1902 Encyclopedia > Aesthetics > Plotinus on Aesthetics

(Part 10)



Omiting to notice the few valuable remarks on aesthetic subjects of the later Greeks and their Roman contemporaries, one may briefly refer to the views of the Alexandrian mystic and Neo-Platonist Plotinus, not only because of their intrinsic interest, but on account of their resemblance to certain modern systems.

His theory is to be found in an essay on the Beautiful in the series of discourses called Enneades. His philosophy differs from the Platonic in the recognition of an objective nous, the direct emanation from the absolute good, in which the ideas or notions (logoi), which are the prototypes of real things, are immanent. This Reason, as self-moving, becomes the formative influence reducing matter, which in itself is dead, to form. Matter thus formed becomes a notion (logos), and this form is beauty. Objects are ugly so far as they are unacted upon by Reason, and so remain formless. The creative nous is absolute Beauty, and is called the more than beautiful (to hyperkallon). There are three degrees or stages of the Beautiful in manifestation, namely, the beauty of subjective nous, or human reason, which is the highest; that of the human soul, which is less perfect through the connection of the soul with a material body; and that of real objects, which is the lowest manifestation of all. As to the characteristic form of beauty, he supposed, in opposition to Aristotle, that a single thing not divisible into parts might be beautiful through its unity and simplicity. He attached special worth to the beauty of colours in which material darkness is overpowered by light and warmth. In reference to artistic beauty, he said that when the artist has logoi as models for his creations, these may become more beautiful than natural objects. This is a very curious divergence of opinion from the Platonic.

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