Date of Award

2012

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Philosophy

Abstract

This study is an attempt at a systematic reconstruction of Plotinus’ understanding of eros or love in two basic steps, corresponding to Chapters One−Two and Three−Four respectively.

The first step highlights Plotinus’ connection to Plato. In Chapter One, first I argue that Plotinus’ way of reading the dialogues is faithful to Plato’s intention insofar as it is an active engagement in the practice of philosophy advocated in the dialogues; I then try to show that some important elements of Plotinus’ understanding of eros, most notably the differentiation of levels of reality in the soul’s ascent to Beauty and the view of goodness as self−diffusive, are already present, somewhat implicitly, in Plato. Chapter Two is a focused overview of Plotinus’ treatise on eros (Enneads III.5 [50]), the text in which he offers a threefold classification of love as pure, mixed, and deviant through a sustained interpretation of Plato’s views on the topic, with particular focus on the myth of Eros’ birth in the Symposium.

The second step is my systematic reconstruction of Plotinus’ view of eros as a key to comprehend his metaphysics. In Chapter Three I show how the notion of eros is essential to understand both the derivation of all reality from a unique simple principle or universal efficient cause (the One) and its structuring in decreasing levels of unity and intensity of eros (the hypostases of Intellect and soul, the sensible world, and pre−cosmic matter). What the One gives to all derived reality is love for the One qua other, an energy which decreases as its distance from its desideratum increases. Similarly, in Chapter Four I focus on the importance of eros to understand the inverse process: the return or gradual ascent of the individual soul to the One, now viewed as the Good or universal final cause. At each stage of the ascent (purification, intellification, and union), the individual soul experiences an increase in both unity and intensity of eros, until at the end of the journey, stripped of all that is alien to it, it is transformed in one single reality: eros for the One.

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