Plotinus' Ennead I. 7: On the First Good and the Other Goods

translated from ancient Greek by Eric S. Fallick

1. Could anyone say there is another good to each thing than the activity according to nature of its life, and if something would be made of many things, good to this is the proper, cognate activity, according to nature, never falling short with respect to anything, of the better part of it? The activity of the soul, then, is the good for it according to nature. But if also it would be active towards the best thing being itself best, this would not only be the good with respect to it, but also absolutely a good. If then something would not be active towards another thing, being the best of the beings and beyond the beings, but the other things would be active towards it, it is clear that this would be the Good, through which it comes to be also for the other things to participate in good. But the other things would have good in two ways, as many as thus do have good, both by becoming like the Good and by being active towards it. If then aiming at and activity towards the best is good, it is necessary that the Good, neither looking towards another thing nor aiming at another thing, being in quiet a fount and origin of activities according to nature, and making the other things in the form of good not by activity towards them, for they are active towards it, be the Good not by activity or thought, but by itself alone being the Good. For because it is beyond being, it is both beyond activity and beyond thinking mind and thought. For again it is necessary for the Good to be considered that on which all things depend, but which itself depends on nothing: for thus also the thing is true that it is that which all things aim at. It is necessary then for it to abide, but all things to turn around towards it, as a circle towards a center from which come all the radii. The sun is also a paradigm, as being a center with respect to the light that comes from it and depends on it: everywhere indeed then the light is with it and has not been cut off—and even if you would want to cut it off on one side, the light is with respect to the sun.

2. But how do all the other things exist towards it? Well, soulless things exist for soul, whereas soul exists towards the Good through the Divine Mind-Thought. But everything has something of it by its being one somehow and by its being somehow. And also all things participate in form: therefore, as they participate in these things—oneness, being, and form—so also do they participate in the Good. An image or phantom of the Good, that is—for the things they participate in are images, phantoms of being and of one, and in the same way with regard to form. But life in soul, in the first soul after the Divine Mind-Thought, is nearer to truth, and through the Divine Mind-Thought is a thing in the form of good. It would have the Good if it would look to it, but the Divine Mind-Thought is after the Good. So then, life, to what lives, is the good, and Divine Mind-Thought is the good to what participates in the Divine Mind-Thought; thus, for that for which there is life with Divine Mind-Thought, there is also a twofold direction to the Good.

3. But if life is a good, does this good belong to every living thing? In fact, not: for life is lame in the base, like an eye in one not seeing purely, for it does not do its own work. If then life with us, which life has been mixed with evil, is a good, how is death not an evil? Well, evil for whom? For it is necessary for evil to happen to someone. But for something that no longer exists, or, if it exists, has been deprived of life, there is nothing evil, as there is nothing evil for a stone. But if there is life and soul after death, this already would be a good by how much more the soul is active with respect to its own things without a body. But if it becomes of the Whole, what would be an evil to it being there? And wholly, as there is good with the gods, but no evil, so neither is there evil to the soul preserving its purity; but if it would not preserve its purity, it is not death that would be an evil to it, but life. And also if there would be punishments in Hades, again there also life would be an evil to it, because it is not life alone. But if life is a conjunction of soul and body, and death is a separation of these, the soul will be capable of both. But if life is good, how is death not an evil? In fact, life is good for those to whom it is good, not as a good in so far as it is a conjunction, but because by virtue it wards off evil; but death is more a good. In fact, it needs to be said that life in a body is itself an evil in itself, but by virtue the soul comes to be in a good, not living as the complex of soul and body, but now already separating itself.

Translation © 2011 by Eric S. Fallick. All rights reserved.  platonicascetic@gmail.com