The Six Enneads, by Plotinus

Fourth Tractate.

Matter in its Two Kinds.

1. By common agreement of all that have arrived at the conception of such a Kind, what is known as Matter is understood to be a certain base, a recipient of Form-Ideas. Thus far all go the same way. But departure begins with the attempt to establish what this basic Kind is in itself, and how it is a recipient and of what.

To a certain school, body-forms exclusively are the Real Beings; existence is limited to bodies; there is one only Matter, the stuff underlying the primal-constituents of the Universe: existence is nothing but this Matter: everything is some modification of this; the elements of the Universe are simply this Matter in a certain condition.

The school has even the audacity to foist Matter upon the divine beings so that, finally, God himself becomes a mode of Matter — and this though they make it corporeal, describing it as a body void of quality, but a magnitude.

Another school makes it incorporeal: among these, not all hold the theory of one only Matter; some of them while they maintain the one Matter, in which the first school believes, the foundation of bodily forms, admit another, a prior, existing in the divine-sphere, the base of the Ideas there and of the unembodied Beings.

2. We are obliged, therefore, at the start, both to establish the existence of this other Kind and to examine its nature and the mode of its Being.

Now if Matter must characteristically be undetermined, void of shape, while in that sphere of the Highest there can be nothing that lacks determination, nothing shapeless, there can be no Matter there. Further, if all that order is simplex, there can be no need of Matter, whose function is to join with some other element to form a compound: it will be found of necessity in things of derived existence and shifting nature — the signs which lead us to the notion of Matter — but it is unnecessary to the primal.

And again, where could it have come from? whence did it take its being? If it is derived, it has a source: if it is eternal, then the Primal-Principles are more numerous than we thought, the Firsts are a meeting-ground. Lastly, if that Matter has been entered by Idea, the union constitutes a body; and, so, there is Body in the Supreme.

3. Now it may be observed, first of all, that we cannot hold utterly cheap either the indeterminate, or even a Kind whose very idea implies absence of form, provided only that it offer itself to its Priors and [through them] to the Highest Beings. We have the parallel of the Soul itself in its relation to the Intellectual-Principle and the Divine Reason, taking shape by these and led so to a nobler principle of form.

Further, a compound in the Intellectual order is not to be confounded with a compound in the realm of Matter; the Divine Reasons are compounds and their Act is to produce a compound, namely that [lower] Nature which works towards Idea. And there is not only a difference of function; there is a still more notable difference of source. Then, too, the Matter of the realm of process ceaselessly changes its form: in the eternal, Matter is immutably one and the same, so that the two are diametrically opposites. The Matter of this realm is all things in turn, a new entity in every separate case, so that nothing is permanent and one thing ceaselessly pushes another out of being: Matter has no identity here. In the Intellectual it is all things at once: and therefore has nothing to change into: it already and ever contains all. This means that not even in its own Sphere is the Matter there at any moment shapeless: no doubt that is true of the Matter here as well; but shape is held by a very different right in the two orders of Matter.

As to whether Matter is eternal or a thing of process, this will be clear when we are sure of its precise nature.

4. The present existence of the Ideal-Forms has been demonstrated elsewhere: we take up our argument from that point.

If, then, there is more than one of such forming Ideas, there must of necessity be some character common to all and equally some peculiar character in each keeping them distinct.

This peculiar characteristic, this distinguishing difference, is the individual shape. But if shape, then there is the shaped, that in which the difference is lodged.

There is, therefore, a Matter accepting the shape, a permanent substratum.

Further, admitting that there is an Intelligible Realm beyond, of which this world is an image, then, since this world-compound is based on Matter, there must be Matter there also.

And how can you predicate an ordered system without thinking of form, and how think of form apart from the notion of something in which the form is lodged?

No doubt that Realm is, in the strict fact, utterly without parts, but in some sense there is part there too. And in so far as these parts are really separate from each other, any such division and difference can be no other than a condition of Matter, of a something divided and differentiated: in so far as that realm, though without parts, yet consists of a variety of entities, these diverse entities, residing in a unity of which they are variations, reside in a Matter; for this unity, since it is also a diversity, must be conceived of as varied and multiform; it must have been shapeless before it took the form in which variation occurs. For if we abstract from the Intellectual-Principle the variety and the particular shapes, the Reason-Principles and the Thoughts, what precedes these was something shapeless and undetermined, nothing of what is actually present there.

5. It may be objected that the Intellectual-Principle possesses its content in an eternal conjunction so that the two make a perfect unity, and that thus there is no Matter there.

But that argument would equally cancel the Matter present in the bodily forms of this realm: body without shape has never existed, always body achieved and yet always the two constituents. We discover these two — Matter and Idea — by sheer force of our reasoning which distinguishes continually in pursuit of the simplex, the irreducible, working on, until it can go no further, towards the ultimate in the subject of enquiry. And the ultimate of every partial-thing is its Matter, which, therefore, must be all darkness since light is a Reason-Principle. The Mind, too, as also a Reason-Principle, sees only in each particular object the Reason-Principle lodging there; anything lying below that it declares to lie below the light, to be therefore a thing of darkness, just as the eye, a thing of light, seeks light and colours which are modes of light, and dismisses all that is below the colours and hidden by them, as belonging to the order of the darkness, which is the order of Matter.

The dark element in the Intelligible, however, differs from that in the sense-world: so therefore does the Matter — as much as the forming-Idea presiding in each of the two realms. The Divine Matter, though it is the object of determination has, of its own nature, a life defined and intellectual; the Matter of this sphere while it does accept determination is not living or intellective, but a dead thing decorated: any shape it takes is an image, exactly as the Base is an image. There on the contrary the shape is a real-existent as is the Base. Those that ascribe Real Being to Matter must be admitted to be right as long as they keep to the Matter of the Intelligible Realm: for the Base there is Being, or even, taken as an entirety with the higher that accompanies it, is illuminated Being.

But does this Base, of the Intellectual Realm, possess eternal existence?

The solution of that question is the same as for the Ideas.

Both are engendered, in the sense that they have had a beginning, but unengendered in that this beginning is not in Time: they have a derived being but by an eternal derivation: they are not, like the Kosmos, always in process but, in the character of the Supernal, have their Being permanently. For that differentiation within the Intelligible which produces Matter has always existed and it is this cleavage which produces the Matter there: it is the first movement; and movement and differentiation are convertible terms since the two things arose as one: this motion, this cleavage, away from the first is indetermination [= Matter], needing The First to its determination which it achieves by its Return, remaining, until then, an Alienism, still lacking good; unlit by the Supernal. It is from the Divine that all light comes, and, until this be absorbed, no light in any recipient of light can be authentic; any light from elsewhere is of another order than the true.

6. We are led thus to the question of receptivity in things of body.

An additional proof that bodies must have some substratum different from themselves is found in the changing of the basic-constituents into one another. Notice that the destruction of the elements passing over is not complete — if it were we would have a Principle of Being wrecked in Non-being — nor does an engendered thing pass from utter non-being into Being: what happens is that a new form takes the place of an old. There is, then, a stable element, that which puts off one form to receive the form of the incoming entity.

The same fact is clearly established by decay, a process implying a compound object; where there is decay there is a distinction between Matter and Form.

And the reasoning which shows the destructible to be a compound is borne out by practical examples of reduction: a drinking vessel is reduced to its gold, the gold to liquid; analogy forces us to believe that the liquid too is reducible.

The basic-constituents of things must be either their Form-Idea or that Primal Matter [of the Intelligible] or a compound of the Form and Matter.

Form-Idea, pure and simple, they cannot be: for without Matter how could things stand in their mass and magnitude?

Neither can they be that Primal Matter, for they are not indestructible.

They must, therefore, consist of Matter and Form-Idea — Form for quality and shape, Matter for the base, indeterminate as being other than Idea.

7. Empedokles in identifying his “elements” with Matter is refuted by their decay.

Anaxagoras, in identifying his “primal-combination” with Matter — to which he allots no mere aptness to any and every nature or quality but the effective possession of all — withdraws in this way the very Intellectual-Principle he had introduced; for this Mind is not to him the bestower of shape, of Forming Idea; and it is co-aeval with Matter, not its prior. But this simultaneous existence is impossible: for if the combination derives Being by participation, Being is the prior; if both are Authentic Existents, then an additional Principle, a third, is imperative [a ground of unification]. And if this Creator, Mind, must pre-exist, why need Matter contain the Forming-Ideas parcel-wise for the Mind, with unending labour, to assort and allot? Surely the undetermined could be brought to quality and pattern in the one comprehensive act?

As for the notion that all is in all, this clearly is impossible.

Those who make the base to be “the infinite” must define the term.

If this “infinite” means “of endless extension” there is no infinite among beings; there is neither an infinity-in-itself [Infinity Abstract] nor an infinity as an attribute to some body; for in the first case every part of that infinity would be infinite and in the second an object in which the infinity was present as an attribute could not be infinite apart from that attribute, could not be simplex, could not therefore be Matter.

Atoms again cannot meet the need of a base.

There are no atoms; all body is divisible endlessly: besides neither the continuity nor the ductility of corporeal things is explicable apart from Mind, or apart from the Soul which cannot be made up of atoms; and, again, out of atoms creation could produce nothing but atoms: a creative power could produce nothing from a material devoid of continuity. Any number of reasons might be brought, and have been brought, against this hypothesis and it need detain us no longer.

8. What, then, is this Kind, this Matter, described as one stuff, continuous and without quality?

Clearly since it is without quality it is incorporeal; bodiliness would be quality.

It must be the basic stuff of all the entities of the sense-world and not merely base to some while being to others achieved form.

Clay, for example, is matter to the potter but is not Matter pure and simple. Nothing of this sort is our object: we are seeking the stuff which underlies all alike. We must therefore refuse to it all that we find in things of sense — not merely such attributes as colour, heat or cold, but weight or weightlessness, thickness or thinness, shape and therefore magnitude; though notice that to be present within magnitude and shape is very different from possessing these qualities.

It cannot be a compound, it must be a simplex, one distinct thing in its nature; only so can it be void of all quality. The Principle which gives it form gives this as something alien: so with magnitude and all really-existent things bestowed upon it. If, for example, it possessed a magnitude of its own, the Principle giving it form would be at the mercy of that magnitude and must produce not at will, but only within the limit of the Matter’s capacity: to imagine that Will keeping step with its material is fantastic.

The Matter must be of later origin than the forming-power, and therefore must be at its disposition throughout, ready to become anything, ready therefore to any bulk; besides, if it possessed magnitude, it would necessarily possess shape also: it would be doubly inductile.

No: all that ever appears upon it is brought in by the Idea: the Idea alone possesses: to it belongs the magnitude and all else that goes with the Reason-Principle or follows upon it. Quantity is given with the Ideal-Form in all the particular species — man, bird, and particular kind of bird.

The imaging of Quantity upon Matter by an outside power is not more surprising than the imaging of Quality; Quality is no doubt a Reason-Principle, but Quantity also — being measure, number — is equally so.

9. But how can we conceive a thing having existence without having magnitude?

We have only to think of things whose identity does not depend on their quantity — for certainly magnitude can be distinguished from existence as can many other forms and attributes.

In a word, every unembodied Kind must be classed as without quantity, and Matter is unembodied.

Besides quantitativeness itself [the Absolute-Principle] does not possess quantity, which belongs only to things participating in it, a consideration which shows that Quantitativeness is an Idea-Principle. A white object becomes white by the presence of whiteness; what makes an organism white or of any other variety of colour is not itself a specific colour but, so to speak, a specific Reason-Principle: in the same way what gives an organism a certain bulk is not itself a thing of magnitude but is Magnitude itself, the abstract Absolute, or the Reason-Principle.

This Magnitude-Absolute, then, enters and beats the Matter out into Magnitude?

Not at all: the Matter was not previously shrunken small: there was no littleness or bigness: the Idea gives Magnitude exactly as it gives every quality not previously present.

10. But how can I form the conception of the sizelessness of Matter?

How do you form the concept of any absence of quality? What is the Act of the Intellect, what is the mental approach, in such a case?

The secret is Indetermination.

Likeness knows its like: the indeterminate knows the indeterminate. Around this indefinite a definite conception will be realized, but the way lies through indefiniteness.

All knowledge comes by Reason and the Intellectual Act; in this case Reason conveys information in any account it gives, but the act which aims at being intellectual is, here, not intellection but rather its failure: therefore the representation of Matter must be spurious, unreal, something sprung of the Alien, of the unreal, and bound up with the alien reason.

This is Plato’s meaning where he says that Matter is apprehended by a sort of spurious reasoning.

What, then, is this indetermination in the Soul? Does it amount to an utter absence of Knowledge, as if the Soul or Mind had withdrawn?

No: the indeterminate has some footing in the sphere of affirmation. The eye is aware of darkness as a base capable of receiving any colour not yet seen against it: so the Mind, putting aside all attributes perceptible to sense — all that corresponds to light — comes upon a residuum which it cannot bring under determination: it is thus in the state of the eye which, when directed towards darkness, has become in some way identical with the object of its spurious vision.

There is vision, then, in this approach of the Mind towards Matter?

Some vision, yes; of shapelessness, of colourlessness, of the unlit, and therefore of the sizeless. More than this would mean that the Soul is already bestowing Form.

But is not such a void precisely what the Soul experiences when it has no intellection whatever?

No: in that case it affirms nothing, or rather has no experience: but in knowing Matter, it has an experience, what may be described as the impact of the shapeless; for in its very consciousness of objects that have taken shape and size it knows them as compounds [i.e., as possessing with these forms a formless base] for they appear as things that have accepted colour and other quality.

It knows, therefore, a whole which includes two components; it has a clear Knowledge or perception of the overlie [the Ideas] but only a dim awareness of the underlie, the shapeless which is not an Ideal-Principle.

With what is perceptible to it there is presented something else: what it can directly apprehend it sets on one side as its own; but the something else which Reason rejects, this, the dim, it knows dimly, this, the dark, it knows darkly, this it knows in a sort of non-knowing.

And just as even Matter itself is not stably shapeless but, in things, is always shaped, the Soul also is eager to throw over it the thing-form; for the Soul recoils from the indefinite, dreads, almost, to be outside of reality, does not endure to linger about Non-Being.

11. “But, given Magnitude and the properties we know, what else can be necessary to the existence of body?”

Some base to be the container of all the rest.

“A certain mass then; and if mass, then Magnitude? Obviously if your Base has no Magnitude it offers no footing to any entrant. And suppose it sizeless; then, what end does it serve? It never helped Idea or quality; now it ceases to account for differentiation or for magnitude, though the last, wheresoever it resides, seems to find its way into embodied entities by way of Matter.”

“Or, taking a larger view, observe that actions, productive operations, periods of time, movements, none of these have any such substratum and yet are real things; in the same way the most elementary body has no need of Matter; things may be, all, what they are, each after its own kind, in their great variety, deriving the coherence of their being from the blending of the various Ideal-Forms. This Matter with its sizelessness seems, then, to be a name without a content.”

Now, to begin with: extension is not an imperative condition of being a recipient; it is necessary only where it happens to be a property inherent to the recipient’s peculiar mode of being. The Soul, for example, contains all things but holds them all in an unextended unity; if magnitude were one of its attributes it would contain things in extension. Matter does actually contain in spatial extension what it takes in; but this is because itself is a potential recipient of spatial extension: animals and plants, in the same way, as they increase in size, take quality in parallel development with quantity, and they lose in the one as the other lessens.

No doubt in the case of things as we know them there is a certain mass lying ready beforehand to the shaping power: but that is no reason for expecting bulk in Matter strictly so called; for in such cases Matter is not the absolute; it is that of some definite object; the Absolute Matter must take its magnitude, as every other property, from outside itself.

A thing then need not have magnitude in order to receive form: it may receive mass with everything else that comes to it at the moment of becoming what it is to be: a phantasm of mass is enough, a primary aptness for extension, a magnitude of no content — whence the identification that has been made of Matter with The Void.

But I prefer to use the word phantasm as hinting the indefiniteness into which the Soul spills itself when it seeks to communicate with Matter, finding no possibility of delimiting it, neither encompassing it nor able to penetrate to any fixed point of it, either of which achievements would be an act of delimitation.

In other words, we have something which is to be described not as small or great but as the great-and-small: for it is at once a mass and a thing without magnitude, in the sense that it is the Matter on which Mass is based and that, as it changes from great to small and small to great, it traverses magnitude. Its very undeterminateness is a mass in the same sense that of being a recipient of Magnitude — though of course only in the visible object.

In the order of things without Mass, all that is Ideal-Principle possesses delimitation, each entity for itself, so that the conception of Mass has no place in them: Matter, not delimited, having in its own nature no stability, swept into any or every form by turns, ready to go here, there and everywhere, becomes a thing of multiplicity: driven into all shapes, becoming all things, it has that much of the character of mass.

12. It is the corporeal, then, that demands magnitude: the Ideal-Forms of body are Ideas installed in Mass.

But these Ideas enter, not into Magnitude itself but into some subject that has been brought to Magnitude. For to suppose them entering into Magnitude and not into Matter — is to represent them as being either without Magnitude and without Real-Existence [and therefore undistinguishable from the Matter] or not Ideal-Forms [apt to body] but Reason-Principles [utterly removed] whose sphere could only be Soul; at this, there would be no such thing as body [i.e., instead of Ideal-Forms shaping Matter and so producing body, there would be merely Reason-Principles dwelling remote in Soul.]

The multiplicity here must be based upon some unity which, since it has been brought to Magnitude, must be, itself, distinct from Magnitude. Matter is the base of Identity to all that is composite: once each of the constituents comes bringing its own Matter with it, there is no need of any other base. No doubt there must be a container, as it were a place, to receive what is to enter, but Matter and even body precede place and space; the primal necessity, in order to the existence of body, is Matter.

There is no force in the suggestion that, since production and act are immaterial, corporeal entities also must be immaterial.

Bodies are compound, actions not. Further, Matter does in some sense underlie action; it supplies the substratum to the doer: it is permanently within him though it does not enter as a constituent into the act where, indeed, it would be a hindrance. Doubtless, one act does not change into another — as would be the case if there were a specific Matter of actions — but the doer directs himself from one act to another so that he is the Matter, himself, to his varying actions.

Matter, in sum, is necessary to quality and to quantity, and, therefore, to body.

It is, thus, no name void of content; we know there is such a base, invisible and without bulk though it be.

If we reject it, we must by the same reasoning reject qualities and mass: for quality, or mass, or any such entity, taken by itself apart, might be said not to exist. But these do exist, though in an obscure existence: there is much less ground for rejecting Matter, however it lurk, discerned by none of the senses.

It eludes the eye, for it is utterly outside of colour: it is not heard, for it is no sound: it is no flavour or savour for nostrils or palate: can it, perhaps, be known to touch? No: for neither is it corporeal; and touch deals with body, which is known by being solid, fragile, soft, hard, moist, dry — all properties utterly lacking in Matter.

It is grasped only by a mental process, though that not an act of the intellective mind but a reasoning that finds no subject; and so it stands revealed as the spurious thing it has been called. No bodiliness belongs to it; bodiliness is itself a phase of Reason-Principle and so is something different from Matter, as Matter, therefore, from it: bodiliness already operative and so to speak made concrete would be body manifest and not Matter unelaborated.

13. Are we asked to accept as the substratum some attribute or quality present to all the elements in common?

Then, first, we must be told what precise attribute this is and, next, how an attribute can be a substratum.

The elements are sizeless, and how conceive an attribute where there is neither base nor bulk?

Again, if the quality possesses determination, it is not Matter the undetermined; and anything without determination is not a quality but is the substratum — the very Matter we are seeking.

It may be suggested that perhaps this absence of quality means simply that, of its own nature, it has no participation in any of the set and familiar properties, but takes quality by this very non-participation, holding thus an absolutely individual character, marked off from everything else, being as it were the negation of those others. Deprivation, we will be told, comports quality: a blind man has the quality of his lack of sight. If then — it will be urged — Matter exhibits such a negation, surely it has a quality, all the more so, assuming any deprivation to be a quality, in that here the deprivation is all comprehensive.

But this notion reduces all existence to qualified things or qualities: Quantity itself becomes a Quality and so does even Existence. Now this cannot be: if such things as Quantity and Existence are qualified, they are, by that very fact, not qualities: Quality is an addition to them; we must not commit the absurdity of giving the name Quality to something distinguishable from Quality, something therefore that is not Quality.

Is it suggested that its mere Alienism is a quality in Matter?

If this Alienism is difference-absolute [the abstract entity] it possesses no Quality: absolute Quality cannot be itself a qualified thing.

If the Alienism is to be understood as meaning only that Matter is differentiated, then it is different not by itself [since it is certainly not an absolute] but by this Difference, just as all identical objects are so by virtue of Identicalness [the Absolute principle of Identity].

An absence is neither a Quality nor a qualified entity; it is the negation of a Quality or of something else, as noiselessness is the negation of noise and so on. A lack is negative; Quality demands something positive. The distinctive character of Matter is unshape, the lack of qualification and of form; surely then it is absurd to pretend that it has Quality in not being qualified; that is like saying that sizelessness constitutes a certain size.

The distinctive character of Matter, then, is simply its manner of being — not something definite inserted in it but, rather a relation towards other things, the relation of being distinct from them.

Other things possess something besides this relation of Alienism: their form makes each an entity. Matter may with propriety be described as merely alien; perhaps, even, we might describe it as “The Aliens,” for the singular suggests a certain definiteness while the plural would indicate the absence of any determination.

14. But is Absence this privation itself, or something in which this Privation is lodged?

Anyone maintaining that Matter and Privation are one and the same in substratum but stand separable in reason cannot be excused from assigning to each the precise principle which distinguishes it in reason from the other: that which defines Matter must be kept quite apart from that defining the Privation and vice versa.

There are three possibilities: Matter is not in Privation and Privation is not in Matter; or each is in each; or each is in itself alone.

Now if they should stand quite apart, neither calling for the other, they are two distinct things: Matter is something other than Privation even though Privation always goes with it: into the principle of the one, the other cannot enter even potentially.

If their relation to each other is that of a snubnose to snubness, here also there is a double concept; we have two things.

If they stand to each other as fire to heat — heat in fire, but fire not included in the concept of heat — if Matter is Privation in the way in which fire is heat, then the Privation is a form under which Matter appears but there remains a base distinct from the Privation and this base must be the Matter. Here, too, they are not one thing.

Perhaps the identity in substance with differentiation in reason will be defended on the ground that Privation does not point to something present but precisely to an absence, to something absent, to the negation or lack of Real-being: the case would be like that of the affirmation of non-existence, where there is no real predication but simply a denial.

Is, then, this Privation simply a non-existence?

If a non-existence in the sense that it is not a thing of Real-being, but belongs to some other Kind of existent, we have still two Principles, one referring directly to the substratum, the other merely exhibiting the relation of the Privation to other things.

Or we might say that the one concept defines the relation of substratum to what is not substratum, while that of Privation, in bringing out the indeterminateness of Matter, applies to the Matter in itself: but this still makes Privation and Matter two in reason though one in substratum.

Now if Matter possesses an identity — though only the identity of being indeterminate, unfixed and without quality — how can we bring it so under two principles?

15. The further question, therefore, is raised whether boundlessness and indetermination are things lodging in something other than themselves as a sort of attribute and whether Privation [or Negation of quality] is also an attribute residing in some separate substratum.

Now all that is Number and Reason-Principle is outside of boundlessness: these bestow bound and settlement and order in general upon all else: neither anything that has been brought under order nor any Order-Absolute is needed to bring them under order. The thing that has to be brought under order [e.g., Matter] is other than the Ordering Principle which is Limit and Definiteness and Reason-Principle. Therefore, necessarily, the thing to be brought under order and to definiteness must be in itself a thing lacking delimitation.

Now Matter is a thing that is brought under order — like all that shares its nature by participation or by possessing the same principle — therefore, necessarily, Matter is The Undelimited and not merely the recipient of a nonessential quality of Indefiniteness entering as an attribute.

For, first, any attribute to any subject must be a Reason-Principle; and Indefiniteness is not a Reason-Principle.

Secondly, what must a thing be to take Indefiniteness as an attribute? Obviously it must, beforehand, be either Definiteness or a defined thing. But Matter is neither.

Then again Indefiniteness entering as an attribute into the definite must cease to be indefinite: but Indefiniteness has not entered as an attribute into Matter: that is, Matter is essentially Indefiniteness.

The Matter even of the Intellectual Realm is the Indefinite, [the undelimited]; it must be a thing generated by the undefined nature, the illimitable nature, of the Eternal Being, The One illimitableness, however, not possessing native existence There but engendered by The One.

But how can Matter be common to both spheres, be here and be There?

Because even Indefiniteness has two phases.

But what difference can there be between phase and phase of Indefiniteness?

The difference of archetype and image.

So that Matter here [as only an image of Indefiniteness] would be less indefinite?

On the contrary, more indefinite as an Image-thing remote from true being. Indefiniteness is the greater in the less ordered object; the less deep in good, the deeper in evil. The Indeterminate in the Intellectual Realm, where there is truer being, might almost be called merely an Image of Indefiniteness: in this lower Sphere where there is less Being, where there is a refusal of the Authentic, and an adoption of the Image-Kind, Indefiniteness is more authentically indefinite.

But this argument seems to make no difference between the indefinite object and Indefiniteness-essential. Is there none?

In any object in which Reason and Matter co-exist we distinguish between Indeterminateness and the Indeterminate subject: but where Matter stands alone we make them identical, or, better, we would say right out that in that case essential Indeterminateness is not present; for it is a Reason-Principle and could not lodge in the indeterminate object without at once annulling the indeterminateness.

Matter, then, must be described as Indefinite of itself, by its natural opposition to Reason-Principle. Reason is Reason and nothing else; just so Matter, opposed by its indeterminateness to Reason, is Indeterminateness and nothing else.

16. Then Matter is simply Alienism [the Principle of Difference]?

No: it is merely that part of Alienism which stands in contradiction with the Authentic Existents which are Reason-Principles. So understood, this non-existent has a certain measure of existence; for it is identical with Privation, which also is a thing standing in opposition to the things that exist in Reason.

But must not Privation cease to have existence, when what has been lacking is present at last?

By no means: the recipient of a state or character is not a state but the Privation of the state; and that into which determination enters is neither a determined object nor determination itself, but simply the wholly or partly undetermined.

Still, must not the nature of this Undetermined be annulled by the entry of Determination, especially where this is no mere attribute?

No doubt to introduce quantitative determination into an undetermined object would annul the original state; but in the particular case, the introduction of determination only confirms the original state, bringing it into actuality, into full effect, as sowing brings out the natural quality of land or as a female organism impregnated by the male is not defeminized but becomes more decidedly of its sex; the thing becomes more emphatically itself.

But on this reasoning must not Matter owe its evil to having in some degree participated in good?

No: its evil is in its first lack: it was not a possessor (of some specific character).

To lack one thing and to possess another, in something like equal proportions, is to hold a middle state of good and evil: but whatsoever possesses nothing and so is in destitution — and especially what is essentially destitution — must be evil in its own Kind.

For in Matter we have no mere absence of means or of strength; it is utter destitution — of sense, of virtue, of beauty, of pattern, of Ideal principle, of quality. This is surely ugliness, utter disgracefulness, unredeemed evil.

The Matter in the Intellectual Realm is an Existent, for there is nothing previous to it except the Beyond-Existence; but what precedes the Matter of this sphere is Existence; by its alienism in regard to the beauty and good of Existence, Matter is therefore a non-existent.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/p/plotinus/p72e/part2.4.html

Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 16:24