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Imagination in Plotinus

  • E. W. Warren (a1)

Whittaker, following Siebeck, pointed out the important role Plotinus assigns to the functions of imagination in psychic life. Imagination is the terminus ad quern of all properly human conscious experience; it is that faculty of man without which there can be no conscious experience. The sensitive soul is an imaginative soul below which there is Nature, or vegetative soul, which acts without being conscious. When the functions of reason are added to sensation to produce a rational human being, there is conscious discursive thought as well as conscious sensation; and since the sensitive soul cannot be responsible for the imaging of rational concepts, Plotinus asserts the existence of a conceptual imagination.

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page 277 note 1 Whittaker, The Neo-Platonists, p. 52.

page 277 note 2 Von Kleist in 1883 in his valuable Plotinische Studien also recognized the importance of inline-graphic in Plotinus, but he seems to have relied on Siebeck for his inspiration, p. 87, footnote 1.

page 277 note 3 Except inline-graphic however, which possesses its own consciousness independent of imagination, 1.4. 10.

page 277 note 4 Bréhier remarks with regard to the Stoics: ‘La psyché, par opposition à la physis, est bien la psyché en général; or, une de ses caractéristiques est la représentation, fonction consciente. La fonction consciente est done inséparable de la fonction vitale.’ Chrysippe, 166–7, n- 2-

page 277 note 5 See my previous article, Memory in Plotinus’, C.Q. N.S. xv (1965), 252 ff.

page 277 note 6 1. 4. 10 and 4. 6. 3.

page 277 note 7 inline-graphic is a power common to sensation and imagination, but sensations become conscious only when apprehended in the imagination. Thus, conscious sensation involves the apprehensive power employed in both.

page 277 note 8 See Aristotle, E.N. 1102b.

page 277 note 9 See 4. 4. 37, where choice appears as an indicator of consciousness.

page 278 note 1 Dicta Sapientis Graeci II, paragraph 64 (Plotini Opera, Henry-Schwyzer, ii, p. 89). supports this interpretation.

page 278 note 2 4. 4. 13, lines 7–9 and 11–15. This interesting section shows the close connexion of imagination, consciousness, and inline-graphic Since inline-graphic is without consciousness, Plotinus denies to it the power of imagination. See 3. 8. 4, where inline-graphic possesses inline-graphic and a kind of understanding. Lines 22–25 show that it is the understanding of sleep as compared to that of waking!

page 278 note 3 On animal life, for example, 1. 1. 11; 5. 2. 2; 6. 7. 9.

page 278 note 4 inline-graphic compare infra, pp. 281–2.

page 278 note 5 3. 6. 18, lines 33–35.

page 278 note 6 See infra, pp. 283–4.

page 279 note 1 4. 4. 3, lines 7–8 and 10–12.

page 279 note 2 It has been asserted that Plotinus' iden tification of subject and object in Nous was designed, among other things, to meet objec tions of sceptics. Any knowledge of another being was bound to involve a representational psychology, which leads to the question: how do I know that my concept corresponds to the reality which is known? For discussion of this question see the works of Boas G., ‘A Source of Plotinian Mysticism’, Journal of Philosophy xviii (1921), pp. 326–32, and More P. E., Hellenistic Philosophies, p. 245.

page 279 note 3 3.9. 1, lines 7–9. This passage is part of an interpretation of Timaeus 39e and is not a statement of his own view.

page 279 note 4 5. 3. 5. lines 21–25.

page 279 note 5 Note the similarity (or borrowing) in Augustine, ‘… nihil est aliud ilia imaginatio, mi Nebridi, quam plaga inflicta per sensus, …’, Epist. 7. 3. Bréhier says of the Stoics, La représentation sensible … est l'image du réel produite dans l'ame par l'action d'un objet extéieur’ (Chrysippe, pp. 8182).

page 280 note 1 4. 3. 23, lines 29–31.

page 280 note 2 4. 3. 31.

page 280 note 3 1. 1. 7, lines 9–12.

page 280 note 4 4. 3. 26.

page 280 note 5 The statement at 4. 3. 26, inline-graphicinline-graphic means that all bodily activities are under the purview of the soul, but it does not mean that all bodily activities reach the imagination. See on this point 4. 4. 8.

page 281 note 1 4. 3. 29, lines 24–26. inline-graphic formed in the pattern of inline-graphic sense image. It does not mean visual object.

page 281 note 2 4. 4. 19, lines 4–7.

page 281 note 3 4. 7. 6, lines 10–11. See Aristotle, De Anima 426b17–19.

page 281 note 4 How closely connected are die explanations of memory and sensation can be understood from the frequent use of inline-graphic and the infrequent use of inline-graphic The doctrine of sensation is often explained within the context of a discussion of memory. inline-graphic while properly meaning a memory image, frequently functions as sense image.

page 281 note 5 Guitton apparently accepts this statement as genuinely Plotinian. ‘La pensée aussi est toujours accompagnée d'une image, véritable reflet du raisonnement,…’ (Le Temps et l'Éternité, p. 70).

page 282 note 1 See Beare, Greek Theories of Elementary Cognition, Part III, where the common sense is described as providing for consciousness, namely being aware that you are aware

page 282 note 2 The close connexion between discursive thought and verbal expression is shown in 4. 3. 18.

page 282 note 3 See Clark, Essays in Honor of Irving Singer, pp. 306–7, for an interesting note about non-pictorial images.

page 282 note 4 ‘Nun giebt es ja aber zwei inline-graphic—folglich auch von jedem wahrnehmungs- und denkinhalte ein doppeltes bewusstsein? Die frage wird c. 31 dahin entschieden, dass dem allerdings so sei, dass aber für gewöhnlich die inline-graphic des höheren inline-graphic die obmacht habe, die des niederen ihr nur wie ein schatten folge; zuweilen käme es freilich zwischen den beiden inline-graphic zu einem widerstreite, dann werde uns auch die andere fiir sich deutlich, wir merkten aber nicht, dass ihr subjekt ein anderes sei, weil wir (wer sind denn aber eigentlich wir?) ja uberhaupt die doppelheit der seelen in uns nicht merkten’ (von Kleist, Plotinische Studien, p. 72, n. 2). I differ from von Kleist on one point: he interprets inline-graphic lines 10–11, as the higher imagination. This makes Plotinus more of an intellectualist than he is. Earlier Vacherot also said, ‘Partout où se produit l'imagination intellectuelle, elle éclipse l'imagination sensible; …’ (Histoire critique de l'École d'Alexandrie, p. 553). The statement inline-graphic emphasizes the agreement of the two souls, higher and lower. It is quite possible for both higher and lower to be in agreement about sensible affairs. In such a case the stronger soul would be the sensible soul.

Von Kleist rightly asks ‘Who are we?’ For Plotinus ‘we’ are that part with which we have become identified. The other part, inline-graphicinline-graphic is unnoticed by us. Suppose we identify ourselves with inline-graphic is there then a conscious inline-graphic? Should we identify ourselves very brutishly with our sensitive soul alone, we know that inline-graphic remains conscious to itself. Why not the same for the sensitive imagination? Plotinus' answer probably is that inline-graphicdoes not need an imagination for conscious experience. The conscious inline-graphic possesses inline-graphic the inline-graphic For thoughts or sensation to be conscious to man there must be apprehension in the imagination. Were we to identify our-selves with inline-graphic in opposition to any sensible experience, käme es zu einem widerstreite, the sensible imagination would function but without ever reaching the attention of man; for the man has now identified his attention with reason and the conceptual imagination. Our psychic unity is a focus of attention.

page 283 note 1 Following Clark, op. cit., p. 308, n. 34. The use of the word ‘person’ is modern but corresponds to Plotinus' meaning rather well.

page 283 note 2 4. 3. 31, lines 5–8.

page 283 note 3 Ibid., lines 13–18.

page 283 note 4 See 6. 4. 17.

page 284 note 1 1. 4. 10, lines 21-end.

page 285 note 1 It should be remembered that in 4. 3. 29 Plotinus asserts that the sense images become memory images after the sensation is past, the inline-graphic becomes a inline-graphic

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