January 11, 2009

One more from Porphyry

"Intellect is not the first principle of all things, for the intellect is a plurality, and before the many can exist there must exist the One. And the plurality of the intellect is quite clear. The thought on which it dwells is not single but always multiple, and between these thoughts and the intellect there is no difference. So if it is the same as they, and they are many, then the intellect must be a plurality.

"The identity of intellect with the intelligibles may be demonstrated in this way. Anything it contemplates must either be held inside itself or be set in some other medium. The fact of its contemplation is clear, for with thought it comes to be, but the intellect bereft of thought is bereft of its very essence. A theory of contemplation must therefore be sought in the experiences that go with the various kinds of cognition.

"The cognitive faculties assembled inside us are perception, imagination and intellect. Whatever is attended to by means of perception is regarded externally: contemplation is not effected by union with its objects, but takes only an imprint from the encounter with them. No identity between the eye and the thing seen is therefore possible, for if it did not stand apart from its object it could not see. The object of touch would likewise cease to exist if it were brought into identity [with what senses it]. From these examples it is clear that perception and all activities involving perception must be outwardly applied, if any perceptible object is to be apprehended."

"The imagination tends outwardly in much the same way. The image generated through its operations is made to stand outside it, where by these same operations it is received as an externalized image. In this way are objects of sense and imagination apprehended: focused on themselves, these faculties would never hit on a single object, be it perceptible or imperceptible in form.

"The intellect's mode of apprehension is different, for its contemplation is focused and carried out on itself. As an 'eye' fixed on its own activities, if it were to go beyond contemplation of these it would intelligize nothing. Now the intellect's relationship to the intelligible is on the one hand analogous to that of sense and the sensible. But the latter contemplates its object outwardly, deriving the sensible from external matter. Intellect on the other hand concentrates on itself. Otherwise its direction would be outward -- as in the opinion of those who rejected the distinction between imagination and intellect as one of mere nomenclature. For they took intellect to be the imaginative faculty of a rational being. But if matter and the nature of bodies were (as in their view) the basis for all things, and it followed that intellect too depended on these, then whence would our contemplation derive its conceptions of beings, corporeal and otherwise? As abstractions, it is obvious that intellectual entities have no location in material space, and that intellection takes them up only insofar as they are intellectual, uniting them with the intellect and its intelligibles. In processing intelligibles the intellect observes itself; its operations take place through its approach to itself. And since the intelligibles are many -- for the intellect dwells on many things and not one -- it necessarily follows that intellect is a plurality. But prior to the many there is the One, and thus the One is necessarily prior to the intellect."

Sentence 43

January 8, 2009

Commentaries on Phaedo 66b-d

OLYMPIODORUS THE YOUNGER: "Imagination [phantasía] is a constant impediment to the operations of our intellect.... And so Odysseus needed the moly and straight talk of Hermes to escape the apparition of Kalypso, which obscured his reason as clouds obscure the sun. Not for nothing is she somewhere called "mirage with trailing robes" -- Kalypso was herself a kálymma [a 'covering']. Accordingly, the Kalypso episode was preceded by Odysseus's landing on the island of Kirke, who (as the daughter of the sun) stands for perception.

"Thus does imagination constitute an impediment to our intellect. And when in the grip of a divine visitation we let imagination intrude, the divine energy lapses. For enthusiasm and imagination are directly opposed. And so Epictetus bids us to say within ourselves: 'You are an apparition, and in no way a true appearance' [Encheiridion I.5] -- and [yet] under the influence of imagination the philosophical choir of Stoics understood God to be a corporeal entity. For imagination is what wraps the incorporeal in a body.

"What, then, does [Aristotle] say? 'Without imagination, there is no thought'? But surely, what the soul knows of universals owes nothing to the activity of the imagination."


DAMASCIUS THE SUCCESSOR: "The existence of knowledge without visualization is made plain by our knowledge of such indivisibles as the unit, the point, and the now, and also by our knowledge of universals (for any imprint surely constitutes an individual 'this'). It is also clear from those things that cannot be visualized at all (such as justice and moderation), and from those self-sufficient forms which are demonstrably indivisible and incorporeal, and from the proofs of incorporeal existence generally. This is how to take this passage: not to fall back on perception and imagination as if they led indivisibly to cognition, for these are what Plato shuns.

"How is it that 'We do not think without imagination'? It's that imagination accompanies thought, not as a complement but as a persecutor, the way a storm accompanies the sailor on the sea."

January 6, 2009

3 Sentences of Porphyry

15. "Memory is not the conservation of mental images, but a putting forth again of what the mind formerly entertained."

16. "The soul contains the reasons for all things, and busies itself with them when called to the task by something else. Either that or it turns to them inwardly, at its own behest. When summoned from without, it tallies sensory perceptions against external facts; when turning inward, it deals with conceptions of the intellect. External perception is not possible without some affection of a living being's sense-organs, and in like manner the operations of the intellect are impossible without imagination. By this analogy, the 'imprint' is accessory to the living sense in the same way that imagination accompanies the soul's intellectual activity."

28. "Containment of the incorporeal within a body cannot be like the beast's enclosure in its den; the body is altogether incapable of encaging or comprehending it in this way. Nor can the incorporeal be contained like air or fluid in a bladder. Rather, it necessarily subsists in its union with outward-tending faculties that direct its descent and implication into a body. In this way does an unspecifiable extension of the incorporeal produce its connection to the body. Nothing binds it but itself, and what liberates it is not the destruction of the body, but its self-guided turn away from sharing the body's sufferings."