Plotinus on Beauty

Beauty as Illuminated Unity in Multiplicity


The open access publication of this book has been published with the support of the Swiss National Science Foundation.

In this book, Ota Gál presents a new analysis of Plotinus' conception of beauty, beginning from a close reading of treatises I.6 and V.8, which link beauty with the unified multiplicity of Intellect. This account is subsequently placed in a hierarchical and structural context in VI.2 and VI.6 and connected to illumination in VI.7, enabling us to determine the meaning of the predicate “beauty” at different ontological levels. For Plotinus, beauty is ultimately the illuminated unity in multiplicity of Intellect, which, as the manifestation of the Good, simultaneously enables the soul’s ascent and threatens to bind the soul to itself.
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Ota Gál, Ph.D. (1984), is a philosopher and physiotherapist working in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Faculty of Arts, and the Department of Neurology, First Faculty of Medicine, Charles University (Prague). He has published articles on Plato and Plotinus, as well as several medical papers and books.
"...this is a very good book, well worth the time not only of one interested in Plotinus and in the topic of beauty, but also in the view held universally by all Platonists that beauty is not separable from morality or from metaphysics." - Lloyd P. Gerson, BMCR 2023.01.35

1 Introduction
 1.1 Beauty in Plotinus: Where and How to Start?
 1.2 Treatise V.8: Plotinus the Defender, or the Top-Down Perspective
 1.3 Treatise I.6: An Introduction to Plotinus, or the Bottom-Up Perspective
 1.4 On the Kinds of Being: Plotinus the Exegete
 1.5 On Number: Plotinus the Explorer
 1.6 Treatise VI.7: The Many Faces of Plotinus and Beauty

2 Beauty as a Stepping-Stone (Treatise I.6)
 2.1 The Phenomenal Field of Beauty
 2.2 The Context of the Question: The Symposium and Beauty as Symmetry
 2.3 The Cause of Beauty and Ugliness in Bodies
 2.4 The Impact of Beauty on Soul
 2.5 The Cause of Beauty and Ugliness in Soul
 2.6 The Hierarchy of Beauty and What Is at the Top

3 Intelligible Beauty (Treatise V.8)
 3.1 Productive Contemplation
 3.2 The Defence of τέχνη and Sensible Beauty
 3.3 The Beauty of Soul: The Cosmic Dimension
 3.4 The Correct Understanding of Intellect and Its Beauty
 3.5 The Οὐρανός—Κρόνος—Ζεύς Myth: Consequences for Beauty and the Good

4 Unity, Multiplicity and the Highest Kinds (Treatise VI.2)
 4.1 The Focus of VI.1–3 and the Quest for the Highest Kinds (VI.2.1–3)
 4.2 Establishing the Five Highest Kinds (VI.2.4–8)
 4.3 Is the One To Be Counted among the Highest Kinds? (VI.2.9–11)
 4.4 Tentative Summary: The Unity and Multiplicity of Intellect in VI.2
 4.5 Is Beauty To Be Counted among the Highest Kinds? (VI.2.17–18)

5 Unity, Multiplicity and the Numbers (Treatise VI.6)
 5.1 The Context of the Quest for the Notion of Number (V.5.4–5 and VI.6.1)
 5.2 Defined Multiplicity, Form of Beauty and the Indefinite Dyad (VI.6.1–3)
 5.3 Number in the Intelligible (VI.6.4–8)
 5.4 The Role of Number in the Generation of Beings (VI.6.9–10)
 5.5 Number and Beauty (VI.6.18)

6 Beauty as the Manifestation of the Good (Treatise VI.7)
 6.1 The Ascent to Intellect as Life (VI.7.1–12)
 6.2 The Context of the Question of the Presence of the Good in Intellect (VI.7.13–14)
 6.3 The Presence of the Good in Intellect: The Top-Down Answer (VI.7.15–17)
 6.4 The Presence of the Good in Intellect: The Bottom-Up Answer (VI.7.18–23)
 6.5 Alternative Notions of the Good and the True Meaning of Plato’s Doctrine (VI.7.24–30)
 6.6 The Good from the Perspective of Beauty and Love (VI.7.31–36)
 6.7 The Good and Intellection (VI.7.37–42)

7 Beauty as Illuminated Unity in Multiplicity
 7.1 Beauty on the Level of Sensibles
 7.2 Beauty on the Level of Soul
 7.3 Beauty on the Level of Intellect
 7.4 Beauty and the Good
 7.5 Beauty as Such

Anyone interested in Greek philosophy and aesthetics, in the history of the concept of beauty and, above all, in Plotinus.
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