Sense-Perception, Reasoning and Forms in Plotinus

In: Phronesis
Eyjólfur K. Emilsson Department of Philosophy, Classics, History of Art and Ideas, University of Oslo Oslo Norway

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This paper discusses the role of innate concepts derived from Intellect in Plotinus’ account of cognition of the sensible realm. Several passages have been claimed as evidence for such innateness, but an analysis of them shows that they do not support this claim. It is tentatively suggested that, nevertheless, some very general concepts such as difference, sameness and being are integral to the faculty of sense and play a crucial role in concept formation. It is further argued that reasoning about the sensible realm takes place to a large extent without the involvement of the higher realms of Plotinus’ hierarchy of being. Clearly, however, for value concepts such as those of goodness, justice and beauty human beings are dependent upon an illumination from Intellect.

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