Lovers love the beautiful. Plotinus inquires what about the beautiful makes it so. Early on in Ennead 1, he says (pace the Stoics) that it is not the mere proportions of the thing that make whatever the thing is beautiful, hence not the proper relations of part to whole. For cannot a line be beautiful and cannot a single ray of light? What lovers love, then, is not physical beauty but, at another order of being (or–on an epistemic reading–a different way of perceiving), moral beauty. Plotinus addresses his words to lovers:
[Y]ou feel like this when you see, in yourself or in someone else, greatness of soul, a righteous life, a pure morality, courage with its noble look, and dignity and modesty advancing in a fearless, calm and unperturbed disposition, and the godlike light of intellect shining upon all this. (Ennead 1.6)
Here we have beauty of soul, here the harmony of the salient virtues. Lovers seek home, the most real, and discover kinship in that in the other being that also partakes of home. Understood metaphorically, lovers’ rejection of ugliness and concomitant ascent toward the Intellect is meant to occasion a change in their perspective on earthly life, a change in their mode of existing. In the most real, the really existing, the good, lovers perceive, is the beautiful and the beautiful soul–a redundancy as much as an achievement worthy of praise–is already longing for oneness, the space of tranquility.