|Died||270 (aged 64–65)
|Main interests||Platonism, Metaphysics, Mysticism|
|Notable ideas||Three principles: the One, the Intellect, and the Soul; Emanationism; Henosis|
|Part of a series on|
Plotinus (//; Greek: Πλωτῖνος; c. 204/5 – 270) was a major philosopher of the ancient world. In his philosophy there are three principles: the One, the Intellect, and the Soul. His teacher was Ammonius Saccas and he is of the Platonic tradition. Historians of the 19th century invented the term Neoplatonism and applied it to him and his philosophy which was influential in Late Antiquity. Much of the biographical information about Plotinus comes from Porphyry's preface to his edition of Plotinus' Enneads. His metaphysical writings have inspired centuries of Pagan, Christian, Jewish, Islamic and Gnostic metaphysicians and mystics.
- 1 Biography
- 2 Major ideas
- 3 Influence
- 4 See also
- 5 Notes
- 6 References
- 7 Further reading
- 8 External links
Porphyry reported that Plotinus was 66 years old when he died in 270, the second year of the reign of the emperor Claudius II, thus giving us the year of his teacher's birth as around 205. Eunapius reported that Plotinus was born in the Deltaic Lycopolis ("Lyco-" from the Greek: λύκος meaning "wolf"—it is the same root that gave rise to Aristotle's Lyceum) in Egypt, which has led to speculations that he may have been a native Egyptian of Roman, Greek, or Hellenized Egyptian descent.
Plotinus had an inherent distrust of materiality (an attitude common to Platonism), holding to the view that phenomena were a poor image or mimicry (mimesis) of something "higher and intelligible" [VI.I] which was the "truer part of genuine Being". This distrust extended to the body, including his own; it is reported by Porphyry that at one point he refused to have his portrait painted, presumably for much the same reasons of dislike. Likewise Plotinus never discussed his ancestry, childhood, or his place or date of birth. From all accounts his personal and social life exhibited the highest moral and spiritual standards.
Plotinus took up the study of philosophy at the age of twenty-seven, around the year 232, and travelled to Alexandria to study. There he was dissatisfied with every teacher he encountered until an acquaintance suggested he listen to the ideas of Ammonius Saccas. Upon hearing Ammonius lecture, he declared to his friend, "this was the man I was looking for," and began to study intently under his new instructor. Besides Ammonius, Plotinus was also influenced by the works of Alexander of Aphrodisias, Numenius, and various Stoics.
Expedition to Persia and return to Rome
After spending the next eleven years in Alexandria, he then decided to investigate the philosophical teachings of the Persian philosophers and the Indian philosophers around the age of 38. In the pursuit of this endeavor he left Alexandria and joined the army of Gordian III as it marched on Persia. However, the campaign was a failure, and on Gordian's eventual death Plotinus found himself abandoned in a hostile land, and only with difficulty found his way back to safety in Antioch.
At the age of forty, during the reign of Philip the Arab, he came to Rome, where he stayed for most of the remainder of his life. There he attracted a number of students. His innermost circle included Porphyry, Amelius Gentilianus of Tuscany, the Senator Castricius Firmus, and Eustochius of Alexandria, a doctor who devoted himself to learning from Plotinus and attending to him until his death. Other students included: Zethos, an Arab by ancestry who died before Plotinus, leaving him a legacy and some land; Zoticus, a critic and poet; Paulinus, a doctor of Scythopolis; and Serapion from Alexandria. He had students amongst the Roman Senate beside Castricius, such as Marcellus Orontius, Sabinillus, and Rogantianus. Women were also numbered amongst his students, including Gemina, in whose house he lived during his residence in Rome, and her daughter, also Gemina; and Amphiclea, the wife of Ariston the son of Iamblichus. Finally, Plotinus was a correspondent of the philosopher Cassius Longinus.
While in Rome Plotinus also gained the respect of the Emperor Gallienus and his wife Salonina. At one point Plotinus attempted to interest Gallienus in rebuilding an abandoned settlement in Campania, known as the 'City of Philosophers', where the inhabitants would live under the constitution set out in Plato's Laws. An Imperial subsidy was never granted, for reasons unknown to Porphyry, who reports the incident.
Porphyry subsequently went to live in Sicily, where word reached him that his former teacher had died. The philosopher spent his final days in seclusion on an estate in Campania which his friend Zethos had bequeathed him. According to the account of Eustochius, who attended him at the end, Plotinus' final words were: "Strive to give back the Divine in yourselves to the Divine in the All." ["The Six Enneads" translated by Stephen Mackenna and B. S. Page.] Eustochius records that a snake crept under the bed where Plotinus lay, and slipped away through a hole in the wall; at the same moment the philosopher died.
Plotinus wrote the essays that became the Enneads over a period of several years from ca. 253 until a few months before his death seventeen years later. Porphyry makes note that the Enneads, before being compiled and arranged by himself, were merely the enormous collection of notes and essays which Plotinus used in his lectures and debates, rather than a formal book. Plotinus was unable to revise his own work due to his poor eyesight, yet his writings required extensive editing, according to Porphyry: his master's handwriting was atrocious, he did not properly separate his words, and he cared little for niceties of spelling. Plotinus intensely disliked the editorial process, and turned the task to Porphyry, who not only polished them but put them into the arrangement we now have.
Plotinus taught that there is a supreme, totally transcendent "One", containing no division, multiplicity or distinction; beyond all categories of being and non-being. His "One" "cannot be any existing thing", nor is it merely the sum of all things [compare the Stoic doctrine of disbelief in non-material existence], but "is prior to all existents". Plotinus identified his "One" with the concept of 'Good' and the principle of 'Beauty'. [I.6.9]
His "One" concept encompassed thinker and object. Even the self-contemplating intelligence (the noesis of the nous) must contain duality. "Once you have uttered 'The Good,' add no further thought: by any addition, and in proportion to that addition, you introduce a deficiency." [III.8.11] Plotinus denies sentience, self-awareness or any other action (ergon) to the One [V.6.6]. Rather, if we insist on describing it further, we must call the One a sheer potentiality (dynamis) or without which nothing could exist. [III.8.10] As Plotinus explains in both places and elsewhere [e.g. V.6.3], it is impossible for the One to be Being or a self-aware Creator God. At [V.6.4], Plotinus compared the One to "light", the Divine Nous (first will towards Good) to the "Sun", and lastly the Soul to the "Moon" whose light is merely a "derivative conglomeration of light from the 'Sun'". The first light could exist without any celestial body.
The One, being beyond all attributes including being and non-being, is the source of the world—but not through any act of creation, willful or otherwise, since activity cannot be ascribed to the unchangeable, immutable One. Plotinus argues instead that the multiple cannot exist without the simple. The "less perfect" must, of necessity, "emanate", or issue forth, from the "perfect" or "more perfect". Thus, all of "creation" emanates from the One in succeeding stages of lesser and lesser perfection. These stages are not temporally isolated, but occur throughout time as a constant process. Later Neoplatonic philosophers, especially Iamblichus, added hundreds of intermediate beings as emanations between the One and humanity; but Plotinus' system was much simpler in comparison.
The One is not just an intellectual conception but something that can be experienced, an experience where one goes beyond all multiplicity. Plotinus writes, "We ought not even to say that he will see, but he will be that which he sees, if indeed it is possible any longer to distinguish between seer and seen, and not boldly to affirm that the two are one."
Emanation by the One
Plotinus offers an alternative to the orthodox Christian notion of creation ex nihilo (out of nothing), which attributes to God the deliberation of mind and action of a will, although Plotinus never mentions Christianity in any of his works. Emanation ex deo (out of God), confirms the absolute transcendence of the One, making the unfolding of the cosmos purely a consequence of its existence; the One is in no way affected or diminished by these emanations. Plotinus uses the analogy of the Sun which emanates light indiscriminately without thereby diminishing itself, or reflection in a mirror which in no way diminishes or otherwise alters the object being reflected.
The first emanation is Nous (Divine Mind, Logos, Order, Thought, Reason), identified metaphorically with the Demiurge in Plato's Timaeus. It is the first Will toward Good. From Nous proceeds the World Soul, which Plotinus subdivides into upper and lower, identifying the lower aspect of Soul with nature. From the world soul proceeds individual human souls, and finally, matter, at the lowest level of being and thus the least perfected level of the cosmos. Despite this relatively pedestrian assessment of the material world, Plotinus asserted the ultimately divine nature of material creation since it ultimately derives from the One, through the mediums of nous and the world soul. It is by the Good or through beauty that we recognize the One, in material things and then in the Forms.
The essentially devotional nature of Plotinus' philosophy may be further illustrated by his concept of attaining ecstatic union with the One (henosis). Porphyry relates that Plotinus attained such a union four times during the years he knew him. This may be related to enlightenment, liberation, and other concepts of mystical union common to many Eastern and Western traditions.
The true human and happiness
Authentic human happiness for Plotinus consists of the true human identifying with that which is the best in the universe. Because happiness is beyond anything physical, Plotinus stresses the point that worldly fortune does not control true human happiness, and thus “… there exists no single human being that does not either potentially or effectively possess this thing we hold to constitute happiness.” (Enneads I.4.4) The issue of happiness is one of Plotinus’ greatest imprints on Western thought, as he is one of the first to introduce the idea that eudaimonia (happiness) is attainable only within consciousness.
The true human is an incorporeal contemplative capacity of the soul, and superior to all things corporeal. It then follows that real human happiness is independent of the physical world. Real happiness is, instead, dependent on the metaphysical and authentic human being found in this highest capacity of Reason. “For man, and especially the Proficient, is not the Couplement of Soul and body: the proof is that man can be disengaged from the body and disdain its nominal goods.” (Enneads I.4.14) The human who has achieved happiness will not be bothered by sickness, discomfort, etc., as his focus is on the greatest things. Authentic human happiness is the utilization of the most authentically human capacity of contemplation. Even in daily, physical action, the flourishing human’s “…Act is determined by the higher phase of the Soul.” (Enneads III.4.6) Even in the most dramatic arguments Plotinus considers (if the Proficient is subject to extreme physical torture, for example), he concludes this only strengthens his claim of true happiness being metaphysical, as the truly happy human being would understand that which is being tortured is merely a body, not the conscious self, and happiness could persist.
Plotinus offers a comprehensive description of his conception of a person who has achieved eudaimonia. “The perfect life” involves a man who commands reason and contemplation. (Enneads I.4.4) A happy person will not sway between happy and sad, as many of Plotinus’ contemporaries believed. Stoics, for example, question the ability of someone to be happy (presupposing happiness is contemplation) if they are mentally incapacitated or even asleep. Plotinus disregards this claim, as the soul and true human do not sleep or even exist in time, nor will a living human who has achieved eudaimonia suddenly stop using its greatest, most authentic capacity just because of the body’s discomfort in the physical realm. “…The Proficient’s will is set always and only inward.” (Enneads I.4.11)
Overall, happiness for Plotinus is "...a flight from this world's ways and things." (Theat 176AB) and a focus on the highest, i.e. Forms and The One.
Against causal astrology
Plotinus seems to be one of the first to argue against the still popular notion of causal astrology. In the late tractate 2.3, "Are the stars causes?", Plotinus makes the argument that specific stars influencing one's fortune (a common Hellenistic theme) attributes irrationality to a perfect universe, and invites moral turpitude.[clarification needed] He does, however, claim the stars and planets are ensouled, as witnessed by their movement.
Plotinus and the Gnostics
At least two modern conferences within Hellenic philosophy fields of study have been held in order to address what Plotinus stated in his tract Against the Gnostics and who he was addressing it to, in order to separate and clarify the events and persons involved in the origin of the term "Gnostic". From the dialogue, it appears that the word had an origin in the Platonic and Hellenistic tradition long before the group calling themselves "Gnostics"—or the group covered under the modern term "Gnosticism"—ever appeared. It would seem that this shift from Platonic to Gnostic usage has led many people to confusion. The strategy of sectarians taking Greek terms from philosophical contexts and re-applying them to religious contexts was popular in Christianity, the Cult of Isis and other ancient religious contexts including Hermetic ones (see Alexander of Abonutichus for an example).
Plotinus and the Neoplatonists viewed Gnosticism as a form of heresy or sectarianism to the Pythagorean and Platonic philosophy of the Mediterranean and Middle East.[note 1] He accused them of using senseless jargon and being overly dramatic and insolent in their distortion of Plato's ontology."[note 2] Plotinus attacks his opponents as untraditional, irrational and immoral[note 3][note 4] and arrogant.[note 5] He also attacks them as elitist and blasphemous to Plato for the Gnostics despising the material world and its maker.[note 6]
The Neoplatonic movement (though Plotinus would have simply referred to himself as a philosopher of Plato) seems to be motivated by the desire of Plotinus to revive the pagan philosophical tradition.[note 7] Plotinus was not claiming to innovate with the Enneads, but to clarify aspects of the works of Plato that he considered misrepresented or misunderstood. Plotinus does not claim to be an innovator, but rather a communicator of a tradition. Plotinus referred to tradition as a way to interpret Plato's intentions. Because the teachings of Plato were for members of the academy rather than the general public, it was easy for outsiders to misunderstand Plato's meaning. However, Plotinus attempted to clarify how the philosophers of the academy had not arrived at the same conclusions (such as misotheism or dystheism of the creator God as an answer to the problem of evil) as the targets of his criticism.
The emperor Julian the Apostate was deeply influenced by Neoplatonism, as was Hypatia of Alexandria, as well as many Christians, most notably Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. St. Augustine, though often referred to as a "Platonist," acquired his Platonist philosophy through the mediation of the Neoplatonist teachings of Plotinus.
|“||To the Christian, the Other World was the Kingdom of Heaven, to be enjoyed after death; to the Platonist, it was the eternal world of ideas, the real world as opposed to that of illusory appearance. Christian theologians combined these points of view, and embodied much of the philosophy of Plotinus. [...] Plotinus, accordingly, is historically important as an influence in moulding the Christianity of the Middle Ages and of theology.||”|
The Eastern Orthodox position on energy, for example, is often contrasted with the position of the Roman Catholic Church, and in part this is attributed to varying interpretations of Aristotle and Plotinus, either through Thomas Aquinas for the Roman Catholics or Gregory of Nyssa for the Orthodox Christians.
Neoplatonism and the ideas of Plotinus influenced medieval Islam as well, since the Sunni Abbasids fused Greek concepts into sponsored state texts, and found great influence amongst the Ismaili Shia. Persian philosophers as well, such as Muhammad al-Nasafi and Abu Yaqub Sijistani. By the 11th century, Neoplatonism was adopted by the Fatimid state of Egypt, and taught by their da'i. Neoplatonism was brought to the Fatimid court by Iraqi Hamid al-Din al-Kirmani, although his teachings differed from Nasafi and Sijistani, who were more aligned with original teachings of Plotinus. The teachings of Kirmani in turn influenced philosophers such as Nasir Khusraw of Persia.
In the Renaissance the philosopher Marsilio Ficino set up an Academy under the patronage of Cosimo de Medici in Florence, mirroring that of Plato. His work was of great importance in reconciling the philosophy of Plato directly with Christianity. One of his most distinguished pupils was Pico della Mirandola, author of An Oration On the Dignity of Man. Our term 'Neo Platonist' has its origins in the Renaissance.
Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Ananda Coomaraswamy used the writing of Plotinus in their own texts as a superlative elaboration upon Indian monism, specifically Upanishadic and Advaita Vedantic thought. Coomaraswamy has compared Plotinus' teachings to the Hindu school of Advaita Vedanta (advaita meaning "not two" or "non-dual").
Advaita Vedanta and Neoplatonism have been compared by J. F. Staal, Frederick Copleston, Aldo Magris and Mario Piantelli, Radhakrishnan, Gwen Griffith-Dickson, and John Y. Fenton.
- From Introduction to Against the Gnostics Plotinus' Enneads as translated by A. H. Armstrong, pp. 220–222:
The treatise as it stands in the Enneads is a most powerful protest on behalf of Hellenic philosophy against the un-Hellenic heresy (as it was from the Platonist as well as the orthodox Christian point of view) of Gnosticism. There were Gnostics among Plotinus's own friends, whom he had not succeeded in converting (Enneads ch.10 of this treatise) and he and his pupils devoted considerable time and energy to anti-Gnostic controversy (Life of Plotinus ch.16). He obviously considered Gnosticism an extremely dangerous influence, likely to pervert the minds even of members of his own circle. It is impossible to attempt to give an account of Gnosticism here. By far the best discussion of what the particular group of Gnostics Plotinus knew believed is M. Puech's admirable contribution to Entretiens Hardt V (Les Sourcesde Plotin). But it is important for the understanding of this treatise to be clear about the reasons why Plotinus disliked them so intensely and thought their influence so harmful.
- From Introduction to Against the Gnostics Plotinus' Enneads as translated by A. H. Armstrong, pp. 220–222:
Short statement of the doctrine of the three hypostasis, the One, Intellect and Soul; there cannot be more or fewer than these three.
1. Criticism of the attempts to multiply the hypostasis, and especially of the idea of two intellects, one which thinks and that other which thinks that it thinks. (Enneads Against the Gnostics ch. 1). The true doctrine of Soul (ch. 2).
2. - The law of necessary procession and the eternity of the universe (ch. 3).
- Attack on the Gnostic doctrine of the making of the universe by a fallen soul, and on their despising of the universe and the heavenly bodies (chs. 4–5).
- The sense-less jargon of the Gnostics, their plagiarism from and perversion of Plato, and their insolent arrogance (ch. 6).
3. The true doctrine about Universal Soul and the goodness of the universe which it forms and rules (chs. 7–8).
4. Refutation of objections from the inequalities and injustices of human life (ch. 9).
5. Ridiculous arrogance of the Gnostics who refuse to acknowledge the hierarchy of created gods and spirits and say that they alone are sons of God and superior to the heavens (ch. 9).
6. The absurdities of the Gnostic doctrine of the fall of "Wisdom" (Sophia) and of the generation and activities of the Demiurge, maker of the visible universe (chs. 10–12).
7. False and melodramatic Gnostic teaching about the cosmic spheres and their influence (ch. 13).
8. The blasphemous falsity of the Gnostic claim to control the higher powers by magic and the absurdity of their claim to cure diseases by casting out demons (ch. 14).
9. The false other-worldliness of the Gnostics leads to immorality (ch. 15).
10. The true Platonic other-worldliness, which love and venerates the material universe in all its goodness and beauty as the most perfect possible image of the intelligible, contracted at length with the false, Gnostic, other-worldliness which hates and despises the material universe and its beauties (chs. 16–18).
A. H. Lawrence, Introduction to Against the Gnostics Plotinus' Enneads, pages 220–222
- From Introduction to Against the Gnostics Plotinus' Enneads as translated by A. H. Armstrong, pp. 220–222:
The teaching of the Gnostics seems to him untraditional, irrational and immoral. They despise and revile the ancient Platonic teaching and claim to have a new and superior wisdom of their own: but in fact anything that is true in their teaching comes from Plato, and all they have done themselves is to add senseless complications and pervert the true traditional doctrine into a melodramatic, superstitious fantasy designed to feed their own delusions of grandeur. They reject the only true way of salvation through wisdom and virtue, the slow patient study of truth and pursuit of perfection by men who respect the wisdom of the ancients and the know their place in the universe. Pages 220–222
- Introduction to Against the Gnostics Plotinus' Enneads as translated by A. H. Armstrong, pp. 220–222:
9. The false other-worldiness of the Gnostics leads to immorality (Enneads ch. 15).
- Introduction to Against the Gnostics Plotinus' Enneads as translated by A. H. Armstrong, pp. 220–222:
Ridiculous arrogance of the Gnostics who refuse to acknowledge the hierarchy of created gods and spirits and say that they alone are sons of God and superior to the heavens (Enneads ch. 9)
- They claim to be a privileged caste of beings, in whom alone God is interested, and who are saved not by their own efforts but by some dramatic and arbitrary divine proceeding; and this, Plotinus says, leads to immorality. Worst of all, they despise and hate the material universe and deny its goodness and the goodness of its maker. This for a Platonist is utter blasphemy, and all the worse because it obviously derives to some extent from the sharply other-worldly side of Plato's own teaching (e.g. in the Phaedo). At this point in his attack Plotinus comes very close in some ways to the orthodox Christian opponents of Gnosticism, who also insist that this world is the good work of God in his goodness. But, here as on the question of salvation, the doctrine which Plotinus is defending is as sharply opposed on other ways to orthodox Christianity as to Gnosticism: for he maintains not only the goodness of the material universe but also its eternity and its divinity. The idea that the universe could have a beginning and end is inseparably connected in his mind with the idea that the divine action in making it is arbitrary and irrational. And to deny the divinity (though a subordinate and dependent divinity) of the World-Soul, and of those noblest of embodied living beings the heavenly bodies, seems to him both blasphemous and unreasonable. Pages 220–222
- "... as Plotinus had endeavored to revive the religious spirit of paganism".
- "Who was Plotinus?".
- Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Plotinus.
- "Plotinus." The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Columbia University Press, 2003.
- "Plotinus." The Concise Oxford Companion to Classical Literature. Oxford University Press, 1993, 2003.
- Bilolo, M.: La notion de « l’Un » dans les Ennéades de Plotin et dans les Hymnes thébains. Contribution à l’étude des sources égyptiennes du néo-platonisme. In: D. Kessler, R. Schulz (Eds.), "Gedenkschrift für Winfried Barta ḥtp dj n ḥzj" (Münchner Ägyptologische Untersuchungen, Bd. 4), Frankfurt; Berlin; Bern; New York; Paris; Wien: Peter Lang, 1995, pp. 67–91.
- Porphyry, On the Life of Plotinus and the Order of His Books, Ch. 3 (in Armstrong's Loeb translation, "he became eager to make acquaintance with the Persian philosophical discipline and that prevailing among the Indians").
- Porphyry, Vita Plotini, 9. See also Emma C. Clarke, John M. Dillon, and Jackson P. Hershbell (1999), Iamblichus on The Mysteries, page xix. SBL. who say that "to gain some credible chronology, one assumes that Ariston married Amphicleia some time after Plotinus's death"
- Stace, W. T. (1960) The Teachings of the Mystics, New York, Signet, pp. 110–123
- Stace, W. T. (1960) The Teachings of the Mystics, New York, Signet, p122
- I.6.6 and I.6.9
- Plotinus (1950). The philosophy of Plotinus: representative books from the Enneads. Appleton-Century-Crofts. p. vii. Retrieved 1 February 2012.
- A Biographical History of Philosophy, by George Henry Lewes Published 1892, G. Routledge & Sons, LTD, p. 294
- Pseudo-Dionysius in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- "A History of Western Philosophy." Bertrand Russell. Simon and Schuster, INC. 1945. pp. 284–285
- Halm, 176.
- Halm, 177.
- J. F. Staal (1961), Advaita and Neoplatonism: A critical study in comparative philosophy, Madras: University of Madras
- Frederick Charles Copleston. "Religion and the One 1979–1981". Giffordlectures.org. Retrieved 2010-01-08.
- Special section "Fra Oriente e Occidente" in Annuario filosofico No. 6 (1990), including the articles "Plotino e l'India" by Aldo Magris and "L'India e Plotino" by Mario Piantelli
- Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (ed.)(1952), History of Philosophy Eastern and Western, Vol.2. London: George Allen & Unwin. p. 114
- "Creator (or not?)". Gresham.ac.uk. Retrieved 2010-01-08.
- John Y. Fenton (1981), "Mystical Experience as a Bridge for Cross-Cultural Philosophy of Religion: A Critique", Journal of the American Academy of Religion, p. 55
- Dale Riepe (1967), "Emerson and Indian Philosophy", Journal of the History of Ideas
- Critical editions of the Greek text
- Émile Bréhier, Plotin: Ennéades (with French translation), Collection Budé, 1924–1938.
- Paul Henry and Hans-Rudolf Schwyzer (eds.), Editio maior (3 volumes), Paris, Desclée de Brouwer, 1951–1973.
- Paul Henry and Hans-Rudolf Schwyzer (eds.), Editio minor, Oxford, Oxford Classical Text, 1964–1982.
- Complete English translation
- Plotinus. The Enneads (translated by Stephen MacKenna), London, Medici Society, 1917–1930.
- A. H. Armstrong, Plotinus. Enneads (with Greek text), Loeb Classical Library, 7 vol., 1966–1988.
- Thomas Taylor, Collected Writings of Plotinus, Frome, Prometheus Trust, 1994. ISBN 1-898910-02-2 (contains approximately half of the Enneads)
- J. H. Sleeman and G. Pollet, Lexicon Plotinianum, Leiden, 1980.
- Roberto Radice (ed.), Lexicon II: Plotinus, Milan, Biblia, 2004. (Electronic edition by Roberto Bombacigno)
- The Life of Plotinus by Porphyry
- Porphyry, "On the Life of Plotinus and the Arrangement of his Works" in Mark Edwards (ed.), Neoplatonic Saints: The Lives of Plotinus and Proclus by their Students, Liverpool, Liverpool University Press, 2000.
- Anthologies of texts in translation, with annotations
- Kevin Corrigan, Reading Plotinus: A Practical Introduction to Neoplatonism, West Lafayette, Purdue University Press, 2005.
- John M. Dillon and Lloyd P. Gerson, Neoplatonic Philosophy: Introductory Readings, Hackett, 2004.
- Introductory works
- Kevin Corrigan, Reading Plotinus. A Practical Introduction to Neoplatonism, Purdue University Press, 1995.
- Lloyd P. Gerson, Plotinus, New York, Routledge, 1994.
- LLoyd P. Gerson (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Plotinus, Cambridge, 1996.
- Dominic J. O'Meara, Plotinus. An Introduction to the Enneads, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1993. (Reprinted 2005)
- John M. Rist, Plotinus. The Road to Reality, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1967.
- Major commentaries in English
- Michael Atkinson, Plotinus: Ennead V.1, On the Three Principal Hypostases, Oxford, 1983.
- Kevin Corrigan, Plotinus' Theory of Matter-Evil: Plato, Aristotle, and Alexander of Aphrodisias (II.4, II.5, III.6, I.8), Leiden, 1996.
- John N. Deck, Nature, Contemplation and the One: A Study in the Philosophy of Plotinus, University of Toronto Press, 1967; Paul Brunton Philosophical Foundation, 1991.
- Barrie Fleet, Plotinus: Ennead III.6, On the Impassivity of the Bodiless, Oxford, 1995.
- Barrie Fleet, Plotinus: Ennead IV.8, On the Descent of the Soul into Bodies", The Enneads of Plotinus Series edited by John M. Dillon and Andrew Smith, Parmenides Publishing, 2012. ISBN 978-1-930972-77-3
- W. Helleman-Elgersma, Soul-Sisters. A Commentary on Enneads IV, 3 (27), 1–8 of Plotinus, Amsterdam, 1980.
- James Luchte, Early Greek Thought: Before the Dawn. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2011. ISBN 978-0567353313.
- Kieran McGroarty, Plotinus on Eudaimonia: A Commentary on Ennead I.4, Oxford, 2006.
- P. A. Meijer, Plotinus on the Good or the One (VI.9), Amsterdam, 1992.
- H. Oosthout, Modes of Knowledge and the Transcendental: An Introduction to Plotinus Ennead V.3, Amsterdam, 1991.
- J. Wilberding, Plotinus' Cosmology. A study of Ennead II. 1 (40), Oxford, 2006.
- A. M. Wolters, Plotinus on Eros (eNN. III.5), Amsterdam, 1972.
- General works on Neoplatonism
- Robert M. Berchman, From Philo to Origen: Middle Platonism in Transition, Chico, Scholars Press, 1984.
- Frederick Copleston, A History of Philosophy: Vol. 1, Part 2. ISBN 0-385-00210-6
- P. Merlan, "Greek Philosophy from Plato to Plotinus" in A. H. Armstrong (ed.), The Cambridge History of Later Greek and Early Medieval Philosophy, Cambridge, 1967. ISBN 0-521-04054-X
- Pauliina Remes, Neoplatonism (Ancient Philosophies), University of California Press, 2008.
- Thomas Taylor, The fragments that remain of the lost writings of Proclus, surnamed the Platonic successor, London, 1825. (Selene Books reprint edition, 1987. ISBN 0-933601-11-5)
- Richard T. Wallis, Neoplatonism and Gnosticism, University of Oklahoma, 1984. ISBN 0-7914-1337-3 and ISBN 0-7914-1338-1
- Studies on some aspects of Plotinus' work
- R. B. Harris (ed.), Neoplatonism and Indian Thought, Albany, 1982.
- Giannis Stamatellos, Plotinus and the Presocratics. A Philosophical Study of Presocratic Influences in Plotinus' Enneads, Albany, 2008.
- N. Joseph Torchia, Plotinus, Tolma, and the Descent of Being, New York, Peter Lang, 1993. ISBN 0-8204-1768-8
- Antonia Tripolitis, The Doctrine of the Soul in the thought of Plotinus and Origen, Libra Publishers, 1978.
- M. F. Wagner (ed.), Neoplatonism and Nature. Studies in Plotinus' Enneads, Albany, 2002.
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- Text of the Enneads
- Greek original (page scans of Adolf Kirchhoff's 1856 Teubner edition) with English (complete) and French (partial) translations;
- Online English translations
- The Internet Classics Archive of MIT The Six Enneads, translated into English by Stephen MacKenna and B.S. Page.
- On the Intelligible Beauty, translated by Thomas Taylor Ennead V viii(see also the Catalog of other books which include Porphyry, Plotinus' biographer - TTS Catalog).
- Philosophy Archive: An Essay on the Beautiful, translated into English by Thomas Taylor in 1917
- On the First Good and the Other Goods, Ennead 1.7 Translated by Eric S. Fallick, 2011
- Plotinus entry by Lloyd P. Gerson in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: "Plotinus" by Edward Moore.
- In English, by Richard Dufour.
- In French by Pierre Thillet.
- Works by or about Plotinus in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Plotinus' Criticism of Aristotle's Categories (Enneads VI, 1-3) with an annotated bibliography