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Consciousness in Plotinus Author(s): Edward W. Warren Source: Phronesis, Vol. 9, No. 2 (1964), pp.

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in Plotinus Consciousness'


this brief article I intend to summarize the results of my analysis

of the three major Plotinian terms for consciousness, antilepsis, parakolouthesis, and sunaisthesis.2 I have collected all of the passages in which these terms appeared and interpreted them in the light of Plotinus' philosophy as a whole, in an effort to ascertain the precise scope of each term. Following the terminological analysis I will attempt to show how consciousness functions within Plotinus' philosophy. A ntilepsis For Plotinus, as for so many ancient and mediaeval writers, man is ambivalent, by nature straddling appearance and reality. The precise nature of man's ambivalence becomes clear when we analyze the structure of his knowing powers. Our substantial activity,which makes us mein, is that of diantoia or discursive reason. It follows, then, that we are essentially thinkers; but this is an odd fact, for we are not always conscious that we think. If our essence is thought, how does it happen that this activity escapes us? Although our true essence is not identical with the sensible, we are always connected to our living body, at least prior to our death. Here, too, we note the curious fact that we can be unaware of our bodies.
The word "consciousness" may be used, as it is here, to mean a waking awareness of any sort. As such, it is quite vague and may apply indiscriminately to various kinds of awareness. On the other hand, it is necessary in certain contexts to employ "consciousness" in a technical sense, referring to human awareness, in which there is awareness of an existential distinction between I and Not-I. Context, I think, will make it clear what sense I am using. "Self-consciousness" always means a direct intuition of the self by the self, so that subject and object are existentially one. 2 A more complete statement of these essential notions may be found in my unpublished dissertation, "The Concept of Consciousness in the Philosophy of Plotinus," presented to the Johns Hopkins University in June, 1961. Appendix I of the dissertation contains a translation and interpretation of all the occurrences of the three terms under discussion here. Appendix III is a concordance of the most important Plotinian psychological terms.


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The two contrasted elements of our nature, the mental and the physical, can each at one time or another escape the consciousness of the living man. The answer to these questions lies in Plotinus' conception of human consciousness. All of the states we normally call conscious occur when reason or sensation has reached the imagination. The process whereby the soul acts so that it forms an image in the imagination is called antilepsis. This apprehensive power belongs to a soul that possesses an imagination (IV, 4, 13, 11-16).3 My usual translation of antilepsis is "conscious apprehension," although occasionally it is better rendered by "apprehension" alone.4 In the human creature antilepsis must be carefully distinguished from dianoia. Antilepsis apprehends for us what we are thinking and makes it conscious by forming an image; it is a power of the intellectual imagination. It may also form an image of sensible events in the sensible imagination and make the soul conscious of them. Normal human activity involves antilepsis of both noeta and aistheta; and while we are awake, we both think and sense consciously. During waking states, however, there are several obvious forms of unconsciousness. We may, for example, concentrate so intensely that we are unaware that our activities are in any way separate from us, or we may simply perform certain acts routinely. Such acts include reading intently in the former case (I, 4, 10) and habitual or dispositional action in the latter (IV, 4, 8). In habitual action no image is formed in the imagination (IV, 4, 8, 1-34; IV, 3, 28). Although these actions are often purposive, conscious reason does not seem to play any direct role in their performance. While habitual actions indicate a lack of attention by the psychic agent, the concentration of reading involves looking intently at the pages of a book and being engrossed in the meaning, of the words. Plotinus here seems to admit a presentative image of the words in the
3 Citations for Enneads I-V are according to the Schwyzer text; for Ennead VI according to Br6hier. 4 Siebeck translates, "die bewusste Wahrnehmung," Zeitschrift fur Philosophie und Philos. Kritik, Vol. 79-81, p. 235. Chaignet says anttilepsis "consiste dans la connaissance que l1'tre a, en restant un, de se dedoubler, de devenir deux, et dans la connaissance de lui-meme comme de quelque chose qui s'oppose i lui, anti. C'est l'opposition du sujet et de l'objet dans la conscience de soi, c'est-hdire la conscience de 1'identit6 dans la diff6rence." Histoire de Psychologie des Le Disir de Grecs, Vol. IV, p. 212. R. Arnou says, "1'anztilepsis, l'aperception..."

Dieu, p. 92.


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sensitive imagination, but the thinking, which is absorbed in the meaning of the words, ignores the presentative image as such and is itseilf not apprehended in the conceptual imagination.
"When this (mirror) is broken because the harmony of the body is disturbed, there is discursive thought without an image and also intelligence; and then there is thought without an image. So that, too, such a thing could mean that
thou,ht with an image arises when there is not any thought of the image.5

When we contemplate and act, one might discover many beautiful activities, contemplations, and actions that we do while we are awake and that we do not accompany with consciousness." (I, 4, 10, 17-24)

Were we conscious that we were reading at the time we were reading, our activity would be impaired, just as an athlete, if he were conscious of every physical motion, would be less efficient in his movements. The good athlete, like the good reader, is so intent on his performance that he is not aware of the radical distinction between I and Not-I. One can prove this for oneself by reading and at the same time saying, "I am reading." The activity of reading intensely is higher because it is purely rational except for the medium of vision, and by obliterating any consciousness of the fact of reading words on a page one enters directly into the content. The human being loses consciousness,6 but dianoia, which is the intellectual-agent-reading, is conscious of what it is reading (namely, our metaphysical center is always conscious but we, as sensitiveimaginative-dianoetic creatures, are not always conscious); 7 but, because of the absence of the image in the intellectual imagination, we are not aware of our activity until we have performed the act and remember what we have done.8 As Plotinus would say, the activity of reading has not traversed the whole soul. 9
6 Br6hier translates here, "D'ailleurs on ne pourrait concevoir que la pens6e est accompagn6e de l'image, si la pens&eetait elle-meme une image." This is a difficult passage, but the ouk most probably goes with ouses. Context seems to dictate our translation, for it provides the transition to the discussion that follows. Not only are there cases where thought goes on without an image, but even when thought with an image occurs, there may be no thought about the image. 6 That is, we are in a state of "sleepful waking." 7 The center of our conscious everyday experience is not our metaphysical center, reason, but the imagination. In the intense concentration of reading we are functioning in our highest capacities as men. This psychic unity removes us from the spatial world, if not the temporal. 8 According to IV, 4, 30 memory occurs when imagination apprehends (antilepsis) thought, and a logos is formed. Apparently Plotinus explains the awareness


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This kind of loss of consciousness is akin to an abandonment of sensation and is like the upward way to God. A mystic can not adequately explain what he has seen because the human imagination does not (and can not) form an image of the object experienced without subjecting that object to ontological damage, for the imagination transforms its objects; further, this loss of consciousness explains psychologically why Plotinus must assert that he can not be understood except by those who travel in his footsteps (IV, 4, 5). If the experience can never be consciously apprehended by the human being, then there can be no discussion of what one has experienced except by analogy and by metaphor. Necessarily such means fall short. To see what Plotinus has seen, according to him, one would have to ascend to Nous and finally be united to God.'0 Habitual activity Plotinus regards as a fall into the inferior (IX, 4, 4). Becoming identical with patheniata is naturally a fall, for it involves a loss of unity; by not knowing that he possesses a disposition, a manl does not see that he is more than his bodily affections. Idlenitification on this level is corporeal. \Ve are told by Plotinus that physis, which is below human cognition, is unconscious; consequently, for the lhuman soul to be unaware that it is functioning accorditng to dispositions is for it to sink down to physis. The ascent of the soul, however, to immaterial, (lianoetic i(lentity does not involve the loss of consciousness completely but only, to the composite human being. In the case of reading dianoia was conisciouis of the content being read; but here in habitual acts there is no awareness at all of what or that an act is being performed. One might see here, in a rudimentary form, the Bergsonian distinction between instinct and intelligence. In the former there is a lack of consciousness; it is the Plotinian physis. In intelligence there is consciousness as a part of intellectual experience.
by two facts: (1) thinking is not apprehended by in intense concentration imagination, and so the human being is not consciouis of the duality of I and Not-I. And (2) thinking ignores the sensory presentative image and so i(lentifies itself with the content. 9 On the relation of this notion to Galen, Siebeck, Zeitschrift, p. 232. 10 R. Arnou saw clearly that the loss of consciousness for man does not entail loss of consciousness for the soul's higher powers. "Il est vrai que d'une conscience pareille nous n'avons pas 1'experience; cette pure lumiere intelligible est pour En cc sense on peut dire qu'elle nous la nuit (la t6nebre, dira le pseudo-Denys). est inconsciente pour 'i'homme ext6rieur,' mais non point pour elle-mnlle, non point pour le nous katharos." Op. cit., pp. 309-10.


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Antilepsis is required because of our condition between two worlds; our psychic activity is an image, a reflection on a lower level of reality of the higher activity of Nous, which possesses its objects directly (VI, 7, 7, 24-31). If a man thinks and is conscious but is not self-conscious (making his Self an object), then there must be some activity whereby he grasps his objects. That activity is called antilepsis. In addition to rational consciousness Plotinus allows for a consciousness without the activity of discursive reason.1' There can be a consciousness of sensible things without communication with dianoia. This experience, however, is not human; it is experience at the level of the lower animals who lack reason. Antilepsis is a power that can go both towards noeta and aistheta. We have seen that there may be thought without an image; and, if there be no image of the thought, the thought escapes the human being. On the other hand, while dianoia may be absent, vet there is no reason to deny antilepsis pros aistheta. The interpretation of IV, 8, 8, 16-20, indicates there must be some kind of communication throughout the whole soul for a to gnorizein of sensibles. This passage, however, describes human knowing. If in sensation there is a krisis tes aistheseos, and if such a krisis is followed by an aisthema (sense image), then there is antilepsis and rudimentary conscious experience. But this experience is sub-human, for it is below the level of conceptual thought. Just as we have carefully distinguished dianoia from antilepsis, so we must distinguish the sensitive power from it as well. The sensitive power of the soul is not the physical eye, ear, or nose. It is a power of the soul when the soul is present to the physical body. It is, however, in the organs that the soul's powers are active. When the sensitive power apprehends, it apprehends the physical affection of the body, not the physical object directly. This apprehension is sometimes called antileptic. When Plotinus uses antilepsis in this way, he usually is thinking of a sensation, in which the organism becomes consciously aware that an event has taken place; namely, the apprehension of a sensible affection in the body and the production of an image in the imagination. Such a production is the result of any conscious, sensitive apprehension (IV, 3, 29, 24-5; IV, 4, 19). On the other hand, Plotinus clearly states that at the level of the sensitive power as such there is no knowledge. Besides sensitive activity there must be antilepsis. The antileptic power, then,

Compare Inge, The Philosophy of Plotinus, Vol. I, p. 224.


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is not the same as the sensitive power, just as the antileptic power is not the same as the power of discursive reason.12 There seems to be a double operation involved on the level of sense awareness. First, the process whereby the sensitive power apprehends the pathos is antileptic because it is an apprehension of the material by the immaterial, an apprehension of one thing by another, each of which is different from the other. However, this kind of apprehension is not conscious. Next, there is antilepsis proper whereby the soul produces an image of the datum provided by the sense power's apprehension. The soul is now fully conscious of a sensible event. Antilepsis sometimes applies to the first apprehension of sense without the notion of consciousness, although it primarily indicates an apprehension which produces an image in imagination. In those passages, however, where antilepsis is attributed to the sense power itself, Plotinus is thinking of a conscious sense act, as we said above.13 In sumary, antilepsis is properly a term applied to a fully consciouis apprehension in the imagination. It may, however, apply only to the lower level of apprehension of the sense power without consciousness (1, 4, 9); or it may apply to the conscious apprehension itself and the production of the image (I, 1, 11; V, 5, 1); or it may telescope the two, conceiving of sensation as a completed act, one that has passed from the pathos to the sense power to the imagination (IV, 4, 23). Antileptic activity is the center of normal human activity. By "normal activity" we mean the kind men engage in during their every day experiences. The everyday-human-being is an antileptic man.'4
12 Compare I, 1, 7, 9-18, and V, 1, 12, 5-14. In the former sensation is ine antileptic power; in the latter antilepsis follows sensation. Both, it seems to us are accurate, because Plotinus' genuine doctrine makes the conscious sensitive act power. We must keep in mind that Plotinus a result of the sensitive-imaginative has transferred the functions of the Aristotelian common sense to that of the imagination. Antilepsis is the central power that is manifested in redlucing the spatial object to an intelligible image through sensation and imagination. 1, pp. 82-3. Aisthesis and phanta13 See von Kleist, Plotinische Studien, footnote sia are closely related. As he says, during a normal sensuous apprehension, "munden die wahrnehmungen unmittelbar in das phantastikon." 14 "In seinem gewohnlichen Zustand ist das menschliche Bewusstsein auf die WVelt gerichtet." P. 0. Kristeller, Der Begriff derSeele in der Ethik des Plotins, p. 10. Human consciousness normally, we think, provides for man the opportunity to either minimize or intensify his awareness of the subject-object split. The sharp awareness of the differences between the "I" as knower and the "that" ats object known lies just below the surface of our usual waking states. At any monment we can become vividly aware of the split, but most of the time it seems to be latent.


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His reason functions all the time and so do his sense organs, but it is only when these processes are apprehended in the imagination that the human being knows about them. Parakolouthesis To parakolouthein is not used very often by Plotinus to mean "consciousness;" however, there are several passages which are crucial for a proper understanding of the role of consciousness in Plotinian psychology. First of all, parakolouthein means "to follow along with." Plotinus uses the term primarily to explain the kind of consciousness peculiar to a human being. Human consciousness is the accompaniment of thought or sensation by an image.15 For Plotinus a sensation which terminates in the imagination becomes conscious to the human being. As we have seen, the process by which the image is made is called antilepsis, and this latter term is used most often to convey the peculiar character of human conscious knowing. Parakolouthein, however, focuses sharply on the duality of imagination and the imaged object, whereas antilepsis emphasizes the active power of apprehending. Second, from its basic use it passes into a general term for consciousness. Used by itself, without the reflexive pronoun, it means "consciousness." Often, when accompanied by the reflexive, it still means "consciousness." However, it may genuinely mean self-consciousness. The correct translation depends on the context and other considerations of the nature of Plotinian psychology. Rene Arnou in Appendix B of his De'sir de Dieu explains the correct meaning of parakolouthesis in an attempt to disprove the claims of Drews' Plotin und der Untergang der Antiken Weltanschauung. Arnou correctly ascertained its meaning and did not confuse it with sunaisthesis, as Inge had done.'6 Arnou's Appendix is very valuable and reflects the care which he had for his work. He points out correctly that consciousness is proper to the human
16 Compare with Aristotle's De Somno, 455a 16-17. "But there exists also a common power which follows all (sensations), by virtue of which (the organism) too is aware (aisthanetai) that it sees and hears..." Also, Galen, IV, 444. Siebeck remarks, "Der Ausdruck selbst (parakolouthein) bezeichnet eine neben dem seelischen Inhalte noch sein Bewussthaben unterscheidend gegeniuber... er hat jedenfalls den hier in Frage kommenden psychologischen Thatbestand zuerst scharfer beleuchtet." Geschichteder Psychologie, p. 337. 16Op. cit., Vol. I, p. 238.


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soul - and this is parakolouthesis, Par excellence - and self-consciousness is proper to Nous.
"La parakolouthesis est donc la conscience proprc i une aiiie qui, unie ani corps, recoit les eikonismata du nous et de la dianoia, conmme par r6flexion dlans le iniroir de l'organisme, et ne connait les etres veritables, n'a coniscience (le les connaltre que dans leurs manifestations sensibles, ... non coininle ils sont, miais comme ils apparaissant (emphainetai) refl6chis stir ce fond opaque." (p. 305) "Dans la nous, I'ame perd la memoire d'elle-m6nie, car elle n'est pluis eIle-m&nle qu'en puissance, mais le nous qu'elle est devenue en acte, a conscience de soi..." (p. 308)

In this short Appendix Arnou has corrected the erroneous notion that for Plotinus thought in its highest form is unconscious. He has not, however, been concerned to show parakolotuthesis in its relation to sense knowledge. An analysis of the texts will show that parakoloazthcsis(1) is properly applied to human knowing; (2) that it derives from the notion of "following along with ;" and (3) that it emphasizes the dual character of the subject-object relation. Sunaisthesis This is one of the most difficult terms in the Plotinian vocabulary. Sunaisthesis defies accurate translation, and the best I can do is to ennumerate the various shades of its meaning. First of all, it does not simply mean consciousness (the awareness of the duality of knower and known) or self-consciousness (the awareness in which what is known is the knower). Even when the terms are stunaisthcsis hanttoat, one canl not simply translate, "self-consciousness." This phrase may mean a consciousness that one part of a mental whole has for another part, i.e., that we are thinking certain thoughts. Second, sunaisthesis is a more intimate term than parakolouthein. Fundamentally, parakolouthein means "to follow along with," and the basic duality inherent in the term is not usually lost. The consciotus subject and that which is known consciously form the basic relationship denoted by that term. Sunaisthesis, however, is a relation of part to whole, whole to part, and part to part. One might say that the particular "sunaisthetizing" agent is a kind of unity such that its consciousness or awareness is always of that unity itself.17 The agent may be a

Compare Chaignet, op. cit., p. 212. Sunaisthesis

a de i 'uiinitf des arties

"consiste dans la connaissance

niae l'etre

nui la crnmnnsent:i- .


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particular individual or even the universe, to pan. Its unity may be somewhat loose, such as that of the relationships in the universe, which is both material and immaterial (IV, 4, 24). Or, Plotinus might be quite strict and insist that even the intimate awareness we have of our own bodily events requires an antilepsis, which describes a relation much less intimate (V, 3, 2). Third, what I have said so far indicates the relationship this term has with the Stoic notion of sympathy (I, 1, 11; IV, 4, 45; and IV, 5, 5) One part knows or is affected by the other part because they are all parts of a sympathetic whole, a whole which functions like a living creature. Sunaisthesis arises in such contexts. Fourth, from IV, 4, 24; V, 3, 2; and V, 3, 13 we can see that sunaisthesis involves perception of a plurality and that it is not properly applied to sensation, for sensation always involves external things. Properly sunaisthesis refers to a plurality in a unity and a consciousness or awareness in some way of that whole with itself. I suggest as a general translation of the term, "conscious, sympathetic knowledge." However, one can not translate by one formula. In one passage one part of its meaning may completely dominate the others. In IV, 4, 8 it means "consciousness." In II, 2, 1; III, 4, 4; IV, 4, 2; V, 8, 11; and VI, 7, 16 together with the reflexive pronoun it means "self-consciousness" of some type. Or it may mean "sympathy," as in I, 1, 11. The varied translations for suinaisthesis reflect the range of cognitive states to which it is applicable. The fragmentation of the self is complete at the level of physis where it is asleep, unconscious of its own cognitive states, absorbed in the material world. The self is completely reunited when it is monon pros monon. The sympathy of physis has given way to conscious sympathy, then to a self-conscious sympathy, and finally to a supraconsciousness, a denial of sympathy, for there are no longer any parts to be related. Of the three terms for consciousness used by Plotinus sunaisthesis is the fundamental one. Everything that is real is in some way both cognitive and unified. Cognitive unity is sunaisthesis, and since there are various degrees of unity (unity being absolutely fundamental for Plotinus), there are various degrees of sunaisthesis. Both the One and phvsis are hoion sunaisthesis (V, 4, 2; III, 8, 4). The metaphysical categories employed by Plotinus prevent him from predicating of the One, so any predicate must be preceded by hojon. Physis can not be sunaisthesis because the term generally connotes consciousness, and 91

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further it preeminently refers to the psychic activity of Nous (V, 3, 13). In IV, 4, 45 and IV, 5, 5 Plotinus discusses activities of phzysis, and there sunaistizesis means sympathy. The Soul, the Nous, and the One, considered as hypostases (fundamental realities), stand in static relationships. They are all eternal; they never alter their natures. Although it is true that the cognitive condition of these realities is extraordinarily significant for Plotinus' objective ontology, it is more revealing of Plotinian thought and intent to reveal the bearer of cognition, viz. the self, which becomes conscious in men and whose salvation Plotinus attempts to describe. Plotinus uses the personal and reflexive pronouns as well as psyche and anthropos to refer to the self. Part of the difficulty in understanding him arises because psyche, anthropos, and the pronouns can refer either to the objective, ontological entity or to the bearer of subjective experience. Plotinus moves back and forth between these two uses, and so he has no unambiguous term for ouir ultimate identity, the self. It is most common for him to speak of the self where one could substitute phrases such as "the higher man" or "the pure soul."
"Or a man becomes bereft of this soul (the higher soul turned toward Nous) and lives governed by fate, and here the stars for him not only are signs, but he himself becomes a part, as it were, and follows along with the whole (universe), of which he is a part. For each man is double, the one something composite, the other himself." (fI, 3, 9, 27-31)

For Plotinus the self is a dynamic agent; it is a point of attention, which may function at various cognitive levels."8 He holds that all the higher activities are perpetually active, so that one's noetic life in Nous is eternal. Our dianoetic life is constantly active as long as we are in the body, while the imaginative -conscious experiences (memory and normal human life) as well as the vegetative unconscious function only in relation to human-creature life. In our normal experiences we have two constantly active powers: the conscious-to-itself dianoia and the unconscious-to-itself physis. The area of consciousness in between, - imagination, sensation, and memory -, is a sporadic activity. The self - meaning now the focal point of attention - is ultimately a
18 VI, 7, 34, 16-18 See von Kleist, "Beschwert werden und eine Strafe erleiden kann eben nur der 'Mensch,' der von Plotin seltsam genug hier und anderswo von als etwas Besonders, Dunkeles und Unaufklarbares seinen Wesensmomenten wieder unterschieden wird." "Zu Plotinus Enn. III 4," Hermes, 1886, p. 480.


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likeness of God, he tou me noein riza, the unthinking root of the soul.19 Ontologically the self is described as noetike kai psychike. There are two levels of noetike, the one of hoion he tou me noein energeia, a kind of unthinking activity, the other of noesis, and within psychike there are three subdivisions of personal experience, (a) dianoetike, (b) aisthetike, and (c) phytike. Human beings possess a mediating power between intellectual life and material life, the aisthetikon. In the lower animals the aisthetikon functions by means of sense powers and a sense imagination. In man, the highest animal, there is contact with dianoetikon in intellectual imagination. It is in man that the conscious link is made between reason and matter. In the life of a creature consciousness depends on the function of imagination, which in turn depends on (1) the condition of the body which can dominate the bodily-connected powers of the soul and (2) the attentive powers of the psychic agent, i.e., the will of the agent to engage in certain kinds of activities. In short, the functioning of imagination is irregular, so Plotinus could not make it the metaphysical substance of man, although it, in one sense, is the subjective center. What we mean by our normal self is the experience brought about by imaginative powers, which are apprehensive of the lower sense-vegetative life and of the higher rational life. Thus our conscious personality is tied directly to imagination, although imagination is not ontologically as well-founded as dianoia. As men, then, we locate ourselves in a conscious experience brought about by an antileptic imagination. That kind of experience is due to the conditions under which the self is now functioning, namely, human life. At this level of reality the self can be described in terms of the objective functions of reproduction, sensation, and thinking. The self, however, as riza is none of these; it only functions in these ways because of the ontological conditions of space and time. Thus, the ontological description of the human being is only a description of a cognitive center forced to adapt to a different environment. This root that is the self can operate roughly on five different levels.20

VI, 9, 9 See also VI, 8, 15, 11-19 Consult E. Brehier, "Liberte et m6taphysique," Revue international de Philosophie, 1948, pp. 1-13. 20 Compare von Kleist, "Das Wesen des Menschen erstreckt sich ja... von der Materie bis hinauf zur Gottheit. Ein Jeder von uns ist gewissermassen zusammengesetzt 1) aus dem Korper oder der gestalteten Materie, 2) aus dem phutikon, 3) dem aisthetikon, 4) der Denkseele, 5) dem Nous, und uiber diesem steht noch 6) die Gottheit oder das Eine, mit dem wir auch alle innerlich verknupft sind, . . ." Ibid. p. 478 In Plotinus, for example, "Just as in the nature (of things) there


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The first is physis, Nature, the vegetative-reproductive power. It is ein schlafenlder Geist. For Plotinus nature is unconscious-to-itself; it never can be conscious. Should the self function only as physis, its attention would be wholly directed to the material world such that it wuouldbe epistemologically that material world. Unaware that it is a cognitive power, it would nonetheless find its proper activity in contemplating the physical world. The subject of the knowing experience, the self, would be asleep. Note that the rational powers, however, those rooted in eternity, would always function; but the self, attending only at the level of physis, would not identify itself with those higher activities (III, 8, 4). Thus, not only would the self be unconscious to itself, but also the higher sotul-powers would be unknown to it though clear to themselves. Stich a situation brings about the paradox that one can be unaware of his higher activities; but though one is unaware of these activities, they are not unconscious to themselves. Ontologically, then, the self appears as fragmented onto different cognitive levels. But suibjectively it always preserves its unity in the content of experience. Second, there is aisthetikon, brute sense experience, apprehension by the sense power of a pathos in the living body, and phantastikon aisthetikon, the production of the aisthema as a result of the initial sensory apprehension. This is the level of animal consciousness, functioning without the use of general ideas. Having partially awakened from the sleeping nature of physis, the self now sees itself as at least somewhat distinct form the material world, for it now is aware of the material world as different from itself. But in the animal creature below man dianoia can never be conscious to that creature, just as on the level of physis dianoia was forever isolated, too. The self can function at these various levels in its earthly experienice. If it be phytike, it is unconscious entirely, and dianoia is always apart. If it be aisthetike mone, then it has a fleeting consciousness of individtual impressions with some memories, but dianoia is always to itself. At the level of sense imagination physis continues to operate and to regtulate the animal's bodily functions, but the self no longer is identified with those lower activities. The ontological activity of all levels of cognitive life (exceptthat of ecstasy) is always distinct from the ontological root of the self. Third, there is phantastikon dianoetikon, the apprehension of the thoughts of dianoia, and dianoia itself, the activity of discursive reason
are these things which have been mentioned (the One, Being, and Soul) so it is necessary to think, too, these are in uis." V, 1, 10, 4-5.


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due to the recollection of the Ideas as hoion tupoi. This is the level of man. The discursive ideas of dianoia become conscious to the middle power, imagination, which links both sides of man's nature, his physical and mental life. The human self normally identifies itself with imaginative activities. But man illustrates a surprising variety of psychic powers, some of which sum up the lower powers and others which indicate the higher ones. Man can engage in habitual actions, or he can be disposed (have tendencies) to perform certain actions. If we do anything habitually, we are not aware of doing it. If this be true, then according to Plotinus there is no image in the imagination. An habitual act is unconscious to our self, for it is precisely one of man's activities which reflects his phytikai dynameis. Man can act unconsciously. It does not follow, however, that in habitual action the self is completely unconscious. Rather the self may be engaged in some other activity or action which has attracted its attention. Since we do so many different things all the time, the limited attentive power of the soul can only be directed to one or to a few. The others go on but escape us. Thus, we are consciously doing one thing and unconsciously, another. A habit can become, according to Plotinus, a stronger part of us than a conscious act. The "us," of course, is the empirical personality of man. Plotinus points next to a higher activity which is unattended by consciousness. 1, 4, 10 shows that many of our highest activites are performed without an image being formed in the intellectual imagination.21 Plotinus does not mean that these higher activities are purely unconscious. A man who is courageous acts consciously, but he may not reflect at that time that he is doing a courageous act. In the same way, when we read intently, we do not reflect on the fact that we are reading. If we do, we lose our concentration and read inefficiently. Commentators, such as Drews, who say Plotinus is extolling the unconscious life, are missing the Plotinian message.22 A man can not be virtuous without knowledge; he can not act courageously, for example, if he knows no fear. Thus, when a man acts properly on the field of battle, he undoubtedly does not reflect on his bravery but he is aware of his danger. Wrapped in danger and yet willing to risk one's life is the mark of courage. The courageous man
This is the force of parakolouthesis in this passage. In the passage about habit at IV, 4, 4 unconscious soul's fall.
21 22


is a sign of the


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knows danger but he need not reflect on it. Furthermore, Plotinus points out quite clearly in I, 4, 9 that virtue in such cases only escapes a part of man, namely, the imagination. Thus, cases of extreme concentration, especially involving the virtues and mental life, are temporal images or reflections of the life waiting for man in eternity. When a man engages himself completely in virtuous action or in mental activity, he is exchanging one kind of awareness for another; for he is exchanging an imaginative consciousness for an unimaginative one. In the latter case he tends to identify himself with dianoia, a step beyond phantasia and a pseudo-self-consciousness. The fourth level is Nous, pure self-consciousness, the ontological identity of subject and object. The self, when it reaches Nous, is ontologically described as uniting subject and object into one existential reality. The self in Nous has its experiences determined by its membership there, i.e., it reflects the rest of Nous from a particular point of view. For Plotinus our individuality is maintained by being linked to an individual form. The experiences of Nous are self-directed in the sense that the self, considered as a being, is now the object of its own contemplation. The self is not unconscious; it is acutely awake, but it has left behind all of the troubles of the world (III, 6, 6, 69-72). Thus, the mystic in contemplation has turned the self away from earthly powers, from physis, aisthesis, and dianoia. His body functions, but the self no longer identifies itself with temporal acts. Fifth, there is the One, the level of supraconsciousness, the identity of self to itself. The self finally attains its true self, the to me nocin, in its contemplation of the One. Plotinus can not describe the content of this experience except by various metaphors. One thing is clear: the contemplation of the One is by a power which is the root of the self, and it is the fulfillment of all of the self's desires and longings. Experience of the One is variously described, but after due consideration it is manifest that unity with God is not a submergence into God but rather a union. The self is present to God (parotsia, the same word used to describe the relation of soul to body); the two are no longer separated because there is no longer any difference. As Plotinus says, it is as if two circles touched centers (VI, 9, 10). The One is the summation of all reality, but it can not be described. Thus, it is huperousia and huperenergeia. The cognitive status of the One, however, is important because cognition is the category of experience. So, in describing the ascent to God, it is important to note 96

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that ecstasy is a kind of experience but one which can only be described as hupernoesis and hoion sunaisthesis. This is the supraconscious experience that belongs to the self once it strips itself of the "foreign" addenda brought about by its estrangement from God. Essentially, Plotinus was interested in explaining the personal ascent to God, within a precise ontological framework. Man, as a creature in space and time, is one of the many possible conditions of the self - the self which he often calls the "true man." As long as one identifies the self as man, he will be confused in interpreting Plotinus. Furthermore, to identify the self as soul will equally end in confusion. Plotinus always understood implicitly that the factor which determines one's experience is the peculiar power that enables the self to turn towards its object and cognize it. The self is always defined in terms of its object of attention. Thus, the self can be man, animal, physis, and so on. The underlying unity of the self, then, is a consciousness (awareness) of some kind. The self is a consciousness of some sort. Empirical man presented to Plotinus both a surprising unity and yet a remarkable multiplicity. The explanation of our psychic activities provided the means by which Plotinus could ascend to Nous and the One. All of his descriptions of higher cognitive experiences depended on his understanding of human experience. Empirical man possesses a center of consciousness in his imagination, a center of unconsciousness in his vegetative operations, and a center of pseudo-self-consciousness in dianoia. All of man is impregnated with rational powers but these may be virtually ignored. The kind of man you are depends on the "center" with which you identify yourself. Plotinus was well aware of the unity of our empirical life, the perception of pains and pleasures, and so on. By his analysis of this life, he attempted both to describe our interior psychic workings and to disclose their essential dependence on a higher life rooted in Nous. The diversity in man's experiences overrides the unity, and Plotinus searched behind the changing phenomena of empirical experiences to discover the unity which is forced to wander in multiplicity. Consciousness is the unifying concept of all Plotinian experience. It is in consciousness as the psychic power of attention that he finds the locus of the self and the true measure of our identity. His discussions of consciousness point to the critical importance of this concept but they do not of themselves disclose their value without detailed analysis. San Diego State College, California. 97

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