Enneads Commentary (5.1.1)

Enneads Commentary (5.1.1)

Commentary on 5.1.1

5.1.1-3: Τί ποτε ἄρα ἐστὶ τὸ πεποιηκὸς τὰς ψυχὰς πατρὸς
θεοῦ ἐπιλαθέσθαι, καὶ μοίρας ἐκεῖθεν οὔσας καὶ ὅλως ἐκείνου
ἀγνοῆσαι καὶ ἑαυτὰς καὶ ἐκεῖνον

Trans: What then was it that made souls forget their father, their god, although being parts from there and from him, and what was it that made them completely ignorant of themselves and of him.

Commentary: Here the Interpreter begins his treatise by asking how souls, being divine (something he will show later on to be the case), could have forgotten their origin. The purpose of this treatise is to remind us of soul’s rightful place in the order of being.

5.1.22-25: Διὸ δεῖ διττὸν γίγνεσθαι τὸν λόγον πρὸς τοὺς οὕτω διακειμένους,
εἴπερ τις ἐπιστρέψει αὐτοὺς εἰς τὰ ἐναντία καὶ τὰ πρῶτα καὶ ἀνάγοι μέχρι
τοῦ ἀκροτάτου καὶ ἑνὸς καὶ πρώτου.

Trans: For this reason, then, the logos must be twofold towards those thus (ignorantly) disposed, if indeed one is to turn them around towards the opposite and first things and if one would refer them back towards the summit and the One and the First.

Commentary: Now the Interpreter makes clear the ethical purpose of the work. He wishes to make a logos for those who are ignorant of their relation to God and the First Things, which he will clarify later as being Intellect, Being, Motion, and Rest (5.4.34).

5.1.25-35: Τίς οὖν ἑκάτερος; Ὁ μὲν δεικνὺς τὴν ἀτιμίαν τῶν νῦν ψυχῇ τιμωμένων,
ὃν ἐν ἄλλοις δίιμεν ἐπιπλέον, ὁ δὲ διδάσκων καὶ ἀναμιμνήσκων τὴν ψυχὴν
οἷον τοῦ γένους καὶ τῆς ἀξίας, ὃς πρότερός ἐστιν ἐκείνου καὶ σαφηνισθεὶς
κἀκεῖνον δηλώσει. Περὶ οὗ νῦν λεκτέον· ἐγγὺς γὰρ οὗτος τοῦ ζητουμένου
καὶ πρὸ ἔργου πρὸς ἐκεῖνον. Τὸ γὰρ ζητοῦν ἐστι ψυχή, καὶ τί ὂν ζητεῖ γνωστέον
αὐτῇ, ἵνα αὑτὴν πρότερον μάθῃ, εἰ δύναμιν ἔχει τοῦ τὰ τοιαῦτα ζητεῖν, καὶ εἰ ὄμμα
τοιοῦτον ἔχει, οἷον ἰδεῖν, καὶ εἰ προσήκει ζητεῖν. Εἰ μὲν γὰρ ἀλλότρια, τί δεῖ;
Εἰ δὲ συγγενῆ, καὶ προσήκει καὶ δύναται εὑρεῖν.

Trans: What, then, is each way? On the one hand, one can show the worthlessness of the things now honored by the soul, which we will go through later. On the other hand, there is the method of one teaching and reminding the soul that such is its race and worth. And this logos is prior to that other one above. Moreover, this prior logos, being made clear, will reveal that other one as well. About this, then, one must speak. For this logos is close to the thing being sought and prior to work (of finding) it. For the one seeking is soul, and it is necessary for soul to know what kind of thing it is as it seeks, in order that it may first know itself, if it has the power to seek such things (the first things), and if it has such an eye, such that it might see, and if it is fitting for it to seek. For if the things sought are foreign to the soul, why is it necessary to search for them at all? But if they are of the same stock, it is both fitting and possible for the soul to find them.

Commentary: Here the Interpreter sets out the kind of logos he is to make. He says one can either remind the soul of its proximity to God by revealing the relative inferiorty of what is sought by the soul in comparison to the seeker itself. However, this will be done later, as this logos is inferior and secondary to the one that reveals the worth and lineage of the soul by making its nature clear. Since the Interpreter wishes here to help the reader by leading him back to God, it is fitting that he use the superior logos, which through its clarity and beauty, will make inferior things readily apparent as well. This logos, though, depends on making the soul visible to itself. Soul must learn what kind of thing it is in order for it to assess its own worth. And since it is proper for souls, especially souls that reason discursively, to seek the truth of things, it seems that this activity most of all will disclose its essential activity and nature. Hence, one must understand the soul by grasping this essential activity, i.e. that it seeks. Soul is that which seeks the truth, and if it is to know itself—as the oracle enjoins—one must grasp its τὸ τί ἦν εἶναι in precisely this way. One must inquire into the ‘what it is to be’ of that which inquires.

However, to inquire or search is to inquire or search for something. That is, one searches after being. But one is not here concerned with a particular being or the object of a particular science, but with being in general. To inquire after being in general is to inquire into being qua being. But the Being of being is also the Truth of Being. Hence, the soul must understand itself as that which is always and everywhere related to Truth.

But how can this be? It would appear that if the soul is to inquire into the Truth of Being, it must interrogate in advance the very ground of this relation (i.e of its relation to being). For like is only understood by like, as the Disciple says in Book I.2 of Περὶ Ψυχῆς. Hence, that which is true or that which is must bear some relation to the soul, it must be like the soul in some way. As the soul’s primary activity is to inquire and search, we say that it is intellectual. If truth or being is to bear an essential relation to soul, then, it must be intellectual. In other words, it must be intelligible. If it is not, then it will be alien to the soul, and one, following Richard Rorty, ought never inquire into the Truth of Being. But if the soul and Being come from the same stock, if they are συγγενῆ, then it is not only possible but indeed most fitting for the soul to search after the Truth of Being.

This, however, seems like the problem addressed in the Meno, where inquiry was shown to be impossible. For if one knows already that being is like mind, then one has already achieved the end of the inquiry. On the other hand, if one does not know that being is like mind, then one will never know, as one will not know what one is looking for or what it will look like even when one sees it. Hence, inquiry is either useless or impossible. The Interpreter, though, addresses this problem the same way as the Philosopher. For he has said that we have forgotten this relationship. Therefore, inquiry must be a kind of remembering or recollection. One must remember what the soul and the world always were and will always be.

Conor Stark
Conor Stark

Conor is a PhD student at the Catholic University of America (Washington, DC, US).


christian-platonism Knowledge of God intellect Textual Commentary Plotinus

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