Erōs and chorasis in Plotinus’ Treatise On Love

Authors

  • Sonja Weiss

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.4312/keria.12.2-3.81-94

Keywords:

ancient philosophy, Greek philosophy, neoplatonsim

Abstract

The article focuses on the role of Love as the relation of the Soul to the object of its love – supreme Beauty. Since this relation comes into existence as an act of contemplation, the driving force behind the Plotinian emanation process, the study pays particular attention to Plotinus’ contemplation theory, where Eros, as the Soul’s Eye, plays an important role. While the word ‘relation’ normally implies only the existence of the two related realities, Plotinus’ Love-Relation is itself a substance (οὐσία). Secondly, the article confronts the challenge posed by the Plotinian allegorical interpretation of various myths and allegories, especially Plato’s, related to the figure of Eros as god and daemon. The most controversial point of Plotinus’ interpretation is his inclusion of Eros, a ‘mixed’ and imperfect reality, in the emanation process, by representing the god Eros (Love), the son of Afrodite (the Soul), as actively involved in her contemplation of supreme Beauty. By itself, this point would present no problems, had not Plotinus included in his doctrine of the Soul’s contemplation Plato’s allegorical figure of Penia (Poverty), which is, in the Symposium, the cause of the imperfect and dissatisfied nature of Love the daemon. It is no wonder, then, if one of the most eminent experts on Plotinus, A. H. Armstrong, opined (in a single note, which, however, reverberated in other editions of this treatise) that Plotinus may have gone beyond all his attested doctrines here. The article tries to dispel this doubt by showing that Plotinus’ symbolism of Penia is supported by his doctrine of noetic matter, adducing precisely his contemplation theory, according to which the unlimited, undefinable quality appears at the very core of the emanation process. Plotinus’ treatise on Eros, which begins as a commentary on one of Plato’s passages, thus develops into a multilayered theory of a substantialised relation of the Soul – a theory adding new metaphysical dimensions to the original Platonic myth.

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Published

31. 12. 2010

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Section

Articles