Caluori’s Plotinus on the Soul Ch.5: Summary

In chapter 5 of his 𝘗𝘭𝘰𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘶𝘴 𝘰𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘚𝘰𝘶𝘭, Damian Caluori considers the “divine souls” in Plotinus’s system—the World Soul, the souls of the Sun, Moon, Stars and Planets, and the Earth’s soul—and the nature of thier “blissfully unperturbed life”. In the first part of the first section Caluori addresses a potential confusion about how the World Soul’s external activity is distinguished from that of the hypostasis Soul. Hypostasis Soul is pure discursive thought, and as discussed in ch.3, it does not focus on any object in particular. World Soul, however, does: despite not focusing on any particular part of the sensible world, World Soul does focus on the sensible world as a whole. The distinction is subtle perhaps, particularly when we try to bear in mind that the thought of hypostasis Soul is not without object. Perhaps part of the murkiness is due to Caluori hanging his entire discussion of the distinction on the object of soul’s activity in the sensible world, which seems like a minor oversight given that it is not thier activity in the sensible world as such that individuates souls. In any case, what should be remembered is that hypostasis Soul is discursive thought itself and so stands as paradigm in relation to World Soul and all other individual souls.

In the remainder of the first section, Caluori discusses the mediated nature of World Soul’s activity in the sensible world via it’s “lowest powers” (IV.8.2.31–38). Caluori shows that for Plotinus, like the creator god of the pseudo-Aristotelian De Mundo, the activities in the sensible world that are attributed to World Soul, are to be attributed instead to it’s lowest powers, which Caluori argues is best understood as an external activity of World Soul, and thus as incidental to World Soul’s essential internal activity. In this way World Soul is not essentially or directly involved in the formation of the sensible world, but only mediately.

At least one of the main motivations for the mediation of World Soul’s activity in the sensible world, is to prevent World Soul from being in time, which Caluori suggests would necessarily distract it from the life of eternal contemplative bliss characteristic of divine souls. Importantly, human souls, which are also divine, do not differ in nature or essence from the World Soul, the souls of the stars and planets, and of the earth. What distinguishes human souls from divine souls in this restricted sense, is that unlike the latter, human souls experience the sensible world via our activity in it. Divine souls (in the narrow sense) are not affected by thier external activity in the sensible world, by the bodies they providential care for, and remain blissfully unperturbed and fully absorbed contemplation in the intelligible world. They neither have nor require any sense-perception or affections (like fear or desire), nor do they have need to reason. Discursive reasoning is a process in time that aims at acquiring knowledge, and the divine souls eternally possess all knowledge they need fully.

Caluori’s Plotinus on Soul: Ch.4 Summary

In chapter 4 of Plotinus on the Soul, Caluori switches focus from the hypostasis Soul to individual souls, and challenges two claims sometimes made in the secondary literature. The first claim is that the individual soul is exclusively active in the sensible world. The second is the weaker claim that it us primarily active in the sensible world.

Plotinus is in line with Plato and Aristotle in regarding the soul as the principle of life for living beings. Some commentators (e.g., Gerson) have taken this to mean that only Intellect is cognitively active in the intelligible world and that this is a point of difference between Soul and Intellect. Against the strong claim that the soul is exclusively active in the sensible world, Caluori makes a number of points. As a first response it needs to be pointed out that, as discussed in previous chapters, Soul is essentially actively thinking in the intelligible world (ch2), and the hypostasis Soul is as a whole in each individual soul (ch3). It therefore follows that actively thinking in the intelligible world is essential to each individual soul. Second, in IV.7.9.6–10, Plotinus makes clear that soul is able to give life to bodies precisely because it “has [life] of itself”. Its activity in the sensible world (in bodies) is not the soul’s exclusive activity, because it presupposes soul’s prior activity in the intelligible world. Moreover, the soul’s life is prior to time and temporal process as well since, as Caluori interprets III.7.11 time is not the life of the soul tout court, but is only attributed to a power of a part of the soul (the “soul in movement”, which Caluori will discuss as the power of the soul which is active in the sensible world, in ch.5). Third, certain souls (Divine souls, e.g., World Soul, Earth Soul, etc.) do not discursively reason, but possess thier practical wisdom in full, so the individual soul’s life cannot be identical with (or even essentially involve) discursive reasoning.

What about the weaker claim? Might it not be the case that the soul’s discursive contemplation of the World of Forms, (although prior in the sense discussed above) is nevertheless purely instrumental—a means to an end—to it’s practical, providential activity? Here I think Emilsson’s discussion of the relation between internal activity and external activity in Plotinus (ch.1 of Plotinus on Intellect) is more to the point than Caluori’s explanation. Emilsson notes that although the external activity of a hypostasis flows necessarily from its internal activity, it is nevertheless incidental to (i.e., not part of the essence of) the internal activity. The internal activity is “self-contained” in the sense that it’s “aim” or “goal” is the internal activity itself, not any external activity or effect. Soul’s practical, demiurgic activity in the sensible world just is its external activity, while its higher discursive contemplation of the World of Forms is its internal activity. In this sense, the soul’s activity in the sensible world is neither its exclusive nor its primary activity in any sense. It’s creation and maintenance of the sensible world is a necessary but incidental consequence of its discursive contemplation of the World of Forms.

Caluori’s Plotinus on Soul: Ch.3 Summary

Tl;dr: individual souls are parts of the hypostasis Soul, which as discursive thought hypostasized, is both ontologically prior to, and, as a whole, present in each individual soul.

In chapter 3 of his Plotinus on the Soul, Damian Caluori takes up the second of the two claims made in the opening chapter, namely that the hypostasis Soul is necessary to account for the unity of all souls. He examines the special kind of unity shared by all souls through a careful discussion of the Platonist notion of a one-and-many, and the import of this notion for thinking about the relations of whole to parts, genus to species, and more specifically of Intellect to individual intellects and Soul to souls. Soul, Intellect, and genera all turn out to be wholes of the same kind, namely a one-and-many.

The notion of a one-and-many is, very briefly, the notion of a whole that is, strictly speaking, not identical with the sum of its parts. Plato regards such wholes as the only true wholes in fact, since “part” and “whole” are essentially correlative notions: there can be parts if and only if, there is some one thing, i.e., a whole, of which they are parts. No true whole, in this sense, is “reducible” to its parts. The dominant Platonist view, from the Old Academy onward, regarded genera as wholes of this kind, with subgenera/species as thier parts. The key distinction here being that genera—as Forms—are not only distinct from thier parts, they are, for Platonists, the ontologically prior principles of thier parts (i.e., the subgenrera under them). This notion of a whole that is not only distinct from its parts, but is the ontologically prior principle of its parts, is the necessary background for understanding the relation of individual intellects and souls to thier respective hypostases in Plotinus.

In IV.9.5.15 Plotinus likens the relationship of Intellect and intellects, and Soul and souls, to that of a science and its theorems. He has in mind deductive, axiomatic sciences like geometry, not modern empirical sciences like biology. Six crucial points can be extracted from what he says here about the science-theorem relationship:

(1) a science is a whole in some way consisting of theorems as its parts.

(2) a science is not merely a set of theorems (i.e., it is a “one-and-many”)

(3) a science is prior to, and the principle of, its parts. (Here the science prior to the deduction of its theorems is identical to its fundamental axioms. The fundamental axioms constitute the science as a whole prior to the derivation of any theorems).

(4) the science actually (as opposed to potentially) contains all its parts. (i.e., once derived, the theorems are all within the science as a whole).

(5) the whole science is potentially (as opposed to actually) contained within each theorem. (i.e., Since each theorem has an essential deductive relationship to every other, it is possible in principle to deduce the whole science from each theorem, hence each theorem potentially contains the whole science).

(6) each theorem is individuated (i.e., distinguished from every other) by its particular derivation from the axioms and/or other theorems. It is the specific theorem it is by virtue of its relation to all the others and to the science as a whole.

What each of these six points says about the relationship of theorems to thier science, is true of both the relationship of individual intellects to Intellect and individual souls to Soul. Both Intellect and Soul are wholes in some way consisting of individual intellects and souls as thier parts. Nevertheless, both hypostases are more than—distinct from—from their parts. Indeed, as Intellectual contemplation hypostasized, Intellect is the principle of each individual intellect. Soul, as discursive thinking hypostasized, is similarly the principle of each individual Soul. Both Intellect and Soul contain all individual intellects and souls respectively; and each individual intellect and each individual soul contains the whole of thier respective hypostasis in the following way: Intellect is nothing other than intellectual contemplation itself. As such it is, as a whole, essentially involved in the activity of each individual Intellect. Ditto for Soul, which is identical with discursive thinking itself, and therefore present as a whole in the discursive activity of each individual soul. The key difference here is that Intellect and Soul are actually as opposed to potentially, in each individual intellect/soul, whereas the whole science is only potentially contained in (i.e., deducible from) each theorem. Finally each individual Intellect is distinct from all other individual intellects in virtue of its focusing on a part of the World of Forms (i.e., it contemplates the Form it is identical with). The distinction between Intellect and individual intellects here is that the former neither thinks anything in particular (it thinks reality/being quite generally), and relies on nothing else in it’s essential activity (since it just is intellectual contemplation itself), whereas individual intellects essentially depend on Intellect for thier essential activity.

When Caluori turns to discuss the individuation of souls, he focuses only on the Soul as discursive practical thinking (i.e., as providential care/concern for the sensible world/bodies), omitting discussion of how souls may be individuated at the higher level of discursive theoretical contemplation of the World of Forms. This, to me, seems to leave a gap in the picture, since, as he says himself the Soul as theoretical contemplation is in each individual soul no less than the Soul as discursive practical/providential thinking. Nevertheless, his discussion of how individual souls are individuated by being a particular aspect of Soul’s divine providence is helpful as far as it goes. As Caluori explains, “Each body has a particular role to play in the whole of the providential arrangement of the sensible world. Each soul, in thinking about the role its body has to play, thereby focuses on one particular aspect of the providential arrangement.” (p.88). So just as each individual Intellect is individuated in being that aspect of Intellect focused on the particular aspect of the World of Forms it is identical with, each individual Soul is individuated (at least in terms of it’s demiurgic/providential function) by being the aspect of Soul’s providential thinking particularly focused on the aspect of the sensible world it is concerned with.

Caluori’s Plotinus on Soul: Ch.2 Summary

Tl;dr: Insofar as the logical structure of the sensible world presupposes both a theoretical and a practical mode of discursive thought, Intellect alone cannot account for it; Soul therefore is postulated by Plotinus as the mediator between Intellect and the sensible world.

In the second chapter of his book Plotinus on the Soul, Damian Caluori further clarifies one of the two claims made in the first chapter: that the hypostasis Soul is necessary to account for discursive/rational thinking (which in turn is presupposed by the ordered structure of the sensible world), because discursive thinking cannot be the activity of Intellect or anything in the World of Forms, these being essentially different modes of thought.

First, Intellect’s mode of thought is described as non-propositional (this claim has been the subject of some scholarly debate, but Emilsson, for instance, argues pretty convincingly in its favor in ch.4 of his Plotinus on Intellect) Caluori argues the non-propositionality of Intellect follows from the claim Plotinus makes at V.5.1.38–42 that if Forms were propositions, they would depend on the entities they “speak about”, and thus would not be those things themselves, the latter being prior to any propositions in which they feature (e.g., “X is Y” entails the X and the Y). Moreover, as the “Living Being that Truly Is”, the holistic unity of the World of Forms is greater than (and logically prior to) that of propositional truths, the latter at minimum possessing a predicative structure.

Second, the logical/metaphysical structure of the sensible world, consisting of, e.g., sensible substances and qualities inhering in those substances, presupposes predicative structure. Intellect then, being non-propositional, cannot on it’s own account for this structure. Soul however, understood as Discursive Thought hypostasized, can act as the necessary mediation between the World of Forms and the logical structure of the sensible world.

On closer inspection, this entails two different modes of Soul’s discursive thinking: on the one hand, there is Soul’s discursive “theoretical” contemplation of the Forms, which differs from that of Intellect by being discursive, but which is not yet “practical”. According to this theoretical mode of discursive thought, Soul “unfolds” the Forms into “propositionally structured” logoi. On the other hand, there is Soul’s discursive, “practical” thinking, which is it’s grasping of how a sensible world might be organized so as to constitute an “excellent image” of the World of Forms. Neither the Forms in Intellect, nor the logoi in Soul’s theoretical thinking can alone determine how they are to be instantiated in space and time (i.e., there are a number of possible ways the Form of human could be instantiated in a body). Truths about the World of Forms are necessary truths and thus leave no room for alternative possible arrangements; and Soul’s theoretical/contemplative grasp of the Forms via logoi, are organized according to genus, species and thier logical relations. Neither entails anything about how things may be arranged corporealy in space and time.

One upshot of this is that Plotinus, contrary to what is sometimes thought, is seen to hold a thoroughly demiurguc/creative account of the generation of the sensible world. It is not true that he replaces the Demiurge of Plato’s Timaeus with a purely necessary, emanative view of the generation of the sensible world. Moreover, this accounts for why the sensible world is not a 4th hypostasis, as it would be if it’s generation from Soul was the same as that of Soul from Intellect, etc.

Caluori’s Plotinus on Soul: Ch.1 Summary

According to Damian Caluori (𝘗𝘭𝘰𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘶𝘴 𝘰𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘚𝘰𝘶𝘭, Cambridge 2015), Plotinus introduces the hypostasis Soul for two reasons. The first reason is in order to account for the special kind of unity he thinks is characteristic of all souls. Plotinus maintains that individual souls are each part of an organic whole such that, like the parts of a living organism, each depends for its identity and function on its relation to every other part and on its place in the whole (this holism is analogous to what he says about Forms in the Intelligible or “Living Being”). Because of this, the unity of souls can neither be accounted for by a Form of Soul, nor by any individual soul (e.g., the World Soul). It can’t be accounted for by a Form because (a) particulars are images, not ‘parts’ of the Forms they participate, and (b) given that Plotinus thinks each Form is itself an intellect, and intellect is essentially a mode of cognitive activity distinct from that of soul (see next paragraph), the activity of Soul cannot be that of any Form. On the other hand, the holistic unity of individual souls can’t be accounted for by World Soul either (or a fortiori by any other individual soul). According to Caluori’s reading of III.I.4, Plotinus judges that if souls were parts of World Soul, it would follow that all actions of individual souls in the sensible world would in actuality be actions of World Soul (III.I.4.20–23).

The second reason he introduces the hypostasis Soul is in order to account for the rational order of the sensible world. Here, Caluori argues Plotinus follows the insight of Numenius who recognized that the activity of the Craftsman (Plato’s Timaeus) can’t be that of Intellect since each involves a mode of cognitive activity essentially distinct from the other. Intellect is essentially non-discursive, theoretical contemplation of the Forms, while the the creative, providential activity of the Craftsman requires a discursive, practical mode of thinking. So Numenius, breaks somewhat with the view of previous Platonists in doubting that Intellect and the Craftsman can simply be identified. Plotinus agrees, but unlike Numenius who identifies the Craftsman—the discursive, practical thinker—with the World Soul, Plotinus, for reasons already discussed above, does not.

So, Plotinus introduces the hypostasis Soul, according to Caluori, in order to account both for the unity of all souls, and for discursive, rational thinking, which in turn is necessary for the creation of a sensible world.