Guthrie: Tratado 39 (VI, 8, 8-12) — Of the Will of the One.


(Let us now consider the free will of the Good.) THE GOOD IS THE DESIRABLE IN ITSELF.

8. The nature of the Good is that which is desirable for its own sake. It is by the Good that the Soul and Intelligence exercise liberty when the Soul can attain the Good without obstacle, and when Intelligence can enjoy its possession. Now since the Good’s empire extends over all lower treasures; since He occupies the front rank; since He is the Principle to which all beings wish to rise, on whom they all depend, and from whom all derive their power and liberty; it would be difficult to attribute to Him a liberty similar to our human freedom of will, when we can hardly, with propriety, predicate such a human liberty of Intelligence.


Here some rash person, drawing his arguments from some other school of thought, may object that, “If the Good be indeed good, this occurs only by chance. A man is not master of what he is (that is,; of his own nature), because his own nature does not depend on himself (that is, is not due to self-determina-; tion). Consequently, he enjoys neither freedom nor. independence, as he acts or withholds action as he is forced by necessity.” Such an assertion is gratuitous, and even self-contradictory. It destroys all conception of will, liberty and independence, reducing these terms to being labels, and illusions. He who advances such an opinion is forced to maintain not only that it is not within the power of anybody to do or not to do some thing, but also that the word “liberty” arouses no conception in his mind, and is meaningless. If however he insist that he does understand it, he will soon be forced to acknowledge that the conception of liberty bears a conformity with the reality which he at first denied. The conception of a thing exerts no interference on its substance (“being”); it can do nothing by itself, nor can it lead to hypostatic existence. It is limited to pointing out to us which being obeys others, which being possesses free will, which being depends on no other, but is master of its own action, a privilege characteristic of eternal beings so far as they are eternal, or to beings which attain the Good without obstacle (like the Soul), or possess it (like Intelligence). It is therefore absurd to say that the Good, which is above them, seeks other higher good beyond itself.


Nor is it any more accurate to insist that the Good exists by chance. Chance occurs only in the lower and multiple things. We on the contrary insist that the First does not exist by chance, and that one cannot say that He is not master of His birth, since He was not born. It is not any less absurd to assert that He is not free because He acts according to His nature; for such an assertion would seem to imply that freedom consists in actions contrary to one’s nature. Last, His solitariness (or, unity) does not deprive Him of liberty, because this unity does not result from His being hindered by anybody else (from having anything else), but from His being what He is, from His satisfying (or, pleasing) Himself, as He could not be any better; otherwise, it would be implied that one would lose one’s liberty on attaining the Good. If such an assertion be absurd, is it not the summit of absurdity to refuse to predicate autocratic liberty of the Good because of His being good, because He remains within Himself and because since all beings aspire towards Him, He Himself aspires to nothing else than Himself, and has no need of anything? As His higher hypostatic existence is simultaneously His higher actualization — for in Him these two aspects fuse into one, since they do so even in Intelligence — His essence is no more conformed to His actualization, than His actualization to His essence. He cannot be said to actualize according to His nature, nor that His actualization and His higher life are traced up into His higher being (so to speak). But as His higher being and His higher (actualization) are intimately united, and coexist since all eternity, the result is that these two entities constitute a single Principle, which depends on itself, and nothing else.


8. We conceive of the self-rule as no accident of the Good; but, from the self-rule proper to (all) beings, we rise, by abstraction of the contraries, to Him who Himself is liberty and independence, thus applying to this Principle the lower attributes that we borrow from inferior beings (that is, the Soul and Intelligence), because of our impotence to speak properly of Him. Such indeed are the terms that we could use in referring to Him, though it would be absolutely impossible to find the proper expression, not only to predicate anything of Him, but even to say anything whatever about Him. For the most beautiful and venerable things do no more than imitate Him, who is their principle. Nevertheless, from another standpoint, He is not their principle, since this their imitation must be denied, and we must withdraw, as too inferior, even the terms “liberty” and “self-rule,” for these terms seem to imply a tendency towards something else, an obstacle, even if only to avoid it; the coexistence of other beings, even if only to imitate Him uninterruptedly. Now no tendency should be attributed to the Good. He is what He is before all other things, since we do not even say of Him, “He is,” so as not to establish any connection between Him and “beings.” Neither can we say of Him, “according to His nature”; for this expression indicates some later relation. It is indeed applied to intelligible entities, but only so far as they proceed from some other principle; that is why it is applied to “being,” because it is born of the (Good). But if we refer “nature” to temporal things, it could not be predicated of “being”; for to say that “being” does not exist by itself would be to affect its existence; to say that it derives its existence from something else is equivalent to asserting that it does not exist by itself. Nor should we say of the Good that “His nature is accidental,” nor speak of contingency in connection with (the Divinity); for He is contingent neither for Himself nor for other beings; contingency is found only in the multiple beings which, already being one thing, have accidentally become some other. How indeed could the First exist accidentally? for He did not reach His present condition fortuitously enough to enable us even to ask, “How did He become what He is?” No chance led Him (to become His present self), nor led Him to hypostatic existence; for chance and luck did not exist anteriorly lb Him, since even they proceed from a cause, and Ixist only in things that grow (or, “become”).


9. If however anybody applied the term “contingency” to the Divinity, we should not dispute about fne word, but go back of it to its underlying meaning, bo you, by it, mean that the First is a principle of particular nature and power; and that if He had had a different nature, He would still, as principle, have [conformed to the nature He would have had? Also, fthat if He had been less perfect, He would still have (actualized in conformity with His being? We should answer such an assertion thus: it was impossible for fae higher Principle of all things to be contingent; or to be less perfect accidentally, or good in some other [manner, as some higher thing that was less complete. As the principle of all things must be better than they, JHe must be determinate; and by this is here meant that Ke exists in an unique manner. This, however, not by (necessity; for necessity did not exist before Him. necessity exists only in the beings that follow the first principle, though the latter impose no constraint upon Ihem. It is by Himself that the First exists uniquely, lie could not be anything but what He is; He is what [He ought to have been; and not by accident. He is What; He had to be what He was. So “He who is what [He ought to have been” is the principle of the things lhat ought to exist. Not by accident, nor contingently, therefore, is He what He is; He is what He had to be; though here the term “had to be” is improper. (If we be permitted to explain what we mean by an illustration, we may say that) the other beings have to await the appearance of their king — which means, that He shall posit Himself as what He really is, the true King, the true Principle, the true Good. Of Him it must not even be said that He actualizes in conformity with the Good, for then He would seem subordinate to some other principle; we must say only that He is what He is. He is not conformed to the Good, because He is the Good itself.


Besides, there is nothing contingent, even in (that which is beneath the First), namely, Essence-in-itself; for if any contingency inhered in it, it itself would be contingent. But Essence cannot be contingent, for not fortuitously is it what it is; nor does it derive what it is from anything else, because the very nature of Essence is to be Essence. This being the case, how could “He who is above Essence” be considered as being what He is fortuitously? For He begat Essence, and Essence is not what it is fortuitously, since it exists in the same manner as “Being,” which is what is “Being” and Intelligence — otherwise, one might even say that Intelligence was contingent, as if it could have been anything but what is its nature. Thus He who does not issue from Himself, and does not incline towards anything whatever, is what He is in the most special sense.


What now could be said (to look down) from some (peak) overhanging (Essence and Intelligence), upon (their principle) ? Could you describe what you saw from there as being what it is fortuitously? Certainly not! Neither His nature nor His manner would be Contingent. He is merely (an absolute, unexplainable) existence (a “thus”). “Even this term “thus,” however, would be improper, for, on applying it to the first, it would become determinate, and become “such a thing.” Whoever has seen the First would not say fee was, or was not that; otherwise, you would be reducing Him to the class of things which may be designated as this or that; but the First is above all jhese things. When you shall have seen Him who is Kifinite (“indefinite”), you will be able to name all ¦he things that are after Him (you will be able to lame Him whom all things follow); but you must not classify Him among these. Consider Him as the universal Power essentially master (of himself), which is what He wishes; or rather, who has imposed His pill upon (all) beings, but who Himself is greater than all volition, and who classifies volition as below Him-lelf. (To speak strictly therefore) He did not even lyill to be what He is (he did not even say, I shall be feat); and no other principle made Him be what He is.


10. He (Strato the Peripatetic?) who insists that the Good is what it is by chance, should be asked how he would like to have it demonstrated to him that the hypothesis of chance is false — in case it be false — and low chance could be made to disappear from the universe? If there be a nature (such as the nature of the one Unity), which makes (chance) disappear, it itself could not be subject to chance. If we subject to chance the nature which causes other beings not to be what they are by chance, nothing will be left that could have been derived from chance. But the principle of all beings banishes chance from the universe by giving to each (being) a form, a limitation, and a shape; and it is impossible to attribute to chance the production of beings thus begotten in a manned conforming to reason. A cause exists there. Chance reigns only in things that do not result from a plan which are not concatenated, which are accidental. How indeed could we attribute to chance the existence of the principle of all reason, order, and determination ? Chance no doubt sways many things; but it could not control the production of intelligence, reason, and order. Chance, in fact, is the contrary of reason; how then could (chance) produce (reason) ? If chance do not beget Intelligence, so much the more could in not have begotten the still superior and better Principle; for chance had no resources from which to produce this principle; chance itself did not exist; and it would not have been in any manner able to impart eternal (qualities). Thus, since there is nothing anterior to the (Divinity), and as He is the First, we shall have to halt our inquiry about this Principle, and say nothing more about Him, rather examining the production of the beings posterior to Him. As to Him himself, there is no use considering how He was produced, as He really was not produced.


Since He was not produced, we must suppose that He is the master of His own being. Even if He were not master of His own being, and if, being what He is, He did not endow Himself with “hypostatic” form of existence, and limited Himself to utilizing His resources the consequence is that He is what He is necessarily and that He could not have been different from whal He is. He is what He is, not because He could have been otherwise, but because His nature is excellent. Indeed, even if one be sometimes hindered from becoming better, no one is ever hindered by any other person from becoming worse. Therefore, if He did not issue from Himself, He owes it to Himself, and not to any outside hindrance; He must essentially be that which has not issued from itself. The impossibility of becoming worse is not a mark of impotence, because, if (the Divinity) do not degenerate, He owes it to Himself, (and derives it) from Himself. His not aspiring to anything other than Himself constitutes the highest degree of power, since He is not subjected to necessity, but constitutes the law and necessity of other beings. Has necessity then caused its own (hyposstatic) existence? No, it has not even reached there, inasmuch as all that is after the First achieved (hypostatic) existence on His account. How then could He who is before (hypostatic) existence (or, which has achieved a form of existence), have derived His existence from any other principle, or even from Himself?


11. What then is the Principle which one cannot even say that it is (hypostatically) existent? This point will have to be conceded without discussion, however, for we cannot prosecute this inquiry. What indeed would we be seeking, when it is impossible to go beyond, every inquiry leading to some one principle, and ceasing there? Besides, all questions refer to one of four things: existence, quality, cause and essence. From the beings that follow Him, we conclude to the essence of the First, in that sense in which we say He exists. Seeking the cause of His existence, however, would amount to seeking an (ulterior) principle, and the Principle of all things cannot Himself have a principle. An effort to determine His quality would amount to seeking what accident inheres in Him in whom is nothing contingent; and there is still more clearly no possible inquiry as to His existence, as we have to grasp it the best we know how, striving not to attribute anything to Him.


(Habitually) we are led to ask these questions about the nature (of the divinity) chiefly because we conceive of space and location as a chaos, into which space and location, that is either presented to us by our imagination, or that really exists, we later introduce the first Principle. This introduction amounts to a question whence and how He came. We then treat Him as a stranger, and we wonder why He is present there, and what is His being; we usually assume He came up out of an abyss, or that He fell from above. In order to evade these questions, therefore, we shall have to remove from our conception (of the divinity) all notion of locality, and not posit Him within anything, neither conceiving of Him as eternally resting, and founded within Himself, nor as if come from somewhere. We shall have to content ourselves with thinking that He exists in the sense in which reasoning forces us to admit His existence, or with persuading ourselves that location, like everything else, is posterior to the Divinity, and that it is even posterior to all things. Thus conceiving (of the Divinity) as outside of all place, so far as we can conceive of Him, we are not surrounding Him as it were within a circle, nor are we undertaking to measure His greatness, nor are we attributing to Him either quantity or quality; for He has no shape, not even an intelligible one; He is not relative to anything, since His hypostatic form of existence is contained within Himself, and before all else.


Since (the Divinity) is such, we certainly could not I say that He is what He is by chance. Such an assertion about Him is impossible, inasmuch as we can speak of Him only by negations. We shall therefore have to say, not that He is what He is by chance; but that, being what He is, He is not that by chance, since there is within Him absolutely nothing contingent.


12. Shall we not even refuse to say that (the divinity) is what He is, and is the master of what He is, or of that which is still superior? Our soul still moots this problem, because she is not yet entirely convinced by what we have said. Our considerations thereof are as follows. By his body, each one of us is far separated from “being”; but by his soul, by which he is principally constituted, he participates in “being,” and is a certain being; that is, he is a combination of “difference” and “being.” Fundamentally, we are therefore not a “being”; we are not even “being”; consequently, we are not masters of our “being”; “being” itself rather is master of us, since it furnishes us with “difference” (which, joined with “being,” constitutes our nature). As, in a certain degree, we are nevertheless the “being” that is master of us, we may, in this respect, even here below, be called masters of ourselves. As to the Principle which absolutely is what He is, which is “Being” itself, so that He and His being fuse, He is master of Himself, and depends on nothing, either in His existence or “being.” He does not even need to be master of Himself since (He is being), and since all that occupies the first rank in the intelligible world is classified as “being.”


As to Him who made “being” (equivalent to) freedom, whose nature it is to make free beings, and who (therefore) might be called the “author of liberty” — excuse the expression — to what could He be enslaved ? It is His being (or, nature) to be free; or rather, it is from Him that being derives its freedom; for (we must not forget that) “being” is posterior to Him, who Himself (being beyond it), “has” none. If then there be any actualization in Him, if we were to consider that He was constituted by an actualization, He would nevertheless contain no difference, He will be master of His own self that produces the actualization, because He Himself and the actualization fuse (and are identical). But if we acknowledge no actualization whatever (in the Divinity), if we predicate actualization only of the things that tend towards Him, and from Him derive their hypostatic existence, we should still less recognize in Him any element that is master, or that masters. We should not even say that He was master of Himself, nor that He had a master, but because we have already predicated of “being” what is meant by being master of oneself. We therefore classify (the Divinity) in a rank higher still.

But how can there be a principle higher than the one that is master of Himself? In the Principle which is master of Himself, as being and actualization are two (separate) entities, it is actualization that furnishes the notion of being master of oneself. As however we saw that actualization was identical with “being,” in order to be called master of itself, actualization must have differentiated itself from being. Therefore (the Divinity), which is not constituted by two things fused into unity, but by absolute Unity, being either only actualization, or not even mere actualization, could I not be called “master of Himself.”

GUTHRIE, K. S. Plotinus: Complete Works: In Chronological Order, Grouped in Four Periods. [single Volume, Unabridged]. [s.l.] CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2017.