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Proclus vs Plotinus on Matter (De mal. subs. 30-7 )

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In De malorum subsistentia chs 30-7, Proclus criticizes the view that evil is to be identified with matter. His main target is Plotinus' account in Enn. I,8 \[51]. Proclus denies that matter is the cause of evil in the soul, and that it is evil or a principle of evil. According to Proclus, matter is good, because it is produced by the One. Plotinus' doctrine of matter-evil is the result of a different conception of emanation, according to which matter does not revert to its principle. Proclus claims that to posit a principle of evil either amounts to a coarse dualism, or makes the Good ultimately responsible for evil. Plotinus does not seem to be able to escape the latter consequence, if he is to remain committed to the Neoplatonic conception of causation. Plotinus equated matter with privation and said it is a kind of non-being that is the contrary of substance, thus violating fundamental Aristotelian tenets. Proclus reinstates Aristotelian orthodoxy, as does Simplicius in his Commentary on the Categories. It is possible that Iamblichus was the source of both Proclus and Simplicius, and that he was the originator of the parhypostasis theory and the inventor of the anti-Plotinian arguments.


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