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Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, Volume 51$
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Victor Caston

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198795797

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198795797.001.0001

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Plotinus’ Unaffectable Soul

Plotinus’ Unaffectable Soul

(p.231) Plotinus’ Unaffectable Soul
Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, Volume 51

Christopher Isaac Noble

Oxford University Press

In Ennead 3. 6 Plotinus maintains that the soul is unaffectable. This thesis is widely taken to imply that his soul is exempt from change and free from emotional ‘affections’. Yet these claims are difficult to reconcile with evidence that Plotinian souls acquire dispositional states, such as virtues, and are subjects of emotional ‘affections’, such as anger. This paper offers an alternative account. In denying affections to soul, Plotinus is offering a distinction between the soul’s self-actuated motions (or activities) and the passive motions (or affections) of bodies (cf. Phaedrus 245 C–E and Laws 10, 896 A). But this distinction does not imply the soul’s changelessness, since Plotinus takes psychic motions that result in the acquisition of new psychic states to be changes. As for emotional ‘affections’, these (as activities) are merely homonymous with the affections denied to soul, and so do not violate the ban on soul’s affectability.

Keywords:   Plotinus, Neoplatonism, soul, motion, change, activity/passivity, affection, alteration, emotion, desire

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