Рабочая программа по дисциплине иностранный язык (английский) (наименование дисциплины) по отрасли

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The Philosophy of Plotinus

I. Life

Plotinus, who brought forth the last great system of Greek speculative philosophy, was born in Egypt. At the age of thirty he came into contact with Ammonius Saccas and immediately became his disciple; on meeting the master, Plotinus exclaimed: "I have found the man I need." He studied under Saccas for ten years, that is, until the death of his teacher. He then joined an expedition to the East under Jordanus, and there obtained a knowledge of Oriental religions. After the failure of the expedition, Plotinus went to Rome, where he taught for the next twenty years.

Plotinus was an ascetic and a meditative man, and was reported to have twice reached the state of ecstasy which he held to be the highest state of life, and which defined as losing one's personality and being united with God. Because of the religious character of their philosophy, both he and his pupils were considered as directors of souls and spiritual fathers. During the last years of his life, Plotinus retired to Campania, where he wished to build a town of philosophers, to be called "Platontown"; he died, however, before anything was accomplished. Porphyry put Plotinus' books in order (the Enneads) and wrote an account of his life.

II. General Notions

The problem: "What is man and what must he do to reach happiness?" was not resolved by the Stoics and Epicureans.

Plotinus tried to resolve this question by overcoming dualism with monism. God, according to Plotinus, is not only the supreme inconceivable reality but also the principle of all realities. The invisible world as well as the visible world, man included, is nothing other than a derivation or emanation from God. God is true happiness for man; but as man cannot reach full knowledge of God by reason, so also he cannot possess happiness of himself; his intellectual knowledge is not sufficient. Man needs a superior help in order to reach God and to possess Him. This superior help comes from God who, beyond all forces of reason, manifests Himself to man, and makes him happy. This what Plotinus calls "ecstasy": towards this all his speculation points.

III. Theory of Knowledge

Plotinus distinguishes four kinds of knowledge:

  • Sense knowledge, which is an obscure representation of truth;

  • Reason cognition, which gives us knowledge of the essences of things;

  • Intellectual cognition, which gives us knowledge of ourselves;

  • Ecstasy, which consists in a supernatural intuition of God, in which our natural knowledge ceases in the divine unconsciousness.

Plotinus offers a well-developed theory of sensation. The objects of sensation are of a lower order of being than the perceiving organism. The inferior cannot act upon the superior. Hence sensation is an activity of the sensory agent upon its objects. Sensation provides a direct, realistic perception of material things, but, since they are ever-changing, such knowledge is not valuable. In internal sense perception, the imagination also functions actively, memory is attributed to the imaginative power and it serves not only in the recall of sensory images but also in the retention of the verbal formulae in which intellectual concepts are expressed. The human soul can look either upward or downward; up to the sphere of purer spirit, or down to the evil regions of matter. Rational knowledge is a cognition of intelligible realities, or Ideas in the realm of Mind which is often referred to as Divine. The climax of knowledge consists in an intuitive and mystical union with the One; this is experienced by few.

IV. Metaphysics

The metaphysics of Plotinus may be considered in two ways: as progression downward from God to the world, i.e., the divine emanations; and upward from the world to God, i.e., morality. Emanation is marked by four degrees: matter, world soul, Nous, and God or One. All the degrees of being partake of the divinity, but in a different way (Monism). The first three degrees: the world soul, Nous, and One, form a sort of trinity, one that is impersonal, attached to and dependent on the world.

a. One

The One (God) is the principle of all knowledge, and all things are dependent on Him. He has neither material nor spiritual qualities; neither knowledge nor will belong to Him. He is above all understanding, and can be best approached by negative theology. All we can attribute to Him is "oneness" in contrast to everything else, which implies multiplicity. To sustain the absolute unity of God, Plotinus was compelled to deny Him thought and knowledge, for these operations suppose distinction between subject and object, between thinker and thoughts, and therefore imply multiplicity.

The universe proceeds from God not by free and willing creation but by constant emanation. Through these emanations the "God-substance" becomes common to all other degrees of reality (Pantheism). God transcends the world, yet the world-stuff is God-stuff. The emanations are the Nous, the world soul, and nature. To explain the emanations Plotinus compared them to the superabundance of a flowing river, and a beam of light. Just as a beam of light, as it goes farther from its source, grows weaker and finally vanishes into darkness, so it is with the emanations which, after leaving the "One," lose their unity and finally vanish into matter and evil.

b. Nous

The first emanation is the Nous; it is intelligence, unchanged thoughts. The object of its thoughts are three: the One, itself, and the ideas which are in its spiritual nature. (This roughly corresponds to the Ideal World of Plato.) The Nous is inferior to the One, because multiplicity starts with Nous -- i.e., there is a distinction between the Nous and its thoughts.

c. World Soul

The second emanation is the world soul. It proceeds from the Nous as the Nous proceeds from the One; it is therefore inferior to the Nous. The world soul has two kinds of activities, contemplative and plastic. Its act of contemplation is beyond matter and time and its object is the Nous. The plastic activity of the world soul consists in forming the particular things of the universe according to the ideas the world soul is contemplating in the Nous.

d. The Universe

The third emanation is the universe, i.e., the sky, demons (good and evil spirits), human souls, matter, and evil. The plastic forces of the world soul inform the multiplicity of ideas in the visible world. Thus particular souls originating in the Nous come through the world soul into the world; first, those souls that animate the sky; second, those for the stars; third, those for demons; and lastly, human souls, which fell down into the world because of some mysterious sin. Human souls, which were in a state of preexistence in the Nous, are now imprisoned in the body. As in the universal soul there are two activities, contemplative and plastic, so also in each individual soul (in the stars and in man) there are two activities. In man these are the rational and informative virtues; the rational, tending to the formation of ideas, the informative, to the informing of the body. Matter is the final step of emanation; it is darkness and evil.

V. Ethics

In Plotinus' theory of emanation the progress is from God to the world; Plotinus' moral philosophy is the reverse process or the return to God. Man is able to make this return by means of purification from matter (catharsis). Such a purification is marked by three states: practical, contemplative and ecstatic. Accordingly, there are three virtues in man, ethical (practical), dianoetic (theoretical), and ecstatic.

Ethical Virtues: The ethical virtues are practical and are concerned with and attached to the world. They are not evil in themselves, but there is always the danger that they might oppose and rule the higher virtues in man. The practical virtues, such as temperance, fortitude, prudence, and justice, assure us of the practical domination of the sensible world, and open the way toward the operation of the superior contemplative virtues.

Dianoetic Virtues: The second grade of catharsis or purification is marked by the function of contemplative virtues ("dianoetic" being from the Greek: "dia-noeomai -- I know throughout"). Plotinus divides these into aesthetic and rational virtues. We know that in matter there are intelligible ideas with which it is informed. If these intelligibles are considered in regard to their goodness or beauty, their residence is the world soul. It is the function of the aesthetic virtues to separate these intelligibles from matter and to contemplate them as they exist in the world soul, which is the residence of beauty. On the other hand, if these intelligibles are considered as truth, their residence is the Nous. It is the function of the rational virtues to contemplate as true, that is, as they exist in the Nous, intelligible ideas separated from matter; this is philosophy. Thus through the aesthetic virtues our mind is united with the world soul, and through the rational virtues it is united with the Nous.

Ecstatic Virtues: The ethical and dianoetic virtues cannot lead us to absolute perfection, which is the One. This can be done only through ecstasy, the supreme degree of virtue. In the state of ecstasy man remains passive and unconscious of everything except his union with the One. This is the supreme state of happiness for man. As in all great systems in Greek philosophy, the theory of knowledge in Plotinus corresponds to his theory of being. As there are four degrees of emanation, there are four degrees of knowledge: sensible, rational, intellectual, and ecstatic. Sensible knowledge (practical) deals with the world; it is small and in darkness. The knowledge of reason is discerning and deals with ideas and the essences of things. Intellective knowledge is knowledge of self, obtained through auto-contemplation. The knowledge which crowns our mental activity is ecstatic or knowledge of the One. It is acquired not by virtue of the powers of the intellect but through God.

Religion: Plotinus placed God high above and transcending the whole world and its activities; He can be known by ecstasy alone. Between God and matter Plotinus placed emanations, but in order to justify all religions he also admitted intermediary demons or spirits. His successor Porphyry arranged and published Plotinus' works. Later Proclus and Iamblichus developed the theory of demons and were the advocates of a mysterious kind of knowledge called gnosis.

The Philosophy of Nicholas of Cusa

Background: The New Consideration of Nature

The Renaissance, as an age of transition, was not conducive to the building of great philosophical systems. It contained, in germinal form, the directive ideas of modern times, but under the guise of the past. Thinkers preferred to write in ancient Latin, and the style of their writing is also archaic. Under this external aspect, which smacks of antiquity, are hidden the signs of the next age.

The greatest representatives of thought, in the order of time, are Nicholas of Cusa, Telesio, Bruno, and Campanella; the most important is Bruno. In the thought of all these men there is a new view of nature, in which nature is considered immanently, according to the forces inherent in it, and is accessible to experience and reason. These forces are considered as living ones, vital spirits, demons; everything is animate; the physical world has a soul.

It is necessary to investigate these animate forces, for it is on the basis of their activity that all events can be explained. It is because of this desire to bring into subjection the occult forces of nature that during the Renaissance we find so widely diffused the science of "magic," which professes to know the good and evil spirits of nature, and to make them allies in good and evil enterprises.

Also characteristic are alchemy, with its objective of discovering the philosophical stone which can change everything into gold; and medicine, with its hope of finding the panacea of evil by uncovering the common animating force of the universe. This is a charlatan school, to be sure, but it indicates the tendency of some of the chief exponents of the age to explain nature through the forces imbedded in it.

Hence we see Neo-Platonic tendencies, and the Neo-Platonic thinkers mentioned above. Although Neo-Platonism, logically developed, leads to pantheism, the thinkers of the Renaissance, with the exception of Bruno, are not pantheists. Without any logical foundation they still affirm transcendency, but this more from faith than from conviction.

Now to the Philosophy of Nicholas of Cusa

I. Life and Works

Nicholas Cryfts, called Nicholas of Cusa from the name of his native city, was born in 1401. German by birth, he was Italian in his spiritual and cultural formation. Before going to Padua for the study of law, mathematics and astronomy, he had come under the influence of the mysticism of Master Eckhart. Ordained a Catholic priest, he took part in all the religious controversies of the time, and worked especially with the Council of Florence, which, it was hoped, would lead to the union of the churches.

He was made Cardinal and Bishop of Bressanone. His favorite authors were St. Augustine, Pseudo-Dionysius, Scotus Erigena, St. Bonaventure, and other Neo-Platonists. A man of severe habits, he died at Todi in 1464. His principal work is De docta ignorantia (On Scientific Ignorance); notable also are his De conjecturis (On Conjectures); and De ludo globi (On the Game of the World).

Nicholas of Cusa was a Neo-Platonist in thought, and this led him to formulate a new type of logic and a new interpretation of nature (metaphysics).

II. Theory of Knowledge

Human knowledge is a collective and unifying activity; there are three stages in acquiring this knowledge: phantasy, reason, intellect.

Phantasy (sense knowledge) has for its scope the unification into a single representation of the multiple data of the senses.

Reason (meaning abstractive and discursive knowledge) is the faculty which abstracts universal concepts; it never arrives at perfect unity. The knowledge of reason, moreover, is deficient because it represents reality in an improper manner, for it is only founded on individual beings. Hence it follows that concepts result from contradictory notes, for instance, unity and multiplicity, being and non-being. The principle of contradiction, the basis of Aristotelian Scholastic logic, is good within the limits of reason, but it gives us an improper knowledge of reality.

We arrive at the knowledge of the reality (God), and hence of unity and the infinite, only by means of a third activity of the spirit, the faculty of intellect, which is supra-rational understanding, mystical intuition. This faculty, overcoming all differences and multiplicity, presents the reality (God) as perfect unity, in which all differences are reconciled in the infinite life, the "coincidence of opposites." The principle of coincidence is for Nicholas of Cusa a new one on which logic must be based in order to arrive at the knowledge of reality.

Hence the title of Nicholas' work De Docta ignorantia, which indicates the limitation of human understanding (reason) as opposed to the knowledge of God that is free of all such limitation (supra-rational). Thus the agnosticism of Nicholas of Cusa is corrected by his fideism, which of course has nothing to do with philosophy.

III. Theodicy

God is infinite. The infinity of God leads Nicholas of Cusa to affirm the coincidence of opposites. Observing how, in a circumference carried to infinity, the straight and the curved line coincide, he affirms that in the infinity of God all oppositions are identified, all distinctions overcome, and all contrariety fades into nothingness, since the correlative is not to be found. God is the "implicatio" of all opposites. But what in God is "implicatio" and "complicatio," becomes "explicatio" in the universe, which results from multiplicity, distinction, and opposition.

This concept does not differ substantially from the Neo-Platonic idea. The "explicatio" is equivalent to Platonic emanations, by virtue of which God, absolute unity, becomes multiple through subsequent emanations. The concept of Nicholas of Cusa becomes more dangerous because of the consequences he derives from "explicatio." The world is an infinite potential, and because of this it participates in an attribute of divinity. This theory was to be reaffirmed by Giordano Bruno. God is as it were contracted in beings; He is the absolute quiddity of all the things in which He is contracted.

Nicholas of Cusa was the first philosopher to separate himself from Scholasticism. He began with a logic based on the coincidence of opposites -- at variance with Aristotelian-Scholastic logic, which is based on the principle of contradiction. In metaphysics he was Platonic, and the notion of the transcendence of God was thus seriously compromised.

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