Anda di halaman 1dari 9

896br 22-12-1998 16:34 Page 104


LLOYD P. GERSON, Plotinus (The Arguments of the Phi-

losophers, ed. Ted Honderich). London, Routledge, 1994.
XVIII, 338 p. Pr. 45.

Prof. Gerson has written a survey of Plotinus philosophical

thought which is impressive both in scope and detail. After an Intro-
duction on Plotinus life and writings, including problems of inter-
pretation and translation, he presents Plotinus philosophy in two
parts. In Part I he discusses Plotinus system from the One down to
the material world, together with issues about (individual) forms and
Plotinus reception of Stoic and Aristotelian category theory (Chap-
ters I-VI). Part II deals with issues in psychology, epistemology,
ethics, and religion or, as G. puts it (p. 124), Plotinus remarkable
account of human beings as incarnate souls living in [a] Platonic
World (Chapters VII-X). Concluding remarks, 66 pages of detailed
notes, a rich bibliography of Plotinus, and the usual indices close the
As C. does not fail to point out (p. 225), Plotinus is a difficult book,
and perhaps a book about Plotinus cannot be easy reading. Never-
theless one gets the impression that at least part of the difficulty is
created by G.s attempt to render the study of Plotinus interesting
for the modern philosophical readership to which the Arguments of
the Philosophers series is primarily directed. It is worthwhile to draw
attention to an important proviso stated in the introduction: I have
been very selective in discussing Plotinus arguments ... I have cho-
sen from among these the arguments I regard as the most philo-
sophically interesting and have left aside ones that I judged to be of
only marginal philosophical interest. I am not confident that my
judgment always corresponds to what Plotinus own would have
been about the relative merits of his arguments (p. XVII). It is to
be expected, then, that historians of philosophy will have occasion
to raise their eye-brows. Some of my own doubts are expressed be-
A number of difficulties in G.s approach have already been point-
ed out by a recent reviewer1) who has shown that G.s exposition of
the fundamentals of Plotinus system is seriously flawed by omitting
the influence of schools of thought and religion contemporary with
Plotinus, and by reformulating Plotinus metaphysics in Thomistic
terms. The former is manifest in, e.g., G.s off-hand rejection of mys-
tical and theurgic practice as irrelevant to a (contemporary!) philos-
ophy book (p. XVII), the latter in his striking claim that Plotinus
fully anticipated the Thomistic doctrine of essence and existence,

Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 1999 Mnemosyne, Vol. LII, Fasc. 1

896br 22-12-1998 16:34 Page 105


and even ascribed an identity of essence and existence to the One

(Chapter I, esp. p. 6)2). While sharing the negative assessment of
these aspects of the book I shall not dwell on them, but, after some
remarks on G.s attitude to Plotinus, I shall concentrate on physics
and epistemology (Chapters VI and VIII).
In the introduction (p. XV) G. presents Plotinus as a Platonist
whose main claim to originality rests on the ingenious way he chose
to deal with the Stoic and Peripatetic critique against Plato, viz. by
appropriating the distinctions and terminology of these schools. As a
result, some of his doctrines have no parallel in the written or oral
Platonic tradition3). G. adds that it is a sometimes overlooked facet
of Plotinus Platonism ... that Plotinus leans heavily on Aristotle for
an understanding of what Platos doctrines actually were (p. XV).
However, two arguments that G. adduces in support of this claim
rather suggest that Plotinus directs his attention to Aristotles per-
ception of Plato in order to restore the proper Platonic perspective
in spite of Aristotles views. First, with Aristotle Plotinus believes that
Plato had an unwritten doctrine of principlesbut for this Plotinus
need not rely on Aristotle. Apart from the simple fact that such doc-
trine may well have existed no matter what Aristotle had to say
about it, Alexanders commentaries (which we know Plotinus used,
Porph. Vita Plotini XIV 13) are far more informative than Aristotle
on this issue. Secondly, Plotinus frequently seems to accept as
authoritative Aristotles destructive account of a Platonic doctrine.
However, this is hardly surprising if, as G. himself points out (p.
XVI, see also p. 109), Plotinus aims at turning the tables on Aristotle
so as to show the Platonic doctrine to be the necessary truth: in those
cases his acceptance of Aristotles authority is merely for the sake
of the argument. Plotinus saw and respected the challenge posed by
Aristotles anti-Platonism, but that does not mean he ever let
Aristotle determine his understanding of Platos philosophy. Even so,
G. shows it is a fruitful exercise to begin treatment of Plotinian doc-
trines with the reasons why Plotinus rejects the Aristotelian alterna-
tive (p. XVI). G. is no doubt successful in elucidating the aim of
much of Plotinus Enneads from this perspective. At the same time he
probes an important part of Aristotles metaphysics, physics, and
Let us now turn to Chapter VI, which provides a comprehensive
account of Plotinus physics. Among much of value a number of pas-
sages stand out where G.s focus on philosophically interesting argu-
ments seems to lead him astray. In G.s discussion of matter and its
generation, we find the surprising statement: Its [i.e. matters, FdH]
896br 22-12-1998 16:34 Page 106


generation means that it is dependent or contingent (see II.5.5.12-

13; II.9.3.15) (p. 110). However, in II.5 [25] 5.12-13 we merely find
that matter is unchangeable (cf. p. 264 n. 23) because it always
remains precisely what it was from the start: a non-being (per j
rxw n-m n d n-otvw e xousa). Did G. understand j rxw
as dependent on a principle instead of from the start? Surely, the
generation of matter is dependent on prior causes but there is none
of it in this passage. With II.9 [33] 3.15 the situation is different.
This line is taken from a passage (II.9 [33] 3.12-21) containing an
argument that matter is not involved in a continuous process of gen-
eration and corruption. If someone were to say that matter can per-
ish because there is something for it to perish into, Plotinus says, we
should ask by what necessity it came into being. If they (the
Gnostics against which Plotinus is arguing here) say that matter fol-
lows preceding causes by necessity, this necessity will also hold at this
very moment (so that matter cannot perish). If matter will remain on
its own (because it does not follow preceding causes), it follows that
the divine is limited in space as if there were a wall between it and
matter. Because spatial limitation of the divine is unacceptable,
Plotinus concludes, it follows that matter must be illuminated too.
Plotinus point is that matter is necessarily linked to the highest
principle and the good; hence it is not a separate cause of evil as
Gnostic dualism would have it. Indirectly, of course, this text sup-
ports the claim that the generation of matter is dependent on a
cause, but at the same time it argues that the generation of matter
is necessary, not contingent, either because it follows necessarily
from prior causes or because of the unacceptable consequences of
the denial of that necessity.
In a note added to the quotation given above (n. 23 on p. 263-4)
G. gathers from IV.8 [6] 6.18-23 that Plotinus leaves undecided the
question whether matter is eternal or generated, perhaps out of re-
spect for the Timaeus (which Plotinus did not take as a literal account
of creation). In fact, however, in IV.8 [6] 6. 18-23, too, Plotinus
argues for matters depending on a cause by tracing the conse-
quences of two contradictory options. If matter existed always, it
cannot but participate in the distributor of goodness; even if matter
followed prior causes by necessity it cannot be separate as if the
cause that bestows being as a gift had to stop before it reached mat-
ter for lack of potencywhich is ridiculous. Ergo, the existence of
matter is both necessary and dependent on a cause, one way or the
The point is not that Plotinus does not decide between the two
896br 22-12-1998 16:34 Page 107


options eternal or generated: to be generated in the sense of being

dependent on a cause is itself the solution to this dilemma, and a
popular interpretation of Platos Timaeus.
In Chapter V G. put forward the interesting suggestion that Plo-
tinus view of sensible substances is modelled on Aristotles account
of artifacts (p. 96). Since from the Platonic perspective the sensible
world is the product of a Craftsman this is a promising approach.
The suggestion is further developed in Chapter VI where G. sets out
Plotinus view of the sensible world (p. 108, 112-3, 115). However,
it seems to me that G.s account of the individual sensible substance
does not support this suggestion as well as it could. On p. 105-6 G.
analyses the individual human being Socrates as a composite which,
as such, is merely an homonymous image of man which is produced
through the mediation of the universal soul. Nevertheless, the com-
posite is the bearer or subject of an instance of the Form of Humani-
ty. G. calls this instance a synonymous image of the Form. Concepts
(lgoi) in souls are instances of this kind, and as such the direct prod-
uct of Intellect itself (see also p. 171 with n. 24).
Here a note on terminology seems in order. The phrase synony-
mous image, which G. has coined (p. 261 n. 3), is problematic.
Although in the more general context of e.g. V.8 [31] 7.12-16 both
direct and indirect products of Intellect are called traces (ndalma)
and images (efikn), in V.9 [5] 13.9-11 Plotinus is more precise and
explicitly rules out that instances of Forms (such as the lgoi in souls)
are to be regarded as images (edvlon, efikn) at all. They should
rather be seen as a different mode of being of the Form itself. On
the basis of this text, then, we may surmise that genuine imaging
which results in homonymous images occurs only through the medi-
ation of Soul. In this way the efficient causality of Soul (and, hence,
of souls) is perfectly compatible with that of Platos Craftsman, cre-
ating mere images whose accidental unity resembles that of Aristo-
telian artifacts.
On p. 106 G. explains that according to Plotinus a sensible indi-
vidual like Socrates is in fact a composite of qualities in matter. G.
claims (my numbering): (1) These qualities in matter, like the visi-
ble qualities tall and white, are images of Forms. These images
bear their names univocally with Forms. (2) But their lgoi neces-
sarily include matter. (3) Thus the tallness in Socrates is self-identi-
cally tallness, like the Form. But the tallness in Socrates is necessar-
ily the particular tallness of a body. (4) So, the composite Socrates,
who is just these qualities in matter, is like the drawing of the orig-
inal and not the proportions in relation to the original (VI.3.15.31-
896br 22-12-1998 16:34 Page 108


How does the conclusion (4) follow from the preceding argument?
Why does a composite of self-identical images of Forms in matter
end up as the analogue of a drawing? What has happened to
Socrates humanity? Does it have no role to play in explaining the
presence of his qualities? A closer look at VI.3 [44] 15.24-38 as a
whole shows that G. merely intends this reference to support the
illustration of drawing and original, although in my opinion the pas-
sage contradicts G.s overall account of sensible qualities.
The purpose of VI.3 [44] 15 is to investigate whether moion and
nmoion are peculiar to the category of quality, in the same way as
son and nison are peculiar to quantity. We may surmise they are
not. Plotinus first contrasts the lgow of mandesignated as twith
its product and image in a corporeal naturedesignated as poin ti.
Then he unfolds a three-place proportion. The painted image of
Socrates is incorrectly (i.e. homonymously) called Socrates because
it consists of mere colours and paint which have nothing in common
with the original, viz. the sensible Socrates. In the same way the sen-
sible Socrates is incorrectly called Socrates since he consists of mere
colours and shapes which are images (mimmata) of their counterparts
in the lgow, i.e. humanity. Finally, the same relation holds between
this lgow and the veritable lgow of Humanity, i.e. the Form.
Hence, the first lgow, which creates the colours and shapes of the
sensible Socrates, is not the Form in Intellect but the creative lgow
in Soul, or rather itself Socrates individual soul4). It would seem,
then, that the sensible colours of the composite Socrates are the pro-
duct of the creative activity of a soul and not themselves direct rep-
resentations of the Forms of e.g. White (against 1 and 3). Hence they
cannot be called synonymously after the Form (against 1). The sta-
tus of colours and other qualities in spermatic lgoi is further dis-
cussed in VI.3 [44] 16. In the more elaborate discussion of quality
in II.6 [17] Plotinus claims that we tend to speak of qualities when
we are describing the characteristics that a lgow comprises all at
once, only to be unfolded in its activity. Hence almost all so-called
qualities are activities (nrgeiai) of a lgow or edow (for the identi-
fication see e.g. II.6 [17] 2. 14-15, II.7 [37] 3.12). This also applies
to individual sensible colours (e.g. II.b [17] 3.1-2 t on leukn p
so yeton o poithta, ll nrgeian). They arise as a result of the
activity of the lgow of humanity, not the activity of e.g. the Form
White. Of course these lgoi do not include matterso lgow in (2)
must mean definition. In II.7 [37] 3.7-14 Plotinus explicitly oppos-
es the two notions of lgow, and states with respect to the lgow that
creates body that it does not include matter (m tn lhn sumperiei-
896br 22-12-1998 16:34 Page 109


lhfnai) because in creating body it has to be active as a form in

Against this background G.s conclusion (4) makes much better
sense and also supports G.s suggestion that sensibles possess merely
accidental unity. Socrates as a bundle of qualities and matter is to
the lgow of humanity (which is an instance of the Form of
Humanity, and Socrates soul) what the drawing or painting is to the
original. The activity of the lgow joined with matter is manifest in
sensible colours and other qualities which are themselves mere
images of, and therefore essentially different from, their counterparts
in the lgow5). On this interpretation, instances of Forms and the
homonymous images they produce remain clearly distinguished.
Moreover, it is evident that the sensible qualities in matter do not
exhibit the unity they enjoy in their source, but constitute an arbi-
trary bundle without even affecting the matter they are in (see p.
112; compare III.6 [26] 7 ff).
This issue is of more than academic interest. It is of paramount
importance for the understanding of Plotinus epistemology, which is
discussed in Chapter VIII. The crux of G.s interpretation is again
that sensible objects are at the same time homonymous and syn-
onymous images. More precisely: The synonymous images are
manifested in material capable of manifesting opposite Forms. That
is why the images are homonymous as well. Still, the intelligibility is
in the image which sensation receives. The intelligibility that is in
that same homonymous image (these are already intelligible enti-
ties6)) is information available for an entity capable of decoding it
(p. 168). Hence, G. argues, there is no need for Platos anamnesis
(p. 179-180). If Plotinus says that Intellect instills in us laws (nmoi)
and rules (kannew) we have to understand him as saying merely
that Intellect provides the ability we use to acquire synonymous
images of Forms through sense-perception and to compare them
with those encountered in subsequent acts of sense-perception (p.
176-177). This is all that thinking incarnately amounts to. We are
never in a position to recollect Forms in our intellect, let alone to
establish contact with Intellect and the Forms themselves while
thinking incarnately. G. notes that he is aware that [his] interpre-
tation of Intellects laws that are written in us as being actually the
intelligible content of sense-perception is hard to accept, at least ini-
tially (p. 179). He failed to convince me, for the following reasons.
In V.3 [49] 3.1-11 Plotinus clearly distinguishes two kinds of ratio-
nal activity (dinoia). First, in cooperation with memory, reason is
896br 22-12-1998 16:34 Page 110


able to cognize, analyse and recognize images of sense-perception.

At this level reason may gather the information from several senses
into the unity of the single lgow that caused the variety of sensible
qualities, quantities etc. that we can pick out only by different sens-
es (cf. I.6 [1] 3.9-16, tr. p. 169-170). Secondly, reason can state that
a person is good. In the latter case Plotinus differentiates between
the material or subject of such statements (j n erhken) and the
predicate ( erhken p atow). The subject derives from sense-per-
ception (gnv di tw afisysevw), while reason already possessed the
predicate good in the sense of possessing the rule (kann) of good-
ness ( d erhken p atow, dh par atw n xoi kanna xousa
to gayo par at). As Plotinus goes on to explain, it possesses
this rule because reason itself is like the Good (gayoeidw); it is capa-
ble of such a statement because Intellect sheds its light over it.
In my opinion this text strongly resists the reduction of rules or
laws to the informational content of images derived from sense-per-
ception. Judgments concerning these images (at least the judgment
that they are good) are made with reference to a rule that reason
already (dh) has in itself, as opposed to what it derives from sense-
perception. Further on in the same chapter (V.3 [49] 3.26-40) it
becomes clear that because the rational part of the soul receives an
image of the Good from Intellect it is able to reason while using
Intellect, in the sense of reasoning in accordance with Intellect (kat
atn) without becoming itself Intellect (o gr now mew). Since
we reason and we cognize the thoughts in reasonnot the
thoughts in Intellectwe are on the crossroads between the activi-
ties (nergmata) of Intellect and sense-perception. How can we be
on this crossroads if everything that reason considers derives from
sense-perception? How can we make proper sense of Plotinus
numerous remarks on fitting or comparing images derived from
sense-perception to the rules (or rather their images) in the imagi-
nation (discussed on p. 176-178)? On his interpretation G. has no
other choice than to weaken this comparison to the comparison of
the informational content of images acquired through sense-percep-
tion (contrast also I.2 [19] 4.20-25).
Although I cannot here develop a proper alternative to G.s chap-
ter on Plotinus epistemology it will be seen that my account is both
fundamentally different from that of G. and yet in agreement with
the three requirements G. sets on any interpretation of Plotinus
epistemology (p. 179). (1) The laws are impressionsi.e. impres-
sions on the imagination deriving from the activity of our intellect,
such as we also receive and cognize when we become aware that we
896br 22-12-1998 16:34 Page 111


are thinking (IV.3 [27] 30.5-16, tr. p. 171). (2) We are in accord with
Intellect when we reason in accord with itas explained above,
because we reason in accord with the rule in reason that is caused
by Intellect. (i) The unchangeability of Intellect has to be reconciled
with growth in conceptual achievement on our partas shown
above this can be achieved without limiting our endowment from
Intellect to a natural cognitive ability. Such an Aristotelianizing
account of incarnate cognition (p. 179) would indeed be too Aristo-
telian to count as Plotinian. It is nevertheless true that under the
influence of Aristotles psychology Plotinus provides a strikingly orig-
inal account of the notion of recollection.
To conclude, in his book Prof. Gerson shows himself an analyti-
cal philosopher with an admirable command of the literature on his
subject. His approach to Plotinus through the latters criticism of
Aristotle is successful and illuminating, not least for the understand-
ing of Aristotle. However, G.s argument is dense, and in important
places his rather selective use of Plotinus texts is misleading. As a
result, he departs not only from the letter but also from the spirit of
Plotinus. All in all I regret I have to say that in spite of its virtues
this book cannot be regarded as a reliable guide to Plotinus philos-

UTRECHT, Faculty of Philosophy FRANS A.J. DE HAAS

1) Donald L. Ross, Thomizing Plotinus: A Critique of Professor Gerson, Phronesis 41

(1996), 197-204. G. defends his use of scholastic language on p. 9.
2) A more elaborate defense of this view can be found in L.P. Gerson, Plotinus
and the Rejection of Aristotelian Metaphysics, in: L.P. Schrenk (ed.), Aristotle in Late Antiquity
(Washington 1994), 3-21. For a more cautious comparison of Plotinus and Thomas
on this score see Kevin Corrigan, A Philosophical Precursor to the Theory of Essence and
Existence in St. Thomas Aquinas, Thomist 48 (1984), 219-240. Especially Enn. VI 8 [39]
can be regarded as an anticipation of Thomistic doctrine in some respects, though
probably not without the mediation of Boethius.
3) As an aside, the reader may well wish to keep in mind that G. is sceptical
about a chronological development in Plotinus thought. He believes modern en-
deavours to find such a development are largely prompted by the mere survival of
Porphyrys chronological ordering (p. XVII). Contrast e.g. a careful recent attempt
to show development in Plotinus conception of the One in P.A. Meijer, Plotinus on
the Good or the One (Enneads VI,9) (Amsterdam 1992), 20-57.
4) G. confirms that Plotinus follows Plato in identifying the real man with the
soul, which is imperceptible (p. 92). See IV.3 [27] 10.5-17 for the analogue of the
World Soul which in creating images of itself shapes the universe kat lgouw; cf.
I.2 [19] 3.27-31.
5) Therefore it seems imprecise to say with G. that any instance of a Form is
896br 22-12-1998 16:34 Page 112


manifested by or constructed out of sensible qualities (p. 92). The latter are the
activities of the former.
6) Cf I. 1 [53] 7.9-12: tn d tw cuxw to afisynesyai dnamin o tn afisyhtn
enai de, tn d p tw afisysevw ggignomnvn t z tpvn ntilhptikn enai
mllon: noht gr dh tata. And souls power of sense-perception need not be
perception of sensibles, but rather it must be receptive of the impressions produced
by sense-perception on the living being; these are already intelligible entities (tr. p.
165). For Plotinus epistemology in general see E.K. Emilsson, Cognition and its object,
in: L.P. Gerson (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Plotinus (Cambridge 1996), 217-49.
7) My research has been made possible by a fellowship of the Royal Netherlands
Academy of Arts and Sciences.

THOMAS ZINSMAIER, Der von Bord geworfene Leichnam. Die

sechste der neunzehn greren pseudoquintilianischen De-
klamationen. Einleitung, bersetzung, Kommentar (Stu-
dien zur klassischen Philologie, Band 83). Frankfurt a.M.
etc., Peter Lang, 1993. XI, 177 S. DM 64,.

Wie zahlreiche Verffentlichungen zeigen (am aktuellsten E. Fan-

thams Roman Literary Culture, 1996, in der eingehend auf die bedeu-
tende Rolle der Deklamation in der literarischen Kultur der frhen
Kaiserzeit eingegangen wird), wird das Genre der Deklamation
schon seit einiger Zeit von den klassischen Philologen nicht mehr so
negativ bewertet, wie dies lange Zeit der Fall war. Die Erforschung
der neunzehn greren pseudoquintilianischen Deklamationen
wurde 1982 in hohem Mae von der allerorts als ausgezeichnet be-
urteilen Teubner-Ausgabe von L. Hkanson stimuliert. 1987 er-
schien aus der Feder von L. Sussman eine englische bersetzung des
gesamten Sammelbandes dieser Deklamationen als Band 27 dersel-
ben Reihe, in der auch das vorliegende Buch erschienen ist. Die vor-
liegende deutsche bersetzung der sechsten Deklamation aus dem
Sammelband und der diesbezgliche Kommentar sind fr lateini-
sche Philologen eine willkommene und wichtige Ergnzung zur ver-
fgbaren Literatur. Insbesondere bildet dieses Buch durch seinen
klaren Aufbau und seine sorgfltige Ausarbeitung sowie durch seine
in jeder Hinsicht ausgezeichnete Qualitt eine Motivation sowohl fr
das nhere Studium der anderen Deklamationen aus diesem Sam-
melband als auch fr das nhere Studium des Einflusses des Genres
der Deklamation auf die rmische Literatur und Kultur.
Wie der Autor im Vorwort erlutert, versucht sein Buch eine
exemplarische Darstellung des gesamten Genres der Deklamation zu
geben. Vor diesem Hintergrund mu die Wahl der sechsten aus dem

Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 1999 Mnemosyne, Vol. LII, Fasc. 1