Deck (1991:23-24) – O Noûs demanda a existência do Uno enquanto seu princípio e bem

Such is the Noûs. Thus it is not the first, but there must be that which is beyond it (our preceding discussion was for the sake of this), first of all, because multitude is posterior to one, and multitude is number, while the One is the principle of number and of multitude. And this is intelligence and intelligible at once, as the two together. If it is two, it is necessary to find (labein) what is before the two. Now what is it? Noûs alone? But to every intelligence there is joined an intelligible: for if an intelligible is not of necessity joined, there is no intelligence. Now if it is not Noûs, but escapes the two, that which is prior to these two will be beyond Noûs. But what prevents it from being the intelligible? Because the intelligible, for its part, is yoked to the intelligence. But if it is neither intelligence nor intelligible, what is it? We shall say that it is that from which come Noûs and the intelligible which is with it.1

This passage has the character of a formal demonstration of the One. Any multitude is posterior to a one. But the Noûs, the highest principle reached so far in the discussion, is a two: a duality of intelligence and intelligible. Therefore, the Noûs is posterior to another principle, which is the One.

In a passage closely following this one, Plotinus argues that since the Noûs has a need to see and to act, it relates to a higher principle, in respect of which and because of which it sees and acts; this principle is the Good (which is the same as the One).2

In both of those proofs the argument proceeds from the lower principle, the Noûs; the nature of the Noûs is seen to demand the One. The doctrine of the One appears in Plotinus’ philosophy by rational exigency.

Therefore, for a philosophic treatment of his doctrines, Plotinus’ “mystical” or para-mystical experience of the One may safely be left to one side. Porphyry affirms that his master had such an experience at least four times during his life.3 Plotinus himself hints at it in several places. For example he says that the soul’s “preparation and adornment [for the experience of the One] is evident to those who have prepared themselves” (VI, 7, 34,11-12); and again, “He who has seen knows what I say, that the soul has another life, when it is towards the One and approaches to the One and participates in it.” (VI, 9, 9, 47-49.) But in several places in which he describes the experiencing of the One in terms that seem to go beyond what could be known purely philosophically (V, 3, 17,26-31; VI, 7, 34, 20-38), he has led up to his remarks by variations on his standard proofs for the One (V, 3, 17, 1-14; VI, 7, 32-33). Thus he has managed his philosophy in such a way that it is quite intelligible as a philosophy—the interpreter need not share, pretend to share, or appreciate Plotinus’ mystical experience.

The One, or Good, was demonstrated by the need of the Noûs for a principle and a good. The Noûs is other than the Good;4 the caused is other than the cause. The One is thus a distinct hypostasis, a distinct “nature.”5

  1. III, 8, 9, 1-13. It is curious that Dean Inge should leave out the major premise when he reproduces this argument. (William Ralph Inge, The Philosophy of Plotinus, 3rd ed., London 1928, II, 108-109.) Essentially the same argument is found in V, 1,5,1-18.
    It should be added that Plotinus very frequently works the doctrine of the One into the general system of his philosophy without formal proofs. (Cf. II, 9,1; IV, 8,5; V, 2,1; V, 4,1 and 2, etc.)  

  2. III, 8, 11, 7-10. The identity of the One and the Good is stated concisely in II, 9, 1, 5-6: “When we say the One, and when we say the Good, we must understand that we are speaking of one and the same nature.” 

  3. Porphyry, De Vita Plotini, ed. Paul Henry and Hans-Rudolph Schwfyzer in Plotini Opera (Paris and Brussels, 1951- ), I, 1-41, ch. 23, lines 15-18. 

  4. “Moreover, the Noûs is other than the Good: for it is conformed to the Good (agathoeides) by knowing it.” (V, 6, 4,6-7.)  

  5. Hypostasis” is not, for Plotinus himself, a common designation of the One. I have been able to find only one place (VI, 8, 15,30) where he calls the One in so many words “the first hypostasis.” In VI, 8, 20,11, he apparently alludes to the One as an hypostasis. He speaks of the One’s “having hypostasis” (V, 6, 3,11), of the “hypostasis of the Good” (VI, 8, 13,43-44), of “its quasi-hypostasis” (VI, 8, 7,47) (italics mine). It would seem that the designation of the One as an hypostasis in systematic accounts of Plotinus’ philosophy is based on the title of V, 1, which treatise is an elementary outline of the doctrine of the One, the Noûs, and the soul: “About the Three Hypostases Which Are Principles” (peri ton trion archikon hypostaseon). This title, however, like all the titles of Plotinus’ treatises, is not Plotinus’ own (Porphyry, ch. 4, lines 16-18). In speaking of the One, the Noûs, and the soul in this treatise, Plotinus calls them “these three” (V, 1, 10,5), or “the three natures” (V, 1, 8,27).