplatonic
                > treatises,

                M.C Utter nonsense, I'm afraid.

                > and
                > these do not seem to have played much of a role in Arabic culture
                > except for
                > the ones mentioned.

                M.C. I'm afraid these remarks display nothing other than ignorance of
                Arabic culture.


                >
                >
                Michael Chase
                (goya@...)
                CNRS UPR 76
                7, rue Guy Moquet
                Villejuif 94801
                France
              • Bradley Skene
                I may indeed have meant Syriac. But you maybe have information on Arabic translations of the complete works of Plato, Iamblichus, and Proclus? Or the
                Message 7 of 24 , Jun 3, 2006
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                  I may indeed have meant Syriac. But you maybe have information on Arabic
                  translations of the complete works of Plato, Iamblichus, and Proclus? Or the
                  Philosophical Hermetica? I know next to nothing about Arabic Culture, but I
                  know that the tranlsation of Greek philosophical texts was quite limited.

                  For further information on the scribes of Harran, please see the cited
                  article.


                  On 6/3/06, Michael Chase <goya@...> wrote:
                  >
                  >
                  > Le 2 juin 06, à 19:51, Bradley Skene a écrit :
                  >
                  > > the section from 'The most fantastic..." on is a summary of it. It
                  > > basically
                  > > demonstrates how the idea that Arabic occultist lore had its origin in
                  > > Harran developed as a myth within Arabic culture because of the
                  > > activity of
                  > > scribes from Harran in translating Greek and Aramaic texts
                  >
                  > M.C. I guess you mean Syriac. By the way, can you give us some further
                  > information about these "scribes from Harran"?
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  > > (it seems that
                  > > translations into Arabic from Greek often depended on Aramaic
                  > > intermediaries, now lost), rather than from an actual store of
                  > > Neoplatonic
                  > > books kept at Harran. Arabic scholars were far more interested in
                  > > Alchemical
                  > > texts rather than the philosophical Hermetica or Neoplatonic
                  > > treatises,
                  >
                  > M.C Utter nonsense, I'm afraid.
                  >
                  > > and
                  > > these do not seem to have played much of a role in Arabic culture
                  > > except for
                  > > the ones mentioned.
                  >
                  > M.C. I'm afraid these remarks display nothing other than ignorance of
                  > Arabic culture.
                  >
                  >
                  > >
                  > >
                  > Michael Chase
                  > (goya@...)
                  > CNRS UPR 76
                  > 7, rue Guy Moquet
                  > Villejuif 94801
                  > France
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  > Yahoo! Groups Links
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >


                  [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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