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The One and Its Relation to the Intellect in Plotinus: A Commentary on Selected Texts.

Bussanich, John. The One and Its Relation to the Intellect in Plotinus. A Commentary on Selected Texts. Philosophia Antiqua, A series of Studies on Ancient Philosophy, vol. 49. Leiden: E. J. Rrill, 1990. 258 pp. $90.00--The study of Plotinus's Enneads is beset with difficulties. In this book (originally a doctoral dissertation), Bussanich examines nine important passages from books 3, 5, and 6 on the relation of the One to the Intellect. The passages are relatively short (from half a page to three or four pages) but provide material for a detailed philological and philosophical commentary.

Bussanich begins each of his nine chapters with a very short introduction, presents a translation of the passage to be discussed and then comments on it. His translation stays close to the original text. His option to select a number of passages concerning the same theme has certain advantages. A disadvantage is that it is difficult to isolate one theme from the rest of the Enneads. The commentary presents the interpretations of the leading scholars in the field, followed by an evaluation, and sometimes by the author's own new solution.

The One is an overflowing spring, remaining itself while producing what comes after it. The procession of the Intellect raises many problems, as does its relation to Soul. The Intellect received the power to produce from the Good and breaks into multiplicity. In his commentary on Ennead 5.5.7-8 (Chap. 5) Bussanich discusses Plotinus's metaphysics of light and its historical background as well as negative theology. In its conversion the Intellect turns away from the intelligible objects to go inwards. The distinction between subject and object disappears; the intellect itself becomes light. This passus is a fine account of natural mystical experience. We would suggest that the "theophanic event" described by Plotinus is likely to be the intuition of one's own being in its deepest core. In this way the unity of all things (monism) is experienced.

Chapter 7 comments on Enneads Bussanich dwells on the assertion that the sold negates the intellect in its ascent to mystical union. He is inclined to think (contra the common opinion) that the soul may lose its lower self in this union (p. 189) and may cease to exist as a distinct being: Plotinus's mysticism is monistic (p. 190). Chapter 8 deals with the properties of the Good and its will. Chapter 9 examines the identity of procession and conversion when the self becomes conscious of itself as preintellectual entity.

The commentary contains a wealth of information. Bussanich considers the historical sources and mentions the relevant modem interpretations, but his notes are somewhat disappointing with regard to the philosophy of Plotinus. His treatment of the text of Plotinus is conservative and deserves praise. Future students of Plotinus will have to take into account this learned and carefully written work. What is lacking, though, is an extensive doctrinal summary of the conclusions arrived at.
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Author:Elders, Leo J.
Publication:The Review of Metaphysics
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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