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Scepticism and Ineffability in Plotinus

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The first part of this paper traces back to Plotinus a strategy applied by Augustine and Descartes whereby sceptical arguments are used to set aside sensualist forms of dogmatic philosophy, clearing the way for a dogmatism independent of sense-perception which is 'self-authenticating' and thus immune to, and even proven by, sceptical doubt. It is argued that Plotinus already uses this strategy in the opening chapters of Enneads V 5 and V 3. The second part of the paper argues that Plotinus' account of how the ineffable One is said (we do not actually say the One, but merely express our own affections) is inspired by the structure of sceptic discourse (the sceptic does not say things as they are, but merely expresses personal affections). Finally, similarities and differences between sceptic discourse about things and Plotinian discourse about the ineffable are explored.


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