The net in the sea : a note to Plotinus' en. IV 3(27).9.34–44

Author: Weiss, Sonja
Source document: Graeco-Latina Brunensia. 2019, vol. 24, iss. 2, pp. 235-253
  • ISSN
    1803-7402 (print)
    2336-4424 (online)
In Plotinus' first treatise, On the Problems of the Soul, the comparison of the cosmic body floating in the soul to a net in the sea is simple enough, at least at first glance. While most of the translators and experts have no doubts that the net in this metaphor stands for the body and the sea for the soul, a few of them are doubtful as to whether the analogy is as self-evident as it seems. This is particularly true of the second part of the metaphor, casting the universal soul as the sea, and thus presenting a striking contrast to the prevalent symbolism of the sea and water in general. The uncertainty of this Plotinian image leads us to investigate two relevant philosophical concepts, namely flux and infinity, which in Plotinus are applied to very different contexts: the former is generally related to the fluctuating nature of the sensible world, but is also present in the image of the One as inexhaustible spring. Similarly, we have a concept of infinity applied to the ungraspable bodiless matter on the one hand, as well as to the limitless power of Being on the other. I believe that Plotinus, refusing to be limited by the established meaning of the current philosophical imagery, is consciously using these ambiguities to refine his arguments, possibly as a polemic against rival philosophical doctrines.
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