Plotinus: An Introduction to the Enneads

Plotinus: An Introduction to the Enneads

Plotinus: An Introduction to the Enneads

Plotinus: An Introduction to the Enneads

Synopsis

This book is addressed to readers new to the Enneads. One of the greatest of ancient philosophers, Plotinus is attracting ever-increasing attention from those interested in ancient philosophy, late Antiquity, and the importance of this period for the Western intellectual tradition. O'Meara presents a brief outline of Plotinus's life, and of the composition of the Enneads, placing Plotinus within the intellectual context of the philosophical schools and religious movements of his time. He then discusses selected Plotinian texts in relation to a number of central philosophical issues to show how Plotinus's thinking on these issues evolved, and to assess the historical importance of his philosophy.

Excerpt

We depend for practically all of what we know about Plotinus' life and works on the labours of one of his pupils, Porphyry. Porphyry Life of Plotinus (or Vita Plotini), one of the most interesting of ancient biographies to survive, is the principal source of information about Plotinus' life. Porphyry placed it at the beginning of his edition of Plotinus' works and it is this edition (the Enneads) which prevailed in antiquity and which we have inherited. Porphyry published the Life and Enneads at the beginning of the fourth century ad, some thirty years after Plotinus' death. He was already 30 years of age and highly educated in literature and philosophy when he became a member of Plotinus' circle in Rome in 263). His devotion to Plotinus, then and after, did not exclude his having his own interests. These interests shape his biography and edition of Plotinus, defining how we should read the life and writings of his master. We would do well then to take account of the point of view of our guide as he gives us access to the exceptional person and philosopher whom he felt so privileged to know.

1. Plotinus' Life

One of Porphyry's aims in writing the Life of Plotinus is to show that he had been entrusted by the master with the task of editing his works (Life, chs. 7, 24). Other pupils had prepared editions of various sorts, Amelius (100 volumes of notes!) and Eustochius. But Porphyry wishes to impose his edition as the 'authorized' version. He also sees himself as the focus around which revolved the actual . . .

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