Plotinus on the Making of Matter Part I: The Identity of Darkness

in The International Journal of the Platonic Tradition
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Abstract

Does the matter of the sensible world, for Plotinus as for Plato and Aristotle, exist without a cause of its existence? Long divided on the answer to that question, scholarly opinion now veers in favour of a derivation of matter from principles prior to matter, with disagreement limited to the details of the theory. What exactly is implied by the various passages of the Enneads where Plotinus writes of soul or physis in relation to ‘darkness’ and ‘non-being’, matter and form? In the pages that follow, I argue that the soul’s ‘making’ of a ‘non-being’ that by implication is matter, in Enn. III 9 [13] 3, is logically antecedent to the ‘making’ of ‘visible form’ ascribed to physis in Enn. III 8 [30] 2. A detailed study of the context and the syntax of the latter passage shows that, contrary to an interpretation put forward recently in this Journal, the two ‘makings’ cannot be the same.

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