In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Plotinus

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Bibliographies
  • Collections of Papers
  • Life of Plotinus
  • Text
  • Textual Criticism
  • Lexicons
  • Translations
  • Sources
  • Ethics and Politics
  • Physics
  • Categories
  • Mysticism

Classics Plotinus
Richard Dufour
  • LAST REVIEWED: 14 December 2009
  • LAST MODIFIED: 14 December 2009
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0072


Plotinus (205–270 CE) is considered to be the founder of Neoplatonism. Pupil of Ammonius Saccas, he taught in Rome from 244 to 269. Amelius and Porphyry are his most renowned students. We owe to Porphyry an account of Plotinus's life and the edition of his writings. Originally written in no special order, Plotinus's treatises were later organized by Porphyry in a systematic arrangement in ethics, physics, and metaphysics. Six groups of nine treatises were thus created and came to be called the Enneads. Plotinus's interpretation of Plato is original, and his hierarchical metaphysics made a lasting impression over the centuries. According to Plotinus, reality declines itself, from top to bottom, as follows: the One, the Intellect, the Soul, the World-Soul, the individual souls, and matter. As much a Platonist as he is, Plotinus is nonetheless very well versed in Aristotelian, Presocratic, Gnostic, and Stoic doctrines.

General Overviews

Bréhier 1951 is an old but classic French introduction. Accessible and non-controversial are the presentations by O'Meara 1993 and Brisson and Pradeau 2006. With a more interpretative bias, see Gerson 1994, Hadot 1993, and Rist 1967.

  • Bréhier, Émile. 1951. The philosophy of Plotinus. Translated by Joseph Thomas. Chicago: Henry Regnery.

    English translation of La philosophie de Plotin (Paris: Boivin, 1928). Several French editions have appeared, as well as Spanish and Italian translations. A series of lessons given at the Sorbonne in 1921–1922. Chapter 7 is on Plotinus's Orientalism.

  • Brisson, Luc, and Jean-François Pradeau. 2006. Plotinus. In A companion to ancient philosophy. By Luc Brisson, and Jean-François Pradeau, edited by Mary Louise Gill and Pierre Pellegrin, 577–596. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2006.

    DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631210610.2006.00035.x

    Augmented version and English translation of their Introduction in Plotin: Traités 1–6. Edited by Luc Brisson and Jean-François Pradeau, 7–43 (Paris: GF Flammarion, 2002). The latter is the general introduction to the complete works of Plotinus in GF.

  • Gerson, Lloyd P. 1994. Plotinus. London: Routledge.

    Controversial and provocative. Plotinus is portrayed as scholastic, Thomist, and post-Cartesian. Not for beginners.

  • Hadot, Pierre. 1993. Plotinus or the simplicity of vision. Translated by Michael Chase; introduction by Arnold I. Davidson. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

    Translation of Plotin ou la simplicité du regard (Paris: Plon, 1963). There are several French editions and a Russian translation. Presents the Plotinian experience instead of the Plotinian system of philosophy. Particular accent put on the spiritual component of Plotinus's thought.

  • O'Meara, Dominic. 1993. Plotinus: An introduction to the Enneads. Clarendon Press: Oxford.

    Also available in French, in a 2d revised and corrected edition, with a bibliographic supplement:Plotin: Une introduction aux Ennéades, translated from English by Anne Banateanu (Fribourg: Academic Press, 2004). Short (142 pp.) and accessible introduction.

  • Rist, John M. 1967. Plotinus: The road to reality. New York: Cambridge University Press.

    A classic that is more an interpretive study than an introduction, but remains valuable for its challenging interpretations.

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