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Benjamin Fuller

Filósofos e Pensadores

quinta-feira 24 de março de 2022


Benjamin Apthorp Gould Fuller, filósofo americano que foi presidente da American Philosophical Association.

The problem of evil in Plotinus



Preliminary Considerations. — Division of the subject. Definition and discussion of metaphysical, physical, and moral evil. The apportionment of reward to merit. Reasons why evil presents a distinct problem. Primitive yet sophisticated character of the question

Types of attempted solution of the problem of Evil. Four in number:

(1) Libertarianism. Evil the result of a misuse of free-will. A Fall from an original perfection. Inheritance of consequent sin and suffering.

(2) Ethical Monism. Transubstantiation of Evil by the Absolute. Reality better for the inclusion of Evil.

(3) Naturalism. Evil as well   as good purely relative to the human point of view. Reality unmoral and indifferent.

(4) Pluralism (Dualism). Evil as absolutely real as good. Existence in the universe of obstacles and limitations to the prevalence of the divine will, and the establishment of the Good

Review of the development of the problem of Evil in the history of Greek philosophy. The Pre-Socratic philosophers and contemporary "lay thought." Plato and Aristotle  . The Stoics, Epicureans, and Sceptics. The Neo-Pythagoreans and Neo-Platonists


Some general aspects of the plotinian system

Statement of the Problem of Evil. Consideration of pertinent features of the Plotinian system. Plotinus  ’s inheritance from Plato

The Plotinian Trinity:

(a) The Soul  . Suggested by the World-Soul in the Timaeus  . Her nature and functions. The principle of sensation   and vitality. Reasons for not regarding her as the First Principle. (1) Her multiple character and omnipresence. (2) The incomplete character of her functions of sensation and synthetic reasoning

(b) The Mind  . Synoptic Reason, intuitive of Truth. A combination of the world of Platonic Ideas and the Aristotelian God  

(c) The One. Its incomprehensible and ineffable character. Pure unity transcending all multiplicity and variety, even the duality of subject and object in thought. Inability of our experience to furnish any predicate or category descriptive of it. Nefther quantity, nor quality, nor being, nor good, nor consciousness  , nor mind, nor even one in the ordinary use of the term; but above and beyond them all. Describable in negative terms only. Union with it attained only in a super-rational and super-conscious state of ecstasy


Metaphysical evil

Metaphysical Evil and dualism a corollary of mysticism  . Philo   an example

Inability of Plotinus to admit either metaphysical Evil or dualism. The intention of his system monistic. Attempted solution of the difficulty by the doctrine of emanation. Creation regarded as a spontaneous overflow of the divine nature realizing every possibility of being and perfection

Initial difficulties involved in the theory of emanation :

(a) Of distinguishing the emanation from its source.

(b) Of accounting for variety and multiplicity within the emanation. Plotinus’s treatment of these difficulties. Distinction of two acts or operations, one of conserving, the other of communicating the essence. Necessity that the emanation should be different from its source. Otherwise un-distinguishable from its source. The emanation from the One, necessarily not-one, that is, Many

Deduction of Mind from the One. Backward look of the emanation towards its source. Recognition of itself as separate from its source. Constitution of itself as Truth and Reason. Identity of Thought and Being in an Intellect the object of its own thought. Deduction of the Categories and Ideas

Derivation of the Soul from Mind. Soul an emanation from Mind, the principle of life and sensation, creating, sustaining, and animating all Nature

Derivation of the Universe from Soul. Impossible that the power of emanation should stop with Soul. Further possibilities of being and perfection. The corporeal world an emanation or " overflow " from the Soul

The place of Evil in such a system. Implication of metaphysical Evil. The emanation of Mind from the One properly a fall. Plotinus’s rejection of the implication. His denial of metaphysical Evil. Exclusion of Evil from the realms of Mind and Soul

Consideration of the difficulties involved in the Plotinian rejection of metaphysical Evil. Discussion of the term "perfection." Distinction of mechanical or natural  , from moral perfection. Analysis   of the expression " perfect after its kind." Impossibility of maintaining a theory of degrees of perfection. Perfection superlative

Incidental bearing of the discussion on Theology. No distinctions of better and worse in a perfect state. In Paradise no difference in point of perfection and happiness between God and the redeemed spirits. Heaven polytheistic

Failure to distinguish between natural and moral perfection in the systems of Plato and Aristotle

Confusion consequent upon Plotinus’s failure to distinguish between natural and moral perfection. The contradiction involved in considering the perfection of Soul as less perfect than that of Mind and the perfection of Mind as less perfect than that of the One. The impropriety of regarding Universe, Soul, and Mind as at the same time perfect and not self-sufficient. General weakness and incompleteness of the Plotinian discussion of metaphysical Evil

Plotinus’s defence of the perfection of the Universe against the pessimism of the Gnostics. Outline of the Valentinian doctrine. Its resemblance to the system of Plotinus. The superior logic of its treatment of metaphysical Evil

The Plotinian assertion of the goodness of the world. Equality of perfection not to be expected of all things. Evil in the part not destructive of the perfection of the whole. The folly of demanding of the sensible, the perfection of the intelligible world. The World-Soul not obstructed and corrupted by the body of the Universe as the individual soul by the individual body. The perfection after its kind of each particular genus and species in the Universe

The absurdities of the pretensions of the Gnostics exposed by Plotinus. Their impiety in arrogating to themselves a spiritual nature and a special favour of Providence denied by them to the heavenly bodies and the earth. The foolishness of their doctrine of the 44 Paradigm." The anarchistic results to Ethics of their refusal to see any differences between the beautiful and the ugly, the good and the evil, in the sensible world

Discussion of the Plotinian refutation of the Gnostics.


Physical and moral evil

Internal imperfection of the Universe. Its failure to realize even its proper mundane perfection. The internal conflict and reciprocal destruction of its parts. The presence of suffering, and, in humanity, of sin

Division of the subject. Physical evil, moral evil, and the relation between the two. Physical evil. The Plotinian point of view broader than the Christian. The inclusion of animal   suffering in the problem. Four symptoms of physical evil for Plotinus. (a) The mutability of all things. (b) The failure of things to realize their proper types and perfections. (c) The conflict between types as such, (d) The conflict between particulars

The Plotinian treatment of these symptoms :

(a) The Mutability of all things. Generation and corruption to be regarded as part of the nature, and hence of the perfection of a sensible, as distinguished from an intelligible world. Neither the formal structure of the Universe as a whole, nor any particular form affected by it.

(b) The failure of the particular to realize its proper entelechy. Application to particulars of the principle of varieties of perfection. Each individual, like each Form, or like the Universe, Soul and Mind, possessed of its individual entelechy and justified in its individual existence. Realization of the type by the particular equivalent, on the principle of the identity of indiscernibles, to the destruction of the individual as such

Criticism of the Plotinian argument. The perfection of the individual made dependent on the failure of the particular to realize the perfection of its type. An example of the contradiction involved in regarding perfection as graded

Possible avoidance of the difficulty by recourse to the doctrine of Ideas of individuals. This doctrine, though held by Plotinus, not invoked by him in this connection

Similarity of Plotinus’s method of dealing with the difficulty to modern systems of ethical monism. Comparison of his assertion that the particular, though justified in not realizing, must still strive to realize the universal  , with the Neo-Hegelian theory that the Universe is perfect for the very reason that we feel and act as if it were imperfect. Both theories saved from absurdity only by a concealed naturalism

(c) The conflict of types. An obscure and difficult point. The Plotinian appeal to logical subsumption and organization irrelevant. Logical consistency of a world not sufficient for its perfection: The scientific not the only human interest. Evil not banished by being understood and explained

(d) The conflict of particulars. The Plotinian justification of the internecine conflict between the different parts of the Universe. The particular by nature perishable. The death of one thing, the life of another. Form and Matter eternal. The transitoriness of particulars likened to the same actor’s change of mask and role. Better a mortal   and mutable world than no sensible world at all

The Plotinian treatment of physical evil in its immediate bearing upon human life. Similarity to the Stoic Theodicy. Denial that Evil exists for the wise and virtuous. Invocation of the dramatic analogy. The vicissitudes of human life to be regarded as indifferent to essential human excellences

Conflict of Mysticism and Stoicism in the Plotinian conception of the sage. Comparison of the Mystic and the Stoic attitudes towards life. Their agreement in disparaging external goods and ills — The difference in the quality of their equanimity. Absolute optimism v. absolute pessimism. The Plotinian sage possessed of both attitudes

Discussion of the danger involved in both attitudes — Their latent antinomianism. The identity of absolute optimism and pessimism. Pessimism, or naturalism, preferable ethically to absolute optimism. Absolute optimism destructive of all effort to improve the world. A Reality already perfect incapable of improvement. Sin and imperfection apparent only and unimportant in such a system. Moral action always action as if the absolute of the ethical monists, or an omnipotent Deity did not exist. Ethical monism only saved from moral anarchy by a latent naturalism. Statement of the difficulties in terms of the dramatic analogy. Plotinus’s recognition of the dangers of this position. Postponement of the consideration of his argument

Necessity of the existence of physical evil for the sinner. No contradiction involved in asserting its existence for the sinner, while denying its existence for the virtuous and wise. A Universe in which sin is punished better from a moral point of view than one in which it is not. The Plotinian development of the punitive relation between physical and moral evil. Immortality, transmigration of souls. Karma  , or the law of moral causality. Intermediate states

Plotinus’s theory of an economy in vice on the part of the Universe. The criminal pressed into the service of the divine justice. The violence suffered by the victims of crime, a just punishment for misdeeds in former existences. The criminality of the perpetrator none the less a fact. Punishment remedial not vindictive. "Karma" a proof of the providential government of the world

The difficulty of reconciling the doctrines of transmigration and "Karma" with the theory of Ideas of individuals. The Idea  , and therefore the essence, of the individual immutable and incapable of variation in moral value. The Plotinian treatment of the difficulty. Introduction of the principle of Matter. Approximation to the Kantian distinction between the "empirical" and "intelligible" characters in the individual. Variations in moral values involved in transmigration and the operation of Karma, attributable to the " empirical" character only. Discussion

Continuation of Plotinus’s treatment of the problem of reward and merit. His failure to make sufficient use of the notions of Karma and transmigration. His reversion to the argument of grades of perfection. Perfect apportionment of reward to merit not to be demanded of a sensible world. His attack on the theory and practice of non-resistance to evil. Possible reference i o the Christians

Criticism of the Plotinian discussion. Inadequacy of the judicial analogy, (a) The inexplicable tardiness of the divine justice. (b) The divine justice as commonly understood a sign of imperfection not of perfection in the Universe. Punishment of sinners a mere "policing" of the Universe necessitated by the existence of Evil

Moral Evil. The problem of sin. Difficulty of accounting for it in the Plotinian system. Attempt to shift responsibility for moral evil from God to man. Freewill. The implicit determinism of the Plotinian philosophy.

Emanation governed by necessity. Rigid determination within the realm of Mind, Soul, and the physical Universe. The difficulty of reconciling moral responsibility with such a theory

Plotinus’s treatment of the difficulty. His attempt to detach notions of responsibility and freedom from the idea of the indifference of the will. His review and criticism of the atomistic, hylozoistic, astrologistic, Hera  -cleitean, and Stoic theories of causation

His identification of freedom with self-determination. The Soul a principle, active not passive, modifying as well as modified by outer stimuli. Comparison of the Plotinian with the Kantian view of freedom

The dangers, involved in such a theory, of freeing Providence from responsibility for good as well as for evil. Plotinus’s method of dealing with the problem. His distinction between action in accordance with Providence, and by Providence. The "will of God" not the source of human volition, but a standard of good, without which volition has no moral significance

Another difficulty. The problem of reconciling responsibility with the freedom of self-determination. The will, when self-determined (free), incapable of willing other than the good; when determined by outer influences, e.g. the solicitations of sense, not free, and therefore not responsible. Further comparisons of Plotinus with Kant  . The inadequacy of his treatment of the question. His irrelevant appeal to the theory of grades of perfection

Criticism of the Plotinian discussion of the problem of freedom and determinism. A possible method of dealing with the difficulty. The process of emanation neither free nor determined. The antinomy of freedom and necessity not a dilemma. The terms only significant and opposed in an imperfect world, where the expression of the will is hampered by limitations

Resumption of the Plotinian argument regarding moral Evil. Attempts to explain Evil as positively contributive to the perfection of the Universe :

(a) Reapplication of the theory of degrees of perfection. Human excellence an inferior   kind of excellence. Complete moral virtue not to be expected of man.

(b) Parts, imperfect in themselves, capable in combination of forming a perfect whole.

(c) Evil productive of good.

(d) Appeal to the aesthetic analogy. Comparison of the opposition of good and evil to that of hero and villain in the play, or of notes in a musical instrument. Explicit declaration of the interdependence of contraries

Dualistic qualifications of the foregoing arguments by Plotinus. (a) Sin not a sine qua non of virtue, but due to a residuum of irrationality which the divine order is unable to subdue. (b) Evil necessary, not as a contrast to set off the good, but as a lack or diminution of good, (c) Grades of perfection identified for the moment with grades of imperfection, (d) The material for the world-drama   found, not created by, the divine playwright

The Plotinian discussion of the nature of the opposition between good and evil. Transition to dualism and a theory of Matter. Opposites not necessary to one another’s existence. Evil not necessary to good, Not-being not necessary to Being. Evil necessary to good in the sense that a last term in a series is necessary to a first. Evil the last term in the series of emanations from the Good. This " last " also Matter

Discussion of dualism. Defence of moral dualism. The question of the omnipotence of God. Analysis of the religious demand that God shall be conceived as almighty


Matter as the principle of evil

Evil excluded by Plotinus from the sphere of real existence and identified with Not-being. The problem of the existence of Not-being in Plato and Aristotle. Not-being for Plotinus relative and equivalent to the not-good. Evil for Plotinus incidental to a progressive degeneration from higher to lower levels of being. Distinction between primary and secondary, substantival and adjectival evil. Vice not substantival evil, but accidental and adjectival in the soul. The essence of the soul pure. Inconsistency of the Plotinian theory of Evil as a degeneration of the Good with the doctrine of degrees of perfection. Final definition by Plotinus of primary and secondary evil

Evil not determination of Matter by Form, but a blurring of Form by Matter. Matter the indefinable substratum of all qualities and modifications

Difficulties connected with regarding Matter as an indefinable substratum :

(a) Epistemological difficulty of " knowing " the indefinable. Plotinus’s reply. Adjectival or secondary evil known through the agency of, and by contrast with, the Form partially obscured. Substantival evil known by a spurious knowledge, the Platonic nothos logismos  

(b) The ethical difficulty of ascribing an evil character, to that which is without quality or determination. The difficulty in Aristotle. Implicit attribution by him to Matter of a positive recalcitrancy, as well as a positive inclination, to the Good. Self-contradictions of the doctrine. Plutarch  ’s criticism. Introduction of a positive principle of evil antagonistic to God. Matter neutral. The doctrine of Numenius. Philo’s theory of Matter. The Plotinian solution of the difficulty. Identification of the positively Evil principle demanded by Plutarch with precisely the absolute lack of form, determination, and quality of the Aristotelian prote   hyle  . All qualification good. Opposition of good and evil not an opposition of qualities or characters, but of an absolute lack of form and Criticism of the Plotinian argument. The implicit attribution of positive existence to Not-being. Its vacillation between the conceptions of Not-being as relative and as absolute. Similar vacillation between conceptions of the plurality of Ideas and particulars as a variety of types of perfection, and as grades of imperfection. Impossibility of regarding Not-being as the cause of Evil

Resumption of the Plotinian discussion. Privation or character to determination as such steresis   — absence of essence. Vice not a privation of good in the soul. Privation again not a quality. The relation of Privation to Matter. Agreement of Privation and Matter in point of indeterminateness. The relation of Matter to indeterminateness. Indeterminateness not a property, but the essence of Matter. Matter not identical with all " otherness " or " difference," but only with difference from Being as such. Matter, then, or Not-being identical simply with privation of Being. Privation not destroyed by the advent of determination. Matter not in itself rendered good by its union with the Good

Further questions regarding the nature of moral evil. Vice not the same as the entrance of the Soul into Matter, body, and generation. Matter, then, the cause of evil in the soul. Plotinus’s rejection of the Aristotelian theory of the particular — the tode ti   — composed of Form and Matter. Abolition of all but a nominal distinction between moral and physical evil Matter as a physical substratum. Plotinus’s adoption of the Aristotelian Argument. Form alone insufficient to account for Change. His criticism of the hylozoistic and atomistic theories of Matter. More detailed criticism of Empédocles  , Anaxágoras  , Anaximander  , and Leucippus. Conclusion that Matter in itself is without qualities, primary or secondary Intelligible Matter. Plotinus’s distinction between intelligible and sensible Matter. Intelligible Matter the common quality and basis in the Ideas and Forms, i.e. Being. Matter implied or created by the Idea of Difference as the medium   in which the differentiation of the Forms takes place. The indefiniteness of intelligible Matter an image of the infinity of the One ; the indeterminateness of sensible Matter the image of the indefiniteness of intelligible Matter Review of the Plotinian theory of Matter. Plotinus’s combination of the Platonic and Aristotelian Theories. Matter a law or condition rather than a stuff. Plotinus’s modifications of the Platonic and Aristotelian Teaching. His tendency to regard Matter as absolute Not-being. Individuation of Forms and Souls due to the Idea of Difference

Criticism of the Plotinian Theory. Not a corrrection but an exposure of the self-contradictions latent in the Platonic and Aristotelian views. Opposed tendencies towards naturalism and mysticism. Failure of both systems to regard the plurality of Forms and Ideas as due to the division and diminution by an evil principle of a single transcendent Good. Their silence regarding the cause of the plurality of Ideas and Forms

The Plotinian confusion of the functions of Matter and those of the Idea of Difference :

(a) Usurpation of functions of Matter by the Idea of Difference. The difference of the particular from its Form or Idea already logically implied in the differentiation of particulars from one another. Impossibility of assuming different principles for the individuation of human and of non-human particulars. Idea of Difference responsible for all individuation or for none. A dilemma between naturalism and mysticism.

(b) Usurpation of the functions of the Idea of difference by Matter. Matter responsible for difference of all particulars from their perfections, and hence for the difference of all lower kinds of perfection from the supreme perfection of the One

The Plotinian transition from dualism to monism


The theory of emanation

The Plotinian attempt to deduce Matter from the One. Review of the theory of emanation. The procession of Mind from the One, and of Soul from Mind. Necessity of further emanation realizing every possibility of Being, and displaying the powers of creation and illumination in the Soul. Consequent necessity of a physical Universe. Matter the limit of indeterminateness ; the last term in a series of which the One is the first

Two aspects of the Plotinian theory of emanation : (a) An endeavour to show that a series of emanations as such logically implies imperfection. Emanation equivalent to departure and separation, and hence to differentiation of the generated from the generator. But differentiation from perfection implicative of imperfection. (b) An attempt to derive existence and nature of Matter from the One. Matter not an absolute and independent principle. Caused by the exhaustion of the powers of the Soul. Matter dependent upon and relative to Being, as the negation of Being

Difficulties involved in the Plotinian theory. Implication of metaphysical evil and of the imperfection of Mind and Soul. Self-contradiction of the Plotinian rejection of the implication. Confusion of degrees of imperfection with kinds of perfection. Consequent denial that emanation involves deterioration

Difficulties connected with the problem of moral evil. No "fall" involved in the procession of Mind from the One, of Soul from Mind, or of the Universe from the World-Soul. Question as to why the emanation of the particular body from the individual Soul should involve moral evil. Confused character of Plotinus’s reply:

(a) On the one hand possession or creation of a particular body regarded as not in itself a "fall" but rather as an unfolding of the nature and perfection of the individual Soul. Moral evil due to a special relation to the body.

(b) On the other hand separation of the individual Soul from the World-Soul, and her mere attachment to any particular body regarded as the origin of moral evil.

In either case the " fall" of the soul due to a diversion of her interest from the contemplation of truth to the solicitations of sense

The problem whether this diversion of the interest of the i soul from the universal to the particular be necessitated [by the process of emanation or be an act of free-will. Plotinus’s attempt to deny the dilemma of free-will and [necessity. The process of emanation neither free nor Idetermined, or both free and determined, i.e. actuated Iby an inner necessity of the nature, equivalent to a free I expression of the " will," of the One, Mind, and Soul.

Application of this doctrine to the solution of the problem of moral evil. The diversion of the attention of the soul from contemplation to sensation both necessary and free. Explanatory of moral evil qua necessary, not responsible for moral evil qua free. The process of emanation in general explanatory of evil without being to blame for it

Fallacy of the Plotinian argument. Its equivocation. Its description of the "fall" of the soul as both free and determined really fatal to the purpose of the Plotinian theodicy. A dilemma:

(a) Qua determined, the diversion of attention of the soul from the universal to the particular the fault not of the soul but of the process of emanation. Consequent dualism, or else attribution of responsibility for evil to God. (b) Qua free, the diversion of the attention of the soul from the universal to the particular a contradiction in terms. In so far and so long as it is free, the attention of the soul always directed towards the universal and the Good. The unfree will only capable of sin. Evil then either inexplicable, or explained in ways contrary to the intention of Plotinus. Further confusion by Plotinus of emanation regarded both as an evolution of different sorts of perfection, and as a degradation of a sole and single kind of perfection. General criticism of the theory of emanation. Its reliance upon metaphors and analogies. Latent dualistic implications of these analogies. In every case the diminution of the emanation due to no logical necessity inherent in the source or process, but to the agency of an external principle. Without such a principle, the inferiority of the generated to the generator, e.g. of the Universe to the One, inexplicable. Perfection unimpeded incapable of producing anything less perfect than itself. General reassertion of ethical dualism. Impossibility of finding the origin of Evil in the Good. Necessity of positing a principle other than the Good to account for the presence of Evil in the universe

Resume of the book. Conclusion

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