In Plotinus and Augustine on the Mid-Rank of Soul: Navigating Two Worlds, Joseph Torchia, OP, explores the mid-rank of the soul theme in Plotinus and Augustine with a special focus on its metaphysical, epistemological, and moral implications for each thinker’s intellectual outlooks. For both, human existence assumes the character of a prolonged journey or an extended voyage. Augustine infuses Plotinus' vision of reality with a profound theological significance rooted in the ontological difference between God and creatures. As a rational creature, the soul stands mid-way between God and corporeal natures, between eternity and temporality. This book encompasses two parts: Part I addresses the significance that Plotinus attributes to the soul’s mid-rank within the broader context of his understanding of universal order, and Part II delineates Augustine’s interpretation of the intermediary status of the soul with an ongoing reference to his spiritual and intellectual peregrinatio, as recounted in the Confessions.
Joseph Torchia, OP, is professor of philosophy at Providence College.
Part I. Plotinus: Wayfaring Stranger
Chapter 1. Plotinus' Vision of Reality: A Broad Sketch
Chapter 2: The Order of the Whole
Chapter 3: The Mediation of Soul
Chapter 4: Between Two Worlds
Chapter 5: Soul's Homeward Odyssey
Part II. Augustine: Peregrinatio Animi
Chapter 6: Tranquillitas ordinis
Chapter 7: In Medio Paradisi
Chapter 8: Pondus Meum Amor Meus
Chapter 9: Voluntas medium bonum
Chapter 10: Civitas Peregrina
Conclusion: The Journeys of Embodied Spirits
In this stunningly lucid and evocative book, Joseph Torchia offers a masterclass on the interplay of early Christianity and Neoplatonic philosophy. Torchia contributes to the renewed scholarly interest in the thought of Plotinus (204-270 AD) and its influence upon Augustine (354-430 AD), arguing in favor of a ‘plausible hypothesis’ that successfully demonstrates the impact of Plotinus on Augustine without conflating the two. This distinction without separation or confusion can and ought to serve as a model for scholarship on early Christian theology and philosophy. This is only one part of the achievement of this volume, for the first part of the book on Plotinus’ metaphysics, psychology, and anthropology could stand on its own, just as the second part on Augustine’s understanding of the mid-rank of the soul, the will, human love, and the church on pilgrimage is of immense value for students and scholars alike. Anyone interested in ancient philosophy, metaphysics, theological anthropology, or early Christianity will be rewarded greatly by reading this groundbreaking book. Essential reading.
While Plotinus and Augustine have long been acknowledged as the foundational thinkers of late antiquity, a precise understanding of their respective philosophies remains a desideratum in contemporary scholarship. This authoritative study - the culmination of a lifetime of research and publication in the field - explores Plotinus and Augustine on an equal basis and highlights their affinities and divergences. By not reading Augustine as just philosophically derivative from Plotinus, Torchia is able instead to accentuate Augustine's creative adaption of Platonism and to discover the salient elements of their shared vision.