Volume 14, 2016
La Médiation Discursive dans le Néoplatonisme
Living a Double Life
Intellect, Soul, and Language in Plotinus
This paper examines the degree to which language can express one’s own being and the being of other things. Using Plotinus’ IV 3, On Difficulties about the Soul I, it argues that discursive reason both hinders and assists this endeavor. Plotinus understands the soul as the source of discursivity. His account positions the human soul between Intellect and corporeality. Similarly, discursive reason operates between thought and perception, working with images from both. On the one hand, since discursivity remains immersed in images, it hinders the possibility of conveying one’s own being and another’s being. On the other hand, since it remains connected to thought, it enables the possibility of becoming directly aware of Being and Intellect. In section one, this paper examines how souls mediate between Intellect and bodies because they are more divided versions of intellects. In section two, discursive reason’s connection to the soul’s dynamic mediation between Intellect and bodies is established. The paper draws out the implications of this connection – namely, that Plotinus does not construct a closed system. He insists that we rarely become conscious of our thoughts and tend to be only aware of the images that represent them. So, section three examines the possibility of becoming directly aware of our thoughts and whether or not language obstructs that endeavor. The paper concludes by affirming that language is ambiguous in that it impedes and advances such insights. This ambiguity inherent in language reveals and depends on the amphibious nature of our soul.