Phronesis 49 (3):266-294 (2004)

Abstract
To most interpreters, the case seems to be clear: Plotinus identifies matter and evil, as he bluntly states in Enn. 1.8[51] that 'last matter' is 'evil', and even 'evil itself'. In this paper, I challenge this view: how and why should Plotinus have thought of matter, the sense-making ἔσχατον of his derivational ontology from the One and Good, evil? A rational reconstruction of Plotinus's tenets should neither accept the paradox that evil comes from Good, nor shirk the arduous task of interpreting Plotinus's texts on evil as a fitting part of his philosophy on the whole. Therefore, I suggest a reading of evil in Plotinus as the outcome of an incongruent interaction of matter and soul, maintaining simultaneously that neither soul nor matter are to be considered as bad or evil. When Plotinus calls matter evil, he does so metonymically denoting matter's totally passive potentiality as perceived by the toiling soul trying to act upon it as a form-bringer. As so often, Plotinus is speaking quoad nos here rather than referring to 'matter per se' (for Plotinus, somewhat of an oxymoron) which, as mere potentiality (and nothing else) is not nor can be evil. In short: matter is no more evil than the melancholy evening sky is melancholy -- not in itself (for it isn't), but as to its impression on us who contemplate it. As I buttress this view, it will also become clear that matter cannot tritely be considered to be the αὐτὸ κακόν as a prima facie-reading of Enn. 1.8[51] might powerfully suggest, but that the αὐτὸ κακόν, far from being a principle of its own, has to be interpreted within the dynamics of Plotinus's philosophical thinking as a unique, though numerously applicable flaw-pattern for all the single κακά (hence the Platonic αὐτό). To conclude, I shall offer a short outlook on the consistency of this interpretation with Plotinus's teaching on the soul and with the further Neoplatonic development of the doctrine of evil
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1163/1568528042568631
Options
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 70,192
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Plotinus and Augustine on Beauty and Matter.Maurizio Filippo Di Silva - 2021 - International Journal of the Platonic Tradition 16 (1):15-28.
Plotinus and Augustine on Evil and Matter.Maurizio Filippo Di Silva - 2018 - Archai: Revista de Estudos Sobre as Origens Do Pensamento Ocidental 23:205-227.
Plotinus’ Concept of Matter in Giordano Bruno’s De la Causa, Principio Et Uno.Giannis Stamatellos - 2018 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 26 (1):11-24.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Analytics

Added to PP index
2009-01-28

Total views
82 ( #141,685 of 2,507,129 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #417,155 of 2,507,129 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads

My notes