Coacervo (I assemble, I compile)


The Heap

“Given that being implies some sort of unity of that which is predicated, we can distinguish different entities by the different kinds of unity they possess. We have, for instance, as the limiting case “things” like heaps. A pile of stones has a unity in a way dispersed stones do not. The heap has spatially adjacent parts and is therefore spatially continuous. We can therefore say that it is spatially or locally one in the sense that all its parts occupy one continuous part of space. On the other hand, a heap lacks various other varieties of unity. It is not one in motion, i.e. one part of it may move without other parts moving, and it lacks definite shape and internal structure. By contrast, an individual stone is one in motion. According to Plotinus unity of bodies, of which individual stones are a good example, consists in the spatial unity of a set of qualities: A given colour, shape and a hardness, say, are all together in the same part of space and accompany each other in motion.

Living beings posses a higher degree of unity than inorganic bodies. The bodies of living beings are organized as if with the accomplishment of certain ends in view. This organization reveals a more perfect unity than that proper to mere bodies. For the functioning of the parts of a living being must be understood as a whole: the cats claws, for example, are not merely hard and sharp extrusion from the cats toes. A full account of the claws must include a reference to the role of the cat’s life. Thus, in the case of organisms we must have a different part-whole relationship: an account of the part must make reference to other parts and to the whole.

An idea that plays a central role in Neoplatonism and which is likely to strike modern readers as highly peculiar is the view that the sensible world as a whole is one spatially finite living being…. The concept of life involved is presumable not quite the ordinary one, though it is not altogether different from it……The attribution of life to the cosmos as a whole is grounded in claims about the unity of its parts. i.e the regular patterns in the visible cosmos were seen to be harmonious and rational in the same way  as the activities of the parts of ordinary being. This was taken to imply some unifying principle which operates throughout the cosmos and regulates and coordinates the behaviour of its parts. ”


E.K. Emilsson, Plotinus on Sense Perception


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