Plotinus on the Generation of Matter

in The International Journal of the Platonic Tradition

Abstract

This study reconsiders Denis O'Brien's controversial thesis that it was Plotinus' position that the 'partial' soul generates matter. O'Brien relies principally on two core texts, 3.4 (15).1 and 3.9 (13).3, where he finds convincing evidence for his thesis. In the present study I take two approaches. First, I demonstrate that if we accept O'Brien's thesis, then we are compelled to accept as well that Plotinus is guilty of self-contradiction in his doctrine of soul's descent. Secondly, I offer a different interpretation of what Plotinus has in mind as the source of matter's generation in 3.4.1 and 3.9.3. In several passages Plotinus states that the product of the partial soul's creative activity is the "trace" of soul that, in turn, combines with matter to form the 'qualified body.' I argue that it is this trace-soul, not matter, that Plotinus is referring to in these texts.

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Plotinus on the Generation of Matter

in The International Journal of the Platonic Tradition

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