In the year 204 AD, a Greek philosopher named Plotinus was born in Egypt. He founded Neo-Platonism and is considered one of the greatest philosophers of antiquity. He closely followed Plato's teachings and philosophies as the founder of Neo-Platonism, believing that they contained many truths. Plotinus combined contemplation, philosophy, mysticism, spirituality, and action to create a comprehensive understanding of metaphysics (reality) and human behavior that influenced Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, as well as mysticism and theology. Plotinus' knowledge of the world as being founded on fundamental oneness, belief, the soul's pathway to insight, and his view of One (God) beyond words are firmly coherent with Plato's teachings, which are fundamental to the western philosophical perspective. The , Plotinus’ knowledge of the world as being founded on fundamental oneness, the belief, the soul’s pathway to insight, and his view of One (God) beyond words are firmly coherent with Plato’s teachings. The influence of Plato on Plotinus is evident as postulated below.
As Plotinus posits, “at the center of the entire universe we find the One, from which everything emanates and unto which they will return at some point in time.” (Stumpf and Fieser 118) Nevertheless, it is hard to describe the One; it connects to the mortals through the plain reality comprising of the soul and the intellect. The mind dwells in a state of contemplation about the One, correctly holding in place all intelligible reflections. Further, it is active in its role as it forms the genesis of the soul. The heart envisions the intellect, and it works as the mediator of humans and the intelligible realm. Further, “it advances the creative role unifying all world things and the souls of people; thus it is everlasting but functions through history and time.” (Stumpf and Fieser 119)
Like Plato, Plotinus holds a view that people are estranged and weakened from the one, but they can take part in the soul and the intellect which stimulates in them the desire to go back to the One using the channel described as the “pathway of art.” Beauty originates from the One in a similar manner stars disseminate light which losses strength as it travels over long distances through multiple atmospheres before illuminating its weak rays on natural substances.
Also, similar to Plato, Plotinus adopted the Pythagorean description of beauty which encompasses order, measure, proportion, and harmony. However, Plotinus did not entirely agree with the Pythagoras theory and inquired why it utilized compound objects without parts like light or color are different from matter objects and cannot be explained through symmetry, but depicted as beautiful. This inference apparently concurs with Plato’s view, who said at that non-composite objects as material things such as colors come with their unique pleasure, and by their very features, they are eternally beautiful. Plotinus advanced this view by adding spiritual characteristics like truth and virtues. Virtue can carry aspects of beauty but cannot be accorded regular features to elucidate on its beauty. From this perspective, Plotinus concluded that vision must take elements different from symmetry. For instance, Plotinus says that symmetry is a single prominent aspect of a beautiful face but not its cause. Thus, beauty is quality.
For Plotinus, unity forms the primordial characteristics and fundamental metaphysical features of reality. Besides, beauty, one of the universal elements of truth is part of the integration. In respect to that, beauty cannot originate from matter; the reason is that like symmetry, matter lacks its spiritual unity. But it is the soul which produces beauty in bodies because it is the divine thing and a central aspect of beauty and it adds aesthetic in everything it comes into contact. Therefore, beauty adds a spiritual breath to matter, installing it with its natural form. In this, Plotinus is very close to the views of Plato when he says that, “souls of people compel them to desire unity with the One” (Stumpf and Fieser 121), a situation which holds beauty. In some instances, Plotinus employees a language directly borrowed from Plato’s writings. Like from, Plato’s Symposium, Plotinus likens the nature of pure beauty to a state of drunkenness with wine. In Phaedrus, Plato talks about the response of the soul given beauty, describing the reaction of the mind as a remembrance of the beauty with which it was once in contact in a past encounter. Therefore, experiencing splendor in the global context, other than being a distraction as Plato postulated; nevertheless, it is a real distraction leading to a noble cause, because it directs folks immediately away from ugly situations and other undesirable qualities into heart perfection, where both beauty and virtue intermingle as Plotinus says.
Plotinus perspective on beauty is an evident reflection of Plato’s argument on the same in his text the Republic. Plato says that it is only a philosopher who acquires through knowledge and dissects what real beauty is, a seemingly apparent contradiction of the ideas advanced in Phaedrus. On a similar note, Plotinus is clear that scrutiny of art is the clear channel to God, a system whereby people assimilates themselves to beauty, or their creator, God. To explain this, Plotinus reverts to metaphorical language style, in the same way; Plato does it in Phaedrus and the Symposium.
The degree of impact of Plato's views on Plotinus depends on whether the comparison is on Plato as a proponent of mania or as an advocate of a restrictive impression. In case it is the former, Plotinus’ point of view does not appear as original as they may be in the latter.
Plotinus’ views that beauty stimulates matter in a supernatural current way are acceptable and that people can intuitively comprehend reality and truth by examining images. But the question is: what kind of pictures? What Plotinus does is not clear on how people can be sure if they are reflecting on real supernatural beauty which links them to the One. Plotinus lacks an explanation for these limitations because in other sections of his writings he accepts that beauty can hide evil. For instance, one may view a particular image and conclude that it is beautiful, but underneath lies an evil spiritual inclination. It is at this point that the two scholars, Plotinus and Plato differ; their views about art put them side by side.Work cited
Stumpf, Samuel and James Fieser. Philosophy: A historical survey with Essential readings: Mc Graw Hill.
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