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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 February 2011

Rotraud Hansberger
King's College, Cambridge CB2 1ST, United Kingdom Email:


The extant texts of the Arabic Plotinus contain material from Enneads IV-VI without, however, covering the Plotinian treatises in their entirety, nor preserving their traditional order – a circumstance which raises questions about scope and structure of the original Arabic Plotinus source. This article aims to contribute to the discussion by presenting newly discovered fragments of an Arabic translation of Ennead IV.6 (On sense-perception and memory), one of the ten treatises that are not represented in the Arabic Plotinus corpus as it is currently known. Section I of the article introduces the text within which the new fragments are found: Maqāla I of Kitāb al-Ḥiss wa-al-maḥsūs, the Arabic adaptation of Aristotle's Parva Naturalia. In Section II the Arabic fragments are presented in comparison with their Greek counterparts. Section III addresses the question whether these new fragments stem from the same original translation as the other fragments of the Arabic Plotinus. Section IV discusses the implications which the appearance of the new fragments may have for our views on the Arabic Plotinus as well as on the genesis of Kitāb al-Ḥiss wa-al-maḥsūs.


Les textes préservés du Plotin arabe contiennent des matériaux provenant exclusivement d'Ennéades IV-VI. Ils ne couvrent cependant pas les traités plotiniens dans leur intégralité, ni ne préservent leur ordre traditionnel – un fait qui suscite des questions quant au projet et à la structure de la source plotinienne arabe originale. Cet article vise à enrichir la discussion, en présentant des fragments nouvellement découverts d'une traduction arabe d'Ennéade IV.6 (Sur la perception sensible et la mémoire), l'un des dix traités non représentés dans le corpus du Plotin arabe tel que nous le connaissons aujourd'hui. La Section I de l'article présente le texte contenant les nouveaux fragments: il s'agit de la Maqāla I du Kitāb al-Ḥiss wa-al-maḥsūs, l'adaptation arabe des Parva Naturalia d'Aristote. Dans la Section II, les fragments arabes sont comparés à leur contrepartie grecque. La Section III tente de déterminer si ces nouveaux fragments proviennent de la même traduction originale que les autres pièces du Plotin arabe. La Section IV discute les implications que l'exhumation de ces nouveaux fragments pourrait avoir sur notre vision du Plotin arabe et de la genèse du Kitāb al-Ḥiss wa-al-maḥsūs.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2011

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1 I use the text published by ʿAbdurraḥmān Badawī in Aflūṭīn ʿinda l-ʿArab (Cairo, 1955; 3rd impr. Kuwait, 1977), pp. 3–164.

2 This text is published in Badawī, Aflūṭīn, pp. 165–83.

3 So named by Fritz Zimmermann; see Zimmermann, F.W., ‘The origins of the so-called Theology of Aristotle’, in Kraye, J., Ryan, W.F., Schmitt, C.B. (eds), Pseudo-Aristotle in the Middle Ages (London, 1986), pp. 110240, pp. 211–19.Google ScholarPubMed

4 The fragments discovered by Franz Rosenthal are published in his Aš-Šaykh al-Yūnānī and the Arabic Plotinus source’ I-II, Orientalia, N.S. 21 (1952): 461–92Google Scholar, 22 (1953): 370–400. They are also published in Badawī, Aflūṭīn, pp. 186–98. The fragments identified by Geoffrey Lewis remain unpublished to date in Arabic, being available only in his English translation, with the exception of those fragments that belong to Ennead IV.8, which have been published by D'Ancona, Cristina in Plotino: La Discesa Dell'Anima Nei Corpi (Enn. IV 8 [6]). Plotiniana Arabica (Pseudo-Teologia Di Aristotele, Capitoli 1 e 7; “Detti Del Sapiente Greco”) (Padova, 2003), pp. 239–46Google Scholar. One further fragment was discovered and published for the first time by Fritz Zimmermann in ‘Theology of Aristotle’, p. 221. Geoffrey Lewis' complete English translation of AP is available in Plotini Opera, Tomus II: Enneades IV-V, Plotiniana Arabica ad codem fidem anglice vertit G. Lewis, ed. P. Henry and H.-R. Schwyzer (Paris and Brussels, 1959). A complete edition of MS Bodl. Or. Marsh 539 is currently being prepared by Elvira Wakelnig. – The Treatise by al-Shaykh al-Yūnānī explaining the two worlds, that of the spirit and that of the body, preserved in another Oxford manuscript, MS Bodl. Or. Ouseley 95, and published by Franz Rosenthal in the third part of his Aš-Šaykh al-Yūnānī’ (Orientalia, N.S. 24 [1955]: 4266)Google Scholar, which appears to go back to the ‘Plotinus Source’ in a more indirect way, is not represented in Lewis' translation (cf. Plotini Opera II, ed. Henry/Schwyzer, p. xxxiv).

5 In Lewis' English translation this is illustrated by the use of italics for text parallel to the Greek, and of a smaller font for paragraphs consisting entirely of additional material.

6 See Rosenthal, ‘Aš-Šaykh al-Yūnānī’ I, pp. 467f.

7 See Endress, Gerhard, Proclus Arabus (Beirut, 1973), pp. 6871, 186Google Scholar; Zimmermann, ‘Theology of Aristotle’, p. 112; Adamson, Peter, The Arabic Plotinus. A Philosophical Study of the Theology of Aristotle (London, 2002), pp. 526Google Scholar, 63–8, 171–7; D'Ancona, Cristina, ‘Pseudo-Theology of Aristotle, chapter 1: structure and composition’, Oriens, 36 (2001): 79112Google Scholar, p. 82. A detailed overview of research up to 1989 is given by Aouad, M., ‘La Théologie d'Aristote et autres textes du Plotinus Arabus’, in Goulet, Richard (ed.), Dictionnaire des philosophes antiques (Paris, 1989), pp. 541–90Google Scholar; cf. also the summary of previous research in D'Ancona, ‘Pseudo-Theology of Aristotle’, pp. 77–85.

8 This was established by Fritz Zimmermann in ‘Theology of Aristotle’, pp. 113–18; cf. Rowson, Everett K.'s review ‘The Theology of Aristotle and some other pseudo-Aristotelian texts reconsidered’, Journal of the American Oriental Society, 112 (1992): 478–84, p. 482Google Scholar. See now also Brock, Sebastian P., ‘A Syriac intermediary for the Arabic theology of Aristotle? In search of a chimera’, in D'Ancona, Cristina (ed.), The Libraries of the Neoplatonists (Leiden/Boston, 2007), pp. 294306Google Scholar. – For the rejection of the once predominant ‘Porphyrian hypothesis’ see Zimmermann, ‘Theology of Aristotle’, pp. 120–1, 125–8; 131–3, 170–77; D'Ancona, , ‘Porphyry, universal soul and the Arabic Plotinus’, Arabic Sciences and Philosophy, 9 (1999): 4788Google Scholar; Adamson, The Arabic Plotinus, pp. 19–21, 42. – Cf. Aouad, ‘Théologie d'Aristote’, pp. 546–57.

9 See Adamson, The Arabic Plotinus, pp. 27–48; Zimmermann, ‘Theology of Aristotle’.

10 See D'Ancona, ‘Pseudo-Theology of Aristotle’, pp. 86–112, and her ‘The Greek Sage, the Pseudo-Theology of Aristotle and the Arabic Plotinus’, in ThielmannR. Arnzen, J. R. Arnzen, J. (eds), Words, Texts and Concepts Cruising the Mediterranean Sea. Studies on the sources, contents and influences of Islamic civilization and Arabic philosophy and science, Dedicated to Gerhard Endress on his sixty-fifth birthday (Leuven/Paris/Dudley, MA, 2004), pp. 159–76.Google Scholar

11 See Zimmermann, ‘Theology of Aristotle’, pp. 118–28; Adamson, The Arabic Plotinus, pp. 27–48.

12 See Adamson, The Arabic Plotinus, pp. 12–17; Zimmermann, ‘Theology of Aristotle’, pp. 125–34; D'Ancona, ‘Pseudo-Theology of Aristotle’.

13 This was established by Schwyzer, H.-R. in ‘Die pseudo-aristotelische Theologie und die Plotin-Ausgabe des Porphyrios’, Rheinisches Museum für Philologie, 90 (1941): 216–36, pp. 222–6Google Scholar; cf. Zimmermann, ‘Theology of Aristotle’, p. 113, Adamson, The Arabic Plotinus, p. 8, D'Ancona, ‘Pseudo-Theology of Aristotle’, pp. 88–95.

14 Zimmermann, ‘Theology of Aristotle’, p. 130.

15 Zimmermann, ‘Theology of Aristotle’, p. 134.

16 Zimmermann, ‘Theology of Aristotle’, p. 152. I take this to mean that all treatises of Enneads IV-VI are represented, rather than the text in its entirety; cf. Adamson, The Arabic Plotinus, pp. 12–17 and 208 n. 23.

17 Adamson, The Arabic Plotinus, pp. 12–17.

18 Adamson, The Arabic Plotinus, p. 17.

19 D'Ancona, ‘Pseudo-Theology of Aristotle’, p. 85.

20 D'Ancona, ‘Pseudo-Theology of Aristotle’, p. 95.

21 These are: Enneads IV.1, IV.2, IV.6, V.7, VI.1, VI.2, VI.3, VI.5, VI.6, VI.8 (see Plotini Opera II, ed. Henry/Schwyzer, pp. 489–94).

22 Adamson, The Arabic Plotinus, pp. 15–17.

23 See Zimmermann, ‘Theology of Aristotle’, pp. 121–6; cf. id., Proclus Arabus rides again’, Arabic Sciences and Philosophy, 4 (1994): 951CrossRefGoogle Scholar, pp. 33–47; Adamson, The Arabic Plotinus, pp. 21f.

24 Zimmermann, ‘Theology of Aristotle’, p. 131.

25 It does not address the question whether there is memory in the discarnate state of the soul, and whether the incarnate soul can remember its previous states – problems which are broached in Ennead IV.3.25–32 (not represented in AP) and IV.4.1–6 (IV.4.1–5 being represented in ThA II and VIII).

26 For an edition and study of Kitāb al-Ḥiss wa-al-maḥsūs see my doctoral thesis, ‘The Transmission of Aristotle's Parva Naturalia in Arabic’ (Oxford, 2006/7), which is currently being prepared for publication. For a brief account of the most important results of the study see Hansberger, Rotraud, ‘Kitāb al-Ḥiss wa-l-maḥsūs: Aristotle's Parva Naturalia in Arabic guise’, in Morel, Pierre-Marie, Grellard, Christophe (eds), Les Parva naturalia d'Aristote. Fortune antique et médiévale (Paris, 2010), pp. 143–62Google Scholar.

27 So far it has not been possible to pinpoint specific textual sources of the added material; they may of course yet be identified.

28 See Hansberger, ‘Kitāb al-Ḥiss wa-l-maḥsūs’; for the theory of divinatory dreams see further Hansberger, Rotraud E., ‘How Aristotle came to believe in God-given dreams: The Arabic version of De divinatione per somnum’, in Marlow, Louise (ed.), Dreaming Across Boundaries. The Interpretation of Dreams in Islamic Lands (Cambridge, Mass./London, 2008), pp. 5077.Google Scholar

29 See Hansberger, ‘Transmission of the Parva Naturalia’, pp. 212–20.

30 See Rudolph, Ulrich, Die Doxographie des Pseudo-Ammonios (Stuttgart, 1989), p. 16Google Scholar; Endress, Proclus Arabus, pp. 71, 105f.

31 For a summary description of the Kindī-circle style, see Endress, Gerhard, ‘The circle of al-Kindī. Early Arabic translations from the Greek and the rise of Islamic philosophy’, in KrukGerhard Endress, Remke Gerhard Endress, Remke (eds), The Ancient Tradition in Christian and Islamic Hellenism. Studies on the Transmission of Greek Philosophy and Sciences dedicated to H.J. Drossaart Lulofs on his ninetieth birthday (Leiden, 1997), pp. 4376, esp. pp. 58f.Google Scholar

32 The Rampur MS also contains a commentary that is inserted within the text (see Hansberger, ‘Transmission of the Parva Naturalia’, p. 6). This means that at best about half of the text on these pages belongs to Kitāb al-Ḥiss wa-al-maḥsūs proper.

33 See Hansberger, ‘Transmission of the Parva Naturalia’, pp. 16f; Hansberger, ‘Kitāb al-Ḥiss wa-l-maḥsūs’, pp. 144f.

34 See Hansberger, ‘Transmission of the Parva Naturalia’, pp. 10f., 230–3; ‘How Aristotle came to believe in God-given dreams’, pp. 67f.

35 Abū al-Walīd Ibn Rushd, , Talkhīṣ Kitāb al-Ḥiss wa-al-maḥsūs, ed. Blumberg, Harry (Cambridge, Mass., 1972)Google Scholar, pp. 21f.

36 Ibn Rushd, Talkhīṣ, p. 35.

37 See below.

38 Aristotle, De memoria 450a30–450b11, De anima 424a17ff. Plotinus takes Aristotle's comparison of sense-perception with the impression of a seal in wax literally. Some ancient commentators, as well as modern interpreters, argue for a metaphorical understanding of Aristotle's comparison. See Emilsson, Eyjólfur Kjalar, Plotinus on Sense-Perception: A Philosophical Study (Cambridge, 1988), pp. 76f.Google Scholar; King, Richard A.H. (tr., ann.), Aristoteles: De Memoria (Darmstadt, 2004), pp. 3845, 97–9Google Scholar.

39 The example is mentioned in several treatises of the Enneads, cf. IV.3.26, IV.5.3 and IV.7.6.

40 Quotations from Plotinus' text (Greek and English) are taken from the Loeb edition: Plotinus, Ennead IV, with an English translation by A.H. Armstrong (Harvard, 1984)Google Scholar.

41 All quotations of Kitāb al-Ḥiss wa-al-maḥsūs are taken from my edition (see n. 26 above). Square brackets in the Arabic text indicate uncertain readings in the Rampur manuscript.

42 The term taṣawwur is rare in Kitāb al-Ḥiss wa-al-maḥsūs; what is generally used in the adaptation is muṣawwir (which, conversely, may well have developed out of taṣawwur, a more likely term to have been present in the Arabic translation of the Parva Naturalia). This makes taṣawwur here somewhat unlikely to be a simple scribal mistake, even though muṣawwir occurs twice in similar contexts in the passage. However, the text may well be corrupted as the verb – tafakkara, to deliberate – suggests the faculty of thought (fikr, or perhaps here tafakkur) as subject; but this option is called into question again by the parallel occurrence of muṣawwir. See also Hansberger, ‘Transmission of the Parva Naturalia’, pp. 43–5, 209.

43 Sorabji, Richard, Aristotle On Memory, 2nd edn (London, 2004), p. 47.Google Scholar

44 Cf. Hansberger, ‘Transmission of the Parva Naturalia’, pp. 24–9, 60–6. An interesting point is that when translating De memoria 449b6–8 the translator confuses the two groups – a mistake that we can still see reflected in Ibn Rushd's Talkhīṣ (pp. 49f.). – As the manuscript is corrupt at this point the stance taken in text iv cannot be affirmed with absolute certainty.

45 Its presence at this point of the text could hence be an indication that the adaptor of Kitāb al-Ḥiss wa-al-maḥsūs rearranged his source material.

46 A further, less explicit, reference is found in Ennead IV.6.1, 9–10 (pp. 320f.): ἐπειδὴ οὔτε τὸν τύπον τοῦ αἰσθητοῦ ἐγγίγνεσθαί φαμεν τῇ ψυχῇ καὶ τυποῦν αὐτήν – ‘since we do not assert that the impression of the sense-object enters the soul and stamps it’.

47 This passage has been emended in various ways by different editors; the differences are, however, immaterial for the point being made in our context. I follow Armstrong's suggestion.

48 Hansberger, ‘Transmission of the Parva Naturalia’, pp. 23–189.

49 See Hansberger, ‘Transmission of the Parva Naturalia’, pp. 130–5, 179–89, 258.

50 See Hansberger, ‘Transmission of the Parva Naturalia’, pp. 212–20.

51 Cf. Adamson, The Arabic Plotinus, pp. 9–12; Zimmermann, ‘Theology of Aristotle’, pp. 112, 115.

52 Cf. Hansberger, ‘Kitāb al-Ḥiss wa-l-maḥsūs’, pp. 153–7; ‘The Transmission of the Parva Naturalia’, pp. 158–63.

53 If one wanted to maintain that the influence of the Enneads detectable in Kitāb al-Ḥiss wa-al-maḥsūs went back to its Greek archetype, one would then have to claim that the Arabic Plotinus was based on an altered Greek version as well, and that – by rare coincidence – it was this altered version of the Enneads that had an impact on the altered version of the Parva Naturalia, before both were translated into Arabic. – A survey of the history of the hypothesis of an altered Greek version of the Enneads is provided by Cristina D'Ancona in ‘Porphyry, universal soul and the Arabic Plotinus’, pp. 47–62.

54 Ibn Rushd, Talkhīṣ, pp. 20ff. This would have differed considerably from Aristotle's recapitulation of the views of Plato, Empedocles and Democritus in ch. 2 of De sensu (437a19–438b2).

55 Cf. Emilsson, Plotinus, pp. 68–72; Coleman, Janet, Ancient and Medieval Memories: Studies in the Reconstruction of the Past (Cambridge, 1992), pp. 75f.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

56 Cf. e.g. De anima II, 7, II, 11 (419a1–b2, 423b1–26), De sensu, 436b18f., 438b2–16. Plotinus differentiates explicitly between the two issues in Ennead IV.4.23, 43ff. Both concepts could be referred to in Arabic by the term mutawassit. Plotinus occasionally uses the same term – (τὸ) μεταξύ – for either concept (cf. Ennead IV.4.23, 25; 44), which might have become a source of confusion for the Arabic translator.

57 Cf. Hansberger, ‘Transmission of the Parva Naturalia’, pp. 60–65.

58 See pp. 62f. above.

59 Cf. Hansberger, ‘Kitāb al-Ḥiss wa-l-maḥsūs’, pp. 146f., 154–7.

60 For Plotinus, it is likewise the corporeal aspect of sense-perception that is at the heart of the problem. However, his solution emphasises a different aspect: in his theory, the sense-organs fulfil the task of bridging the gap between the corporeal object of perception and incorporeal perception; in Kitāb al-Ḥiss wa-al-maḥsūs, on the other hand, the role of the sense-organs is pushed into the background, while the focus lies on the post-sensatory ‘spiritual faculties’, which deal with ‘spiritual’ rather than corporeal forms. According to Maqāla II, however, the passage that perceptions take through these three faculties is supposed to constitute a ‘cleansing’ process in which these forms are increasingly freed from their corporeal aspects. In this way these faculties could indeed be seen as ‘mediating’ between the corporeal and the (entirely) spiritual. Cf. Hansberger, ‘Transmission of the Parva Naturalia’, pp. 68–83, and my contribution on Kitāb al-Ḥiss wa-al-maḥsūs in M. Sebti, D. De Smet (eds.), Noétique et théorie de la connaissance dans la philosophie arabo-musulmane des IXe–XVIIe siècles, Collection “Textes et Traditions” (Paris, forthcoming).

61 Notably one that refers to these faculties as ‘internal senses’ (fol. 7b, line 3; see Hansberger, ‘Transmission of the Parva Naturalia’, pp. 210f. and 171–8).

62 See Zimmermann, ‘Theology of Aristotle’, pp. 119–25, 128–31, 134.

63 Cf. Zimmermann, ‘Theology of Aristotle’, pp. 118–25.

64 Cf. Hansberger, ‘Transmission of the Parva Naturalia’, pp. 130–5, 208–11.

65 On a possible presence of fragments from Ennead IV.5 in the text see below.

66 In Kitāb al-Ḥiss wa-al-maḥsūs, sleep and waking – along with other topics of the Parva Naturalia – are characterised as ‘faculties’ or ‘powers’ (quwā). What Aristotle describes as ‘phenomena common to soul and body’ (De sensu 436b1–3) thus becomes, in the Arabic version, a question of ‘faculties’ (of the soul). See e.g. MS Rampur, fol. 21b, and cf. Hansberger, ‘Transmission of the Parva Naturalia’, pp. 128f.

67 GS V and VI, Badawī, Aflūṭīn, pp. 189–92.

68 See GS V, Badawī, Aflūṭīn, p. 191: والدليل على ذلك أنه إذا وضع المحسوس على العين ولامسها لم تبصره; cf. Ibn Rushd, Talkhīṣ, p. 9: والدلالة على حاجة هذه الحواس الثلاث إلى المتوسط أنها إذا وضعت ‎محسوساتها على حاسة لم تدركها The question whether indications of further Plotinian borrowings can be found in the Talkhīṣ, and indeed what it can more generally tell us about further sources that may have been included in Maqāla I of Kitāb al-Ḥiss wa-al-maḥsūs will have to be investigated in a separate study.

69 Cf. Hansberger, ‘Transmission of the Parva Naturalia’, pp. 206–11.

70 I would like to thank Elvira Wakelnig and Basim Musallam for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this article, and David Taylor for improving its English style.

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