Freedom and Praxis in Plotinus’s Ennead 6.8.1-6
In this paper, I argue that Plotinus does not limit the sphere of free human agency simply to intellectual contemplation, but rather extends it all the way to human praxis. Plotinus’s goal in the first six chapters of Ennead 6.8 is, accordingly, to demarcate the space of freedom within human practical actions. He ultimately concludes that our external actions are free whenever they actualize, in unhindered fashion, the moral principles derived from intellectual contemplation. This raises the question of how the freedom of practical actions might relate to the freedom of intellectual contemplation. After considering two previously offered models – a model of double activity, and an Aristotelian model of practical syllogism – I offer a third alternative, namely a model of moral attunement, according to which our rational desires assume a kind of ‘care of the soul’ through active supervision. Practical life is thus imbued with freedom to the extent that the soul supervises its actions to conform to its will and choice of the good.
ARMSTRONG, A. H. (trans.) (1966). Porphyry on the Life of Plotinus and the Order of His Books. Ennead I. Cambridge, Harvard University Press.
ARMSTRONG, A. H. (trans.) (1967). Plotinus. Ennead III. Cambridge, Harvard University Press.
ARMSTRONG, A. H. (trans.) (1984a). Plotinus. Ennead IV. Cambridge, Harvard University Press.
ARMSTRONG, A. H. (trans.) (1984b). Plotinus. Ennead V. Cambridge, Harvard University Press.
ARMSTRONG, A. H. (trans.) (1988). Plotinus. Ennead VI.6-9. Cambridge, Harvard University Press.
BENE, L. (2013). Ethics and Metaphysics in Plotinus. In: KARFIK, F.; SONG, E. (eds.). Plato Revived. Essays on Ancient Platonism in Honour of Dominic J. O’Meara. Berlin, De Gruyter, p. 141-161.
CORRIGAN, K. (2015). Divine and Human Freedom: Plotinus’ New Understanding of Creative Agency. In: MARMODORO, A; PRINCE, B. (eds.). Causation and Creation in Late Antiquity. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, p. 131-149.
CORRIGAN, K.; TURNER, J. (2017). Plotinus. Ennead VI.8. On the Voluntary and On the Free Will of the One. Translation with an introduction and commentary. Las Vegas, Parmenides Publishing.
DILLON, J.; GERSON, L. (2004). Neoplatonic Philosophy. Introductory Readings. Indianapolis, Hackett Publishing Company.
EMILSSON, E. K. (2007). Plotinus on Intellect. Oxford, Clarendon Press.
EMILSSON, E. K. (2012). Plotinus and Plato on Soul and Action. In: BARNEY, R.; BRENNAN, T.; BRITTAIN, C. (eds.). Plato and the Divided Self. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, p. 350-367.
EMILSSON, E. K. (2017). Plotinus. London/New York, Routledge.
FREDE, M. (2011). A Free Will. Origins of the Notion in Ancient Thought. Berkeley, University of California Press.
GERSON, L. (1994). Plotinus. London/New York, Routledge.
GREGOR, M. (2012). Kant. Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (translation). Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
GRUBE, G. M. A.; REEVE, C. D. C. (trans.) (1997). Plato. Republic. In: COOPER, J. (ed.). Plato. Complete Works. Indianapolis/Cambridge, Hackett Publishing Company, p. 971-1223.
HUTCHINSON, D. M. (2018). Plotinus on Consciousness. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
LAVAUD, L. (2007). Plotin. Traité 39. Présentation, traduction et notes. In: BRISSON, L.; PRADEAU, J.-F. (eds.). Plotin. Traités 38-41. Paris, Flammarion, p. 175-326.
LEROUX, G. (1996). Human Freedom in the Thought of Plotinus. In: GERSON, L. (ed.). The Cambridge Companion to Plotinus. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, p. 292-314.
LINGUITI, A. (2012). Plotinus and Porphyry on the Contemplative Life. In: BÉNATOUÏL, T.; BONAZZI, M. (eds.). Theoria, Praxis and the Contemplative Life after Plato and Aristotle. Leiden/Boston, Brill, p. 183-198.
LLOYD, A. C. (1990). The Anatomy of Neoplatonism. Oxford, Oxford University Press.
RUTTEN, C. (1956). La Doctrine des Deux Actes dans la Philosophie de Plotin. Revue Philosophique 146, p. 100-106.
SMITH, A. (1999). The Significance of Practical Ethics for Plotinus. In: CLEARY, J. J. (ed.). Traditions of Platonism. Essays in Honour of John Dillon. Aldershot, Ashgate, p. 227-236.
SMITH, A. (2005). Action and Contemplation in Plotinus. In: SMITH, A. (ed.). Philosophy and Society in Late Antiquity. London, University of Wales Press, p. 65-72.
WOOD, A. (2008). Kantian Ethics. New York, Cambridge University Press.
Copyright (c) 2020 Bernardo Portilho Andrade
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Given the public access policy of the journal, the use of the published texts is free, with the obligation of recognizing the original authorship and the first publication in this journal. The authors of the published contributions are entirely and exclusively responsible for their contents.
1. The authors authorize the publication of the article in this journal.
2. The authors guarantee that the contribution is original, and take full responsibility for its content in case of impugnation by third parties.
3. The authors guarantee that the contribution is not under evaluation in another journal.
4. The authors keep the copyright and convey to the journal the right of first publication, the work being licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License-BY.
5. The authors are allowed and stimulated to publicize and distribute their work on-line after the publication in the journal.
6. The authors of the approved works authorize the journal to distribute their content, after publication, for reproduction in content indexes, virtual libraries and similars.
7. The editors reserve the right to make adjustments to the text and to adequate the article to the editorial rules of the journal.