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LIGHT AND METAPHOR IN PLOTINUS AND ST. THOMAS AQUINAS KEVIN CORRIGAN St. Thomas More College University of Saskatchewan Saskatoon, Saskatchewan I HAVE TWO CONCERNS in this paper. The first is a broad concern, related to the nature of metaphor, which stems from the destructionist or deconstructionist tendencies in some contemporary phenomenology or phenomenological existentialism. According to these views, the logocentric emphasis of the Western tradition must be shown for what it really is : an attempt to erect a cover upon a fundamental absence. In Nietzsche's well known view, "truths are illusions of which one has forgotten that they are illusions; worn-out metaphors which have become powerless to affect the senses, coins which have their obverse effaced and now are no longer of account as coins but merely as metal." 1 For Jacques Derrida all metaphoricity is caught up in an endless circle, which precludes any privileged vantage-point from which one might determine order, hierarchy and center-point. In particular, the unique heliotropic metaphor which, in Derrida's polemic, determines the whole course of Western philosophy " from the Platonic eidos to the Hegelian idea" 2 rests only upon the infinite absence of circularity, for the movement of transference " which turns the sun into metaphor " also inevitably "turns philosophical metaphor towards the sun." 3 1 Nietzsche, "On Truth and Falsity in their Ultramoral Sense (1873)," Works 2 (New York: Russell and Russell, 1964), p. 180. 2 J. Derrida, "White Mythology", trans. F. C. T. Moore, New Literary History 6 (1974), 1: 5-74 ["La mythologie blanche" in Rhetorique et philosophie , Poetique 5 (Paris: Editions du Seliu, 1971)], p. 55. a Ibid., p. 51. 187 188 KEVIN CORRIGAN In this paper I shall examine the thought of Plotinus and Aquinas, broadly described as idealist and realist respectively, with a view to determining whether or not this transference from the physical to the metaphysical is only an illicit, covert erasure of the material sense and a forgetting that all metaphor is self-implicating, that there is no non-metaphorical standpoint from which to grasp the order and structure of the metaphorical. My second concern is much more specific. It is, first, to compare Plotinus and Aquinas on light and metaphor-two thinkers who might be considered to be poles apart on these questions: on the one hand, Plotinus, the father of Neoplatonic emanationism with its insistence upon the primacy of divine light and the father, surely too, of the tradition of light-metaphysics in the later, mediaeval period; on the other hand, St. Thomas, staunchly realist in the Aristotelian tradition. Second, I will seek to show that this first impression of the gulf between the two thinkers is not borne out by a close textual analysis, and that their respective theories, despite the admitted significant difference in viewpoint , are in some respects very close indeed. Let us look briefly at the light-metaphysics tradition first. For Robert Grosseteste light is the source of all activity and its diffusion is not a material change or a change in place, but rather an instantaneous and substantial multiplication of itself in three dimensions.4 Thus, for the author of the De Intelligentiis light is the fundamental principle of motion and life: " Est autem prima lucis operatio in sensibilibus quad motum et vitam operatur in viventibus." 5 Since light is the noblest of corporeal things, it therefore has an intermediate place between pure form and matter , and for Grosseteste and also Bonaventure it is consequently named the forma corporeitatis, the fundamental form of body as 4 De philosophischen W erke des Robert Grosseteste, ed. Ludwig Baur, in Clemens Baeumker, Beitriige zur Geschichte der Philosophic des Mittelalters, vol. IX (Munster, 1912), De Luce, p. 51. 5 Clemens Baeumker, Witelo: Ein Philosoph und Naturforscher des XIII Jahrhunderts, Band III, Heft 2 of Beitriige zur Geschichte der Philosophie des Mittelalters (Munster, 1908), Liber de intelligentiis IX, p. 11. PLOTINUS AND ST. THOMAS AQUINAS 189 such, since light introduces dimension into matter. Light then is the substantial form of the physical universe.6 But how is physical light related to spiritual light? For the light-metaphysics tradition, spiritual light (whether the Uncreated Light which is God himself or the...


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