Front Page Titles (by Subject) SEVENTH TRACTATE On the Primal Good and Secondary Forms of Good (Otherwise, On Happiness) - The Ethical Treatises, being the Treatises of the First Ennead
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SEVENTH TRACTATE On the Primal Good and Secondary Forms of Good (Otherwise, On Happiness) - Plotinus, The Ethical Treatises, being the Treatises of the First Ennead [253 AD]
The Ethical Treatises, being the Treatises of the First Ennead, with Porphry’s Life of Plotinus, and the Preller-Ritter Extracts forming a Conspectus of the Plotinian System, translated from Greek by Stephen Mackenna (Boston: Charles T. Branford, 1918).
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We can scarcely conceive that for any entity the Good can be other than the natural Act expressing its life-force, or in the case of an entity made up of parts the Act, appropriate, natural and complete, expressive of that in it which is best.
For the Soul, then, the Good is its own natural Act.
But the Soul itself is natively a “Best”; if, further, its Act be directed towards the Best, the achievement is not merely the “Soul’s good” but “The Good” without qualification.
Now, given an Existent which—as being itself the best of existences and even transcending the existences—directs its Act towards no other, but is the object to which the Act of all else is directed, it is clear that this must be at once the Good and the means through which all else may participate in Good.
This Absolute Good other entities may possess in two ways—by becoming like to It and by directing the Act of their being towards It.
Now, if all aspiration and Act whatsoever are directed towards the Good, it follows that the Essential-Good neither need nor can look outside itself or aspire to anything other than itself: it can but remain unmoved, as being, in the constitution of things, the wellspring and first-cause of all Act: whatsoever in other entities is of the nature of Good cannot be due to any Act of the Essential-Good upon them; it is for them on the contrary to act towards their source and cause. The Good must, then, be the Good not by any Act, not even by virtue of its Intellection, but by its very rest within Itself.
Existing beyond and above Being, it must be beyond and above the Intellectual-Principle and all Intellection.
For, again, that only can be named the Good to which all is bound and itself to none: for only thus is it veritably the object of all aspiration. It must be unmoved, while all circles around it, as a circumference around a centre from which all the radii proceed. Another example would be the sun, central to the light which streams from it and is yet linked to it, or at least is always about it, irremoveably; try all you will to separate the light from the sun, or the sun from its light, for ever the light is in the sun.
But the Universe outside; how is it aligned towards the Good?
The soul-less by direction toward Soul: Soul towards the Good itself, through the Intellectual-Principle.
Everything has something of the Good, by virtue of possessing a certain degree of unity and a certain degree of Existence and by participation in Ideal-Form: to the extent of the Unity, Being, and Form which are present, there is a sharing in an image, for the Unity and Existence in which there is participation are no more than images of the Ideal-Form.
With Soul it is different; the First-Soul, that which follows upon the Intellectual-Principle, possesses a life nearer to the Verity and through that Principle is of the nature of good; it will actually possess the Good if it orientate itself towards the Intellectual-Principle since this follows immediately upon the Good.
In sum, then, life is the Good to the living, and the Intellectual-Principle to what is intellective; so that where there is life with intellection there is a double contact with the Good.
But if life is a good, is there good for all that lives?
No: in the vile, life limps: it is like the eye to the dim-sighted; it fails of its task.
But if the mingled strand of life is to us, though entwined with evil, still in the total a good, must not death be an evil?
Evil to What? There must be a subject for the evil: but if the possible subject is no longer among beings, or, still among beings, is devoid of life . . . why, a stone is not more immune.
If, on the contrary, after death life and soul continue, then death will be no evil but a good; Soul, disembodied, is the freer to ply its own Act.
If it be taken into the All-Soul—what evil can reach it There? And as the Gods are—possessed of Good and untouched by evil—so, certainly is the Soul that has preserved its essential character. And if it should lose its purity, the evil it experiences is not in its death but in its life. Suppose it to be under punishment in the lower world, even there the evil thing is its life and not its death; the misfortune is still life, a life of a definite character.
Life is a partnership of a Soul and body; death is the dissolution; in either life or death, then, the Soul will feel itself at home.
But, again, if life is good, how can death be anything but evil?
Remember that the good of life, where it has any good at all, is not due to anything in the partnership but to the repelling of evil by virtue; death, then, must be the greater good.
In a word, life in the body is of itself an evil but the Soul enters its Good through Virtue, not living the life of the Couplement but holding itself apart, even here.