Porphyry Quotes


The fleshless diet contributes to health and to a suitable endurance of hard work in philosophy.

(On Abstinence from Killing Animals)

The One subsists prior to the many; so that it is necessary that The One should be prior to intellect.

Porphyry (Auxiliaries to the Perception of Intelligible Natures)

The Gods have proclaimed Christ to have been most pious, but the Christians are a confused and vicious sect.

Porphyry (Against the Christians)

Not only can logos be seen in absolutely all animals, but in many of them it has the groundwork for being perfected.

Porphyry (On Abstinence from Killing Animals)

Soul is an essence without magnitude, immaterial, incorruptible, possessing its existence in life, and having life from itself.

Porphyry (Auxiliaries to the Perception of Intelligible Natures)

Animals are rational; in most of them logos is imperfect, but it is certainly not wholly lacking. So if, as our opponents say, justice applies to rational beings, why should not justice, for us, also apply to animals?

Porphyry (On Abstinence from Killing Animals)

The soul is bound to the body by a conversion to the corporeal passions; and again liberated by becoming impassive to the body. That which nature binds, nature also dissolves: and that which the soul binds, the soul likewise dissolves.

Porphyry (Auxiliaries to the Perception of Intelligible Natures)

Hence there is a twofold death; the one, indeed, universally known, in which the body is liberated from the soul; but the other peculiar to philosophers, in which the soul is liberated from the body. Nor does the one entirely follow the other.

Porphyry (Auxiliaries to the Perception of Intelligible Natures)

Everything which generates by its very essence, generates that which is inferior to itself; and every thing generated is naturally converted to its generator. Of generating natures, however, some are not at all converted to the beings which they generate; but others are partly converted to them, and partly not; and others are only converted to their progeny, but are not converted to themselves.

Porphyry (Auxiliaries to the Perception of Intelligible Natures)

In his twenty-eighth year he [Plotinus] felt the impulse to study philosophy and was recommended to the teachers in Alexandria who then had the highest reputation; but he came away from their lectures so depressed and full of sadness that he told his trouble to one of his friends. The friend, understanding the desire of his heart, sent him to Ammonius, whom he had not so far tried. He went and heard him, and said to his friend, "This is the man I was looking for." From that day he stayed continually with Ammonius and acquired so complete a training in philosophy that he became eager to make acquaintance with the Persian philosophical discipline and that prevailing among the Indians.

Porphyry (Life of Plotinus)

For the material, indeed, in receiving the immaterial nature, would be corrupted, through being changed into it; and the immaterial essence would become material. Assimilations, therefore, and participations of powers, and the deficiency of power, proceed from things which are thus different in essence from each other, into each other. The world, therefore, is very far from possessing the power of real being; and real being is very remote from the imbecility of a material nature. But that which subsists between these, assimilating and being assimilated, and conjoining the extremes to each other, becomes the cause of deception about the extremes, in consequence of applying, through the assimilation, the one to the other.

Porphyry (Auxiliaries to the Perception of Intelligible Natures)

Everything generated, possesses from that which is different from itself the cause of its generation, since nothing is produced without a cause. Such generated natures, however, as have their existence through composition, these are on this account corruptible. But such as, being simple and incomposite, possess their existence in a simplicity of hypostasis, these being indissoluble, are indeed, incorruptible; yet they are said to be generated, not as if they were composites, but as being suspended from a certain cause. Bodies, therefore, are in a twofold respect generated; as being suspended from a certain producing cause; and as being composites. But soul and intellect are only generated as being suspended from a cause, and not as composites. Hence bodies are generated, dissoluble and corruptible; but soul and intellect are unbegotten, as being without composition, and on this account indissoluble and incorruptible; yet they are generated so far as they are suspended from a cause.

Porphyry (Auxiliaries to the Perception of Intelligible Natures)

Truly-existing being is neither great nor small, for magnitude and parvitude are properly the peculiarities of bulk. But true being transcends both magnitude and parvitude; and is above the greatest, and above the least; and is numerically one and the same, though it is found to be simultaneously participated by everything that is greatest, and everything that is least. You must not, therefore, conceive of it as something which is greatest; as you will then be dubious how, being that which is greatest, it is present with the smallest masses without being diminished or contracted. Nor must you conceive of it as something which is least; since you will thus again be dubious how, being that which is least, it is present with the greatest masses without being multiplied or increased, or without receiving addition. But at one and the same time receiving into the greatest magnitude that which transcends the greatest bulk, and into the least magnitude that which transcends the least, you will be able to conceive how the same thing, abiding in itself, may be simultaneously seen in any causal magnitude, and in infinite multitudes and corporeal masses. For according to its own peculiarity, it is present with the magnitude of the world impartibly and without magnitude. It also antecedes the bulk of the world, and comprehends every part of it in its own impartibility; just as, vice versa, the world, by its multitude of parts, is multifariously present, as far as it is able, with truly existing being, yet cannot comprehend it, neither with the whole of its bulk, nor the whole of its power; but meets with it in all its parts as that which is infinite, and cannot be passed beyond; and this both in other respects, and because truly-existing being is entirely free from all corporeal extension.

Porphyry (Auxiliaries to the Perception of Intelligible Natures)

For if all men conceived rightly, there would be no need of fowlers, or hunters, or fishermen, or swineherds. But animals governing themselves, and having no guardian and ruler, would quickly perish, and be destroyed by others, who would attack them and diminish their multitude, as is found to be the case with myriads of animals on which men do not feed. But all-various folly incessantly dwelling with mankind, there will be an innumerable multitude of those who will voraciously feed on flesh. It is necessary however to preserve health; not by the fear of death, but for the sake of not being impeded in the attainment of the good which is derived from contemplation. But that which is especially preservative of health, is an undisturbed state of the soul, and a tendency of the reasoning power towards truly existing being. For much benefit is from hence derived to the body, as our associates have demonstrated from experience. Hence some who have been afflicted with the gout in the feet and hands, to such a degree as to be infested with it for eight entire years, have expelled it through abandoning wealth, and betaking themselves to the contemplation of divinity. At the same time, therefore, that they have abandoned riches, and a solicitude about human concerns, they have also been liberated from bodily disease. So that a certain state of the soul greatly contributes both to health and to the good of the whole body. And to this also, for the most part, a diminution of nutriment contributes. In short, as Epicurus likewise has rightly said, that food is to be avoided, the enjoyment of which we desire and pursue, but which, after we have enjoyed, we rank among things of an unacceptable nature. But of this kind is every thing luxuriant and gross. And in this manner those are affected, who are vehemently desirous of such nutriment, and through it are involved either in great expense, or in disease, or repletion, or the privation of leisure... Hence also, in simple and slender food, repletion is to be avoided, and every where we should consider what will be the consequence of the possession or enjoyment of it, what the magnitude of it is, and what molestation of the flesh or of the soul it is capable of dissolving. For we ought never to act indefinitely, but in things of this kind we should |42 employ a boundary and measure; and infer by a reasoning process, that he who fears to abstain from animal food, if he suffers himself to feed on flesh through pleasure, is afraid of death. For immediately, together with a privation of such food, he conceives that something indefinitely dreadful will be present, the consequence of which will be death. But from these and similar causes, an insatiable desire is produced of riches, possessions, and renown, together with an opinion that every good is increased with these in a greater extent of time, and the dread of death as of an infinite evil. The pleasure however which is produced through luxury, does not even approach to that which is experienced by him who lives with frugality. For such a one has great pleasure in thinking how little he requires. For luxury, astonishment about venereal occupations, and ambition about external concerns, being taken away, what remaining use can there be of idle wealth, which will be of no advantage to us whatever, but will only become a burden, no otherwise than repletion? - while, on the other hand, the pleasure arising from frugality is genuine and pure. It is also necessary to accustom the body to become alienated, as much as possible, from the pleasure of the satiety arising from luxurious food, but not from the fullness produced by a slender diet, in order that moderation may proceed through all things, and that what is necessary, or what is most excellent, may fix a boundary to our diet. For he who thus mortifies his body will receive every possible good, through being sufficient to himself, and an assimilation to divinity. And thus also, he will not desire a greater extent of time, as if it would bring with it an augmentation of good. He will likewise thus be truly rich, measuring wealth by a natural bound, and not by vain opinions. Thus too, he will not depend on the hope of the greatest pleasure, the existence of which is incredible, since this would be most troublesome. But he will remain satisfied with his present condition, and will not be anxious to live for a longer period of time.

Porphyry (On Abstinence from Killing Animals - Book I)

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Porphyry Biography

Porphyry portrait

Born: 234
Died: 305

Porphyry was a Phoenician Neoplatonic philosopher. He is best known for being one of the direct disciples of Plotinus, and for his own contributions to philosophy, namely the merging of the ideas (logic) of Aristotle with Neoplatonism.

Notable Works

Aids to the Study of the Intelligibles
Isagoge (Introduction to Categories, 270) Against the Christians
Philosophy from Oracles