In this tractate, Plotinus describes how virtue enables us to become godlike.
He begins by asserting that while “virtue is one thing, the source of virtue is quite another.” The source of virtue is the Supreme God, but since the Supreme is perfection, virtue does not exist within the realm of the Divine.
So with us: it is from the Supreme that we derive order and distribution and harmony, which are virtues in this sphere: the Existences There, having no need of harmony, order or distribution, have nothing to do with virtue; and, none the less, it is by our possession of virtue that we become like to Them.
Plotinus goes on to state that “our concern is not merely to be sinless but to be God.” Since “man is the very being that came from the Supreme,” the goal of being virtuous is to purify our being and return to our divine state.
Plotinus concludes this tractate by pointing out that we should not model ourselves and our virtues on the examples of virtuous people, such as saints. Instead, we should look directly to the source of virtue in order to return to our divine nature.
For it is to the Gods, not to the Good, that our Likeness must look: to model ourselves upon good men is to produce and image of an image: we have to fix our gaze above the image and attain Likeness to the Supreme Exemplar.
4 responses to “Plotinus – First Ennead, Tractate II: On Virtue”
Thanks for sharing this, Jeff. I think most people try to model themselves after virtuous people, not thinking about the source of that being what you should look at. Interesting to think about.
Yeah. I for one looked to individuals as role models all my life. Might have to reevaluate that, although, you can learn a lot from the examples of others. Stuff to think about. Glad you found the post interesting. Thanks for reading and commenting.
Excited about the series, Jeff. This made me think of the quest for identity and its crisis in our current age of the social media. So many are trying to be like celebrities instead of looking to the real source of virtue, as you write.
Hmm. I had not even considered that. As always, you make very astute observations, Monika. Glad you are interested in this series. I was afraid it would be a little too obscure and heady.