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SympathyA History$
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Eric Schliesser

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199928873

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199928873.001.0001

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Plotinus on sympatheia

Plotinus on sympatheia

(p.36) Chapter Two Plotinus on sympatheia

Eyjólfur K. Emilsson

Oxford University Press

Plotinus’s views on sympatheia are the subject of this chapter. His application of this concept builds on Stoic doctrine as well as on Plato’s view as expressed in the Timaeus. There is a very marked difference between Plotinus and the Stoics, however, in that Plotinus entirely rejects the physicalism of the Stoics. Thus, for Plotinus, sympatheia is altogether founded on the unity of an incorporeal soul. He appeals to sympatheia to account for evident causal connections between phenomena that are spatially apart. Such phenomena depend on the unity of the soul, whether that of an ordinary organism or the universe at large. The main spheres of application are the phenomena of astral influence, magic, divination, prayers, and sense perception: the distant senses, sight and hearing work by means of an affection at a distance on the organ of sense. Plotinus is eager to uphold that sympatheia is a natural phenomenon and as such more widespread than the occult phenomena that it is invoked to explain. It concerns things and events in the sensible realm, and does not involve affecting or influencing the higher causes from below.

Keywords:   magic, prayer, divination, sense perception, monopsychism, unity

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