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Faculty of Divinity




See sections below to learn about my research and publications:


Immanentism and Exemplarism: Plotinus's critique of Aristotle and his 'so-called substance' in VI. 1-3

My doctoral research studies Plotinus’s ‘On the Categories of the Intelligible World’, a single treatise divided and grouped by his student Porphyry into three treatises (VI.1-3). This tripartite treatise is widely regarded as constituting at once the most difficult, and the most ambiguous of purpose in Plotinus’s entire corpus. Ostensibly commencing as a critique of the Ten Categories identified by Aristotle, as well as those of the Stoics (VI.1), in VI.2 Plotinus turns his attention to establishing the existence, priority and number of the ‘Supreme Genera’ of the intelligible world; he determines that these are in fact the very μέγιστα γένη of Plato’s Sophist. Having established, in VI.1 and VI.2, his methodology both for a critique of Aristotle and the affirmation of his own notion of supreme genera, in VI.3 Plotinus completes his treatise by providing his account of the categories of the sensible world, apparently as a better alternative to that of Aristotle. My working hypothesis is that Plotinus’s affirmation of ‘supreme genera’ in the context of a critical appraisal of Aristotle categorical theory is, at base, a theory affirming the substantial primacy of intelligible, exemplary entities over and against sensible objects, against the immanentist assumption that intelligible entities are subordinate to (putatively) ontologically prior individual instances of (pseudo-)substance. VI. 1-3, and particularly VI. 2, achieve this by expounding the most fundamental logical and metaphysical principles which ground the Platonic distinction between Being and Becoming. In seeking to determine the real philosophical function of this oft-beguiling treatise in Plotinus’s oeuvre, there are good reasons for concluding that the appearance it can give to the reader of aiming to simply critique Aristotle’s categories, and offer a better alternative, is a straightforward illusion. Its critique of Aristotelianism and Stoicism (indeed, presumably, any insufficiently Platonic philosophy) strikes far more deeply at these alternative philosophies. More fundamentally, its modus of critique asserts the inconsistency of any attempt to i) define substance or primary being immanently in the world of Becoming, and to subsequently ii) find the other highest generic divisions of being in the apparent offshoots of that immanent ‘substance’. Thus, Plotinus critiques the Aristotelian categories in VI.1 in no way on their own terms, but rather, in aid of showing that they fall short of the Platonic criteria for primary genera, because they fail to also be true principles, that is, exemplary causes of being. VI. 1-3 is not thus so much a critique of the categories per se, as it is an only very thinly veiled (and occasionally explicit) attack on the Aristotelian ontology that recognizes immanent, hylomorphic substance as ‘true being’; such an ontology could never yield truly primary genera of being in (what is for Platonists), the mere realm of Becoming, because on the immanent-substance-centric account of Aristotle, the remaining genera simply fail to possess any form of genuine being. Yet without the remaining categories, Aristotle’s substance is nothing more than a bare substratum, devoid of any distinct content, or, indeed, genuine intelligibility. For Plotinus, the Platonic account of substance as constituted by the five supreme genera, on the other hand, succeeds both in exposing the inconsistency of the Aristotelian account of substance and the categories, and in grounding exemplary causation of the world of Becoming, in true metaphysical principles of unity which are, in their possession of true Being, necessarily prior to that world. 



Key publications: 

Things as They Are: Nafs al-Amr and the Metaphysical Foundations of Objective Truth (Abu Dhabi: Tabah Research, 2021).

The Metacritique of Kant and the Possibility of Metaphysics (Abu Dhabi: Tabah Research, 2022). 

Hierarchy and Freedom: An examination of some classical metaphysical and post-Enlightenment accounts of human autonomy (Cambridge: New Andalus, 2023). 

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