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The Six Enneads by Plotinus


1. Are not Being and Reality (to on and he ousia) distinct; must we not envisage Being as the substance stripped of all else, while Reality is this same thing, Being, accompanied by the others -- Movement, Rest, Identity, Difference -- so that these are the specific constituents of Reality?

The universal fabric, then, is Reality in which Being, Movement, and so on are separate constituents.

Now Movement has Being as an accident and therefore should have Reality as an accident; or is it something serving to the completion of Reality?

No: Movement is a Reality; everything in the Supreme is a Reality.

Why, then, does not Reality reside, equally, in this sphere?

In the Supreme there is Reality because all things are one; ours is the sphere of images whose separation produces grades of difference. Thus in the spermatic unity all the human members are present undistinguishably; there is no separation of head and hand: their distinct existence begins in the life here, whose content is image, not Authentic Existence.

And are the distinct Qualities in the Authentic Realm to be explained in the same way? Are they differing Realities centred in one Reality or gathered round Being -- differences which constitute Realities distinct from each other within the common fact of Reality?

This is sound enough; but it does not apply to all the qualities of this sphere, some of which, no doubt, are differentiations of Reality -- such as the quality of two-footedness or four-footedness -- but others are not such differentiations of Reality and, because they are not so, must be called qualities and nothing more.

On the other hand, one and the same thing may be sometimes a differentiation of Reality and sometimes not -- a differentiation when it is a constitutive element, and no differentiation in some other thing, where it is not a constitutive element but an accidental. The distinction may be seen in the [constitutive] whiteness of a swan or of ceruse and the whiteness which in a man is an accidental.

Where whiteness belongs to the very Reason-Form of the thing it is a constitutive element and not a quality; where it is a superficial appearance it is a quality.

In other words, qualification may be distinguished. We may think of a qualification that is of the very substance of the thing, something exclusively belonging to it. And there is a qualifying that is nothing more, [not constituting but simply] giving some particular character to the real thing; in this second case the qualification does not produce any alteration towards Reality or away from it; the Reality has existed fully constituted before the incoming of the qualification which -- whether in soul or body -- merely introduces some state from outside, and by this addition elaborates the Reality into the particular thing.

But what if [the superficial appearance such as] the visible whiteness in ceruse is constitutive? In the swan the whiteness is not constitutive since a swan need not be white: it is constitutive in ceruse, just as warmth is constitutive of the Reality, fire.

No doubt we may be told that the Reality in fire is [not warmth but] fieriness and in ceruse an analogous abstraction: yet the fact remains that in visible fire warmth or fieriness is constitutive and in the ceruse whiteness.

Thus the same entities are represented at once as being not qualities but constituents of Reality and not constituents but qualities.

Now it is absurd to talk as if one identical thing changed its own nature according to whether it is present as a constituent or as an accidental.

The truth is that while the Reason-Principles producing these entities contain nothing but what is of the nature of Reality, yet only in the Intellectual Realm do the produced things possess real existence: here they are not real; they are qualified.

And this is the starting-point of an error we constantly make: in our enquiries into things we let realities escape us and fasten on what is mere quality. Thus fire is not the thing we so name from the observation of certain qualities present; fire is a Reality [not a combination of material phenomena]; the phenomena observed here and leading us to name fire call us away from the authentic thing; a quality is erected into the very matter of definition -- a procedure, however, reasonable enough in regard to things of the realm of sense which are in no case realities but accidents of Reality.

And this raises the question how Reality can ever spring from what are not Realities.

It has been shown that a thing coming into being cannot be identical with its origins: it must here be added that nothing thus coming into being [no |thing of process|] can be a Reality.

Then how do we assert the rising in the Supreme of what we have called Reality from what is not Reality [i.e., from the pure Being which is above Reality]?

The Reality there -- possessing Authentic Being in the strictest sense, with the least admixture -- is Reality by existing among the differentiations of the Authentic Being; or, better, Reality is affirmed in the sense that with the existence of the Supreme is included its Act so that Reality seems to be a perfectionment of the Authentic Being, though in the truth it is a diminution; the produced thing is deficient by the very addition, by being less simplex, by standing one step away from the Authentic.

2. But we must enquire into Quality in itself: to know its nature is certainly the way to settle our general question.

The first point is to assure ourselves whether or not one and the same thing may be held to be sometimes a mere qualification and sometimes a constituent of Reality -- not staying on the point that qualification could not be constitutive of a Reality but of a qualified Reality only.

Now in a Reality possessing a determined quality, the Reality and the fact of existence precede the qualified Reality.

What, then, in the case of fire is the Reality which precedes the qualified Reality?

Its mere body, perhaps? If so, body being the Reality, fire is a warmed body; and the total thing is not the Reality; and the fire has warmth as a man might have a snub nose.

Rejecting its warmth, its glow, its lightness -- all which certainly do seem to be qualities -- and its resistance, there is left only its extension by three dimensions: in other words, its Matter is its Reality.

But that cannot be held: surely the form is much more likely than the Matter to be the Reality.

But is not the Form of Quality?

No, the Form is not a Quality: it is a Reason-Principle.

And the outcome of this Reason-Principle entering into the underlying Matter, what is that?

Certainly not what is seen and burns, for that is the something in which these qualities inhere.

We might define the burning as an Act springing from the Reason-Principle: then the warming and lighting and other effects of fire will be its Acts and we still have found no foothold for its quality.

Such completions of a Reality cannot be called qualities since they are its Acts emanating from the Reason-Principles and from the essential powers. A quality is something persistently outside Reality; it cannot appear as Reality in one place after having figured in another as quality; its function is to bring in the something more after the Reality is established, such additions as virtue, vice, ugliness, beauty, health, a certain shape. On this last, however, it may be remarked that triangularity and quadrangularity are not in themselves qualities, but there is quality when a thing is triangular by having been brought to that shape; the quality is not the triangularity but the patterning to it. The case is the same with the arts and avocations.

Thus: Quality is a condition superadded to a Reality whose existence does not depend upon it, whether this something more be a later acquirement or an accompaniment from the first; it is something in whose absence the Reality would still be complete. It will sometimes come and go, sometimes be inextricably attached, so that there are two forms of Quality, the moveable and the fixed.

3. The Whiteness, therefore, in a human being is, clearly, to be classed not as a quality but as an activity -- the act of a power which can make white; and similarly what we think of as qualities in the Intellectual Realm should be known as activities; they are activities which to our minds take the appearance of quality from the fact that, differing in character among themselves, each of them is a particularity which, so to speak, distinguishes those Realities from each other.

What, then, distinguishes Quality in the Intellectual Realm from that here, if both are Acts?

The difference is that these [|Quality-Activities|] in the Supreme do not indicate the very nature of the Reality [as do the corresponding Activities here] nor do they indicate variations of substance or of [essential] character; they merely indicate what we think of as Quality but in the Intellectual Realm must still be Activity.

In other words this thing, considered in its aspect as possessing the characteristic property of Reality is by that alone recognised as no mere Quality. But when our reason separates what is distinctive in these [|Quality-Activities|] -- not in the sense of abolishing them but rather as taking them to itself and making something new of them -- this new something is Quality: reason has, so to speak, appropriated a portion of Reality, that portion manifest to it on the surface.

By this analogy, warmth, as a concomitant of the specific nature of fire, may very well be no quality in fire but an Idea-Form belonging to it, one of its activities, while being merely a Quality in other things than fire: as it is manifested in any warm object, it is not a mode of Reality but merely a trace, a shadow, an image, something that has gone forth from its own Reality -- where it was an Act -- and in the warm object is a quality.

All, then, that is accident and not Act; all but what is Idea-form of the Reality; all that merely confers pattern; all this is Quality: qualities are characteristics and modes other than those constituting the substratum of a thing.

But the Archetypes of all such qualities, the foundation in which they exist primarily, these are Activities of the Intellectual Beings.

And; one and the same thing cannot be both Quality and non-quality: the thing void of Real-Existence is Quality; but the thing accompanying Reality is either Form or Activity: there is no longer self-identity when, from having its being in itself, anything comes to be in something else with a fall from its standing as Form and Activity.

Finally, anything which is never Form but always accidental to something else is Quality unmixed and nothing more.

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