Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

A metaphysical argument or a moral one?

Expand Messages
  • Tzvi Langermann
    I would like to share some thoughts on a movement I detect in the expression of what is Proclus first argument against creation. I would like to present the
    Message 1 of 4 , May 1 6:40 AM
    • 0 Attachment
      I would like to share some thoughts on a movement I detect in the expression of what is Proclus' first argument against creation. I would like to present the movement in a very general, hence imprecise, sense, then move on to a few short philological points. The claim that the "self-diffusive" Good cannot but diffuse the good always, and, therefore, the cosmos is co-eternal with the Good, is a metaphysical one, and I think that Proclus intended it as such. However, it can be (and was) reformulated in a moral sense, viz.: it would have been stingy for the deity to refrain from creating, and spreading out goodness; hence he did not, and the world is eternal and uncreated. I am wondering if list members concur in this observation, and if any work has been done on it.
      Now, two related issues:
      1. This move may already be present in the reference to Plato at the beginning of section 4 in Philoponus' refutation, (citing the translation of M Share): "Another argument: If God is good, and as Plato in his wisdom says, 'in the good no envy ever arises in regard to anything'... why did he not etc.?" Envy is a moral vice, so it seems that there is at least a moral tinge to the argument here. Moreover: doesn't this sound like a paraphrase, if not a quotation, from Proclus? Wouldn't this be Proclus citing Plato in support of his argument? But Plato is not mentioned by name in either of the Arabic versions of the first argument, nor do I see any mention of envy.
      2. The Greek atopos, which is used to mean "absurd" in philosophical argumentation, also has moral connotations; according to LSJ, " /unnatural, disgusting, foul,/...; later, wicked, wrong". It seems that in Arabic, forms of the root sh.n.ayn were used; that root seems to me to have much more of a moral (or perhaps aesthetic) sense. Wehr has "ugly, abominable, repulsive, hideous, disgraceful, etc.". Perhaps in English we could render atopos nearly literally as "out of place" and capture the meaning, but I don't think that that option existed in Arabic (though perhaps some usages of /fi ghayri mawdu'ihi /aim for atopos).
      This conundrum is painfully felt in the different translations of forms of sh.n.ayn in the translations of Maimonides' /Guide/. S. Munk chooses the French "absurde", which best fits the context in most places, but S Pines chooses "disgraceful", which makes the jusdgment moral rather than logical. Interestingly enough--and I have to check how consistent this is--the medieval Hebrew translator, S Ibn Tibbon, uses two words, /harhaqa/, "putting something at a distance", which is OK for the logical sense, and /genut/, which is more of a moral judgment (worthy of condemnation).
      Your comments appeciated!

      Thanks in advance,
      Tzvi Langermann


      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Goya
      Hi Tzvi, I have a piece on the topic at Academia.edu, entitled Abrahamic creation and Neoplatonic emanation in Greek, Arabic and Latin. Reflections on a
      Message 2 of 4 , May 1 9:11 AM
      • 0 Attachment
        Hi Tzvi,

        I have a piece on the topic at Academia.edu, entitled "Abrahamic creation
        and Neoplatonic emanation in Greek, Arabic and Latin. Reflections on a
        recent paper by Richard Taylor", in which I try to trace Proclus'
        arguments back to Porphyry.

        As far as *atopos* is concerned, I'd prefer the translation "absurd". As
        Pierre Hadot pointed out, Socrates was often considered *atopos* in
        Antiquity, where the term denotes not so much shamefulness as the fact of
        being "out of place" or impossible to classify. See "The figure of
        Socrates" in Philosophy as a way of life (Oxford 1995), 147-178.

        All best, Mike
        >


        I would like to share some thoughts on a movement I detect in the
        > expression of what is Proclus' first argument against creation. I would
        > like to present the movement in a very general, hence imprecise, sense,
        > then move on to a few short philological points. The claim that the
        > "self-diffusive" Good cannot but diffuse the good always, and, therefore,
        > the cosmos is co-eternal with the Good, is a metaphysical one, and I think
        > that Proclus intended it as such. However, it can be (and was)
        > reformulated in a moral sense, viz.: it would have been stingy for the
        > deity to refrain from creating, and spreading out goodness; hence he did
        > not, and the world is eternal and uncreated. I am wondering if list
        > members concur in this observation, and if any work has been done on it.
        > Now, two related issues:
        > 1. This move may already be present in the reference to Plato at the
        > beginning of section 4 in Philoponus' refutation, (citing the translation
        > of M Share): "Another argument: If God is good, and as Plato in his wisdom
        > says, 'in the good no envy ever arises in regard to anything'... why did
        > he not etc.?" Envy is a moral vice, so it seems that there is at least a
        > moral tinge to the argument here. Moreover: doesn't this sound like a
        > paraphrase, if not a quotation, from Proclus? Wouldn't this be Proclus
        > citing Plato in support of his argument? But Plato is not mentioned by
        > name in either of the Arabic versions of the first argument, nor do I see
        > any mention of envy.
        > 2. The Greek atopos, which is used to mean "absurd" in philosophical
        > argumentation, also has moral connotations; according to LSJ, "
        > /unnatural, disgusting, foul,/...; later, wicked, wrong". It seems that in
        > Arabic, forms of the root sh.n.ayn were used; that root seems to me to
        > have much more of a moral (or perhaps aesthetic) sense. Wehr has "ugly,
        > abominable, repulsive, hideous, disgraceful, etc.". Perhaps in English we
        > could render atopos nearly literally as "out of place" and capture the
        > meaning, but I don't think that that option existed in Arabic (though
        > perhaps some usages of /fi ghayri mawdu'ihi /aim for atopos).
        > This conundrum is painfully felt in the different translations of forms of
        > sh.n.ayn in the translations of Maimonides' /Guide/. S. Munk chooses the
        > French "absurde", which best fits the context in most places, but S Pines
        > chooses "disgraceful", which makes the jusdgment moral rather than
        > logical. Interestingly enough--and I have to check how consistent this
        > is--the medieval Hebrew translator, S Ibn Tibbon, uses two words,
        > /harhaqa/, "putting something at a distance", which is OK for the logical
        > sense, and /genut/, which is more of a moral judgment (worthy of
        > condemnation).
        > Your comments appeciated!
        >
        > Thanks in advance,
        > Tzvi Langermann
        >
        >
        > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        >
        >


        Michael Chase
        CNRS UPR 76
        Paris-Villejuif
        France
      • John Dillon
        ... Dear Tzvi, I should say that the Œmoral¹ aspect goes back to Plato¹s language in the Timaeus, which you quote: ³He was good² etc. Of course God, or
        Message 3 of 4 , May 1 9:40 AM
        • 0 Attachment
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          > I would like to share some thoughts on a movement I detect in the expression
          > of what is Proclus' first argument against creation. I would like to present
          > the movement in a very general, hence imprecise, sense, then move on to a few
          > short philological points. The claim that the "self-diffusive" Good cannot but
          > diffuse the good always, and, therefore, the cosmos is co-eternal with the
          > Good, is a metaphysical one, and I think that Proclus intended it as such.
          > However, it can be (and was) reformulated in a moral sense, viz.: it would
          > have been stingy for the deity to refrain from creating, and spreading out
          > goodness; hence he did not, and the world is eternal and uncreated. I am
          > wondering if list members concur in this observation, and if any work has been
          > done on it.
          > Now, two related issues:
          > 1. This move may already be present in the reference to Plato at the beginning
          > of section 4 in Philoponus' refutation, (citing the translation of M Share):
          > "Another argument: If God is good, and as Plato in his wisdom says, 'in the
          > good no envy ever arises in regard to anything'... why did he not etc.?" Envy
          > is a moral vice, so it seems that there is at least a moral tinge to the
          > argument here. Moreover: doesn't this sound like a paraphrase, if not a
          > quotation, from Proclus? Wouldn't this be Proclus citing Plato in support of
          > his argument? But Plato is not mentioned by name in either of the Arabic
          > versions of the first argument, nor do I see any mention of envy.
          > 2. The Greek atopos, which is used to mean "absurd" in philosophical
          > argumentation, also has moral connotations; according to LSJ, " /unnatural,
          > disgusting, foul,/...; later, wicked, wrong". It seems that in Arabic, forms
          > of the root sh.n.ayn were used; that root seems to me to have much more of a
          > moral (or perhaps aesthetic) sense. Wehr has "ugly, abominable, repulsive,
          > hideous, disgraceful, etc.". Perhaps in English we could render atopos nearly
          > literally as "out of place" and capture the meaning, but I don't think that
          > that option existed in Arabic (though perhaps some usages of /fi ghayri
          > mawdu'ihi /aim for atopos).
          > This conundrum is painfully felt in the different translations of forms of
          > sh.n.ayn in the translations of Maimonides' /Guide/. S. Munk chooses the
          > French "absurde", which best fits the context in most places, but S Pines
          > chooses "disgraceful", which makes the jusdgment moral rather than logical.
          > Interestingly enough--and I have to check how consistent this is--the medieval
          > Hebrew translator, S Ibn Tibbon, uses two words, /harhaqa/, "putting
          > something at a distance", which is OK for the logical sense, and /genut/,
          > which is more of a moral judgment (worthy of condemnation).
          > Your comments appeciated!
          >
          > Thanks in advance,
          > Tzvi Langermann
          >
          > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >

          Dear Tzvi, I should say that the Œmoral¹ aspect goes back to Plato¹s
          language in the Timaeus, which you quote: ³He was good² etc. Of course God,
          or rather the One (and the other hypostases) can do no other than to create,
          and so there cannot be a time when they have not created.
          All the best, John


          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • Adamson, Peter
          Hi all, I actually translated that first argument once upon a time for the Commentators Project. The word for good there (jud) could also mean generosity,
          Message 4 of 4 , May 2 8:24 AM
          • 0 Attachment
            Hi all,

            I actually translated that first argument once upon a time for the Commentators Project. The word for "good" there (jud) could also mean "generosity," but I think even without that Prof Langermann's proposed reading is very plausible. It's interesting to see how the idea comes up even in thinkers who think that the universe does proceed necessarily from the First, e.g. Avicenna argues that God's necessity implies His generosity (in the Ilahiyyat of the Shifa'). I agree with the suggestion that the root of the argument must be Proclus' understanding of the idea that God/the Demiurge is not envious i.e. does not begrudge the world its existence; since this is an unvarying feature of God, He must unvaryingly create/cause the universe. I think the metaphysical/moral distinction here is a false dichotomy. The idea is something like this, isn't it?

            1. God's goodness is an unvarying feature
            2. Therefore God is good at every moment.
            3. Any moment at which God is good is a moment at which he causes the world.
            4. God causes the world at every moment.
            5. The world is eternal.

            Lots of potential problems there (e.g. 1 could be a timeless claim, in which case 2 doesn't follow; or God could at every moment cause a temporally bounded world, at first "looking ahead" to the world He knows He will create, so that 5 doesn't follow from 4). But still it seems to me to capture what Proclus is saying and to combine a metaphysical point about divine attributes (premise 1) and a moral point about the nature of what His gooodness implies (premise 3). I think this is how it (or similar arguments) was understood by people like Farabi and Avicenna.

            Cheerio,
            Peter Adamson

            New postal address:

            Lehrstuhl VI f�r Sp�tantike und arabische Philosophie
            Ludwig-Maximilians-Universit�t M�nchen
            Geschwister-Scholl-Platz 1
            80539 M�nchen
            Germany

            The History of Philosophy Podcast
            http://www.historyofphilosophy.net
            On Twitter @HistPhilosophy
            ________________________________
            From: neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com [neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com] on behalf of John Dillon [jmdillon@...]
            Sent: Wednesday, May 01, 2013 6:40 PM
            To: neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com
            Subject: Re: [neoplatonism] A metaphysical argument or a moral one?



            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            > I would like to share some thoughts on a movement I detect in the expression
            > of what is Proclus' first argument against creation. I would like to present
            > the movement in a very general, hence imprecise, sense, then move on to a few
            > short philological points. The claim that the "self-diffusive" Good cannot but
            > diffuse the good always, and, therefore, the cosmos is co-eternal with the
            > Good, is a metaphysical one, and I think that Proclus intended it as such.
            > However, it can be (and was) reformulated in a moral sense, viz.: it would
            > have been stingy for the deity to refrain from creating, and spreading out
            > goodness; hence he did not, and the world is eternal and uncreated. I am
            > wondering if list members concur in this observation, and if any work has been
            > done on it.
            > Now, two related issues:
            > 1. This move may already be present in the reference to Plato at the beginning
            > of section 4 in Philoponus' refutation, (citing the translation of M Share):
            > "Another argument: If God is good, and as Plato in his wisdom says, 'in the
            > good no envy ever arises in regard to anything'... why did he not etc.?" Envy
            > is a moral vice, so it seems that there is at least a moral tinge to the
            > argument here. Moreover: doesn't this sound like a paraphrase, if not a
            > quotation, from Proclus? Wouldn't this be Proclus citing Plato in support of
            > his argument? But Plato is not mentioned by name in either of the Arabic
            > versions of the first argument, nor do I see any mention of envy.
            > 2. The Greek atopos, which is used to mean "absurd" in philosophical
            > argumentation, also has moral connotations; according to LSJ, " /unnatural,
            > disgusting, foul,/...; later, wicked, wrong". It seems that in Arabic, forms
            > of the root sh.n.ayn were used; that root seems to me to have much more of a
            > moral (or perhaps aesthetic) sense. Wehr has "ugly, abominable, repulsive,
            > hideous, disgraceful, etc.". Perhaps in English we could render atopos nearly
            > literally as "out of place" and capture the meaning, but I don't think that
            > that option existed in Arabic (though perhaps some usages of /fi ghayri
            > mawdu'ihi /aim for atopos).
            > This conundrum is painfully felt in the different translations of forms of
            > sh.n.ayn in the translations of Maimonides' /Guide/. S. Munk chooses the
            > French "absurde", which best fits the context in most places, but S Pines
            > chooses "disgraceful", which makes the jusdgment moral rather than logical.
            > Interestingly enough--and I have to check how consistent this is--the medieval
            > Hebrew translator, S Ibn Tibbon, uses two words, /harhaqa/, "putting
            > something at a distance", which is OK for the logical sense, and /genut/,
            > which is more of a moral judgment (worthy of condemnation).
            > Your comments appeciated!
            >
            > Thanks in advance,
            > Tzvi Langermann
            >
            > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >

            Dear Tzvi, I should say that the �moral� aspect goes back to Plato�s
            language in the Timaeus, which you quote: �He was good� etc. Of course God,
            or rather the One (and the other hypostases) can do no other than to create,
            and so there cannot be a time when they have not created.
            All the best, John

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





            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.