Volume 19, Issue 1, 2019
Ambiguities in Plotinus’ Account of the Generation of the Intellect from the One
The paper examines the status of ambiguity in the thought of Plotinus (c. 204/205-270). Even though ambiguity should be regarded as the enemy of the philosopher and as pertaining rather to the rhetorical tradition and not the philosophical one as it was especially established by Plato and Aristotle, one can argue that the particularly Neoplatonist philosophical project permitted an important place to it due to some fundamental inherent aspects that it contained. Most importantly, the ambiguity in the generation of the Intellect from the One is examined in this paper as related to the dialectic between existence and being. In such a perspective, ambiguity is initiated by the fact that being is both one in order to exist and not one in order to be a being. Thus, it can be explained only in dialectic with an ontological reality beyond it, namely an absolute One. This means that, in turn, its generation as Intellect from the latter is necessarily a two-fold movement: Both a distribution of existence by procession and a reverting contemplative act for acquisition of substantial definition. This dialectic does not only concern the highest ontological level of the relation of the Being to the One, but is a permanent ontological vacillation in the system of Plotinus. The paper observes this valorization of ambiguity as an original and dynamic feature of Plotinian ontology that arguably paved the way for Modernity.