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DAMASCIUS ON KNOWLEDGE AND ITS OBJECT

Published in Rhizai 1/2004 eds. I. Christov, I. Bodnar, P. Gregoric, K. Ierodiakonou pp. 107-124

Copyright Cosmin I. Andron


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Damascius on knowledge and its object Rhizai 1, 2004 pp.107-124

Cosmin I. Andron

DAMASCIUS ON KNOWLEDGE AND ITS OBJECT1 1. Neoplatonists inherited from Plato and Aristotle and developed in a remarkably intricate way something that, roughly, can be called philosophy of mind.2 In a few words, what all of them agree upon is that to each ontological level (level of reality) corresponds a specific type of cognitive receptor (faculty), always posited in the soul,3 and representing a certain morphological aspect of the soul. 4 Each of these faculties has its own object: sense-perception deals with the perceptible object (aistheton), representation with the appearance (phantasma), having an opinion deals with the conjecturable (doxaston), thinking with the thinkable (dianoeton) and intellection with the intelligible (noeton). Thus, our knowledge (gnosis) is the conjoined activity of sense-perception (aisthesis), representation
This article originates in a paper I gave at the University of Maine in 2002 at the International Society for Neoplatonic Studies annual meeting. I received on that occasion many challenging questions which helped me later to address some of the more controversial issues raised here. I am most grateful for very helpful comments and corrections on various drafts of this paper to Anne Sheppard, John Dillon, Richard Sorabji, David Sedley, Peter Adamson, Michael Frede, Dominic OMeara and an anonymous reviewer. Their influence has been so great that only a blanket acknowledgment can save the paper from being outsized by the footnotes. It is a truism to mention that all the remaining faults are mine. However on this occasion this is more than true since I wilfully chose to ignore some of the suggestions made on these occasions either because I was not sure if I could commit entirely to them nor conclusively refute them (at least at this stage), or because it would have broadened too much a discussion which I wished to keep concentrated. I feel that the research in Damascius epistemology is still in its infancy and I am sure that this paper, as controversial as some of its conclusions might seem, is just one possible way into this universe. Last but not the least I owe a debt of gratitude to Katerina Ierodiakonou who proposed me to publish this paper and had a huge amount of patience waiting for the final version of it at a time when Damascius turned into the least of my worries. 2 cf. A.C. Lloyd, The anatomy of Neoplatonism, Oxford 1990. pp. 140-163; H.J. Blumenthal, Aristotle and Neoplatonism in Late Antiquity. Interpretations of De Anima, London 1996. 3 Damascius, in Phaed. I .91: Oti ka/lloj e)sti th=j yuxh=j h( gnwsij dia\ to\ "e)kfane\j kai e)ra/smion", h( de\ kaqara\ tou= aisxouj th=j ulhj kai th=j a)gnoiaj eti meizo/nwj kalh/, "kallisth" de\ h( t% noer% fwti sugkekrame/nh. tou=to de\ nu=n efh wj pro\j th\n met' aisqh/sewj gnwsin. - Knowledge is beauty of the soul because of its brilliance and its loveliness [Phaedr.250d7-e1], the soul that is free from the ugliness of matter and from ignorance is even more beautiful, but most beautiful of all is the soul that has blended itself with the light of intelligence. Here, however, he uses the superlative in a comparison with the knowledge that depends on sense-perception. (tr. Westerink modified). 4 Damascius, in Phaed. I .78: Oti to\ me\n swma a)gnoi# sunousiwtai (sunagwgo\j ga\r h( gnwsij, to\ de\ pa/ntv meme/ristai: o( de\ nou=j au)tognwsij, oti kat' ou)sian a)me/ristoj. twn de\ e)n me/s% h( me\n aisqhsij skoteinota/th gnwsij, e)peidh\ ou)k aneu tou= fu/sei a)gnoou=ntoj: h( de\ yuxh\ h( logikh\ fanote/ra kai e(auth=j gnwstikh/, oti ma=llon a)me/ristoj: h( de\ fantasia me/sh pwj, dio\ kai nou=j e)sti paqhto\j kai meristo/j. - Of the body, ignorance is the natural characteristic (for knowledge unites, while the body is utterly divided); intelligence [i.e. non-discursive thinking], on the other hand, is absolute knowledge, because it is indivisible by its very essence. As for the intermediates, sense-perception is the dimmest kind of knowledge, because it cannot dispense with the body, which is naturally ignorant; rational soul is brighter and knows itself, being closer to the indivisible; representation is somehow between them, and it is therefore described as passive and divisible intelligence. (tr. Westerink modified); Damascius, in Phaed. I .87.1-3: Oti o( logismo\j nou=j e)sti diecodiko/j, tau/tv me\n tou= nou= a)poleipo/menoj, v de\ nou=j th=j aisqh/sewj te kai fantasiaj u(pere/xwn: kai esti yuxh=j e)ne/rgeia logikh=j. - An account is discursive thinking, and in so far inferior to non-discursive thinking, but qua thinking it is superior to senseperception and representation; it is an activity of the rational soul. (tr. Westerink modified).
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(phantasia), having opinions (doxazein), discursive thinking (dianoeisthai) and non-discursive thinking (noesis). The following text from de Princ. investigates this: Sense-perception exists in accordance with a percept (aisthema), representation exists according to an imprint (typos), having opinions and discursive thinking exist, one according to a discursive thought (dianoema) and the other according to an opinion (doxasma). Generally speaking, knowledge exists according to gnosma, if we can say so.5 Therefore our faculty is conditioned by the content it receives. Aisthema, doxasma and dianoema are not, as Combs, Galprine and Rappe wish to translate them: objects of sense perception, opinion or discursive thinking. To aistheton, the perceptible, is the object of sense perception. Aisthema is the way the perceiver6 is affected, i.e. the percept, the content of perception. For example: when I perceive a black patch, the black patch7 is what I perceive (the sense-datum) while the perceived object is, lets say, a book. This is the same as saying that I have the percept (aisthema) of a black patch that is given to my sight (perception / aisthesis) by a sensible object (aistheton), i.e. a black book. The perceptual content black and the black book are not the same.8 Otherwise the linguistic difference stressed by Damascius here would be pointless. Damascius seems to be concerned, however, less with each faculty individually than with the combination of them. Knowledge is the genus under which the forms of cognition (i.e. exercise of cognitive faculties) fall9 and therefore the content of each faculty should fall, in its turn, under a genus. However, we are not used to speaking indiscriminately about the content of our knowledge, this being usually specified as sensation, opinion etc., and it seems rather artificial (from the perspective of common language) to coin such a term as gnosma; hence Damascius reluctance (ei hoion te phanai). Damascius, -like other fellow Neoplatonists- seems to understand all the faculties of the mind in an analogous manner to sense perception. The difference between the different faculties would be due to the nature of the object, i.e. its place in the ontological hierarchy. The perfect type of object of knowledge is incorporeal while the dimmest (skoteinotate10) type of knowledge deals with sensible (physical) objects. Perception is in accordance (kata) with aisthema just as representation is conditioned by the imprints of memory and imagination and thought and opinion by propositions. Generally speaking, each act of knowledge is conditioned by its content (gnosma). Therefore, in all forms of knowledge (gnosis) the object (to gnoston) must occur.11 Returning to our example,
Damascius, de Princ. II 149.13-17: Kai ga\r h( aisqhsij kata\ to\ aisqhma, kai h( fantasia kata\ to\n tu/pon u(fistatai, kai h( do/casij kai h( diano/hsij, h( me\n kata\ to\ diano/hma, h( de\ kata\ to\ do/casma. Kaqo/lou toinun h( gnwsij kata\ to\ gnwsma, ei oio/n te fa/nai. 6 Aristotle, Metaph. 1010b.31-33: to\ me\n oun mh/te ta\ aisqhta\ einai mh/te ta\ aisqh/mata iswj a)lhqe/j (tou= ga\r aisqanome/nou pa/qoj tou=to/ e)sti Now it is doubtless true that neither perceptible things nor sense-impressions (which are an affection of a perceiver) would exist; (tr. Kirwan). Cf. also Sorabjis discussion in Aristotle, On Memory, Providence 1972, pp.82-83 with the difference that there the act of perception is included as well. 7 i.e. the mental black patch. 8 G. E. Moore, The refutation of idealism and The nature and reality of objects of perception in Philosophical studies, London 1922. 9 Cf. Proclus, in Euclid. 3.14 ff; David, Proleg. 27.3-6. 10 cf. supra. Damascius, in Phaed. I 78.3. 11 Damascius, in Phaed. I .88.3: dei me\n ga\r e)n tv= gnwsei to\ gnwsto\n e)ggignesqai: (tr. Westerink modified).
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experience gives us a book: for touch it is a hard surface, for sight it is a black patch, I can infer what it is and even talk about its purpose. For me, as knower, it is an object of knowledge (gnoston / a knowable), and what I have from it are the knowledge-data (gnosmata), which are dependent on the presence of the object. However, this raises a new question: Is gnosma identical with the object of knowledge, but now in-substantial 12 to the knower?13 The traditional answer is yes. For Aristotle, Plotinus and Proclus, to take only three examples, there is an identity between the knower and the object of knowledge. However, it seems that in this case knowledge is equated with thinking either discursive or non-discursive.14 In the case of Aristotle, the first stage in holding such a theory is to assume that there is no difference between the object of thought and the act of thinking it, i.e. that they are numerically identical.15 The next stage is to assume that, since the act of thinking and the object are identical, they must be numerically identical with the thinker16 as well. This is certainly the case with Aristotles god. In Plotinus, who seems to take over Aristotles view, we are dealing this time explicitly with non-discursive thinking (noesis) and the identity thesis becomes a necessity motivated by the existence of the truth:

e)nousiwme/non: it seems to me to be a term specific to Damascius. The other occurrences are: Damascius, In Phileb. .175.7 - e)nousiwme/na; Damascius, de Princ. I 163.7-8 - e)nousiwme/n%; Simplicius, In Phys. 780.5 and In Phys. 784.4 - e)nousiwme/noj where Simplicius quotes from Damascius work On Number, Place and Time. The only occurrence outside the works of Damascius is to be found in Hierocles In Carmen Aureum Comm. II 3.7 - e)nousiwme/noj. Also there is the form e)nou/sion 2 occurences- to be found in the Anonymous Commentary to Parmenides XII 5-6 as contrasted to a)nou/sion. 13 Damascius, de Princ. II 149.17-19: To\ de\ gnwsma/ e)stin au)to\ to\ gnwsto/n, a)ll' hdh t% gignwskonti e)nousiwme/non; - I take this last sentence with Ruelle and Galprine as being a question, and thereby I keep Ruelles punctuation against Combs-Westerink. It cannot be an assertion as long as it gets refuted in the following sentence, as I will try to prove later. 14 In Aristotle we are dealing with episteme, which is theoretical knowledge as opposed to knowledge through the senses (perception); in Plotinus and Proclus the identity thesis is applied to non-discursive thinking (nous). 15 Aristotle, De an. 431b.20-432a.1: Nu=n de/, peri yuxh=j ta\ lexqe/nta sugkefalaiwsantej, eipwmen pa/lin oti h( yuxh\ ta\ onta pwj e)sti pa/nta: h ga\r aisqhta\ ta\ onta h nohta/, esti d' h( e)pisth/mh me\n ta\ e)pisthta/ pwj, h( d' aisqhsij ta\ aisqhta/: pwj de\ tou=to, dei zhtein. te/mnetai oun h( e)pisth/mh kai h( aisqhsij eij ta\ pra/gmata, h( me\n duna/mei eij ta\ duna/mei, h( d' e)ntelexei# eij ta\ e)ntelexei#: th=j de\ yuxh=j to\ aisqhtiko\n kai to\ e)pisthmoniko\n duna/mei tau)ta/ e)sti, to\ me\n <to\> e)pisthto\n to\ de\ <to\> aisqhto/n. a)na/gkh d' h au)ta\ h ta\ eidh einai. au)ta\ me\n dh\ ou: ou) ga\r o( liqoj e)n tv= yuxv=, a)lla\ to\ eidoj: - Let us now summarize our results about soul, and repeat that the soul is in a way all existing things; for existing things are either sensible or thinkable, and knowledge is in a way what is knowable, and sensation is in a way what is sensible: in what way we must inquire. Knowledge and sensation are divided to correspond with the realities, potential knowledge and sensation answering to potentialities, actual knowledge and sensation to actualities. Within the soul the faculties of knowledge and sensation are potentially these objects, the one what is knowable, the other what is sensible. They must be either the things themselves or their forms. The former alternative is of course impossible: it is not the stone which is present in the soul but its form. (tr. Smith). Cf. also: De an. 425b.26-426a.26; and the discussion in R. Sorabji, Time, Creation & the Continuum, London 1983. pp.144-145. 16 A disembodied thinker only, e.g. God.
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In this case, contemplation must be identical with the contemplated thing and the intellect (nous) identical with the intelligible (noeton); and if they are not identical, there will be no truth.17 In Proclus, keeping in mind the differences,18 each non-discursive faculty (nous) thinks itself: but the primal intellect (nous) knows itself only, and intellect and the intelligible are here numerically one; whereas each subsequent intellect knows simultaneously itself and its priors, so that, to it, the intelligible is, on the one hand itself and on the other its source.19 Admittedly, the identity theory does not apply to human subjects, which are not just intellects.20 Nevertheless, the core of the theory states that a pure mind (discursive or not) is identical with its objects, and for Aristotle, Plotinus, Proclus and Damascius there were such pure minds. At any rate, Damascius answer seems to differ from the answer given by Aristotle, Plotinus and Proclus: We answer that knowledge exists entirely in accordance with this [i.e. the content of knowledge (gnosma)], but that knowledge is not identical with this.21 From this passage Sara Rappe infers that Damascius denies the identity thesis.22 Nonetheless, although Damascius makes it clear that there is no identity between knowledge (gnosis) and its object (gnoston) as such, the meaning of the whole paragraph depends on how one reads the passage from de Princ. II 149.17-19: To\ de\ gnwsma/ e)stin au)to\ to\ gnwsto/n, a)ll' hdh t% gignwskonti e)nousiwme/non; Is gnosma identical with the object of knowledge, but now in-substantial to the knower? While Combs-Westerink choose to see it as simply an addition to the previous sentence, Ruelle, followed by Galprine, chooses to see two separate sentences, of which the latter is interrogative. (i.) Following the first reading, the translation would run:
Enn. V 3 5.21-23: Ei tou=to, dei th\n qewrian tau)to\n einai t% qewrht%, kai to\n nou=n tau)to\n einai t% noht%: kai ga/r, ei mh\ tau)to/n, ou)k a)lh/qeia estai: 18 The division of non-discursive thinking into noeron, noeton and noeron kai noeton. Cf. Proclus, The elements of theology, ed. E.R. Dodds, Oxford 1963. pp.285-289; L. Siorvanes, Proclus. Neo-Platonic Philosophy and Science, Edinburgh 1996. pp. 154-158. 19 El. Theol. 167.1-4: Pa=j nou=j e(auto\n noei: a)ll' o( me\n prwtistoj e(auto\n mo/non, kai en kat' a)riqmo\n e)n tou/t% nou=j kai nohto/n: ekastoj de\ twn e)fech=j e(auto\n ama kai ta\ pro\ au)tou=, kai nohto/n e)sti tou/t% to\ me\n o e)sti, to\ de\ a)f' ou e)stin. (tr. Dodds modified). 20 Cf. R. Sorabji, Time, Creation & the Continuum, London 1983. p.146. 21 Damascius, de Princ. II 149.19-20: H kata\ me\n tou=to pa/ntwj h( gnwsij, ou) tou=to de\ h( gnwsij. 22 S. Rappe, Reading Neoplatonism, Cambridge 2000. p.218.
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Generally speaking, knowledge exists according to gnosma, if we can say so, and gnosma is identical with the object of knowledge, but already consubstantial with the knower. This explains the interpretation of Combs: De fait la connaissance se produit selon lobjet de connaissance, en tant que celui-ci est consubstantialis avec le connaissant.23 (ii.) For Rappe, although she chooses the text of Combs-Westerink, however, the translation runs: In general, then, knowledge corresponds to the object of knowledge, to coin a new term for this, and the object of knowledge is that which is capable of being known when it has come to be an object of knowledge for a knower. We can say, therefore, that knowledge completely accords with its object, but it is not its object.24 I believe that both understandings of the text are misguided, and I will tackle the issue differently. (i.) The version of Combs-Westerink, although it reaches the conclusion intended by Damascius, i.e. that knowledge is not identical with gnosma, makes such a conclusion impossible by misunderstanding the premise. Damascius problem is twofold: a.) Firstly he asks if gnosma (a knowledge-datum) is the same thing as to gnoston (the object of knowledge); b.) The second problem is if the object of knowledge (to gnoston) is consubstantial with the knower, during the act of knowing. The answer he gives is that the act of knowing (gnosis) is not identical with the object of knowledge, denying, thus, the first Aristotelian hypothesis, and making the sequel impossible. The reading of Combs-Westerink, although it accepts the rejection of the first Aristotelian hypothesis (identity between the act of knowing and its object), implicitly accepts the second Aristotelian hypothesis, i.e. the identity between the object of knowledge and the knower, by accepting the identity at least this is how I understand e)nousiwme/non - between gnosma, gnoston and the knower. (ii.) Rappes reading, on the other hand, mistranslates a)ll' hdh t% gignwskonti e)nousiwme/non as to allow the conclusion that the act of knowing is not identical with the object of knowledge. (iii.) Both translators muddle the distinction gnosma gnoston translating them indiscriminately as object of knowledge. Only in the passage from II 149.17-18, where they occur together, do they take gnosma as object of knowledge (objet de connaissance) and gnoston as that which is capable of being known (le connaissable).. If the terms are synonymous, why would Damascius choose to differentiate them? In the end the knowable and the object of knowledge are one and the same thing. Moreover, they are both covered by one and the same word in Greek: to\ gnwsto/n, and for using this one, Damascius does not need to apologise- it is well used through the centuries, before and after him. Nevertheless, he invents a new term, gnosma, and this must mean something different. As I suggested above, and as Damascius does explicitly in his text using the analogy with aisthesis, gnosma must be understood as the cognitive content of knowledge, distinct from the object of knowledge. Galprine, when translating the above mentioned
Damascius, Trait des premiers principes, vol. II, ed., trad. et notes par L.G. Westerink et J. Combs, Paris 1989. p.LII. 24 S. Rappe, Reading Neoplatonism, Cambridge 2000. p.218.
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passage, maintains the confusion in the case of aisthesis, etc. but leaves gnosma untranslated. Still, there are some other problems with this passage: (i.) It is true that Damascius, denying Aristotles first hypothesis, implicitly denies the second as well. As already mentioned, in Aristotles case, the identity is referred to episteme and its object, and Damascius mentioning of the faculties of knowledge in II 149.13-16 included doxa and dianoia as well. However, he does not include noesis. Therefore, since in the case of Plotinus and moreover, Proclus the object of the identity theory is nous (nondiscursive thinking) I do not think that we can infer from this passage, as Rappe does, that Damascius criticizes the Neoplatonic theory of intellection and specifically the identity thesis that underlies it.25 Even less, we can hold with Gerson that Damascius [...] coins a new term, gnw=sma, on analogy with no/hma...26 (ii.) In the commentary to Phaedo we read that: intellects non-discursive thinking is the truest [knowledge] because it is indivisible from the intelligible.27 How then are we to understand Damascius? Is the identity between knowledge and its object and implicitly the identity between the knower and the object of knowledge denied by Damascius only as long as it covers the field of discursive thinking? On the other hand, is the identity between non-discursive thinking and its object endorsed? What are we supposed to make of passages such as in Phaed. I 7828 where non-discursive thinking is ranked as perfect knowledge (au)tognw=sij), and therefore a species of knowledge (gnw=sij)?29 2. What I will try to prove further is that, despite appearances, Damascius indeed denies any type of identity between knowledge and its object, non-discursive thinking included. I will do this by showing how these texts can be harmonized, and then I will try to show the motives for which Damascius denies any identity between knowledge and its object.

S. Rappe, Reading Neoplatonism, Cambridge 2000. p.220. L.P. Gerson, The concept in Platonism, in Traditions of Platonism. Essays in honour of J. Dillon, 1999, pp.65 80. p.80. This series of objections might seem petty pedantry As I will try to prove further, I agree with the conclusion that, indeed, Damascius rejects such a theory, in both its Aristotelian and Neoplatonic form. Nevertheless, I consider it hasty to draw such a conclusion only from this passage and what immediately follows it as Rappe does. The way she presents (pp.218-222) the arguments of Damascius, may induce the idea that the argument Damascius uses to defeat the identity thesis seems heuristic and even ad hoc... p.220 n.49. On the contrary, I believe that, followed correctly, the argument presents a strong case for the rejection of the identity theory. 27 Damascius, in Phaed. I .90.5-6: h( tou= nou= no/hsij a)lhqesta/th, dio/ti a)me/ristoj pro\j ta\ nohta/. (tr. Westerink modified). Westerink substitutes perception for knowledge, but the passage is about the types of knowledge, perception being one of them. Moreover, in .78.2-3 where the same idea is expressed, the actual term used is knowledge. 28 Cf. supra n. 4. 29 Proclus too treats non-discursive thinking as a species of knowledge, cf. In Parm. 924.
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(i.) The puzzle lies in how we interpret a)me/ristoj pro\j ta\ nohta/. Is it to be equated with e)nousiwme/non? If yes, then we have an identity between non-discursive thinking and its objects. )Enousiwme/noj signifies, indeed, in this context, numerical unity, i.e. identity. However, in his commentary on Aristotles Categories, explaining to Seleucus what Aristotle means by individual and numerically one in Categ. 2, 1b.6-830, Dexippus says: Atomic is used, not in the sense of indivisible (adiairetos) or partless (ameristos) but in the sense of not admitting of division as of genus into species, or of species into things distinguished numerically as one. Each one among sensible objects is said to be one not by reason of a single potency (dunamis), but because all converge in a single substance.31 In this passage, ameristos is distinguished from and opposed to the numerically one and the consubstantial. Nevertheless, by itself, this is not enough to allow us to infer that in our text from the commentary on Phaedo, ameristos cannot imply identity. (ii.) That mind is not identical with the objects of thought is stated by Damascius in .88 of in Phaed. I: Non-discursive thinking is sometimes described as sight because it is an impassive activity, sometimes as touch because it is united with its objects, so as to become all but identical with them.32 This time, we find explicitly denied here the identity thesis between non-discursive thought (noesis) and its object (noeton). However, what is affirmed is that there is a kind of union between noesis and its object, which approaches identity. I assume that this type of union is to be equated with the type of relation ameristos supposes. (iii.) Beginning his inquiry into the issue of knowledge, Damascius asks the question: Nevertheless, what is knowledge? We answer he continues- that it is the capture of the object of knowledge in the knower.33 However we do not yet know what we are talking about; what is, in fact, the object of knowledge or the knower, is not easy to know, when we do not know what knowledge is.34
Aristotle, Categ. 2, 1b.6-8: a(plwj de\ ta\ atoma kai en a)riqm% kat' ou)deno\j u(pokeime/nou le/getai, e)n u(pokeime/n% de\ enia ou)de\n kwlu/ei einai: - Things that are individual and numerically one are, without exception, not said of any subject, but there is nothing to prevent them from being in a subject. (tr. Ackrill). 31 Dexippus, In Categ.: Atomon me\n oun le/getai ou)x wj to\ a)diaireton kai a)me/riston, a)ll' wj to\ mh\ dexo/menon tomh\n ge/nouj eij eidh mhde\ eidouj eij ta\ kaq' en a)riqm% diwrisme/na. en de\ ekaston twn aisqhtwn le/getai ou) kata\ mian du/namin, a)ll' oti pa/nta eij mian neu/ei ou)sian. (tr. Dillon). 32 Damascius, in Phaed. I .88.1-2: Oti th\n no/hsin wj me\n e)ne/rgeian a)paqh= kalou=sin oyin, wj de\ toij nohtoij h(nwme/nhn kalou=sin a(fh/n, oion au)ta\ sxedo\n ousan ta\ nohta/. (tr. Westerink modified). 33 Cf. David, Proleg. 46.26-47.17. 34 Damascius, de Princ. II 147.20-148.1: Ti de/ e)stin omwj h( gnwsij; H a)ntilhyij tou= gnwstou= e)n t% gnwstik%. All' oupw ti ismen wn le/gomen: ti ga\r an eih to\ gnwsto\n h to\ gnwstiko/n, ou) r(#/dion gnwnai, a)gnooume/nhj th=j gnwsewj.
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Therefore, he proposes a set of definitions: (a.) Knowledge (gnosis), as the name suggests, is non-discursive thought that comes into being (gignomene nosis), which is non-discursive thinking; and nondiscursive thinking (noesis), because it goes (neitai) and returns (epaneisi) towards being (einai) and towards it is (esti), can be rightly called return (neoesis).35 (b.) Maybe knowledge (gnosis) wants to be, also, creation (genesis) of being (on) and substance (ousia): since by its return towards being, the knower (gignoskon) gets its substance (ousiotai) according to the knowledge (gnosis), not according to the first [substance], but according to as it were - the substantialisation which comes into being (gignomene ousiosis); hence the intellect (nous) is the things it thinks, as Aristotle also says.36 Indeed these two etymological definitions defy translation.37 Regardless of their baroque features, they seem convincing enough for Gersh to draw the conclusion that the set of terms: gnwsto/n gnwstiko/j gnw=sij is equivalent, in most contexts, to the set: nohto/n now=n - no/hsij, and thus cognition (gnw=sij) is equated not only with the third term in the triad of remaining, procession and reversion, but also with the triad itself.38 The whole discussion concerning knowledge will tackle the issue against the background of the aporiai raised by the relationship between knowledge, the triad and the traditional interpretations of it. These two definitions are displayed only with the title of hypothesis and as expressions of what the philosophical tradition so far understands by these terms.39 The proper answer given by Damascius begins at de Princ. II 149.12 ff. As we have seen before, Damascius explicitly denies the identity thesis, in its Aristotelian form, between gnosis and gnoston (de Princ. II 149.19-20). Also it seems that he denies it even in the Plotinian Proclean form in in Phaed. Nevertheless, there is another implication in the etymological definition of gnosis, which is held by most of the Late Platonists: knowledge in the sense of non-discursive reason (cf. supra) creates beings.40 Damascius comes to deny this thesis as well: If knowledge had an active force, then, in so far as it acts in some way and makes something subsist, it is no longer knowledge of an object of
Damascius, de Princ. II 148.1-4: H gnwsij e)stin, wj to\ onoma paradhloi, gignome/nh nwsij, o e)stin no/hsij: h( de\ no/hsij, oti e)pi to\ einai kai to\ estin neitai kai e)pa/neisi, neo/esij e)n dikv an klhqeisa: 36 Damascius, de Princ. II 148.19-149.2: Iswj de\ kai ge/nesij ontoj kai ou)siaj h( gnwsij einai bou/letai: ou)siwtai ga\r tv= eij to\ on e)pano/d% to\ gignwskon kata\ th\n gnwsin, ou) th\n prwthn, a)ll' oion gignome/nhn ou)siwsin: dio/per o( nou=j ta\ pra/gmata, fhsi kai Aristote/lhj. 37 Cf. S. E. Gersh, From Iamblichus to Eriugena, Leiden, 1978. pp.106-107, n.130. 38 S. E. Gersh, From Iamblichus to Eriugena, Leiden, 1978. p.106 ff. 39 Cf. the very inspired discussion in S. E. Gersh, From Iamblichus to Eriugena, Leiden, 1978. p.106 ff, who, although discussing Damascius in Proclean terms, provides a very accurate insight into the treatment of the relation between causation and cognition. 40 Cf. Proclus, In Tim. I 352.8-9. See the discussion in S. E. Gersh, From Iamblichus to Eriugena, Leiden, 1978. p.110 ff.
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knowledge, but the productive cause of a produced thing. However, the proper (characteristic) of the knower is not production, but only to get to the knowledge of an existing thing, while substance and life make things to subsist [...].41 3. What is, then, the affection of the knower, when he does not yet know? asks Damascius next. We answer that he desires the object of knowledge. 42 The object of knowledge is, for Proclus, pure Being.43 For Damascius, however, things are different: Therefore, knowledge is the attainment of the object of knowledge qua object of knowledge: and if knowledge [attains] being, it [attains] being qua object of knowledge. What is then, the object of knowledge and in what way does it differ from being? We answer that an object of knowledge is related to another, while a being exists in itself . This is what belongs to them, before the nature of each one is differentiated. There is on one side subsistence, and on the other the object of knowledge as manifestation of the subsistent. In fact, for the form-in-matter, for example, subsistence is one thing, while being perceptible is another; for what, for the form-in matter, is perceptible, is what is projected from it and shines out from it, and shines out as far as perception, and thus becomes commensurable with it.44 The initial distinction between the object of knowledge (gnoston) and the mental content (gnosma) becomes very relevant now. Being is not relational; a-certain-thing is. However, introducing a-certain-thing as a name for being, we indicate a being and therefore we establish a difference between us and what becomes now the object of our assertions, i.e. object of knowledge. Being is available only as object of knowledge. The very availability of being is, ipso facto, required by a knower, thus, being gives itself as different,
Damascius, de Princ. II 164.5-10: Ei ga\r kai drasth/rioj eih h( gnwsij, a)lla\ kaqo\ dr#= ti kai u(fisthsin, ou)ke/ti gnwsij wj gnwstou=, a)lla\ poihtikh/ tij aitia tino\j poih/matoj. Ou) ga/r e)sti poiein idion tou= gignwskontoj, a)lla\ mo/non gignwskein hdh ti on, th=j de\ ou)siaj kai th=j zwh=j to\ u(fista/nein, []. 42 Damascius, de Princ. II 149.20-21: Ti oun pa/sxei to\ gnwstiko/n, ote mh/pw gignwskei; H o)re/getai tou= gnwstou=. 43 Proclus, In Parm. 946.2-6: ou) ga\r ecij h( e)kei e)pisth/mh ou)de\ poio/thj, a)ll' uparcij au)totelh\j e(auth=j ousa kai e)n e(autv= pageisa, kai t% e(auth\n gignwskein to\ prwtwj e)pisthto\n, o dh/ e)sti to\ a(plwj on, gignwskousa: - for knowledge There is not a faculty nor a quality, but it is an independent substance belonging to itself, knowing also the primary object of knowledge, which is pure Being. (tr. Dillon). 44 Damascius, de Princ. II 149.21-150.8: Ou)kou=n h( gnwsij teu=cij e)sti tou= gnwstou= v gnwsto/n: kai ga\r ei tou= ontoj, a)ll' v gnwsto\n to\ on. Ti oun to\ gnwsto/n, kai p$== diafe/ron tou= ontoj; H oti gnwsto\n me\n pro\j allo, kaq' au(to\ de/ o e)stin, on. H kai tou=to me\n pro/sestin, oupw de\ ti/j e(kate/rou diwristai fu/sij. H to\ me/n e)stin h( u(po/stasij, to\ de\ gnwsto\n oion to\ fano\n th=j u(posta/sewj. Kai ga\r allo t% e)nu/l% eidei fe/re eipein h( u(po/stasij, allo to\ aisqht% einai: kai estin au)tou= to\ aisqhto\n to\ propipton au)tou= kai prola/mpon au)tou=, kai prola/mpon ewj aisqh/sewj, kai tau/tv su/mmetron pro\j au)th\n gigno/menon.
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as object of knowledge. Then again, there is no difference between being and the object of knowledge. They are not two distinct realities. The object of being is the manifestation, i.e. availability of being. This is not so hard to accept, when we think of partial perception, for example. A glass full of water is given as object of knowledge to all our senses, with the exception of taste. Does it represent the very being of what my senses call: a glass of water? Yes. Does my knowledge-datum (gnosma) fully cover this object? No. My knowledge, or more correctly, its quality, is in accordance with (in relation to) this knowledge-datum (h( gnwsij kata\ to\ gnwsma). Assume that I taste the water and I find out that it is salty. Does this change the reality of the object? No. It changes the quality of my knowledge-datum only, in this case giving me a fuller picture of the object. Assume now that all my cognitive faculties have entertained the object: does it mean that I possess its being as knowledge data? No, again. The mere fact that my knowledge established its distinction from this object of knowledge using all its faculties does not allow me to assume more than that I know the object of knowledge, i.e. what was given to my faculties, but I cannot know, or assert, more than that. 4. We can tackle the issue from another direction as well. By naming things, claims Damascius, what we actually do is to name them according to a single property usually the distinctive property. This accounts for the way our mind works, i.e. through division. That is to say that our mind cannot work with complete surrounding realities (o(/laij perioxai=j) by comprehending them in all their completeness. Thus, we name such a complete (pa/mforon) reality as the cosmos by using only one of its characters: its fact of being ordered (kekosmhme/non).45 But does this mean that things themselves are such conglomerates of qualities (idiotetes)? It seems possible up to a point to read de Princ. II 198 in such a key. Also we can add the following passage from in Phaed. I: Hence he [Dionysus] can be said to be at the same time indivisible and divisible, for such is the nature of the universe, which has rather the character of an aggregate and is held together by a totality whose parts are distinct.46 Nevertheless, what is important here is that the relationship which is established between the mind and its object (specifically here, in the case of naming) is to extract a particular character which gives to it (either universal or individual) a name, i.e. identity. A further question that can be raised is: if mind operates by identifying characters is this happening in a pictorial manner or in other way? And since the language used to describe the cognitive activity is so visually oriented does it mean we always think with images?

Damascius, de Princ. II 198-199. Damascius, in Phaed. I .4.12-13: dio\ kai a)me/ristoj ama kai meristo/j: toiou=ton ga\r to\ pa=n oion a)qroismati ma=llon e)oiko\j kai o(lo/thti diakekrime/nv toij me/resi sunexo/menon. (tr. Westerink). It seems that giving a name to something amounts to establishing its idiots; however I did not find enough information to warrant that such a theory would be essential or representative for a possible theory of names in Damascius.
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Insofar as the human intellect is concerned Aristotle47 answers yes, as does Porphyry48. Nevertheless, Damascius answer is negative again: The existence of non-imaginative knowledge is proved by knowledge of indivisible things, such as the unit, the point, the now, as well as by the knowledge of the universals (any definite shape is already individual and already this); it is proved also by those realities which we cannot visualize, e.g. justice and temperance; it appears also from the fact that transcendent forms can be shown to be indivisible and incorporeal and from the proofs of the existence of incorporeal things generally.49 Would it be, then, fair to infer that, although all the faculties of knowledge, from senseperception to discursive thinking know only the manifestation (phanon)50 of being (what we later identified as properties), only one of them, non-discursive thinking, attains being itself? It has been accepted by Damascius that non-discursive thinking operates in unity with its objects, by being all but identical.51 Would it not be fair to assume that in the case of such a unity (ameristos), non-discursive thinking deals with its objects, not as with manifestations of being, but as being itself? Is not Damascius stressing that in nondiscursive thinking, the primary objects of knowledge are present?52 Such an inference, however, is not valid. Even non-discursive thinking is a form of knowledge, therefore a form of differentiation, and obtains being as pros allo: And so intellect knows being, but necessarily according to its manifestation, in our view. Yet it desires being. We answer that it desires it qua being but attains the same thing qua object of knowledge. Perhaps even desire should be said to be of being according to the object of knowledge; for natural
Aristotle, De an. 431a.14-17: tv= de\ dianohtikv= yuxv= ta\ fanta/smata oion aisqh/mata u(pa/rxei, otan de\ a)gaqo\n h kako\n fh/sv h a)pofh/sv, feu/gei h diwkei: dio\ ou)de/pote noei aneu fanta/smatoj h( yuxh/. - To the thinking soul images serve as if they were contents of perception (and when it asserts or denies them to be good or bad it avoids or pursues them). That is why the soul never thinks without an image.. (tr. Smith) However, Ps.-Simplicius in De an. comm.268.8 ff. objects that this would apply also to nou=j. 48 Porphyry, Sent. 16.6-11: kai oute aisqhsij ecwqen oute no/hsij allh pote\ de\ wj t% z%% ou)k aneu pa/qouj twn aisqhtikwn o)rga/nwn ai aisqh/seij, outw kai ai noh/seij ou)k aneu fantasiaj: in' v to\ a)na/logon, wj o( tu/poj parakolou/qhma z%ou aisqhtikou=, outw to\ fa/ntasma yuxh=j {z%ou} e(po/menon noh/sei. - Neither sense-perception nor non-discursive thinking come from outside, but, as perceptions in the living being do not occur without affection of the sense-organs, so there is no non-discursive thinking without images: in the same way as the impression, accompanies the living being when it is perceiving, similarly, the image in the soul {of the living being} follows non-discursive thinking . 49 Damascius, in Phaed. I . 112.1-5: Oti estin a)mo/rfwtoj gnwsij, dhloi me\n h( twn a)merwn, oion mona/doj, shmeiou, tou= nu=n: dhloi de\ kai h( twn kaqo/lou (pa=j ga\r tu/poj hdh atomoj kai hdh outoj: dhloi de\ kai wn morfa\j ou)k exomen, oion dikaiosu/nh kai swfrosu/nh: dhloi de\ kai ta\ xwrista\ eidh a)me/rista kai a)swmata e)pideiknu/mena kai olwj ai twn a)swma/twn a)podeiceij. (tr. Westerink); followed by Olymp. in Phaed. .2.15-17: ti oun fhsin; ou)k esti no/hsij a)fantasiastoj; h h(nika ta\ kaqo/lou ginwskei h( yuxh/, to/te aneu fantasiaj e)nergei. - Is there no thought unaccompanied by imagination? Yes, there is; when the soul apprehends universals, imagination has no part in its activity. (tr. Westerink). 50 Damascius, de Princ. II 150.9. 51 Damascius, in Phaed. I .88 and also .90. 52 Damascius, in Phaed. I .88. 4: e)n de\ t% n% au)ta\ ta\ prwta gnwsta/, (tr. Westerink modified).
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desires are for the same things as they actually attain, and it is agreed that the knower attains being according to what is known.53 Moreover, even in the case of self-reflection, in nous, by the very fact of discrimination, the knower is manifest.54 5. On the grounds that Damascius distinguishes between being and its manifestation, he has been branded as subjectivist and idealist.55 I see the situation differently. Damascius, if he is to be branded, seems to me rather a realist.56 Not only the principle of Berkeley, esse est percipi is not endorsed, it even gets challenged. Reality is not granted by knowledge, but knowledge itself gets limited by its own faculties (dunameis). Does this mean that we can never know reality? On the contrary: we are part of reality in the full meaning of to be and we can, also, fully know reality, i.e. in non-discursive thinking. Of course, if we want to know reality by identification with it (identity thesis), then we will fail, but only because we mistakenly consider both identity and knowledge as ontological matters. For Damascius, however, knowledge is an epistemic matter while identity is couched in ontic terms. The very nature of knowledge -whatever its degree- resides in alterity while being is an identity statement. Can we say, in consequence, that Damascius is a subjectivist? Putting forward such a thesis one can be making a quite uninspired suggestion. There is a multiplicity of significations the term subjectivity covers, and the unwanted luggage of associations it brings with it makes it virtually too ambiguous to be used here. However, what I have in mind, I think, can be narrowed to what one might call perspectivism. The way the mind works is dictated by its inherent principle of division, therefore our knowledge is always perfectible. It is like watching a three-dimensional object: it never reveals its back to the eye and even though the mind fills in the gap with the help of the other faculties, a faculty by itself never manages to deal with all the objects of knowledge in a unitary manner. Even in the case of non-discursive thinking, we still need the difference that allows mind to relate itself to its object.
Damascius, de Princ. II 150.17-24: Wste to\ me\n on gignwskei o( nou=j, a)lla\ kata\ to\ fano/n, wj fame/n, a)nagkaiwj. Kai mh\n tou= ontoj o)re/getai. H o)re/getai me\n wj ontoj, tugxa/nei de\ tou= au)tou= wj gnwstou=. Ta/xa de\ kai h( orecij r(hte/a tou= ontoj kata\ to\ gnwsto/n: ai ga\r kata\ fu/sin o)re/ceij twn au)twn eisin wn kai ai teu/ceij, o(mologoume/nwj de\ h( teu=cij tou= ontoj t% gignwskonti kata\ to\ gignwsko/menon. 54 Damascius, de Princ. II 152.12-13: Kai ga\r t% n% kata\ to\ diakekrime/non e)nefa/nh to\ gnwstiko/n. 55 J. Combs in Damascius, Trait des premiers principes, vol. II, ed., trad. et notes par L.G. Westerink et J. Combs, Paris 1989.; A. Linguiti, Giamblico, Proclo e Damascio sul principio anteriore alluno, Elenchos 1, 1988, pp.95-106.; L.P. Gerson, The concept in Platonism, Traditions of Platonism. Essays in honour of J. Dillon, 1999, pp.65 80. p.80: Thus does Damascius depart remarkably in an idealistic manner from the Plotinian and Proclean responses to Stoic and Peripatetic realism. A more moderate approach in S. Rappe, Reading Neoplatonism, Cambridge 2000. pp.222-224. 56 I found quite puzzling the variety of definitions given to both realism and idealism throughout various encyclopaedias or histories of philosophy. If Berkeley is an idealist, Kant does not seem to me to fit in the same class. Several similarities can be singled out between the way Kant and the way Damascius choose to see the relation between knowledge and its object, although there is not the place here for going in such details. In naming this type of approach a realist one, I follow A.E. Taylor, Elements of Metaphysics, Edinburgh 1961. p. 68 ff.
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Cosmin I. ANDRON Royal Holloway College & Kings College, University of London

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Blumenthal, H.J., Aristotle and Neoplatonism in Late Antiquity. Interpretations of De Anima, London 1996. Damascius, Lectures on Platos Phaedo, variant I in: L.G. Westerink, The Greek commentaries on Platos Phaedo, vol. II: Damascius, Amsterdam, Oxford, New York, 1977, pp.26-285. Damascius, Lectures on Platos Phaedo, variant II in: L.G. Westerink, The Greek commentaries on Platos Phaedo, vol. II: Damascius, Amsterdam, Oxford, New York, 1977, pp.288-371. Damascius, Lectures on the Philebus wrongly attributed to Olympiodorus, ed., tr., notes and indices by. L.G. Westerink, Amsterdam 1959. Damascius, Trait des premiers principes, ed., tr. et notes par L.G. Westerink et J. Combs, vol. I-III, Paris 1986-1991. Dexippus, In Aristotelis Categorias commentaria, ed. H. Diels, in Commentaria in Aristotelem Graeca IV.ii, Berlin1888. Dexippus, On Aristotles Categories, tr. J.M. Dillon, London 1990. Galprine, M.-C., Introduction to : Damascius, Des premiers principes, Paris 1987. Gersh, S.E., From Iamblichus to Eriugena, Leiden, 1978. Gerson, L.P., The concept in Platonism, Traditions of Platonism. Essays in honour of J. Dillon, Aldershot 1999, pp.65 80. Linguiti, L., Giamblico, Proclo e Damascio sul principio anteriore alluno, Elenchos 1, 1988, pp.95-106. Lloyd, A.C. The anatomy of Neoplatonism, Oxford 1990. Moore, G.E., The refutation of idealism and The nature and reality of objects of perception in Philosophical studies, London 1922. Procli philosophi Platonici opera inedita, ed. V. Cousin, Paris 1864 (repr. Hildesheim 1961) Proclus, The elements of theology, ed. E.R. Dodds, Oxford 1963. p.14

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Proclus Commentary on Platos Parmenides, tr. G.R. Morrow and J.M. Dillon, Princeton 1987. Rappe, S., Reading Neoplatonism, Cambridge 2000. Siorvanes, L., Proclus. Neo-Platonic Philosophy and Science, Edinburgh 1996. Sorabji, R., Time, Creation & the Continuum, London 1983. Taylor, A.E., Elements of Metaphysics, Edinburgh 1961.

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