Saturday, May 9, 2009

18 Plotinus

Who was Plotinus. He lived from 204 to 270 AD, Born in Egypte and when he was about 40 he was apponted as teacher in Rome. What does he has to tell?

He was in a sense a remarkable man. Like all Romans he wasnt an original thinker, but he was a good teacher and he had a lot of imagination.
He is the kind of philosopers with whom I personally have trouble. I dont know what to do with their theories.

Reason for that is that such philosophers never give a convincing epistemological justification for their basic premisses.
That means, they never answer the question how they can know what they claim to know, while I have no clue at all how I should be able to know the same things. So, in fact, Plotinus balances on the border between philosophy and theology.

To save him from being called a theologist, we could say that he developed an elaborated metaphysical theory.
His writings are well preserved. And I think the reason for that is, that his ideas were very attractive to the catholic church of those days. Now let's focus on what he had to say.

The first thing that strikes us is that he creates a complete theory about reality and the position of man in it, a cosmology. And most interesting is that the main task of man is to contemplate in order to become one with The One, as he calls it.

An interesting observation is that he has had contact with eastern philosophies. He was very interested in in such theories. And I really get the feeling that some of his ideas are really based on eastern philosophies.
When Plotinus died his last word were "Strive to bring back the god in yourself to the God in the All."

You know, here is one of my problems with him. I have no idea why I should want to do that, neither what sense it makes.
Let's investigate what reasons Plotinus give to follow his advise.

First of all he gives a description of what exists. Dont ask me to explain how he could know this....he just said so: it is the Master's voice. Plotinus says, there is The One, the Intelligence and the Soul, in that order...a kind of hierarchy.
You could read this hierachy as God - Reason - corporeal man. And that man has a soul.

It is at the level of the Soul that the drama of existence unfolds; the Soul, through coming into contact with its inferior, that is, matter or pure passivity, is temporarily corrupted, and forgets the fact that it is one of the beings, owing its existence to the Intelligence, as its prior, and ultimately, to the power of the One.

The soul is split up in two levels and it is the lower level that is in contact with the material world, with passivity. What it forgets is the insights, the higher knowledge which is in the upper level, which gets it from the Intelligence, which intermediates between The One and the Soul.

Epistemologically interpreted does it mean, according to Plotinus, that what we know, what we are certain about is generated by remembering what is in The One. To put it in a simple way, we know that something is real love, because we are an emanation of the One, in which that idea exists.

This isnt far from saying that we are born according to God's likeness. Historically we may call Plotinus the founder of Neoplatonism. And so we have arrived at the threshold of a new aera, ready for the big debate between rationalism and empirism.

The Discussion

[12:11] herman Bergson: Today Plotinus....

[12:11] herman Bergson: the kind of philosopher That I dont like so much
[12:12] herman Bergson: I mean that kind of philosophy he creates
[12:12] herman Bergson: So I may sound a little biased (is that the word?)...
[12:21] herman Bergson: One final word on Hope's remark....he is right....talking about the catholic church is a bit anachronistic..;-)
[12:21] herman Bergson: We still need a pope first..:-)
[12:21] herman Bergson: and there wasnt in those days..:-)
[12:21] AristotleVon Doobie: What of Peter?
[12:22] Osrum Sands:Rome would say that there was a pope ?
[12:22] herman Bergson: I have to look into it historically to find out when the first pope took residence in Rome
[12:23] AristotleVon Doobie: I think Peter was retroactive
[12:23] herman Bergson: Hello Rodney
[12:23] Rodney Handrick: Hi Herman
[12:24] hope63 Shepherd: herman.. we might want to remeber the impact of his thinking on the future developpments of philosohers.. could you already give us a clue as to what the big debate rationalism- empirism will be about (as from my poor knowledge this is taking part very much later)

[12:24] herman Bergson: sure...
[12:25] herman Bergson: the big debate is about the explanation of certainty of knowledge...
[12:25] herman Bergson: How do we know for certain....
[12:26] herman Bergson: The extreme empirist says, man is born as a tabula empty sheet of paper
[12:26] herman Bergson: By sensory experiences this tabula rasa is filled with experience and custom
[12:27] herman Bergson: the rationalist says..
[12:27] herman Bergson: no...
[12:27] herman Bergson: when man is born he already has some kind of frame of mind....
[12:27] Rodney Handrick: I don't know if we are born as an empty sheet of paper
[12:27] herman Bergson: that helps him to understand and interpret his sensory experiences
[12:28] Rodney Handrick: I agree
[12:28] herman Bergson: Plato was such a philosopher and Plotinus was too
[12:28] herman Bergson: Aristotle was more of an empirist
[12:28] AristotleVon Doobie: Like that man.
[12:29] herman Bergson: One of the ever returning characteristics in a philosopher is the question
[12:29] hope63 Shepherd: lol...aristotle likes aristotle..
[12:29] AristotleVon Doobie: :)
[12:29] Maphisto Mapholisto: invited a new class member , herman
[12:29] herman Bergson: does he presupposes pre-existing knowledge or not
[12:30] herman Bergson: the rationalist does...the emprist doesnt
[12:30] Rodney Handrick: I prefer rationalist
[12:31] herman Bergson: that is an interesting remark Rodney
[12:31] herman Bergson: for it hits on a very essential issue in philosophy
[12:31] herman Bergson: you say "I prefer..."
[12:32] AristotleVon Doobie: I see no reason to believe it.
[12:32] Rodney Handrick: Yes...
[12:32] herman Bergson: that is what it is all about....what arguments do you have to say that[
12:32] hope63 Shepherd: find the right questions to find the right questions to the answer we found..
[12:33] Rodney Handrick: we rely on our current known senses to guide our lives
[12:34] herman Bergson: no one will deny that...but what do these senses tell us?
[12:34] hope63 Shepherd: gosh. you trust your senses'?
[12:34] Rodney Handrick: In order to improve we need verification and validation to be seen as authentic
[12:34] Maphisto Mapholisto: how else do you know what's 'out there'?
[12:35] herman Bergson: But there is a problem with verification
[12:35] Rodney Handrick: ok
[12:35] herman Bergson: see dozens of swans...
[12:35] Rodney Handrick: ok
[12:35] herman Bergson: they are all white
[12:35] herman Bergson: so you come to the conclusion that all swans are white
[12:35] Gray Cardiff: ohh no we arnt swaning about again i hope
[12:36] herman Bergson: and indeed ..the next one you find is white again
[12:36] hope63 Shepherd: HOPE.. THATS ME..LOL
[12:36] Maphisto Mapholisto: until you discover australia
[12:36] herman Bergson: but this doesnt verify your statement, makes it only more probable
[12:37] herman Bergson: which means....the statement All swans are white is just more probable, not certain
[12:37] AristotleVon Doobie: Shows you what man knows.
[12:37] Rodney Handrick: white is perceived as the absence of color in the color spectrum so you verify that all swans are of the same makeup
[12:37] Maphisto Mapholisto: swans don't wear makeup
[12:37] AristotleVon Doobie: Reflective color.
[12:38] herman Bergson smiles
[12:38] AristotleVon Doobie: White Swans are actually black.
[12:38] herman Bergson: it is not about the content of the statement...
[12:38] hope63 Shepherd: maff. you ever saw swanlake on stzage..
[12:38] Maphisto Mapholisto: tru, hope
[12:38] Gray Cardiff: we are swanning about again
[12:39] hope63 Shepherd: tage
[12:39] herman Bergson: we are drifting away from the quintessence
[12:39] hope63 Shepherd: stage$
[12:39] Maphisto Mapholisto: i think that is why the zens have a saying - a black cat is not a cat - it is a black cat
[12:39] hope63 Shepherd: sorry herman..
[12:39] herman Bergson: let's get back to the issue
[12:39] Rodney Handrick: Color can be measured it is just using the math which is consistent throughout nature
[12:40] Rodney Handrick: it can be verified...
[12:40] herman Bergson: I drop the swans and say All A are B
[12:40] hope63 Shepherd: would all of us let herman finish his thought..
[12:40] herman Bergson: it is impossible to check all A
[12:40] Gray Cardiff: well done herman phew
[12:40] herman Bergson: I only can find more As
[12:41] herman Bergson: and every A that is a B verifies my statement...
[12:41] Rodney Handrick: hmm...
[12:41] herman Bergson: but is doesnt make it certain
[12:41] Anna Parisi: so never 100% certain
[12:41] Maphisto Mapholisto: exactly, that's why 'a black cat is not a cat - it is a black cat'
[12:41] herman Bergson: there may be a day that I find an A that is NOT B
[12:41] Anna Parisi: unless you find an A that is not B
[12:41] hope63 Shepherd: no maff.. mendel proved the contrary..
[12:41] Rodney Handrick: no a cat that happens to be 'black'
[12:41] AristotleVon Doobie: So Plotinus says that man knows all but does not know it yet?
[12:42] Nick Cassavetes: anamnese it's called I believe
[12:42] herman Bergson: Yes Aristotle...and contemplation is the way to reach the true insights
[12:42] Maphisto Mapholisto: seems Ploti was a Gnostic
[12:42] Nick Cassavetes: like Plato
[12:42] herman Bergson: I think he was, Maff....
[12:43] herman Bergson: He made a distinction between Gnosis and episteme (human knowledge so to speak)
[12:44] hope63 Shepherd: i think he was the melting pot of all he could learn..and tried to tie everything into one concept..
from ressurection to jewish christian beliefs.. to plato...
[12:44] herman Bergson: least like all romans he was an eclectic indeed
[12:45] herman Bergson: My problem with the kind of philosophy he creates is, that he develops a complete cosmology, a huge theory about everything
[12:45] herman Bergson: and I dont know how you can do that...
[12:46] Maphisto Mapholisto: an angel hands you the golden tablets
[12:46] AristotleVon Doobie: Seems to me that whenever these folks reached the unexplainable the they explained by the devine.
[12:46] herman Bergson: yes..that is the route Augustine will take...revelation
[12:46] Rodney Handrick: Angel...hmm
[12:47] AristotleVon Doobie: Kind of like the bogey man.
[12:47] Osrum Sands:Joseph smith
[12:47] herman Bergson: So our next stop will be Saint Augustine...:-
[12:47] Maphisto Mapholisto: yee
[12:47] Rodney Handrick: The issue...the definition of the devine
[12:47] Gray Cardiff: I believe
[12:47] AristotleVon Doobie: I do not
[12:48] Osrum Sands:Ive seen the Light
[12:48] Osrum Sands:now where are the mushrooms ???
[12:48] Gray Cardiff: then you dont understand apstotle lol
[12:48] Osrum Sands:sorry
[12:49] Gray Cardiff: down with the skeptics
[12:49] hope63 Shepherd: up the
[12:49] AristotleVon Doobie: Well the search should continue when you reach a tough spot, not a cop out.
[12:49] Maphisto Mapholisto: lol
[12:49] Osrum Sands:A Skeptic with an Ep[istemological bent !
[12:49] herman Bergson: there is an interesting philosophical issue here:knowledge and believe
[12:49] Maphisto Mapholisto: a bent skeptic?
[12:49] Rodney Handrick: A little skepticism is healthy...imo
[12:49] herman Bergson: Down with the Skepric, Gray?
[12:49] Gray Cardiff: im a straight believer
[12:49] Maphisto Mapholisto: i'm with rod
[12:50] Gray Cardiff: lol
[12:50] herman Bergson: If you have good philosophical arguments, I will agree..:-)
[12:50] AristotleVon Doobie: Truth is not a democracy.
[12:50] Rodney Handrick: thanks Maphisto...:-)
[12:50] herman Bergson: that is a nice one Aristotle
[12:50] AristotleVon Doobie: TU
[12:50] Maphisto Mapholisto: dangerous Aristo .... next you'll be saying error has no rightsbiography[12:51] hope63 Shepherd: you american ari?
[12:51] Maphisto Mapholisto: no rights
[12:51] AristotleVon Doobie: Just a man.
[12:51] herman Bergson: right answer Aristotle..:-)
[12:51] herman Bergson: here we are just philosophers
[12:51] AristotleVon Doobie: Yes
[12:51] herman Bergson: this is not a political meeting..:-)
[12:51] Maphisto Mapholisto: easy on the 'just' there herman
[12:52] Gray Cardiff: scepticism is not a possible way of life, is it herman
[12:52] AristotleVon Doobie: Funny tho how the union of philosophy, relgion and politics lead us here.
[12:52] herman Bergson: I am still alive, if that is your question..:-)
[12:52] Maphisto Mapholisto: lol
[12:53] herman Bergson: yes, Aristotle, but I think we have to keep the discussion clear and focus on the philosophical approach
[12:53] AristotleVon Doobie: Yes then.
[12:54] hope63 Shepherd: i'm german.. and i assure you if scepitism had prevailed in the 30ies.. we would have had less problems in this world.. at least for that ime..
[12:54] herman Bergson: whether you believe in something or not is not a philosophical argument
[12:54] herman Bergson: in fact in the discussion it is irrelevant
[12:54] Gray Cardiff: dont mention the war hope
[12:55] Maphisto Mapholisto: i hope people will be kind to Augustine next time - he was the first person to write a pychological autobiography, and that makes him a bit of a hero of mine
[12:55] herman Bergson: what we have as our tools is only logic and valid arguments
[12:55] AristotleVon Doobie: I suspect I shall not.
[12:55] Maphisto Mapholisto: damn
[12:56] herman Bergson: What do you mean Aristotle?
[12:56] AristotleVon Doobie: As far as St Augustine goes,
[12:56] hope63 Shepherd: maff .. augustine.. don't know much about him.. but i heard he was an even worse bastrd in his youth than i was..
[12:57] AristotleVon Doobie: :)
[12:57] Maphisto Mapholisto: well, if you enjoy the games in the ampitheatre, then maybe
[12:57] Osrum Sands:Surly it is not reasonable or logical to close ones mind to a great thinker
[12:57] Gray Cardiff: i heard the same hope
[12:58] herman Bergson: Well...I'll look into his biography for next class..:-)
[12:58] AristotleVon Doobie: I think not, but too much idloatry is some oour modern problems.
[12:58] Maphisto Mapholisto: well, he did ask god to ave from temptation - but not yet, lol
[12:58] AristotleVon Doobie: Only yuo can save yourself fro temptation.
[12:58] Maphisto Mapholisto: look forward to it herman
[12:59] herman Bergson: Ok..
[12:59] Maphisto Mapholisto: is there any such thing as temptation?
[12:59] herman Bergson: then I thank you for your attention...:-)
[12:59] hope63 Shepherd: lets always be relative in our thoughts about the great thinkers,... they made a n important contribution too our world.. but none of them invented the wheel
[12:59] herman Bergson: Hope to see you next class on Tuesday again..:-)
[12:59] Maphisto Mapholisto: tru, hope
[12:59] AristotleVon Doobie: Thank you, Prof.
[12:59] Rodney Handrick: hmm...
[12:59] Gray Cardiff: thank you herman
[12:59] Maphisto Mapholisto: thnx herman
Posted by herman_bergson on 2007-11-12 04:03:33

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