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Plotinus Ennead IV.8 : On the Descent of the Soul Into Bodies: Translation, with an Introduction, and Commentary
by Barrie Fleet and John M. Dillon and Andrew Smith




Overview -

Plotinus was much exercised by Plato's doctrines of the soul. In this treatise, at chapter 1 line 27, he talks of "the divine Plato, who has said in many places in his works many noble things about the soul and its arrival here, so that we can hope for some clarity from him. So what does the philosopher say? It is clear that he does not always speak with sufficient consistency for us to make out his intentions with any ease." The issue in this treatise is one that has puzzled students of Plato from ancient to modern times--and is indeed a popular topic for undergraduate essays even today: Why should the philosopher, who has ascended through a long and painful process of dialectic to "assimilation to the divine," ever descend back into the body? Plotinus himself is said by Porphyry to have attained such a state of other-worldly transcendence on at least four occasions during his lifetime, so this was a very real and personal issue for him. In this treatise we see him grappling with it.

Background on Plotinus

Plotinus was a Platonist, committed to expounding the doctrines put forward by Plato some seven centuries earlier. He was born and educated in Egypt, where he studied the teachings of Plato under the guidance of Ammonius Saccas. He came to Rome in 244 BCE and built up a circle of followers devoted to studying Plato through Plato's own works and those of philosophers, both Platonist and non-Platonist, of the intervening centuries. From his fiftieth year Plotinus himself wrote down, in Greek, the findings of the seminars, and these writings were later edited by one of his pupils, Porphyry, and published in six groups of nine treatises entitled the Enneads (from the Greek word for nine - ennea).

Reviews

"The first volume of a new series of translations and commentaries, edited by John Dillon and Andrew Smith, is devoted to Enn IV.8. We are in the capable hands of Barrie Fleet, author of an important previous study on Enn III.6. . . .Fleet's introduction to the treatise and his commentary will be especially helpful to readers coming to Plotinus for the first time . . . . He] provides extensive discussion of the Platonic passages that inspired Plotinus; an approach that fits IV.8 especially well, since this treatise is unusually explicit in its doxographical use of Plato. Overall the volume is a promising beginning to a new series that will provide an English readership with something akin to the single-treatise commentaries and translations published by Cerf in France." --Phronesis, Peter Adamson, Professor of Ancient and Medieval Philosophy, King's College London, UK

"Enn. IV.8 is one of Plotinus' most fascinating essays. It begins by addressing what for ancient Platonism was a very traditional topic, namely the descent of the soul, and examines it in the light of his own personal experience, while also taking into account the doctrines of previous thinkers including Plato and Aristotle. It concludes by expounding a radically novel view according to which no real descent occurs after all. This involves a fundamental reassessment of the status of the soul and its position in the universe and, furthermore, a new understanding of its association with the body and with sensible reality as a whole. Fleet's presentation is highly readable and informative, and provides an excellent introduction to Plotinus' views on man and his relation to the cosmos." --Paul Kalligas, Professor of Ancient Philosophy, University of Athens, Greece

"A clear and accurate translation of one of Plotinus' first and more significant writings, accompanied by a helpful commentary for the English-speaking reader." --Dominic O'Meara, Professor Emeritus, Chair of Metaphysics and Ancient Philosophy, University of Fribourg, Switzerland

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More About Plotinus Ennead IV.8 by Barrie Fleet; John M. Dillon; Andrew Smith

 
 
 

Overview

Plotinus was much exercised by Plato's doctrines of the soul. In this treatise, at chapter 1 line 27, he talks of "the divine Plato, who has said in many places in his works many noble things about the soul and its arrival here, so that we can hope for some clarity from him. So what does the philosopher say? It is clear that he does not always speak with sufficient consistency for us to make out his intentions with any ease." The issue in this treatise is one that has puzzled students of Plato from ancient to modern times--and is indeed a popular topic for undergraduate essays even today: Why should the philosopher, who has ascended through a long and painful process of dialectic to "assimilation to the divine," ever descend back into the body? Plotinus himself is said by Porphyry to have attained such a state of other-worldly transcendence on at least four occasions during his lifetime, so this was a very real and personal issue for him. In this treatise we see him grappling with it.

Background on Plotinus

Plotinus was a Platonist, committed to expounding the doctrines put forward by Plato some seven centuries earlier. He was born and educated in Egypt, where he studied the teachings of Plato under the guidance of Ammonius Saccas. He came to Rome in 244 BCE and built up a circle of followers devoted to studying Plato through Plato's own works and those of philosophers, both Platonist and non-Platonist, of the intervening centuries. From his fiftieth year Plotinus himself wrote down, in Greek, the findings of the seminars, and these writings were later edited by one of his pupils, Porphyry, and published in six groups of nine treatises entitled the Enneads (from the Greek word for nine - ennea).

Reviews

"The first volume of a new series of translations and commentaries, edited by John Dillon and Andrew Smith, is devoted to Enn IV.8. We are in the capable hands of Barrie Fleet, author of an important previous study on Enn III.6. . . .Fleet's introduction to the treatise and his commentary will be especially helpful to readers coming to Plotinus for the first time . . . . He] provides extensive discussion of the Platonic passages that inspired Plotinus; an approach that fits IV.8 especially well, since this treatise is unusually explicit in its doxographical use of Plato. Overall the volume is a promising beginning to a new series that will provide an English readership with something akin to the single-treatise commentaries and translations published by Cerf in France." --Phronesis, Peter Adamson, Professor of Ancient and Medieval Philosophy, King's College London, UK

"Enn. IV.8 is one of Plotinus' most fascinating essays. It begins by addressing what for ancient Platonism was a very traditional topic, namely the descent of the soul, and examines it in the light of his own personal experience, while also taking into account the doctrines of previous thinkers including Plato and Aristotle. It concludes by expounding a radically novel view according to which no real descent occurs after all. This involves a fundamental reassessment of the status of the soul and its position in the universe and, furthermore, a new understanding of its association with the body and with sensible reality as a whole. Fleet's presentation is highly readable and informative, and provides an excellent introduction to Plotinus' views on man and his relation to the cosmos." --Paul Kalligas, Professor of Ancient Philosophy, University of Athens, Greece

"A clear and accurate translation of one of Plotinus' first and more significant writings, accompanied by a helpful commentary for the English-speaking reader." --Dominic O'Meara, Professor Emeritus, Chair of Metaphysics and Ancient Philosophy, University of Fribourg, Switzerland



This item is Non-Returnable.

 

Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781930972773
  • ISBN-10: 1930972776
  • Publisher: Parmenides Publishing
  • Publish Date: June 2012
  • Page Count: 209
  • Reading Level: Ages 18-UP
  • Dimensions: 7.4 x 4.9 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.5 pounds

Series: Enneads of Plotinus

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