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Plotinus On Akrasia: The Neoplatonic Synthesis

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Chapter Summary

Porphyry tells that ‘mixed in’ with Plotinus’s Enneads are ‘concealed Stoic and Peripatetic teachings’. At the same time, Plotinus thought of himself as an unwavering adherent of Platonism, certainly more a ‘paleo-Platonist’ than a ‘neo-Platonist.’ The claim that with regard to an account of akrasia Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics are in harmony is bound to appear dubious. This chapter begins with a brief survey of what the author believes Plotinus took to be the received wisdom of the three great schools that preceded his own. It then turns to Plotinus’s synthesis of this material. In Protagoras, Plato has Socrates argue against the possibility of akrasia. Plotinus, like his predecessors conflates ‘will’ with one type of ‘desire’ (orexis), namely, boulêsis, or ‘rational desire’. The chapter shows that Plotinus appropriates Peripatetic and Stoic insights into his expression of Platonic moral psychology.

Keywords: akrasia; Aristotle; boulêsis; Enneads; moral psychology; neo-Platonist; Plotinus; Protagoras; Stoics



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