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Plotinus I: Porphyry on Plotinus, Ennead I (Loeb Classical Library, 440)

by Plotinus, Paul Henry, A. H. Armstrong, etc.

Buy the book: Plotinus. Plotinus I: Porphyry on Plotinus, Ennead I (Loeb Classical Library, 440)

Release Date: June, 1989

Edition: Hardcover


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Buy the book: Plotinus. Plotinus I: Porphyry on Plotinus, Ennead I (Loeb Classical Library, 440)

An Excellent Edition of Plotinus

As is typical for the Loeb classical library books, the volumes are physically small, and the original text (Greek, for Plotinus) is given on the left hand page, with the English translation on the right.

The Preface describes the historical context within which Plotinus wrote, offers a summary of this thought, and a survey of Plotinus translations, commentaries, and studies. This material is supplemented by short introductions and synopses at the start of each chapter, and by abundant and detailed footnotes. The footnotes explain translation difficulties (not uncommon with Plotinus), and also identify the sources of Plotinus' references to other writers. These materials are excellent.

The only thing that this edition lacks is an index. The editors plead the difficulty of indexing Plotinus, and recommend "Lexicon Plotinianum" by J. H. Sleeman and Gilbert Pollet as an alternative. This work is, however, out of print (is it even in English? I am not sure) so it is not a very helpful suggestion. As it is, given Plotinus' rather scattered way of writing, an index is missed.

The Enneads are a collection of Plotinus' writings from fairly late in his life. Porphyry, his student, encouraged him in writing down his teachings, and acted as his posthumous editor (he also wrote a short biography of Plotinus which is included in the first volume). The works as they exist today are as they were received from Porphyry. As editor, Porphyry created his own organization for the works based on subject matter. This order is completely different from the order in which Plotinus wrote them. Porphyry, however, did document the original ordering.

From my own experience, however, I would recommend strongly reading Plotinus' writings in the order Plotinus wrote them rather than the order in which Porphyry arranged them. The major advantage I found was that it was much easier to follow the reasons why Plotinus believed what he did, even if the subject matter does jump around a bit. I tried Porphyry's order first, and almost gave up in despair before trying again in Plotinus' order. I have come to the conclusion that much of Plotinus' reputation as a bad writer is due to unfortunate but well-intended editorial decisions by Porphyry. Given that the Loeb edition presents Plotinus' writings in Porphyry's order, and that the Loeb edition is in multiple volumes, reading Plotinus this way does have a certain entertaining quality as well (first get volume IV, read a treatise, then get volume VI, read another, then get volume I, read another, and so on).

An important recommendation I would make for the reader is that he be properly prepared in his background reading. All of Aristotle and all of Plato would be ideal (as well as a worthwhile activity in its own right), but if the would-be reader of Plotinus finds that a little daunting and wants to get started sooner, there are still a few works that he should make a particular effort to read: Plato's "Phaedo", "Republic" (Books VI, VII), "Parmenides", and "Timaeus"; Aristotle's "Physics", "On the Heavens", "On the Soul", and "Metaphysics". Plato, as the earlier writer, should be read first (by the way - don't be discouraged when you find you don't understand the second half of "Parmenides", Plotinus is going to tell you what he thinks it means in due course, so all you need to do is understand the references). If you don't have Plato or Aristotle, for Plato, Cooper's "Plato: Complete Works" (in one volume), and for Aristotle, Barnes' "Complete Works of Aristotle" (in two volumes), are excellent.

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The Loeb Edition Table of Contents

This Loeb Classical Library edition of the works of Plotinus is in seven volumes. The titles are as follows:

Plotinus I: Porphyry on Plotinus, Ennead I (Loeb Classical Library, 440)

Plotinus II: Ennead II (Loeb Classical Library, 441)

Plotinus III: Ennead III (Loeb Classical Library, 442)

Plotinus IV: Ennead IV (Loeb Classical Library, 443)

Plotinus V: Ennead V (Loeb Classical Library, 444)

Plotinus VI: Ennead VI, Books 1-5 (Loeb Classical Library, 445)

Plotinus VII: Ennead VI, Books 6-9 (Loeb Classical Library, 468)


Below is the combined table of contents for those volumes:


Preface (editors)

Sigla (editors)

On the Life of Plotinus and the Order of his Books (Porphyry)

Ennead I:

1. What is the Living Being, and What is Man? (53)

2. On Virtues (19)

3. On Dialectic (20)

4. On Well-being (46)

5. On Whether Well-being Increases with Time (36)

6. On Beauty (1)

7. On the Primal Good and the Other Goods (54)

8. On What Are and Whence Come Evils (51)

9. On Going Out of the Body (16)


Sigla (editors)

Ennead II:

1. On Heaven (40)

2. On the Movement of Heaven (14)

3. On Whether the Stars are Causes (52)

4. On Matter (12)

5. On What Exists Actually and What Potentially (25)

6. On Substance, or On Quality (17)

7. On Complete Transfusion (37)

8. On Sight, or How Distant Objects Appear Small (35)

9. Against the Gnostics (33)


Sigla (editors)

Ennead III:

1. On Destiny (3)

2. On Providence I (47)

3. On Providence II (48)

4. On Our Allotted Guardian Spirit (15)

5. On Love (50)

6. On the Impassibility of Things without Body (26)

7. On Eternity and Time (45)

8. On Nature and Contemplation and the One (30)

9. Various Considerations (13)


Preface to the Loeb Plotinus IV-V (A. H. Armstrong)

Sigla (editors)

Ennead IV:

1. [2] On the Essence of the Soul I (4)

2. [1] On the Essence of the Soul II (21)

3. On Difficulties About of the Soul I (27)

4. On Difficulties About of the Soul I (28)

5. On Difficulties About of the Soul III, Or On Sight (29)

6. On Sense Perception and Memory (41)

7. On the Immortality of the Soul (2)

8. On the Descent of the Soul into Bodies (6)

9. If All Souls are One (8)


Preface to the Loeb Plotinus IV-V (A. H. Armstrong)

Sigla (editors)

Ennead V:

1. On the Three Primary Hypostases (10)

2. On the Origin and Order of the Beings Which Come After the First (11)

3. On the Knowing Hypostases and That Which is Beyond (49)

4. How That Which is After the First Comes From the First, And on the One (7)

5. That the Intelligibles are not Outside the Intellect, and on the Good (32)

6. On the Fact that that Which is Beyond Being does not Think, and on What is the Primary and What the Secondary Thinking Principle (24)

7. On the Question Whether there are Ideas of Particular Things (18)

8. On the Intelligible Beauty (31)

9. On Intellect, the Forms, and Being (5)


Preface to the Loeb Plotinus VI, VII (A. H. Armstrong)

Sigla (editors)

Ennead VI (continued in volume VII):

1. On the Kinds of Being I (42)

2. On the Kinds of Being II (43)

3. On the Kinds of Being III (44)

4. On the Presence of Being, One and the Same, Everywhere as a Whole I (22)

5. On the Presence of Being, One and the Same, Everywhere as a Whole II (23)


Preface to the Loeb Plotinus VI, VII (A. H. Armstrong)

Sigla (editors)

Ennead VI (continued from volume VI):

6. On Numbers (34)

7. How the Multitude of Forms Came into Being, and on the Good (38)

8. On Free Will and the Will of the One (39)

9. On the Good or the One (9)

The numbers in parentheses indicate Plotinus' order of composition, which differs from the order given them by Porphyry and which this edition follows.

The bracketed numbers for the first two chapters of Ennead IV are an alternate ordering for them.

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