Sunday, March 27, 2011
Dee's Platonism and the Intelligible
Again Dee normally assumes that the soul can exercise control over natural processes, apart from those of the particular body it occupies; for though in early neo_Platonic doctrines the thesis is maintained, as by Plotinus for example, that human souls effect what they perform as servants do by direct contact, mingled with their work, and the World soul alone, rules, like a master, by mere command from a distance, yet that even human souls might act in this manner had become an important tenet of the magical theories to which Dee inclined. Thus Roger Bacon, explaining these, calls Avicenna as witness that "Nature obeys the cogitations of the soul," and since it is evident by experience that even the sensitive souls of brutes produce strange changes in things "how much more will it obey those of the intellectual souls of those who are only one degree below the angels."(141) Moreover Dee's usual line of thought is to stress that the realm of intelligibles, represented primarily for him by the objects of mathematics, is the natural level of the mind, where it operates free from direct dependence on either higher or lower externals, and is to follow the customary Platonic argument from the premiss that "like knows like" in deducing the qualities of the soul from the nature of these, i.e., that it must be incorporeal (a term somewhat ambiguous of course as many found the assertion of this Platonic position quite compatible with Ibn Gebirol's theories that stated that all substances, in a rather special sense, were compounds of matter and form, and allowed soul itself to act as a sustaining corporeality for higher principles) - not subject to magnitude, imparticle and so on (142), leading to the conclusion, which is very different from that of the present propositions, thus expressed by Chapman after developing a similar argument, "And that our souls in reason are immortal Their natural and proper objects prove."