Harmony and Bad Ideas

Plotinus, Ennead 1.6 On beauty

“How can theories be well-measured in respect to one another? If they do in fact agree, there can be agreement and harmony even between bad ideas. The assertion that “prudence is silliness” is in agreement and harmony with the notion that “justice is a noble stupidity”, these ideas agree with one another.

Every kind of virtue is a beauty of the soul and this beauty is truer than those previously mentioned. But how is it well-measured? Not in terms of size or number. Since the soul has many parts, what is the recipe or mixture for minds and their theories? By what notion would the beauty of the mind stand alone?”

Θεωρήματα γὰρ σύμμετρα πρὸς ἄλληλα πῶς ἂν εἴη; Εἰ δ᾿ ὅτι σύμφωνά ἐστι, καὶ κακῶν ἔσται ὁμολογία τε καὶ συμφωνία. Τῷ γὰρ τὴν σωφροσύνην ἠλιθιότητα εἶναι τὸ τὴν δικαιοσύνην γενναίαν εἶναι εὐήθειαν σύμφωνον καὶ συνῳδὸν καὶ ὁμολογεῖ πρὸς ἄλληλα. Κάλλος μὲν οὖν ψυχῆς ἀρετὴ πᾶσα καὶ κάλλος ἀληθινώτερον ἢ τὰ πρόσθεν· ἀλλὰ πῶς σύμμετρα; Οὔτε γὰρ ὡς μεγέθη οὔτε ὡς ἀριθμὸς σύμμετρα· καὶ πλειόνων μερῶν τῆς ψυχῆς ὄντων, ἐν ποίῳ γὰρ λόγῳ ἡ σύνθεσις ἢ ἡ κρᾶσις τῶν μερῶν ἢ τῶν θεωρημάτων; Τὸ δὲ τοῦ νοῦ κάλλος μονουμένου τί ἂν εἴη;

Hell panel from The Garden of Earthly Delights. It is alleged that Bosch’s self-portrait is in the upper centre at right under the “table”.

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