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Plotinus on divine simplicity and modernity

I can read your mind. You’ve been thinking “Gee, I wish someone would write a four-part series of blog posts on the neglected ancient Neo-Platonist philosopher Plotinus which addresses first his metaphysical and theological significance and then his moral outlook.” Right? I thought so. That’s why I wrote this, this, this, and this and posted them over at my own blog. Just call me Criswell.

Comments (9)

Wow! Just what I was thinking! :-)

I am, in fact, going to print these out and read them. I have bought your book "The Last Superstition" and am (slowly) reading it.


Gerson/Plotinus hangs his hat on #7 and wiggles away from an unnecessary but possibly uncomfortable argument.
A distinction between essence and existence appears today as a gratuitous complication of identity, apologies to the Scholastics and lingering allegiance to a Kantian noumena.
The last however being applicable in a larger sense, that questions of an initial state, determining conditions, or prime mover, offer themselves to speculation, but little else.

That's where faith comes in.

A distinction between essence and existence appears today as a gratuitous complication of identity, apologies to the Scholastics and lingering allegiance to a Kantian noumena.

Can there be a given essence without existence? No. Can there be existence without a given essence? Yes. Therefore, essence and existence are distinct.

Can there be any essence without any existence? No. Can there be any existence without any essence? No. Therefore, essence and existence are one.

Apologies to the fideists.

George R, Nice. But as your 1st para stipulates a "given" and follows with the condition of "distinct" it implies or creates a metaphysical separation, or intrinsic difference.
I do like your 2nd para however.

Substitute "finite" for "given." Therefore, essence and existence are distinct from each other in finite things.

Thus, the implication of the 2nd paragraph is more obvious.

GeorgeR, what a difference a word makes. So, and correct me if I am wrong, but first you pose a truism, for arguments sake, then you present the counter, second para, as the proper and sound position.
The first para being the contradiction, though logical in it's formulation, to the second, which is not an implication but an assertion, sound but still disputable, though one I am in sympathy with.

An essence to be known must present to the subject observable properties, or be discoverable. But this is a particular stance, or function. As William Blake writes,
"the atoms of Democritus
And Newton's particles of light
Are sands upon the Red sea shore
Where Israel's tents do shine bright".

Materialism does not preclude faith, which in different categories we all hold. Faith does present justifiable grounds for belief, as Douglas Odergard, and a few others have said.
In fact, it is one of the conditions for holding truth.

Sorry for going on so long.

This in no way precludes faith as Mr Feser points out, as faith does hold justifiable grounds for belief, and justifiability, as Douglas Ordergard has pointed out, along with a few others, is one of the conditions of holding truth.

And in the future I will edit my posts a little more carefully.

Sorry, it's my fault. The 2nd paragraph is ambiguous too.

Here’s what I was trying to say:

Existence and essence are not one in finite things because, if they were, existence would depend on the essence of a finite thing. For example, if the essence of a horse and existence were one, then without the horse there would be no existence, which is absurd.

On the other hand, if existence were not one with any essence at all, then existence would be nothingness; for everything that is something has an essence. Therefore, there must be something whose essence is existence, and whose existence is its essence.

Btw, materialism is not a tenable position.

George R Thanks for a good run, I think I spot an error in your latest formulation, but it's time to move on.
May I leave you with two very popular words in the philosophical lexicon, usually intended to contradict one another but more accurately, in synch with one another. In any case, applicable to our discussion and hopefully to cause you some minor discomfort as you wrestle with them, if you wrestle with them, namely, reductionism and emergence.
Signing off.

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