Plotinus on number

New York: Oxford University Press (2009)
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Ancient Greek Philosophy routinely relied upon concepts of number to explain the tangible order of the universe. Plotinus' contribution to this tradition, however, has been often omitted, if not ignored. The main reason for this, at first glance, is the Plotinus does not treat the subject of number in the Enneads as pervasively as the Neopythagoreans or even his own successors Lamblichus, Syrianus, and Proclus. Nevertheless, a close examination of the Enneads reveals that Plotinus systematically discusses number in relation to each of his underlying principles of existence--the One, Intellect, and Soul. Plotinus on Number offers the first comprehensive analysis of Plotinus' concept of number, beginning with its origins in Plato and the Neopythagoreans and ending with its influence on Porphyry's arrangement of the Enneads. It's main argument is that Plotinus adapts Plato's and the Neopythagoreans' cosmology to place number in the foundation of the intelligible realm and in the construction of the universe. Through Plotinus' defense of Plato's Ideal Numbers from Aristotle's criticism, Svetla Slaveva-Griffin reveals the founder of Neoplatonism as the first post-Platonic philosopher who purposefully and systematically develops what we may call a theory of number, distinguishing between number in the intelligible realm and number in the quantitative, mathematical realm. Finally, the book draws attention to Plotinus' concept as a necesscary and fundamental linke between Platonic and late Neoplatonic schools of philosophy



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Introduction: One by Number

This chapter traces the historical and philosophical background of the concept of number from the Presocratics’ understanding of One and Many through Plato’s concepts of Limit and Unlimited, and Aristotle’s debate on the nature of number with Speusippus and Xenocrates, to the Neopythagorea... see more

Platonic Cosmology on Plotinian Terms

This chapter examines the relationship between Plotinus’ concept of the origin of multiplicity as “separation from the One” (apostasis) and Plato’s presentation of the Demiurge’s composition of the universe (systasis) in the Timaeus. The two terms characterize the “top-down” approach in En... see more

Multiplicity as Number

This chapter investigates the Neopythagorean roots of Plotinus’ concept of number. Porphyry’s reports of Plotinus’ use of Neopythagorean sources in his teachings are quickly confirmed in the Enneads. In addition to Numenius’ influence on the definition of multiplicity as “separation,” this... see more

The Number of Infinity

This chapter analyzes Plotinus’ refutation of the Aristotle’s criticism of Plato’s view of number in the Parmenides. By rejecting any quantitative value of number in the intelligible realm, Plotinus specifically focuses on Aristotle’s inability to understand the Monad and the Indefinite Dy... see more

Number and Substance

This chapter analyzes the relationship between number and substance in the intelligible realm. Plotinus formulates three hypotheses about the existence of number in the intelligible: 1) number is posterior to the Forms; 2) number is simultaneous with the Forms; and 3) number is anterior to... see more

Number and the Universe

This chapter examines the relationship of Substantial Number and all intelligible entities: Absolute Being as “unified number;” Intellect as “number moving in itself”; beings as “unfolded number;” and the Complete Living Being as “encompassing number.” A closer examination reveals that the... see more

Unity of Thought and Writing

Chapter six examines the relationship between Plotinus’ concepts of number and multiplicity, and Porphyry’s organization of the Enneads. Porphyry’s thematical arrangement of the Enneads is traditionally considered to be more detrimental than beneficial for understanding Plotinus’ thought. ... see more

Conclusion: In Defense of Plato

The concept of number is the troublemaker in the history of Platonism. It separated the followers of Plato and Aristotle into two camps for generations. For Plotinus, however, the concept becomes the peacemaker, which reconciles the camps. The importance of this reconciliation is central t... see more


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Citations of this work

Some Aspects of the Theory of Abstraction in Plotinus and Iamblichus.Claudia Maggi - 2015 - International Journal of the Platonic Tradition 9 (2):159-176.
A Heraclitean Wordplay in Plotinus.Max Bergamo - 2020 - Elenchos: Rivista di Studi Sul Pensiero Antico 41 (1):105-139.

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