Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Commento: Pico on differences between Platonists... God is Not Intellect

77 Of these three kinds of being, the highest and most perfect causal being. Accordingly the Platonists believe that all of the powers which are commonly attributed to God exist in Him only in the causal mode of being. Thus they say that God is not Himself being but the cause of all being, and similarly that God is not Himself intellect. Statements such as these can give a modern Platonist a good deal of trouble if he does not understand the principle behind them. I remember that a great Platonist once told me that he was amazed by a passage in which Plotinus says that God understands nothing and knows nothing. It is perhaps even more amazing that my Platonist did not understand in what sense Plotinus means that God does not understand: Plotinus simply means that the attribute of understanding exists in God in its causal being rather than in its formal being. Plotinus is not denying that God understands; he is only attributing to him understanding of a higher and more perfect kind. That this is the case can be clearly understood from the following. Dionysius the Areopagite, the prince of the Christian theologians, says in one place that God knows not only Himself but also every smallest particular thing; but elsewhere Dionysius uses the same manner of speaking that Plotinus uses, saying that God is not an intellectual or intelligent creature, but is ineffably exalted above all intellect and cognition.

79-80 [Third Chapter] About the second hypostasis, that is, the angelic or intellectual, there is disagreement among the Platonists. Some Platonists, such as Proclus, Hermias, Syrianus, and many others, say that between God and the World Soul (which is the first rational soul) there is a large number of creatures which they call partly “intelligible” and partly “intellectual.” Sometimes even Plato confuses these two terms, as in the passage in the Phaedo where he talks about the soul. Plotinus, Porphyry, and in general the better Platonists say that between God and the World Soul there is only one creature, which they call the “son” of God because it is created directly by God. The first opinion is closer to that of Dionysius the Areopagite and the Christian theologians, who believe in a more or less infinite number of angels. The second opinion is more philosophical; it is closer to the views of Aristotle and Plato, and is followed by all of the better Aristotelians and by the better Platonists. For our purposes, since we have undertaken to say what we think is the common ground between Plato and Aristotle, we shall ignore the first opinion (even though in itself it may be true), and follow this second path.

No comments:

Post a Comment