The Six Enneads, by Plotinus

Second Tractate.

On the Kinds of Being (2).

1. We have examined the proposed “ten genera”: we have discussed also the theory which gathers the total of things into one genus and to this subordinates what may be thought of as its four species. The next step is, naturally, to expound our own views and to try to show the agreement of our conclusions with those of Plato.

Now if we were obliged to consider Being as a unity, the following questions would be unnecessary:

Is there one genus embracing everything, or are there genera which cannot be subsumed under such a unity? Are there first-principles? Are first-principles to be identified with genera, or genera with first-principles? Or is it perhaps rather the case that while not all genera are first-principles, all first-principles are at the same time genera? Or is the converse true? Or again, do both classes overlap, some principles being also genera, and some genera also principles? And do both the sets of categories we have been examining imply that only some principles are genera and some genera principles? or does one of them presuppose that all that belongs to the class of genera belongs also to the class of principles?

Since, however, we affirm that Being is not a unity — the reason for this affirmation is stated by Plato and others — these questions become imperative, once we are satisfied as to the number of genera to be posited and the grounds for our choice.

The subject of our enquiry, then, is the Existent or Existents, and it presents immediately two problems demanding separate analysis:

What do we mean by the Existent? This is naturally the first question to be examined.

What is that which, often taken for Being [for the Existent], is in our view Becoming and never really Being? Note however that these concepts are not to be taken as distinguished from each other in the sense of belonging to a genus, Something, divided into Being and Becoming; and we must not suppose that Plato took this view. It would be absurd to assign Being to the same genus as non-Being: this would be to make one genus of Socrates and his portrait. The division here [between what has Being and what is in Becoming] means a definite marking-off, a setting asunder, leading to the assertion that what takes the appearance of Being is not Being and implying that the nature of True Being has been quite misapprehended. Being, we are taught, must have the attribute of eternity, must be so constituted as never to belie its own nature.

This, then, is the Being of which we shall treat, and in our investigation we shall assume that it is not a unity: subsequently we ask leave to say something on the nature of Becoming and on what it is that comes to be, that is, on the nature of the world of Sense.

2. In asserting that Being is not a unity, we do not mean to imply a definite number of existences; the number may well be infinite: we mean simply that it is many as well as one, that it is, so to speak, a diversified unity, a plurality in unity.

It follows that either the unity so regarded is a unity of genus under which the Existents, involving as they do plurality as well as unity, stand as species; or that while there are more genera than one, yet all are subordinate to a unity; or there may be more genera than one, though no one genus is subordinate to any other, but all with their own subordinates — whether these be lesser genera, or species with individuals for their subordinates — all are elements in one entity, and from their totality the Intellectual realm — that which we know as Being — derives its constitution.

If this last is the truth, we have here not merely genera, but genera which are at the same time principles of Being. They are genera because they have subordinates — other genera, and successively species and individuals; they are also principles, since from this plurality Being takes its rise, constituted in its entirety from these its elements.

Suppose, however, a greater number of origins which by their mere totality comprised, without possessing any subordinates, the whole of Being; these would be first-principles but not genera: it would be as if one constructed the sensible world from the four elements — fire and the others; these elements would be first principles, but they would not be genera, unless the term “genus” is to be used equivocally.

But does this assertion of certain genera which are at the same time first-principles imply that by combining the genera, each with its subordinates, we find the whole of Being in the resultant combination? But then, taken separately, their existence will not be actual but only potential, and they will not be found in isolation.

Suppose, on the other hand, we ignore the genera and combine the particulars: what then becomes of the ignored genera? They will, surely, exist in the purity of their own isolation, and the mixtures will not destroy them. The question of how this result is achieved may be postponed.

For the moment we take it as agreed that there are genera as distinct from principles of Being and that, on another plane, principles [elements] are opposed to compounds. We are thus obliged to show in what relation we speak of genera and why we distinguish them instead of summing them under a unity; for otherwise we imply that their coalescence into a unity is fortuitous, whereas it would be more plausible to dispense with their separate existence.

If all the genera could be species of Being, all individuals without exception being immediately subordinate to these species, then such a unification becomes feasible. But that supposition bespeaks annihilation for the genera: the species will no longer be species; plurality will no longer be subordinated to unity; everything must be the unity, unless there exist some thing or things outside the unity. The One never becomes many — as the existence of species demands — unless there is something distinct from it: it cannot of itself assume plurality, unless we are to think of it as being broken into pieces like some extended body: but even so, the force which breaks it up must be distinct from it: if it is itself to effect the breaking up — or whatever form the division may take — then it is itself previously divided.

For these and many other reasons we must abstain from positing a single genus, and especially because neither Being nor Substance can be the predicate of any given thing. If we do predicate Being, it is only as an accidental attribute; just as when we predicate whiteness of a substance, we are not predicating the Absolute Whiteness.

3. We assert, then, a plurality of Existents, but a plurality not fortuitous and therefore a plurality deriving from a unity.

But even admitting this derivation from a unity — a unity however not predicated of them in respect of their essential being — there is, surely, no reason why each of these Existents, distinct in character from every other, should not in itself stand as a separate genus.

Is, then, this unity external to the genera thus produced, this unity which is their source though it cannot be predicated of them in respect of their essence? it is indeed external; the One is beyond; it cannot, therefore, be included among the genera: it is the [transcendent] source, while they stand side by side as genera. Yet surely the one must somehow be included [among the genera]? No: it is the Existents we are investigating, not that which is beyond Existence.

We pass on, then, to consider that which is included, and find to our surprise the cause included with the things it causes: it is surely strange that causes and effects should be brought into the same genus.

But if the cause is included with its effects only in the sense in which a genus is included with its subordinates, the subordinates being of a different order, so that it cannot be predicated of them whether as their genus or in any other relation, these subordinates are obviously themselves genera with subordinates of their own: you may, for example, be the cause of the operation of walking, but the walking is not subordinate to you in the relation of species to genus; and if walking had nothing prior to it as its genus, but had posteriors, then it would be a [primary] genus and rank among the Existents.

Perhaps, however, it must be utterly denied that unity is even the cause of other things; they should be considered rather as its parts or elements — if the terms may be allowed — their totality constituting a single entity which our thinking divides. All unity though it be, it goes by a wonderful power out into everything; it appears as many and becomes many when there is a motion; the fecundity of its nature causes the One to be no longer one, and we, displaying what we call its parts, consider them each as a unity and make them into “genera,” unaware of our failure to see the whole at once. We display it, then, in parts, though, unable to restrain their natural tendency to coalesce, we bring these parts together again, resign them to the whole and allow them to become a unity, or rather to be a unity.

All this will become clearer in the light of further consideration — when, that is to say, we have ascertained the number of the genera; for thus we shall also discover their causes. It is not enough to deny; we must advance by dint of thought and comprehension. The way is clear:

4. If we had to ascertain the nature of body and the place it holds in the universe, surely we should take some sample of body, say stone, and examine into what constituents it may be divided. There would be what we think of as the substrate of stone, its quantity — in this case, a magnitude; its quality — for example, the colour of stone. As with stone, so with every other body: we should see that in this thing, body, there are three distinguishable characteristics — the pseudo-substance, the quantity, the quality — though they all make one and are only logically trisected, the three being found to constitute the unit thing, body. If motion were equally inherent in its constitution, we should include this as well, and the four would form a unity, the single body depending upon them all for its unity and characteristic nature.

The same method must be applied in examining the Intellectual Substance and the genera and first-principles of the Intellectual sphere.

But we must begin by subtracting what is peculiar to body, its coming-to-be, its sensible nature, its magnitude — that is to say, the characteristics which produce isolation and mutual separation. It is an Intellectual Being we have to consider, an Authentic Existent, possessed of a unity surpassing that of any sensible thing.

Now the wonder comes how a unity of this type can be many as well as one. In the case of body it was easy to concede unity-with-plurality; the one body is divisible to infinity; its colour is a different thing from its shape, since in fact they are separated. But if we take Soul, single, continuous, without extension, of the highest simplicity — as the first effort of the mind makes manifest — how can we expect to find multiplicity here too? We believed that the division of the living being into body and soul was final: body indeed was manifold, composite, diversified; but in soul we imagined we had found a simplex, and boldly made a halt, supposing that we had come to the limit of our course.

Let us examine this soul, presented to us from the Intellectual realm as body from the Sensible. How is its unity a plurality? How is its plurality a unity? Clearly its unity is not that of a composite formed from diverse elements, but that of a single nature comprising a plurality.

This problem attacked and solved, the truth about the genera comprised in Being will thereby, as we asserted, be elucidated also.

5. A first point demanding consideration:

Bodies — those, for example, of animals and plants — are each a multiplicity founded on colour and shape and magnitude, and on the forms and arrangement of parts: yet all these elements spring from a unity. Now this unity must be either Unity-Absolute or some unity less thorough-going and complete, but necessarily more complete than that which emerges, so to speak, from the body itself; this will be a unity having more claim to reality than the unity produced from it, for divergence from unity involves a corresponding divergence from Reality. Since, thus, bodies take their rise from unity, but not “unity” in the sense of the complete unity or Unity-Absolute — for this could never yield discrete plurality — it remains that they be derived from a unity Pluralized. But the creative principle [in bodies] is Soul: Soul therefore is a pluralized unity.

We then ask whether the plurality here consists of the Reason-Principles of the things of process. Or is this unity not something different from the mere sum of these Principles? Certainly Soul itself is one Reason-Principle, the chief of the Reason-Principles, and these are its Act as it functions in accordance with its essential being; this essential being, on the other hand, is the potentiality of the Reason-Principles. This is the mode in which this unity is a plurality, its plurality being revealed by the effect it has upon the external.

But, to leave the region of its effect, suppose we take it at the higher non-effecting part of Soul; is not plurality of powers to be found in this part also? The existence of this higher part will, we may presume, be at once conceded.

But is this existence to be taken as identical with that of the stone? Surely not. Being in the case of the stone is not Being pure and simple, but stone-being: so here; Soul’s being denotes not merely Being but Soul-being.

Is then that “being” distinct from what else goes to complete the essence [or substance] of Soul? Is it to be identified with Bring [the Absolute], while to some differentia of Being is ascribed the production of Soul? No doubt Soul is in a sense Being, and this is not as a man “is” white, but from the fact of its being purely an essence: in other words, the being it possesses it holds from no source external to its own essence.

6. But must it not draw on some source external to its essence, if it is to be conditioned, not only by Being, but by being an entity of a particular character? But if it is conditioned by a particular character, and this character is external to its essence, its essence does not comprise all that makes it Soul; its individuality will determine it; a part of Soul will be essence, but not Soul entire.

Furthermore, what being will it have when we separate it from its other components? The being of a stone? No: the being must be a form of Being appropriate to a source, so to speak, and a first-principle, or rather must take the forms appropriate to all that is comprised in Soul’s being: the being here must, that is, be life, and the life and the being must be one.

One, in the sense of being one Reason-Principle? No; it is the substrate of Soul that is one, though one in such a way as to be also two or more — as many as are the Primaries which constitute Soul. Either, then, it is life as well as Substance, or else it possesses life.

But if life is a thing possessed, the essence of the possessor is not inextricably bound up with life. If, on the contrary, this is not possession, the two, life and Substance, must be a unity.

Soul, then, is one and many — as many as are manifested in that oneness — one in its nature, many in those other things. A single Existent, it makes itself many by what we may call its motion: it is one entire, but by its striving, so to speak, to contemplate itself, it is a plurality; for we may imagine that it cannot bear to be a single Existent, when it has the power to be all that it in fact is. The cause of its appearing as many is this contemplation, and its purpose is the Act of the Intellect; if it were manifested as a bare unity, it could have no intellection, since in that simplicity it would already be identical with the object of its thought.

7. What, then, are the several entities observable in this plurality?

We have found Substance [Essence] and life simultaneously present in Soul. Now, this Substance is a common property of Soul, but life, common to all souls, differs in that it is a property of Intellect also.

Having thus introduced Intellect and its life we make a single genus of what is common to all life, namely, Motion. Substance and the Motion, which constitutes the highest life, we must consider as two genera; for even though they form a unity, they are separable to thought which finds their unity not a unity; otherwise, it could not distinguish them.

Observe also how in other things Motion or life is clearly separated from Being — a separation impossible, doubtless, in True Being, but possible in its shadow and namesake. In the portrait of a man much is left out, and above all the essential thing, life: the “Being” of sensible things just such a shadow of True Being, an abstraction from that Being complete which was life in the Archetype; it is because of this incompleteness that we are able in the Sensible world to separate Being from life and life from Being.

Being, then, containing many species, has but one genus. Motion, however, is to be classed as neither a subordinate nor a supplement of Being but as its concomitant; for we have not found Being serving as substrate to Motion. Motion is being Act; neither is separated from the other except in thought; the two natures are one; for Being is inevitably actual, not potential.

No doubt we observe Motion and Being separately, Motion as contained in Being and Being as involved in Motion, and in the individual they may be mutually exclusive; but the dualism is an affirmation of our thought only, and that thought sees either form as a duality within a unity.

Now Motion, thus manifested in conjunction with Being, does not alter Being’s nature — unless to complete its essential character — and it does retain for ever its own peculiar nature: at once, then, we are forced to introduce Stability. To reject Stability would be more unreasonable than to reject Motion; for Stability is associated in our thought and conception with Being even more than with Motion; unalterable condition, unchanging mode, single Reason-Principle — these are characteristics of the higher sphere.

Stability, then, may also be taken as a single genus. Obviously distinct from Motion and perhaps even its contrary, that it is also distinct from Being may be shown by many considerations. We may especially observe that if Stability were identical with Being, so also would Motion be, with equal right. Why identity in the case of Stability and not in that of Motion, when Motion is virtually the very life and Act both of Substance and of Absolute Being? However, on the very same principle on which we separated Motion from Being with the understanding that it is the same and not the same — that they are two and yet one — we also separate Stability from Being, holding it, yet, inseparable; it is only a logical separation entailing the inclusion among the Existents of this other genus. To identify Stability with Being, with no difference between them, and to identify Being with Motion, would be to identify Stability with Motion through the mediation of Being, and so to make Motion and Stability one and the same thing.

8. We cannot indeed escape positing these three, Being, Motion, Stability, once it is the fact that the Intellect discerns them as separates; and if it thinks of them at all, it posits them by that very thinking; if they are thought, they exist. Things whose existence is bound up with Matter have no being in the Intellect: these three principles are however free of Matter; and in that which goes free of Matter to be thought is to be.

We are in the presence of Intellect undefiled. Fix it firmly, but not with the eyes of the body. You are looking upon the hearth of Reality, within it a sleepless light: you see how it holds to itself, and how it puts apart things that were together, how it lives a life that endures and keeps a thought acting not upon any future but upon that which already is, upon an eternal present — a thought self-centred, bearing on nothing outside of itself.

Now in the Act of Intellect there are energy and motion; in its self-intellection Substance and Being. In virtue of its Being it thinks, and it thinks of itself as Being, and of that as Being, upon which it is, so to speak, pivoted. Not that its Act self-directed ranks as Substance, but Being stands as the goal and origin of that Act, the object of its contemplation though not the contemplation itself: and yet this Act too involves Being, which is its motive and its term. By the fact that its Being is actual and not merely potential, Intellect bridges the dualism [of agent and patient] and abjures separation: it identifies itself with Being and Being with itself.

Being, the most firmly set of all things, that in virtue of which all other things receive Stability, possesses this Stability not as from without but as springing within, as inherent. Stability is the goal of intellection, a Stability which had no beginning, and the state from which intellection was impelled was Stability, though Stability gave it no impulsion; for Motion neither starts from Motion nor ends in Motion. Again, the Form-Idea has Stability, since it is the goal of Intellect: intellection is the Form’s Motion.

Thus all the Existents are one, at once Motion and Stability; Motion and Stability are genera all-pervading, and every subsequent is a particular being, a particular stability and a particular motion.

We have caught the radiance of Being, and beheld it in its three manifestations: Being, revealed by the Being within ourselves; the Motion of Being, revealed by the motion within ourselves; and its Stability revealed by ours. We accommodate our being, motion, stability to those [of the Archetypal], unable however to draw any distinction but finding ourselves in the presence of entities inseparable and, as it were, interfused. We have, however, in a sense, set them a little apart, holding them down and viewing them in isolation; and thus we have observed Being, Stability, Motion — these three, of which each is a unity to itself; in so doing, have we not regarded them as being different from each other? By this posing of three entities, each a unity, we have, surely, found Being to contain Difference.

Again, inasmuch as we restore them to an all-embracing unity, identifying all with unity, do we not see in this amalgamation Identity emerging as a Real Existent?

Thus, in addition to the other three [Being, Motion, Stability], we are obliged to posit the further two, Identity and Difference, so that we have in all five genera. In so doing, we shall not withhold Identity and Difference from the subsequents of the Intellectual order; the thing of Sense has, it is clear, a particular identity and a particular difference, but Identity and Difference have the generic status independently of the particular.

They will, moreover, be primary genera, because nothing can be predicated of them as denoting their essential nature. Nothing, of course we mean, but Being; but this Being is not their genus, since they cannot be identified with any particular being as such. Similarly, Being will not stand as genus to Motion or Stability, for these also are not its species. Beings [or Existents] comprise not merely what are to be regarded as species of the genus Being, but also participants in Being. On the other hand, Being does not participate in the other four principles as its genera: they are not prior to Being; they do not even attain to its level.

9. The above considerations — to which others, doubtless, might be added — suffice to show that these five are primary genera. But that they are the only primary genera, that there are no others, how can we be confident of this? Why do we not add unity to them? Quantity? Quality? Relation, and all else included by our various forerunners?

As for unity: If the term is to mean a unity in which nothing else is present, neither Soul nor Intellect nor anything else, this can be predicated of nothing, and therefore cannot be a genus. If it denotes the unity present in Being, in which case we predicate Being of unity, this unity is not primal.

Besides, unity, containing no differences, cannot produce species, and not producing species, cannot be a genus. You cannot so much as divide unity: to divide it would be to make it many. Unity, aspiring to be a genus, becomes a plurality and annuls itself.

Again, you must add to it to divide it into species; for there can be no differentiae in unity as there are in Substance. The mind accepts differences of Being, but differences within unity there cannot be. Every differentia introduces a duality destroying the unity; for the addition of any one thing always does away with the previous quantity.

It may be contended that the unity which is implicit in Being and in Motion is common to all other things, and that therefore Being and unity are inseparable. But we rejected the idea that Being is a genus comprising all things, on the ground that these things are not beings in the sense of the Absolute Being, but beings in another mode: in the same way, we assert, unity is not a genus, the Primary Unity having a character distinct from all other unities.

Admitted that not everything suffices to produce a genus, it may yet be urged that there is an Absolute or Primary Unity corresponding to the other primaries. But if Being and unity are identified, then since Being has already been included among the genera, it is but a name that is introduced in unity: if, however, they are both unity, some principle is implied: if there is anything in addition [to this principle], unity is predicated of this added thing; if there is nothing added, the reference is again to that unity predicated of nothing. If however the unity referred to is that which accompanies Being, we have already decided that it is not unity in the primary sense.

But is there any reason why this less complete unity should not still possess Primary Being, seeing that even its posterior we rank as Being, and “Being” in the sense of the Primary Being? The reason is that the prior of this Being cannot itself be Being — or else, if the prior is Being, this is not Primary Being: but the prior is unity; [therefore unity is not Being].

Furthermore, unity, abstracted from Being, has no differentiae.

Again, even taking it as bound up with Being: If it is a consequent of Being, then it is a consequent of everything, and therefore the latest of things: but the genus takes priority. If it is simultaneous with Being, it is simultaneous with everything: but a genus is not thus simultaneous. If it is prior to Being, it is of the nature of a Principle, and therefore will belong only to Being; but if it serves as Principle to Being, it is not its genus: if it is not genus to Being, it is equally not a genus of anything else; for that would make Being a genus of all other things.

In sum, the unity exhibited in Being on the one hand approximates to Unity-Absolute and on the other tends to identify itself with Being: Being is a unity in relation to the Absolute, is Being by virtue of its sequence upon that Absolute: it is indeed potentially a plurality, and yet it remains a unity and rejecting division refuses thereby to become a genus.

10. In what sense is the particular manifestation of Being a unity? Clearly, in so far as it is one thing, it forfeits its unity; with “one” and “thing” we have already plurality. No species can be a unity in more than an equivocal sense: a species is a plurality, so that the “unity” here is that of an army or a chorus. The unity of the higher order does not belong to species; unity is, thus, ambiguous, not taking the same form in Being and in particular beings.

It follows that unity is not a genus. For a genus is such that wherever it is affirmed its opposites cannot also be affirmed; anything of which unity and its opposites are alike affirmed — and this implies the whole of Being — cannot have unity as a genus. Consequently unity can be affirmed as a genus neither of the primary genera — since the unity of Being is as much a plurality as a unity, and none of the other [primary] genera is a unity to the entire exclusion of plurality — nor of things posterior to Being, for these most certainly are a plurality. In fact, no genus with all its items can be a unity; so that unity to become a genus must forfeit its unity. The unit is prior to number; yet number it must be, if it is to be a genus.

Again, the unit is a unit from the point of view of number: if it is a unit generically, it will not be a unit in the strict sense.

Again, just as the unit, appearing in numbers, not regarded as a genus predicated of them, but is thought of as inherent in them, so also unity, though present in Being, cannot stand as genus to Being or to the other genera or to anything whatever.

Further, as the simplex must be the principle of the non-simplex, though not its genus — for then the non-simplex too would be simplex — so it stands with unity; if unity is a Principle; it cannot be a genus to its subsequents, and therefore cannot be a genus of Being or of other things. If it is nevertheless to be a genus, everything of which it is a genus must be taken as a unit — a notion which implies the separation of unity from substance: it will not, therefore, be all-embracing. just as Being is not a genus of everything but only of species each of which is a being, so too unity will be a genus of species each of which is a unity. But that raises the question of what difference there is between one thing and another in so far as they are both units, corresponding to the difference between one being and another.

Unity, it may be suggested, is divided in its conjunction with Being and Substance; Being because it is so divided is considered a genus — the one genus manifested in many particulars; why then should not unity be similarly a genus, inasmuch as its manifestations are as many as those of Substance and it is divided into as many particulars?

In the first place, the mere fact that an entity inheres in many things is not enough to make it a genus of those things or of anything else: in a word, a common property need not be a genus. The point inherent in a line is not a genus of lines, or a genus at all; nor again, as we have observed, is the unity latent in numbers a genus either of the numbers or of anything else: genus demands that the common property of diverse objects involve also differences arising out of its own character, that it form species, and that it belong to the essence of the objects. But what differences can there be in unity? What species does it engender? If it produces the same species as we find in connection with Being, it must be identical with Being: only the name will differ, and the term Being may well suffice.

11. We are bound however to enquire under what mode unity is contained in Being. How is what is termed the “dividing” effected — especially the dividing of the genera Being and unity? Is it the same division, or is it different in the two cases?

First then: In what sense, precisely, is any given particular called and known to be a unity? Secondly: Does unity as used of Being carry the same connotation as in reference to the Absolute?

Unity is not identical in all things; it has a different significance according as it is applied to the Sensible and the Intellectual realms — Being too, of course, comports such a difference — and there is a difference in the unity affirmed among sensible things as compared with each other; the unity is not the same in the cases of chorus, camp, ship, house; there is a difference again as between such discrete things and the continuous. Nevertheless, all are representations of the one exemplar, some quite remote, others more effective: the truer likeness is in the Intellectual; Soul is a unity, and still more is Intellect a unity and Being a unity.

When we predicate Being of a particular, do we thereby predicate of it unity, and does the degree of its unity tally with that of its being? Such correspondence is accidental: unity is not proportionate to Being; less unity need not mean less Being. An army or a choir has no less Being than a house, though less unity.

It would appear, then, that the unity of a particular is related not so much to Being as to a standard of perfection: in so far as the particular attains perfection, so far it is a unity; and the degree of unity depends on this attainment. The particular aspires not simply to Being, but to Being-in-perfection: it is in this strain towards their perfection that such beings as do not possess unity strive their utmost to achieve it.

Things of nature tend by their very nature to coalesce with each other and also to unify each within itself; their movement is not away from but towards each other and inwards upon themselves. Souls, moreover, seem to desire always to pass into a unity over and above the unity of their own substance. Unity in fact confronts them on two sides: their origin and their goal alike are unity; from unity they have arisen, and towards unity they strive. Unity is thus identical with Goodness [is the universal standard of perfection]; for no being ever came into existence without possessing, from that very moment, an irresistible tendency towards unity.

From natural things we turn to the artificial. Every art in all its operation aims at whatsoever unity its capacity and its models permit, though Being most achieves unity since it is closer at the start.

That is why in speaking of other entities we assert the name only, for example man; when we say “one man,” we have in mind more than one; and if we affirm unity of him in any other connection, we regard it as supplementary [to his essence]: but when we speak of Being as a whole we say it is one Being without presuming that it is anything but a unity; we thereby show its close association with Goodness.

Thus for Being, as for the others, unity turns out to be, in some sense, Principle and Term, not however in the same sense as for things of the physical order — a discrepancy leading us to infer that even in unity there are degrees of priority.

How, then, do we characterize the unity [thus diverse] in Being? Are we to think of it as a common property seen alike in all its parts? In the first place, the point is common to lines and yet is not their genus, and this unity we are considering may also be common to numbers and not be their genus — though, we need hardly say, the unity of Unity-Absolute is not that of the numbers, one, two and the rest. Secondly, in Being there is nothing to prevent the existence of prior and posterior, simple and composite: but unity, even if it be identical in all the manifestations of Being, having no differentiae can produce no species; but producing no species it cannot be a genus.

12. Enough upon that side of the question. But how does the perfection [goodness] of numbers, lifeless things, depend upon their particular unity? Just as all other inanimates find their perfection in their unity.

If it should be objected that numbers are simply non-existent, we should point out that our discussion is concerned [not with units as such, but] with beings considered from the aspect of their unity.

We may again be asked how the point — supposing its independent existence granted — participates in perfection. If the point is chosen as an inanimate object, the question applies to all such objects: but perfection does exist in such things, for example in a circle: the perfection of the circle will be perfection for the point; it will aspire to this perfection and strive to attain it, as far as it can, through the circle.

But how are the five genera to be regarded? Do they form particulars by being broken up into parts? No; the genus exists as a whole in each of the things whose genus it is.

But how, at that, can it remain a unity? The unity of a genus must be considered as a whole-in-many.

Does it exist then only in the things participating in it? No; it has an independent existence of its own as well. But this will, no doubt, become clearer as we proceed.

13. We turn to ask why Quantity is not included among the primary genera, and Quality also.

Quantity is not among the primaries, because these are permanently associated with Being. Motion is bound up with Actual Being [Being-in-Act], since it is its life; with Motion, Stability too gained its foothold in Reality; with these are associated Difference and Identity, so that they also are seen in conjunction with Being. But number [the basis of Quantity] is a posterior. It is posterior not only with regard to these genera but also within itself; in number the posterior is divided from the prior; this is a sequence in which the posteriors are latent in the priors [and do not appear simultaneously]. Number therefore cannot be included among the primary genera; whether it constitutes a genus at all remains to be examined.

Magnitude [extended quantity] is in a still higher degree posterior and composite, for it contains within itself number, line and surface. Now if continuous magnitude derives its quantity from number, and number is not a genus, how can magnitude hold that status? Besides, magnitudes, like numbers, admit of priority and posteriority.

If, then, Quantity be constituted by a common element in both number and magnitude, we must ascertain the nature of this common element, and consider it, once discovered, as a posterior genus, not as one of the Primaries: thus failing of primary status, it must be related, directly or indirectly, to one of the Primaries.

We may take it as clear that it is the nature of Quantity to indicate a certain quantum, and to measure the quantum of the particular; Quantity is moreover, in a sense, itself a quantum. But if the quantum is the common element in number and magnitude, either we have number as a primary with magnitude derived from it, or else number must consist of a blending of Motion and Stability, while magnitude will be a form of Motion or will originate in Motion, Motion going forth to infinity and Stability creating the unit by checking that advance.

But the problem of the origin of number and magnitude, or rather of how they subsist and are conceived, must be held over. It may, thus, be found that number is among the primary genera, while magnitude is posterior and composite; or that number belongs to the genus Stability, while magnitude must be consigned to Motion. But we propose to discuss all this at a later stage.

14. Why is Quality, again, not included among the Primaries? Because like Quantity it is a posterior, subsequent to Substance. Primary Substance must necessarily contain Quantity and Quality as its consequents; it cannot owe its subsistence to them, or require them for its completion: that would make it posterior to Quality and Quantity.

Now in the case of composite substances — those constituted from diverse elements — number and qualities provide a means of differentiation: the qualities may be detached from the common core around which they are found to group themselves. But in the primary genera there is no distinction to be drawn between simples and composites; the difference is between simples and those entities which complete not a particular substance but Substance as such. A particular substance may very well receive completion from Quality, for though it already has Substance before the accession of Quality, its particular character is external to Substance. But in Substance itself all the elements are substantial.

Nevertheless, we ventured to assert elsewhere that while the complements of Substance are only by analogy called qualities, yet accessions of external origin and subsequent to Substance are really qualities; that, further, the properties which inhere in substances are their activities [Acts], while those which are subsequent are merely modifications [or Passions]: we now affirm that the attributes of the particular substance are never complementary to Substance [as such]; an accession of Substance does not come to the substance of man qua man; he is, on the contrary, Substance in a higher degree before he arrives at differentiation, just as he is already “living being” before he passes into the rational species.

15. How then do the four genera complete Substance without qualifying it or even particularizing it?

It has been observed that Being is primary, and it is clear that none of the four — Motion, Stability, Difference, Identity — is distinct from it. That this Motion does not produce Quality is doubtless also clear, but a word or two will make it clearer still.

If Motion is the Act of Substance, and Being and the Primaries in general are its Act, then Motion is not an accidental attribute: as the Act of what is necessarily actual [what necessarily involves Act], it is no longer to be considered as the complement of Substance but as Substance itself. For this reason, then, it has not been assigned to a posterior class, or referred to Quality, but has been made contemporary with Being.

The truth is not that Being first is and then takes Motion, first is and then acquires Stability: neither Stability nor Motion is a mere modification of Being. Similarly, Identity and Difference are not later additions: Being did not grow into plurality; its very unity was a plurality; but plurality implies Difference, and unity-in-plurality involves Identity.

Substance [Real Being] requires no more than these five constituents; but when we have to turn to the lower sphere, we find other principles giving rise no longer to Substance (as such) but to quantitative Substance and qualitative: these other principles may be regarded as genera but not primary genera.

16. As for Relation, manifestly an offshoot, how can it be included among primaries? Relation is of thing ranged against thing; it is not self-pivoted, but looks outward.

Place and Date are still more remote from Being. Place denotes the presence of one entity within another, so that it involves a duality; but a genus must be a unity, not a composite. Besides, Place does not exist in the higher sphere, and the present discussion is concerned with the realm of True Being.

Whether time is There, remains to be considered. Apparently it has less claim than even Place. If it is a measurement, and that a measurement of Motion, we have two entities; the whole is a composite and posterior to Motion; therefore it is not on an equal footing with Motion in our classification.

Action and Passivity presuppose Motion; if, then, they exist in the higher sphere, they each involve a duality; neither is a simplex.

Possession is a duality, while Situation, as signifying one thing situated in another, is a threefold conception.

17. Why are not beauty, goodness and the virtues, together with knowledge and intelligence, included among the primary genera?

If by goodness we mean The First — what we call the Principle of Goodness, the Principle of which we can predicate nothing, giving it this name only because we have no other means of indicating it — then goodness, clearly, can be the genus of nothing: this principle is not affirmed of other things; if it were, each of these would be Goodness itself. The truth is that it is prior to Substance, not contained in it. If, on the contrary, we mean goodness as a quality, no quality can be ranked among the primaries.

Does this imply that the nature of Being is not good? Not good, to begin with, in the sense in which The First is good, but in another sense of the word: moreover, Being does not possess its goodness as a quality but as a constituent.

But the other genera too, we said, are constituents of Being, and are regarded as genera because each is a common property found in many things. If then goodness is similarly observed in every part of Substance or Being, or in most parts, why is goodness not a genus, and a primary genus? Because it is not found identical in all the parts of Being, but appears in degrees, first, second and subsequent, whether it be because one part is derived from another — posterior from prior — or because all are posterior to the transcendent Unity, different parts of Being participating in it in diverse degrees corresponding to their characteristic natures.

If however we must make goodness a genus as well [as a transcendent source], it will be a posterior genus, for goodness is posterior to Substance and posterior to what constitutes the generic notion of Being, however unfailingly it be found associated with Being; but the Primaries, we decided, belong to Being as such, and go to form Substance.

This indeed is why we posit that which transcends Being, since Being and Substance cannot but be a plurality, necessarily comprising the genera enumerated and therefore forming a one-and-many.

It is true that we do not hesitate to speak of the goodness inherent in Being” when we are thinking of that Act by which Being tends, of its nature, towards the One: thus, we affirm goodness of it in the sense that it is thereby moulded into the likeness of The Good. But if this “goodness inherent in Being” is an Act directed toward The Good, it is the life of Being: but this life is Motion, and Motion is already one of the genera.

18. To pass to the consideration of beauty:

If by beauty we mean the primary Beauty, the same or similar arguments will apply here as to goodness: and if the beauty in the Ideal-Form is, as it were, an effulgence [from that primary Beauty], we may observe that it is not identical in all participants and that an effulgence is necessarily a posterior.

If we mean the beauty which identifies itself with Substance, this has been covered in our treatment of Substance.

If, again, we mean beauty in relation to ourselves as spectators in whom it produces a certain experience, this Act [of production] is Motion — and none the less Motion by being directed towards Absolute Beauty.

Knowledge again, is Motion originating in the self; it is the observation of Being — an Act, not a State: hence it too falls under Motion, or perhaps more suitably under Stability, or even under both; if under both, knowledge must be thought of as a complex, and if a complex, is posterior.

Intelligence, since it connotes intelligent Being and comprises the total of existence, cannot be one of the genera: the true Intelligence [or Intellect] is Being taken with all its concomitants [with the other four genera]; it is actually the sum of all the Existents: Being on the contrary, stripped of its concomitants, may be counted as a genus and held to an element in Intelligence.

Justice and self-control [sophrosyne], and virtue in general — these are all various Acts of Intelligence: they are consequently not primary genera; they are posterior to a genus, that is to say, they are species.

19. Having established our four primary genera, it remains for us to enquire whether each of them of itself alone produces species. And especially, can Being be divided independently, that is without drawing upon the other genera? Surely not: the differentiae must come from outside the genus differentiated: they must be differentiae of Being proper, but cannot be identical with it.

Where then is it to find them? Obviously not in non-beings. If then in beings, and the three genera are all that is left, clearly it must find them in these, by conjunction and couplement with these, which will come into existence simultaneously with itself.

But if all come into existence simultaneously, what else is produced but that amalgam of all Existents which we have just considered [Intellect]? How can other things exist over and above this all-including amalgam? And if all the constituents of this amalgam are genera, how do they produce species? How does Motion produce species of Motion? Similarly with Stability and the other genera.

A word of warning must here be given against sinking the various genera in their species; and also against reducing the genus to a mere predicate, something merely seen in the species. The genus must exist at once in itself and in its species; it blends, but it must also be pure; in contributing along with other genera to form Substance, it must not destroy itself. There are problems here that demand investigation.

But since we identified the amalgam of the Existents [or primary genera] with the particular intellect, Intellect as such being found identical with Being or Substance, and therefore prior to all the Existents, which may be regarded as its species or members, we may infer that the intellect, considered as completely unfolded, is a subsequent.

Our treatment of this problem may serve to promote our investigation; we will take it as a kind of example, and with it embark upon our enquiry.

20. We may thus distinguish two phases of Intellect, in one of which it may be taken as having no contact whatever with particulars and no Act upon anything; thus it is kept apart from being a particular intellect. In the same way science is prior to any of its constituent species, and the specific science is prior to any of its component parts: being none of its particulars, it is the potentiality of all; each particular, on the other hand, is actually itself, but potentially the sum of all the particulars: and as with the specific science, so with science as a whole. The specific sciences lie in potentiality in science the total; even in their specific character they are potentially the whole; they have the whole predicated of them and not merely a part of the whole. At the same time, science must exist as a thing in itself, unharmed by its divisions.

So with Intellect. Intellect as a whole must be thought of as prior to the intellects actualized as individuals; but when we come to the particular intellects, we find that what subsists in the particulars must be maintained from the totality. The Intellect subsisting in the totality is a provider for the particular intellects, is the potentiality of them: it involves them as members of its universality, while they in turn involve the universal Intellect in their particularity, just as the particular science involves science the total.

The great Intellect, we maintain, exists in itself and the particular intellects in themselves; yet the particulars are embraced in the whole, and the whole in the particulars. The particular intellects exist by themselves and in another, the universal by itself and in those. All the particulars exist potentially in that self-existent universal, which actually is the totality, potentially each isolated member: on the other hand, each particular is actually what it is [its individual self], potentially the totality. In so far as what is predicated of them is their essence, they are actually what is predicated of them; but where the predicate is a genus, they are that only potentially. On the other hand, the universal in so far as it is a genus is the potentiality of all its subordinate species, though none of them in actuality; all are latent in it, but because its essential nature exists in actuality before the existence of the species, it does not submit to be itself particularized. If then the particulars are to exist in actuality — to exist, for example, as species — the cause must lie in the Act radiating from the universal.

21. How then does the universal Intellect produce the particulars while, in virtue of its Reason-Principle, remaining a unity? In other words, how do the various grades of Being, as we call them, arise from the four primaries? Here is this great, this infinite Intellect, not given to idle utterance but to sheer intellection, all-embracing, integral, no part, no individual: how, we ask, can it possibly be the source of all this plurality?

Number at all events it possesses in the objects of its contemplation: it is thus one and many, and the many are powers, wonderful powers, not weak but, being pure, supremely great and, so to speak, full to overflowing powers in very truth, knowing no limit, so that they are infinite, infinity, Magnitude-Absolute.

As we survey this Magnitude with the beauty of Being within it and the glory and light around it, all contained in Intellect, we see, simultaneously, Quality already in bloom, and along with the continuity of its Act we catch a glimpse of Magnitude at Rest. Then, with one, two and three in Intellect, Magnitude appears as of three dimensions, with Quantity entire. Quantity thus given and Quality, both merging into one and, we may almost say, becoming one, there is at once shape. Difference slips in to divide both Quantity and Quality, and so we have variations in shape and differences of Quality. Identity, coming in with Difference, creates equality, Difference meanwhile introducing into Quantity inequality, whether in number or in magnitude: thus are produced circles and squares, and irregular figures, with number like and unlike, odd and even.

The life of Intellect is intelligent, and its activity [Act] has no failing-point: hence it excludes none of the constituents we have discovered within it, each one of which we now see as an intellectual function, and all of them possessed by virtue of its distinctive power and in the mode appropriate to Intellect.

But though Intellect possesses them all by way of thought, this is not discursive thought: nothing it lacks that is capable of serving as Reason-Principle, while it may itself be regarded as one great and perfect Reason-Principle, holding all the Principles as one and proceeding from its own Primaries, or rather having eternally proceeded, so that “proceeding” is never true of it. It is a universal rule that whatever reasoning discovers to exist in Nature is to be found in Intellect apart from all ratiocination: we conclude that Being has so created Intellect that its reasoning is after a mode similar to that of the Principles which produce living beings; for the Reason-Principles, prior to reasoning though they are, act invariably in the manner which the most careful reasoning would adopt in order to attain the best results.

What conditions, then, are we to think of as existing in that realm which is prior to Nature and transcends the Principles of Nature? In a sphere in which Substance is not distinct from Intellect, and neither Being nor Intellect is of alien origin, it is obvious that Being is best served by the domination of Intellect, so that Being is what Intellect wills and is: thus alone can it be authentic and primary Being; for if Being is to be in any sense derived, its derivation must be from Intellect.

Being, thus, exhibits every shape and every quality; it is not seen as a thing determined by some one particular quality; there could not be one only, since the principle of Difference is there; and since Identity is equally there, it must be simultaneously one and many. And so Being is; such it always was: unity-with-plurality appears in all its species, as witness all the variations of magnitude, shape and quality. Clearly nothing may legitimately be excluded [from Being], for the whole must be complete in the higher sphere which, otherwise, would not be the whole.

Life, too, burst upon Being, or rather was inseparably bound up with it; and thus it was that all living things of necessity came to be. Body too was there, since Matter and Quality were present.

Everything exists forever, unfailing, involved by very existence in eternity. Individuals have their separate entities, but are at one in the [total] unity. The complex, so to speak, of them all, thus combined, is Intellect; and Intellect, holding all existence within itself, is a complete living being, and the essential Idea of Living Being. In so far as Intellect submits to contemplation by its derivative, becoming an Intelligible, it gives that derivative the right also to be called “living being.”

22. We may here adduce the pregnant words of Plato: “Inasmuch as Intellect perceives the variety and plurality of the Forms present in the complete Living Being. . . . ” The words apply equally to Soul; Soul is subsequent to Intellect, yet by its very nature it involves Intellect in itself and perceives more clearly in that prior. There is Intellect in our intellect also, which again perceives more clearly in its prior, for while of itself it merely perceives, in the prior it also perceives its own perception.

This intellect, then, to which we ascribe perception, though not divorced from the prior in which it originates, evolves plurality out of unity and has bound up with it the principle of Difference: it therefore takes the form of a plurality-in-unity. A plurality-in-unity, it produces the many intellects by the dictate of its very nature.

It is certainly no numerical unity, no individual thing; for whatever you find in that sphere is a species, since it is divorced from Matter. This may be the import of the difficult words of Plato, that Substance is broken up into an infinity of parts. So long as the division proceeds from genus to species, infinity is not reached; a limit is set by the species generated: the lowest species, however — that which is not divided into further species — may be more accurately regarded as infinite. And this is the meaning of the words: “to relegate them once and for all to infinity and there abandon them.” As for particulars, they are, considered in themselves, infinite, but come under number by being embraced by the [total] unity.

Now Soul has Intellect for its prior, is therefore circumscribed by number down to its ultimate extremity; at that point infinity is reached. The particular intellect, though all-embracing, is a partial thing, and the collective Intellect and its various manifestations [all the particular intellects] are in actuality parts of that part. Soul too is a part of a part, though in the sense of being an Act [actuality] derived from it. When the Act of Intellect is directed upon itself, the result is the manifold [particular] intellects; when it looks outwards, Soul is produced.

If Soul acts as a genus or a species, the various [particular] souls must act as species. Their activities [Acts] will be twofold: the activity upward is Intellect; that which looks downward constitutes the other powers imposed by the particular Reason-Principle [the Reason-Principle of the being ensouled]; the lowest activity of Soul is in its contact with Matter to which it brings Form.

This lower part of Soul does not prevent the rest from being entirely in the higher sphere: indeed what we call the lower part is but an image of Soul: not that it is cut off from Soul; it is like the reflection in the mirror, depending upon the original which stands outside of it.

But we must keep in mind what this “outside” means. Up to the production of the image, the Intellectual realm is wholly and exclusively composed of Intellectual Beings: in the same way the Sensible world, representing that in so far as it is able to retain the likeness of a living being, is itself a living being: the relation is like that of a portrait or reflection to the original which is regarded as prior to the water or the painting reproducing it.

The representation, notice, in the portrait or on the water is not of the dual being, but of the one element [Matter] as formed by the other [Soul]. Similarly, this likeness of the Intellectual realm carries images, not of the creative element, but of the entities contained in that creator, including Man with every other living being: creator and created are alike living beings, though of a different life, and both coexist in the Intellectual realm.

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