Self-Knowledge as Non-Dual Awareness: A Comparative Study of Plotinus and Indian Advaita Philosophy

In: The International Journal of the Platonic Tradition
View More View Less
  • 1 Senior Lecturer, Department of Philosophy, Texas State University, 601 University Dr., San Marcos, tx 78666, USA

Abstract

The paper examines the problem of self-knowledge from the perspectives of Plotinus and the Indian Advaita (non-dual) school. Analyzing the subject-object relation, I show that according to both Plotinus and Advaita thinkers, full self-knowledge demands complete absence of otherness. Plotinus argues that if self-consciousness is divided into subject-object relation then one will know oneself as contemplated but not as contemplating (v.3.5) and no real self-knowledge obtains in this case. Śaṅkara, who constitutes an important representative of Advaita thought, points out that the self cannot know itself as an object because what is called an object to be known becomes established when it is separated from the self, the subject. I argue that at the level of the One, similar to the state of ātman consciousness in Advaita framework, the soul experiences itself in expansive non-dual consciousness. Lastly, I examine the role of non-duality as the foundation of knowledge.

  • Alston, A.J., trans., and notes. 1990. The Thousand Teachings of Śrī Śaṅkarācārya (Upadeśa Sāhasrī). London: Shanti Sadan.

  • Armstrong, A.H., trans. 1966-1988. Plotinus. Greek Text with English Translation, 7 Vols. Cambridge: Loeb Classical Library.

  • Gambhīrānanda, trans. 1977 (3rd ed.). Brahma Sūtra Bhāṣya of Śrī Śaṅkarācārya. Calcutta: Advaita Ashram.

  • Gambhīrānanda, trans. 1989 (2nd revised ed.). Eight Upaniṣads with the commentary of Śaṅkarācārya. Kolkata: Advaita Ashram.

  • Mādhavānanda, trans. 1950 (3rd ed.). The Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad with the commentary of Śaṅkarācārya. Calcutta: Advaita Ashram.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mayeda, Sengaku, trans. 1992 (reprint of 1979 ed.). A Thousand Teachings: The Upadeśasāhasrī of Śaṅkara. Albany (New York): State University of New York Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Nikhilānanda, trans. 2006 (8th impression). The Māṇḍūkya Upaniṣad with Gauḍapāda’s Kārikā and Śaṅkara’s Commentary. Kolkata (India): Advaita Ashram.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Singh, Jaideva, trans. and notes. 1979 (reprint 2006). Vijñānabhairava. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.

  • Torella, Raffaele, trans., and notes 2002 (corrected ed.). Īśvarapratyabhijñākārikā of Utpaladeva. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Adluri, Vishwa. 2014. ‘Plotinus and the Orient: aoristos dyas, in Pauliina Remes and Svetla Slaveva-Griffin (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Neoplatonism. New York: Routledge, 77-99.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Alston, A.J. 2004 (2nd ed.). A Śaṅkara Source-Book. 6 Vols. London: Shanti Sadan.

  • Armstrong, A.H. 1979. ‘Plotinus’s Doctrine of the Infinite and its Significance for Christian Thought’, in Plotinian and Christian Studies. London: Variorum Reprints.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Aubry, Gwenaëlle. 2014. ‘Metaphysics of soul and self in Plotinus’, in Pauliina Remes and Svetla Slaveva-Griffin (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Neoplatonism. New York: Routledge, 310-322.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Blumenthal, H.J. 1971. Plotinus’ Psychology: His Doctrines of the Embodied Soul. The Hague: Martinus Mijhoff.

  • Brown, Harold. 1977. Perception, Theory and Commitment. The New Philosophy of Science. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

  • Bussanich, John. 1987. ‘Plotinus on the Inner Life of the One’. Ancient Philosophy 7, 163-189.

  • Bussanich, John. 1994. ‘Mystical Elements in the Thought of Plotinus’, in H. Temporini & W. Haase (eds.), Aufstieg und Niedergang der Römischen Welt II.36.7. Tübingen: De Gruyter, 5300-5330.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bussanich, John. 1996. ‘Plotinus’s Metaphysics of the One’, in Lloyd Gerson (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Plotinus. New York: Cambridge University Press, 38-65.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bussanich, John. 1997. ‘Non-discursive Thought in Plotinus and Proclus’, Documenti e studi sulla tradizione filosofica medievale 8, 191-210.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bussanich, John. 2005. ‘The Roots of Platonism and Vedānta: Comments on Thomas McEvilley’. International Journal of Hindu Studies 9, 1-3, 1-20.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ciapalo, Roman T. 2002. ‘The Oriental Influences Upon Plotinus’ Thought: An Assessment of the Controversy Between Bréhier and Rist on the Soul’s Relation to the One’, in R. Harris (ed.), Neoplatonism and Indian Thought. Albany: State University of New York Press, 71-81.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Chiaradonna, Riccardo. 2012. ‘Plotinus’ Account of the Cognitive Powers of the Soul: Sense Perception and Discursive Thought’. Topoi 31 (Issue 2), 191-207.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Coomaraswamy, Ananda. 1977. ‘Symplegades’, in Roger Lipsey (ed.), Coomaraswamy: Selected Papers. Vol 1: Traditional Art and Symbolism. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Deikman, Arthur. 1996. ‘ “I” = Awareness’. Journal of Consciousness Studies 3 (no.4), 350-356.

  • Dyczkowski, Mark S.G. 1987. The Doctrine of Vibration: An Analysis of the Doctrines and Practices of Kashmir Shaivism. Albany: State University of New York Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Emilsson, Eyjólfur Kjalar. 2007. Plotinus on Intellect. New York: Oxford University Press Inc.

  • Gerson, Lloyd P. 1994. Plotinus. London and New York: Routledge.

  • Gieser, Suzanne. 2005. The Innermost Kernel: Depth Psychology and Quantum Physics. Wolfgang Pauli’s Dialogue with C.G. Jung. Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gurtler, Gary. 1988. Plotinus: The Experience of Unity. New York: Peter Lang Publishing.

  • Gurtler, Gary. 2005. ‘Self and Consciousness,’ in Robert Berchman and John Finamore (eds.), History of Platonism: Plato Redivivus. University Press of the South.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hadamard, Jacques. 1954. An Essay on the Psychology of Invention in the Mathematical Field. New York: Dover Publications.

  • Hadot, Pierre. 1993. Plotinus or The Simplicity of Vision. Translated by Michael Chase. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

  • Hatab, Lawrence. 1982. ‘Plotinus and the Upaniṣads’, in R. Harris (ed.), Neoplatonism and Indian Thought. Albany: State University of New York Press, 27-44.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Heisenberg, Werner. 1958. Physics and Philosophy: The Revolution in Modern Science. Introduction by F.S.C. Northrop. New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kaviraj, Gopinath. 1966. ‘The Doctrine of Pratibhā in Indian Philosophy’, in Aspects of Indian Thought. West Bengal (India): University of Burdwan, 1-44.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mehta, Binita. 2012. ‘Poetics of Self: An Existential Phenomenological Investigation of Hindu Advaita’. PhD diss., University of Iowa.

    • Export Citation
  • Muller-Ortega, Paul. 1989. The Triadic Heart of Śiva. Albany: State University of New York Press.

  • Narbonne, Jean-Marc. 2002. ‘Action, Contemplation and Interiority in the Thinking of Beauty in Plotinus’, in Aphrodite Alexandrakis and Nicholas Moutafakis (eds.), Neoplatonism and Western Aesthetics. Albany: State University of New York Press, 3-18.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Nasr, Seyyed. 2001. ‘Reply to Ibrahim Kalin’, in Lewis Edwin Hahn, Randalle E. Auxier, and Lucian W. Stone, Jr. (eds.), The Philosophy of Seyyed Hossein Nasr. Peru (Illinois): Open Court Publishing Company, 463-468.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Oosthout, Henri. 1991. Modes of Knowledge and the Transcendental. An Introduction to Plotinus Ennead 5.3 [49] with a Commentary and Translation. Amsterdam: B.R. Grüner.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Perl, Eric. 2007. Theophany: The Neoplatonic Philosophy of Dionysius the Areopagite. Albany: State University of New York Press.

  • Phillips, John F. 1990. ‘Plotinus and the ‘Eye’ of Intellect’. Dionysius 14, 79-103.

  • Raphael, trans. and commentary. 2006. Vivekacūḍāmaṇi. The Crest Jewel of Discernment. New York: Aurea Vidyā Foundation, Inc.

  • Rappe, Sara. 1996. ‘Self-knowledge and subjectivity in theEnneads, in Lloyd Gerson (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Plotinus. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 250-274.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ravindra, R.R. and A.H. Armstrong. 1982. Buddhi in the Bhagavadgītā and Psyché in Plotinus’, R. Harris (ed.), Neoplatonism and Indian Thought. Albany: State University of New York Press, 63-86.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Remes, Pauliina. 2007. Plotinus on Self: The Philosophy of the ‘We’. Cambridge University Press.

  • Sarasvati, Satchidānandendra. 1989. The Method of the Vedanta. A Critical Account of the Advaita Tradition. Translated by A.J. Alston. London: Kegan Paul International.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Sewnath, Ramon. 1996. ‘The Ontological Status Of the Transcendental Self: A Comparative Study Of Kant And Śaṅkara’. PhD diss., University of Hawaii.

    • Export Citation
  • Shah-Kazemi, R. 2006. Paths to Transcendence: According to Shankara, Ibn Arabi, and Meister Eckhart. Bloomington (Indiana): World Wisdom Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Uždavinys, Algis, ed. 2009. Plotinus. The Essential Enneads including Porphyry’s On the Cave of the Nymphs. Bloomington (Indiana): World Wisdom Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 268 249 19
Full Text Views 1106 360 1
PDF Downloads 210 85 1