Plotinus in Dialogue with the Gnostics


The point of view put forth in the following pages differs greatly from the common perspective according to which the treatises 30 to 33 constitute a single work, a Großschrift, and this single work, Plotinus’ essential response to the Gnostics. Our perspective is that of an ongoing discussions with his “Gnostic”—yet Platonizing—friends, which started early in his writings (at least treatise 6), developed into what we could call a Großzyklus (treatises 27 to 39), and went on in later treatises as well (e. g. 47-48, 51). The prospect of an ongoing discussion with the Gnostics bears an additional virtue, that of allowing for a truly dynamic understanding of the Plotinian corpus.
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Biographical Note

Jean-Marc Narbonne, Ph.D. (1988) in Philosophy at the Sorbonne, is Professor of Philosophy at Laval University (Quebec). He has published extensively on the Neoplatonic tradition, including Levinas and the Greek Heritage (2006); Hénologie, ontologie et Ereignis: Plotin – Proclus – Heidegger (2001); and La métaphysique de Plotin (2001).

Table of contents

INTRODUCTION STUDY 1 THE CONTROVERSY OVER THE GENERATION OF MATTER IN PLOTINUS: THE RIDDLE RESOLVED? Part I: Plotinus and the Gnostics on the Generation of Matter (33 [II 9], 12 and 51 [I 8], 14) Part II: The Generation of Matter in Plotinus’ System 1. Sources 2. The exegetic context 2.1 The historical dimension 2.2 The doctrinal dimension 3. The double originality of Plotinus STUDY 2 THE RIDDLE OF THE PARTLY UNDESCENDEND SOUL IN PLOTINUS: THE GNOSTIC/HERMETIC LEAD OF THE OΜΟΟUΣΙΟΣ I. The Term ὁμοούςιοσ II. “And, if one ought to dare to express one’s own view more clearly, contradicting the opinion of others *...+” (Καὶ εἰ χρὴ παρὰ δόξαν τῶν ἄλλῶν τολμῆςαι τὸ φαινόμενον λέγειν ςαφέςτερον *...+)” III. The unification with the divine: the Gnostic variant and its Plotinian counterpart IV. Treatise 6 (IV 8): Plotinus’ first anti-Gnostic manifest? STUDY 3 A DOCTRINAL EVOLUTION IN PLOTINUS? THE WEAKNESS OF THE SOUL IN ITS RELATION TO EVIL Sensible matter, by-product of the emanative process The proper task and accomplishment of treatise 51 STUDY 4 A NEW SIGN OF THE IMPACT OF THE QUARREL AGAINST THE GNOSTICS ON PLOTINUS’ THOUGHT: TWO MODES OF REASCENT IN 9 (VI 9) AND 37 (VI 8) I. Μόνου πρὸσ μόνον, or the solitary ascension of the soul in 9 (VI 9) II. The accompanied ascent of the soul, buoyed by the stream of Intellect in 38 (VI 7), 36 III. The Plotinian critique of the soul’s ascent according to the Gnosics III.1 The Gnostic’s privileged status in the face of other men III.2 The Gnostic’s privileged status in the face of other divinities III.3 The privileged status of the Gnostic before the Intellect IV. The ascent of the soul with the Intellect in 38 (VI 7), 36: a radical or a relative novelty? STUDY 5 A NEW TYPE OF CAUSALITY: PLOTINIAN CONTEMPLATIVE DEMIURGY An invention of contemplation? STUDY 6 NEW REFLECTIONS ON GOD AS CAUSA SUI IN PLOTINUS AND ITS POSSIBLE GNOSTIC SOURCES


All those interested in Greek philosophy, in the history of religion and early Christianism.