Topics Worth Investigating

  1. Are Absolute-Beauty and Absolute-Ugly polar opposites or is the Ugly merely the absence of a Principle or Ideal-Form? Is matter the polar opposite of the Divine for Plotinus? Note that Plotinus states, " … Beauty is the Authentic-Existents and Ugliness is the Principle contrary to Existence: and the Ugly is also the primal evil …"

  2. If, as Plotinus writes, "… soul includes a faculty peculiarly addressed to Beauty‐one incomparably sure in the appreciation of its own, never in doubt whenever any lovely thing presents itself for judgement," then how does Plotinus account for disparate views of what is beautiful?

  3. Leibniz describes the beauty of music in a manner similar to Plotinus's description. Plotinus writes of the soundless origins of the beautiful in music:

    And harmonies unheard in sound create the harmonies we hear, and wake the soul to the consciousness of beauty, showing it the one essence in another kind: for the measures of our sensible music are not arbitrary but are determined by the Principle whose labour is to dominate Matter and bring pattern into being.

    Leibniz notes that the beauty in music is that of intellect:

    The pleasures of the senses themselves come down in the end to intellectual pleasures—they strike us as sensory rather that intellectual only because they are known in a confused way. Music that we hear can charms us, even though its beauty consists only in relations among numbers, and in the way the beats or vibrations of the sounding body return to the same frequency at certain intervals. (We are not aware of the numbers of these beats, but the soul counts them all the same!) Our pleasure in the proportions of things we see are of the same kind; and those that the other senses produce will come down to something similar, even though we could not explain them so straightforwardly.[1]

    Contrast these two theories of the beauty in music.

  4. Compare Plotinus' description of the perceptive faulty with Aristotle's notion of the active intellect (the understanding of the intelligible structure of the world) and Lord Shaftesbury's description of a special faculty called the "moral sense" which "feels the soft and harsh, the agreeable and disagreeable, in the affections; and finds a foul and fair, a harmonious and a dissonant, as really and truly here, as in any musical numbers, or in the outward forms or representations of sensible things."[2]

  5. Do you think that Plotinus believes in "the perfectibility of man"? Or does his philosophy imply that the "authentic" person, what he terms "the perfect work," becomes the inner vision itself, apart from physical representation?

  6. Clarify in some detail to what extent Plotinus would agree with Francis Hutcheson's view of relative or comparative beauty:

    Deformity is only the absence of Beauty, or deficiency in the Beauty expected in any Species.[3]

    Plotinus states the relation between beauty and ugliness in the manner:

    We may even say that Beauty is the Authentic-Existents and Ugliness is the Principle contrary to Existence: and the Ugly is also the primal evil; therefore its contrary is at once good and beautiful, or is Good and Beauty: and hence the one method will discover to us the Beauty-Good and the Ugliness-Evil.[4]

    More precisely, is the divergence between these two śstheticians's explication of "Good" a difference in degree or a difference in kind?



G. W. Leibniz. Principles of Nature and Grace, Based on Reason. Trans. Jonathan Bennett. ∂17.


Earl of Shaftesbury (Anthony Ashley Cooper). Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times. 1711. II, 83.


Francis Hutcheson. An Inquiry Concerning Beauty, Order, Harmony, Design. Part I of An Inquiry Into the Original of our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue. London: J. Barby, et. al. 1725. VI: I.


Plotinus, ∂ 7.