El irresistible encanto de las Ideas

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It is always difficult to find an English word to represent nous. The standard dictionary traslation is ‘mind’, but this does not have the correct connotations, particulary when the word is used in a religious philosophy. If we were to say that Plotinus put mind above soul, we should give a completely wrong impression. McKenna, the translator of Plotinus, uses ‘Intellectual-Principle’, but this is awkward, and does not suggest an object suitable for religious veneration. Dean Inge uses ‘Spirit’, which is perhaps the best word available. But it leaves out the intellectual element which was important in all Greek religious philosophy after Pythagoras. Mathematics, the world of ideas, and all thought about what is not sensible, have, for Pythagoras, Plato and Plotinus, something divine; they constitute the activity of nous, or at least the nearest approach to its activity that we can conceive.

Bertrand Russell, History of Western Philosophy, 1946.

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