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Abstract

The status of beauty in Plotinus' metaphysics is unclear: is it a Form in Intellect, the Intelligible Principle itself, or the One? Basing themselves on a number of well-known passages in the Enneads, and assuming that Plotinus' Forms are similar in function and status to Plato's, many scholars hold that Plotinus theorized beauty as a determinate entity in Intellect. Such assumptions, it is here argued, lead to difficulties over self-predication, the interpretation of Plotinus's rich and varied aesthetic terminology and, most of all, the puzzling dearth of references, in the whole of the Enneads, to a Form of Beauty. A detailed reading of VI.7.32 and 33 reveals that, in these two crucial passages at least, Plotinus adopts an aesthetic approach to the One and that, far from confining Beauty to Intellect, he equates the One, the Good and the Beautiful. This reading is here supported not only by an analysis of the text but also by a consideration of the semantic differences between μορη and ειδος, the inter-relatedness, in Plotinus' philosophy, of the concepts of love and value, and the exclusion of beauty from the πρωτα γενη. In turn, the exegesis of VI.7.32 and 33 raises the issue of the significance for aesthetics understood in the narrow sense of the word, of Plotinus's ontology of beauty. It is here claimed that in so far as sensible beauty, both artistic and natural, can be nothing else than an effect of the shaping action of the Forms and a reflection of their radiance, singular or global, it should not be held that Plotinus had an aesthetics in the modern sense of this term.

In: Phronesis

Abstract

Plato's Ion, despite its frail frame and traditionally modest status in the corpus, has given rise to large exegetical claims. Thus some historians of aesthetics, reading it alongside page 205 of the Symposium, have sought to identify in it the seeds of the post-Kantian notion of 'art' as non-technical making, and to trace to it the Romantic conception of the poet as a creative genius. Others have argued that, in the Ion, Plato has Socrates assume the existence of a technē of poetry. In this article, these claims are challenged on exegetical and philosophical grounds. To this effect, Plato's use of poiētēs and poiēsis in the Symposium is analysed, the defining criteria of technē in the Ion and other dialogues are identified and discussed, and the 'Romantic' interpretation of the dialogue is traced to Shelley's tendentious translation of it. These critical developments lead to what is presented as a more faithful reading of the dialogue. In the Ion, it is claimed, Plato seeks to subvert the traditional status of poetry by having Socrates argue that poetry is both non-rational and non-cognitive in nature. In the third part of the article, suggestions are offered as to the contribution made by the Ion to the evolution of Plato's reflections on poetic composition, and particularly as to the reasons which later induced Plato to substitute the concept of mimesis for that of inspiration in his account of poetry.

In: Phronesis

The paper, although polemical for the most part, also presents a substantive thesis. The polemical part is directed at the claim that the Platonic Socrates held that philosophy as a practice is to be devoted to the care of self and others, and that the expression of emotion is an important aspect of the philosophic life. To undermine that claim, counter-examples from the autobiographical narrative in the Phaedo and the speeches of Diotima and Alcibiades in the Symposium are brought in. Once analysed at the required depth, those passages show that, on the contrary, Plato’s Socrates remains consistently dispassionate both in his life, as he narrates it, and in the views he is made to express in the two dialogues. Rather than promoting self-expression, Socrates never ceased to warn us against misology.


In: Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy
In: Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy
In: Reading Ancient Texts. Volume II: Aristotle and Neoplatonism
What is the history of philosophy? Is it history or is it philosophy or is it by some strange alchemy a confluence of the two? The contributors to the present volume of essays have tackled this seemingly simple, but in reality difficult and controversial, question, by drawing on their specialised knowledge of the surviving texts of leading ancient philosophers, from the Presocratics to Augustine, through Plato, Aristotle and Plotinus. These contributions, which reflect the range of methods and approaches currently used in the study of ancient texts, are offered as a tribute to the scholarship of Denis O’Brien, one of the most original and penetrating students of the thousand-year period of intense philosophical activity that constitutes ancient philosophy.

Contributors include: T. Buchheim, J. Cleary, K. Corrigan, D. Evans, G. Gurtler S.J., C. Horn, J.-M. Narbonne, C. Natali, G. O'Daly, F. Schroeder, S. Stern-Gillet, P. Thillet, and C. Viano.

Publications by Denis O’Brien:
Theories of Weight in the Ancient World: Four Essays on Democritus, Plato and Aristotle - A Study in the Development of Ideas. 1. Democritus: Weight and Size. An Exercise in the Reconstruction of Early Greek Philosophy, ISBN: 978 90 04 06134 7 (Out of print)
Pour interpréter Empédocle, ISBN: 978 90 04 06249 8 (Out of print)
Theories of Weight in the Ancient World: Four Essays on Democritus, Plato and Aristotle - A Study in the Development of Ideas. 2. Plato: Weight and Sensation. The Two Theories of the 'Timaeus', ISBN: 978 90 04 06934 3
Théodicée plotinienne, théodicée gnostique, ISBN: 978 90 04 09618 9