• According to a straightforward reading of Enn. 6.2.21, all principles (logoi) in nature have their origin in corresponding features of a divine Intellect. But interpreters have often advocated more restricted readings of Intellect’s contents. Restricted readings are based in part on other textual evidence, and in part on the grounds that a more expansive reading would seem to require Intellect to think objects of trivial value (‘the value problem’) or whose purposes depend upon facts about sensi…Read more
  • In this paper, I discuss how Plotinus seeks to reconcile (1) the transcendence of providential thought with its creation of an optimal cosmos, (2) providence's comprehensive oversight with the existence of evils, and (3) fate with human autonomy and moral responsibility.
  • Human Nature and Normativity in Plotinus
    In Peter Adamson & Christof Rapp (eds.), State and Nature: Essays in Ancient Political Philosophy, . pp. 267-289. forthcoming.
    Plotinus, following certain Platonic cues, maintains that ‘we’ and ‘the true human being’ correspond to the rational part of the embodied human soul. This view is counterintuitive because it is natural to see ourselves and our humanity as including parts of the human organism additional to reason. In this paper, I propose that Plotinus’ view that we are our rational part is best understood as expressing a teleological claim. Since our proper end is an activity of the rational part of soul, it is…Read more
  •  19
    Création et providence divine chez Plotin
    with Nathan M. Powers
    Chôra 13 103-124. 2015.
    In this paper, we argue that Plotinus denies deliberative forethought about the physical cosmos to the demiurge on the basis of certain basic and widely shared Platonic and Aristotelian assumptions about the character of divine thought. We then discuss how Plotinus can nonetheless maintain that the cosmos is «providentially» ordered. [Note: This paper is a French translation (prepared by Mathilde Brémond) of a paper that appears in A. Marmodoro and B. Prince (eds.), Causation and Creation in Lat…Read more
  •  22
    Leaving Nothing to Chance: An Argument for Principle Monism in Plotinus
    Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 55 185-226. 2018.
    Plotinus maintains that there is a single first principle, the One (or the Good), from which all other things derive. He is usually thought to hold this view on the grounds that any other thing’s existence depends on its participation in a paradigm of unity. This paper argues that Plotinus has a further, independent argument for adopting a single first principle, according to which principle pluralism is committed (unacceptably) to attributing good cosmic states of affairs to chance. This argume…Read more
  •  237
    Creation and Divine Providence in Plotinus
    In Anna Marmodoro & Brian Prince (eds.), Causation and Creation in Late Antiquity, . pp. 51-70. 2015.
    In this paper, we argue that Plotinus denies deliberative forethought about the physical cosmos to the demiurge on the basis of certain basic and widely shared Platonic and Aristotelian assumptions about the character of divine thought. We then discuss how Plotinus can nonetheless maintain that the cosmos is «providentially» ordered.
  •  12
    Plotinus’ Unaffectable Soul
    Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 51 231-281. 2016.
    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 that aims to address these difficulties. In denying affections to soul, Plotinus is offering a dis…Read more
  •  13
    Plotinus' Unaffectable Matter
    Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 44 233-277. 2013.
    In this paper, I investigate the foundations of Plotinus’ innovative theory that prime matter is unaffectable. I begin by showing that Plotinus’ main arguments for this thesis (in Ennead 3.6) all rely upon the controversial assumption that the properties prime matter underlies are not properties of prime matter itself. It is then argued that prime matter’s privation of sensible qualities has its conceptual basis in an idiosyncratic understanding of form-matter composition generally, and its prim…Read more
  •  33
    In developing his theory of aether in De Caelo 1, Aristotle argues, in DC 1.4, that one circular motion cannot be contrary to another. In this paper, I discuss how Aristotle can maintain this position and accept the existence of celestial spheres that rotate in contrary directions, as he does in his revision of the Eudoxan theory in Metaphysics 12.8.
  •  47
    In this paper I offer an analysis of Plotinus’ argument for the existence of a quasi-psychic entity, the so-called ‘trace of soul’, that functions as an immanent cause of life for an organism’s body. I argue that Plotinus posits this entity primarily in order to account for the body’s possession of certain quasi-psychic states that are instrumental in his account of soul-body interaction. Since these quasi-psychic states imply that an organism’s body has vitality of its own , and Platonic souls …Read more