Plotinus is regarded as the founder of Neoplatonism. He remains the most influential philosopher in antiquity after Plato and Aristotle. The words of wisdom life is a mystery to be lived, not just a problem to be solved have always intrigued me. I have reason to believe that Plotinus and the early Greeks-Plato and Aristotle would agree that Greek Philosophy is the vital union of reason and life (Kelly, 2019, 2020).
Neoplatonism is a term invented in the European Scholarship of the early 19th century and indicates the penchant of historians having to divide historical periods. Plotinus managed to initiate a new phase to develop the platonic tradition further. In preserving the genius of the Greek Philosophy, Plotinus regarded himself as a Platonist, an expositor, and defender of a philosophical position much promoted by Plato (Kelly 7). Plotinus did not hold originality as a premium but realized Plato’s philosophy needed some interpretation.
Additionally, Plotinus discovered roughly 600 years of philosophical writing that reflected engagement with Plato and his philosophical tradition. Two originality avenues were open to Plotinus, although it was not in his intentions to say new things fundamentally. The first avenue was what Plato meant based on what he said or wrote or what was reported by others. As such, the first was a task involving the exploration of the philosophical position called 'Platonism.' Secondly, Plotinus defended Plato against those he thought, misunderstood, and unfairly criticized him (Kelly 22). Therefore, Plotinus indeed preserved the genius of Greek-Philosophy that is the vital union of reason and life as understood by Plato and Aristotle, and this paper examines how he attempts to do so.
Before his seminars, Plotinus would have read out some passages from Platonic and Aristotelian commentators. He did this with an assumption that members attending such seminars had familiarized themselves with primary texts (Kemerling par.4-8). A discussion would then occur on the text and the problems. Plotinus adopted many of Aristotelian distinctions and arguments in wholesale, but it was less puzzling upon the realization that they were compatible with Platonism and helpful while articulating Platonic position, especially in those areas Plato was not explicit.
Plotinus assumed he always followed Plato, who claimed in his works that Form of Intelligible Animal had been contemplated by another intellect known as “the Demiurge”. As such, contemplation was interpreted by Plotinus as a cognitive identity (Bos 821). Accordingly, Plotinus claimed “cognitive identity’ meant when an intellect thinks, it's thinking itself. On Aristotle, Plotinus believed that his writing, especially on metaphysics, supported both intellect eternality and the idea of cognitive identity. Plotinus views the drama surrounding human life against the axis of what is good and evil (Metaphysics par 2-7). In essence, a human person is a soul employing the body as an instrument of its embodied temporary life.
As such, Plotinus was able to distinguish between a person and a composite of body and soul. The person is always identical with cognitive states or a cognitive agent. Therefore, an embodied person is a conflicted identity capable of being subject to composite and non-cognitive states, including emotions and appetites and thought. Accordingly, a person who upholds the virtue of purification is never subject to incontinent desires, according to Plotinus (Chiraradonna 191). The restraint constitutes a mere popular or civic virtue since the person only achieves what Plato refers to as 'likeness to God'.
Plotinus attempts to preserve the genius of Greek Philosophy by acknowledging the virtuous necessity to live for happiness. Just like Aristotle, Plotinus maintains self-sufficiency is a property of a happy life (McGlynn & Farley 88). However, he fails to agree that self-sufficiency could be as a result of a life defined by the practice of virtue. Aristotle had conceded that kind of life could not be self-sufficient because it has immunity for misfortune. Further, Aristotle argues such kind of life interferes with the meaning of self-sufficiency that identifies the interior life expected of an excellent person.
Plotinus describes self-sufficiency or interiority as the attachments obverse to object embodied desires. Soul’s interiority means happiness since the longing for good to intellect is mostly satisfied through cognitive identification with what is intelligible. As such, Plotinus primarily regarded himself as a loyal Platonist and an accurate exegete towards a Platonic revelation. In the mid 3rd century CE, the world of philosophy was populated with diverse anti-Platonists arrays (Kelly 45). However, Plotinus managed to engage with many of the Platonism opponents to safeguard and preserve the Greek-Philosophy.
Plotinus mined Plato and Aristotle’s works for his arguments and distinctions he considered helpful towards the explication of Platonic position. Nevertheless, there are issues that Plotinus thought Aristotle was importantly mistaken. One of the significant issues Plotinus raised was on the nature and first principle of all. Plotinus recognized Aristotle agreed with Plato on there being a first principle for all, which should be unique and straightforward. Therefore, the history of Greek Philosophy, the vital union of reason and life as understood by Plato and Aristotle cannot be complete without the contribution done by Plotinus and his attempt to preserve its genius. Plotinus's participation will always remain entrenched in the minds and works of the modern philosophers.