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Nick Coccoma

Plotinus, Enneads

* For a summary of Plotinus, please see the Cambridge Companion to Plotinus, available
through the BC Librarys website. Just search Cambridge companion Plotinus and follow the
links to electronically connect with the book.

1.6 On Beauty

Summary of Section

Plotinus argument here is similar to the Platonic ascent of the soul in the Symposium and the
Phaedrus, but with fundamental changes. First, the identification of beauty with form applies to
both art and nature. Second, the aesthetic judgment of the soul is rooted in the souls affinity to
the intelligible. Ugliness receives a good deal of attention as indicating a false mode of the souls
interacting with the body and the sensible world. Third, the ascent is typically erotic, but Plotinus
does not stop with the intelligible form, but continues to the One, with the whole intelligible
world as alien to God. This is a remarkable move beyond the earlier Greek identification of
perfection with finite form, and shows that for Plotinus the root of the self is identified with the
One as beyond being and form. Beauty reaches to an infinite hidden in the One.

Beauty (the Roman numerals refers to the chapters)

I. Question: What is beauty?

- Some things participate in beauty, others are essentially beautiful.
- Theory of Commensuration: beautiful things are the conglomeration of parts added together.
Aristotles definition, which Plotinus rejects. Why? 1) There are many beautiful things that are
simple. 2) What about the soul? 3) What about the intellect?

II. Similitude exists between beauty of sensory objects and beauty of the divine.
- The sensible object is beautiful by participation of species.
-Divine reason is fountain of forms; whatever is separated from it is perfectly base and deformed.
- Beauty is established in a multitude and when the many is reduced to the one. Beauty
communicates itself both to the parts and the whole.

III. The soul judges or acknowledges the beauty of forms by accommodating its inner ray of
beauty to form. Objects have intrinsic forms that the soul perceives through the senses.

IV. & V. He turns to what is beautiful beyond sense. How can we know it? We must look into
our souls.
- How do we call inner virtues beautiful? First, we must look at a deformed soul, for we
will know something by its opposite (Aristotelian method). Plotinus paints an ugly

picture of such a soul: It has lost its splendor and almost changes its own species into
that of another. This deformity results from inward filth due to the souls own
contracting, and exterior evil that strikes it from the outside. When the soul overcomes
its immersion in body, it recovers its beauty.

VI. The soul, when refined, becomes all form & reason, altogether incorporeal and intellectual. It
wholly participates in divine nature. The good & beautiful are the same, so to investigate one is
to investigate the other.
VII. The being who beholds the beautiful itself is perfectly pure. The happy man is he who has
this divine possession.

VIII. How do we contemplate this beauty? By entering deep into our selves.

- Schema: Beholding corporeal things (those we see) ---(result in)---> blindness

non-corporeal (beyond sight) ---(results in)---> sight

Who or what will lead us on this journey? We must stir up and assume a purer eye within. :
The intellect, which contains within it a divine ray of light that participates in the sun of Beauty
and Good, by which the soul can behold and unite with the divinely solitary origin.

IX. Ladder to Beauty: 1) Behold fair studies

2) Behold beautiful works (i.e., virtuous deeds)
3) Behold the soul.
How do we view the soul? Go inward to perceive your soul. If it is deformed, fix it. Uses the
metaphor of a statueif it is chipped or broken, smooth it out so that it looks like the original
one. After doing this, you will have a vision of your self as true light. But only if your own eye is
purely refined: the perceiver and thing perceived must be similar to each other before true vision

The intellect perceives ideas themselves, which are thus beautiful. The good is at once superior
to and the source of beauty, but we can also consider them to be two sides of one coin.

3.7 On Eternity and Time

Summary of Section

This treatise divides into two parts: a consideration of eternity (2-6) and of time (7-13). The first
part is essential to his argument against previous identifications of time with movement, number,
and measure, all associated in varying ways with the motion of the celestial sphere. He ends up
moving the consideration of time from external motion and abstract measure to the life of the
soulfrom physics to cosmic harmony. This is a move from an Aristotelian to a Platonic

Take Home: Time the life of the Soul, which is also discursive reason. Movement of Soul
out of Intellect.

Eternity the life which belongs to that which exists and is in being. Shines
through Being and the Intelligible, but is not identified with them. Nor is it rest.

Methodology: Six Points

a) Presents common notions and presuppositions of time and eternity.
b) Reveals objections and difficulties with them.
c) Looks at what the ancients said, plus the interpreters of them.
d) Solidifies his own interpretation of the ancients.
e) Examines which ancient attained the truth most completely (though none do entirely).
f) Searches for the answer himself.

Plotinus says we can understand time by first understanding eternity or vice versa. He prefers to
approach time from eternity, since time is an image of the archetypal eternity. The turn to
investigate time is a descent of our souls to a lower level of being, not just a change in subject or
epistemological level


1. He uses chapter 2 to object to the simple identification of eternity with Intellect

(intelligible substance) and with rest (Both ideas loosely stem from Plato. The
identifications of eternity with Intellect are the counterpart of the Pythagorean
identification of time with the cosmos. Plotinus presents two arguments in favor:
a) Eternity is very majestic; the intelligible is most majestic; therefore eternity is the
b) Eternity and the intelligible are both inclusive of the same things (have the same
content) and so must be identical
Plotinus refutes both with the argument that being is in eternity, meaning it is different
from what is in it; and the idea that a predicate cannot be identical with the subject of
predication. But he will return to these ideas later, for they help us know that although
eternity is not identical to the Intellect, it has something to do with it. And that we need to
understand the inclusiveness of the intelligible and of eternity differently.

2. The second part of the chapter focuses on rest. The argument in favor is that rest is
identical with eternity if motion is so with time. But Plotinus notes that if rest is in
eternity, it is not eternal, just as eternity is not eternal (for then it would participate of
itself). Secondly, motion cannot be eternal if rest is eternal. He also provides four slightly
more metaphysical arguments:
a) The IDing of eternity with rest excludes the other Platonic categories (from
Sophist) of the intelligible world (substance, motion, the other, and the same).
b) Rest must involve unity (from Timaeus).
c) Eternity must be without extension so as to differentiate itself from time; rest
does not imply lack of extension.
d) Remaining in unity is predicated of eternity; therefore eternity participates in
rest but is not rest.

3. In chapter 3 Plotinus offers a working definition of eternity. Here it is the life which
belongs to that which exists and is in being. This relates eternity to the totality of the
Intelligible, but does not identify the former with the latter or any part of it. This life that
is eternity is something seen in the Intelligible, a manifestation of it. It shines out of the
substrate that is the Intelligible, separate but dependent on it. It is around Being and is
seen in it, manifesting itself from it.

4. In chapter 4, he offers some corrections to this idea of separateness. Eternity and the
Intelligible are very closely related, he wants to insist. Eternity is an aspect of the
Intelligible world, like Beauty or Truth. But it goes beyond them in that it is state and
nature of complete reality. Reality is always existing, and from this phrase is derived
eternity. Plotinus narrowly negotiates the line between giving eternity its own
ontological status and seeing it as a quality. He then makes two final points:
a) Eternity is related to the One, because eternity is the life of real being and real
being is from, in, and directed toward the One. The Ones very activity of abiding
is eternity.
b) Eternity is not the same thing as the enduring present.

5. In conclusion, Plotinus uses this conception of eternity in his understanding of the life of
the individual. A persons real life is located at the level of the Intellect. Moreover, the
goal of life is well-being, which is counted by eternity. The good man enjoys the life of
the true self at the level of Intellect and true Being outside time.


1. Theories of time are divided in chapter 7 into three categories: time as a) movement, b)
what is moved, and c) something belonging to movement. The last one is Aristotles view
(time as number of motion) and the Stoics view (time as extension). He treats the Stoics
in chapter 8, Aristotle in chapter 9, and the Epicureans in chapter 10. But Aristotle

2. First, he rejects the claim that time is movement. He buys Aristotles critique, and adds
his own: motion can cease but time cannot. Second, he rejects the Stoic definition of time
as extension of motion. Then he turns to Aristotles definition of time as number or
measure of motion. He critiques this idea by first noting that there is a difference
between regular and irregular motion. How can we measure what is irregular? More
importantly, he points out that we want to know not just what is being measured (motion)
but what the measure is. If we count sheep, were measuring them but we also can point
to the number itself: 35, for example. Aristotle hasnt pointed to time itself, to a
metaphysical definition of it, but only to an empirical one.

3. Plotinus then offers his own view theory of time, which looks to the origin of time for the
answer. He defines time as the life of the Soul, with the former subordinated to the latter.
When Soul becomes restless in Intellect and seeks to proceed from it, time also moves.
Our individual souls are part of the Hypostasis Soul. He also identifies discursive reason
with the life of Soul. Thus time is our lifeunderstanding time helps us understand

ourselves at the level of discursive reason. This does not mean we as humans determine
timethat is the subjectivist view Augustine offers. Time in this world is at a still lower
level and we as souls are subsumed into the totality of soul, and time is directly
communicated to the world through the World Soul. The life of soul is not in time, but
rather the physical world is, since it is in soul and the life of the soul is time.

4. To restate, the life of soul is the life of discursive reason in which soul presents one
activity after another. This life is an activity in linear progression from eternitythe very
procession from eternity is the time-life of Soul. Discursive reason is something
unfolding itself, something extended. Movement is made from one idea to another. It is
the procession of soul which generates time. Time proper is the life of the soul. The
universe is in time and the sphere and the planets manifest time. Time as we know
time is time manifested. It is better to call time what is measured than the measure of

5. The treatise ends with a number of arguments pointing to the substantial and real nature
of time as life of soul. Time lies, in its essence, between the Intelligible and physical
worlds; the life of soul forms the focal point of the individual in his median role between
both. Plotinus theory is rooted in and serves experience.