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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 7 July 2011
The written teachings of the Greek philospher Plotinus (204/5-270), were gathered into 6 books of 9 chapters (treatises) each, by Porphyry (234-305), his student. Indeed, the term 'Ennead' is Greek and means a 'collection of 9 things'. Porphyry arranged the 56 chapters into what he considered to be a logical and coherent representation of the essence of Plotinian thought. Plotinus was, of course, a lineage descendent of the philosophical school of Plato (429-347BCE), and is viewed by many as a reviver of this system of thought. In this respect, Plotinus is often referred to as 'neo-Platonist' philosopher.

The paperback (1991) edition is brought up to date by John Dillon, and contains 558 numbered pages, and is separated into the following sections:

Stephen Mackenna: A Biographical Sketch - John Dillon (based on ER Dodds memoir).
Extracts from the Explanatory Matter in the First Edition - Mackenna's Original.
The Place of Plotinus in the History of Thought - By Paul Henry.
Plotinus: An Introduction - By John Dillon.
Porphyry: On the Life of Plotinus and the Arrangement of His Work - Mackenna.
Preface: By John Dillon.

1st Ennead: Contains Treatises 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8 & 9.
2nd Ennead: Contains Treatises 3, 4 & 9.
3rd Ennead: Contains Treatises 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 & 8.
4th Ennead: Contains Treatises 3, 4 & 8.
5th Ennead: Contains Treatises 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8 & 9.
6th Ennead: Contains Treatises 4, 5, 7, 8 & 9.

Appendix I: The Chronological Order of the Tractates.
Appendix II: Index of Platonic References.

Stephen Mackenna (1872-1935) translated the entire Enneads after encountering the text whilst covering the Russian Revolution in St Petersburg in 1905, for the New York World newspaper. Interestingly, Mackenna was not a professional academic, and yet he produced a translation of a Classical Greek text that is considered an important work of English translation literature. This is despite the fact that John Dillon, in his Preface, informs the reader that Mackenna's translation is dated, orotund, fuzzy in places, but seldom incorrect. Dillon also points out that Mackenna's use of English in this translation is considerably better than Plotinus' use of Greek in the original! It is important to note that Mackenna's original translation used the 1883 text of Richard Volkmann (Teubner, Leipzig), and was extensively compared with the extant translations of the time. Dillon points out that today, there exists better source material to work from, which is a testimony to Mackenna's achievement. This is an abridged edition that does not contain all of Mackenna's translation. Dillon feels that he has ommitted material that is repeated throughout the Enneads themselves, and that in doing so, he is assisting the general reader to gain the essential meaning without the need for saying things more than once. A classic translation, that although meandering in places, has a sense of antiquity about it.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 15 March 2012
Plotinus is one of the great philosophers of Antiquity, both in expanding the insights of Plato and perceptively criticising Aristotle. His attempts to discover the relation between the immaterial and material worlds, his analysis of self (he was the first to recognise unconscious mental processes), and his ideas on the relation of God and the universe are still of value today. He is also, unfortunately, a difficult author: the long introductions in this volume are very necessary.

This edition is not complete, but the material omitted is of limited interest or covered in greater detail elsewhere. It was made from a less correct Greek text than Armstrong's translation in the Loeb Classical Library, but the editor has added notes where it needs correcting. I prefer MacKenna, as less literal and sometimes clearer. Thus, Plotinus on how our account of the presence of soul in the body is confused by our thinking normally being about matter:

Now the reasoning faculty which undertakes this problem is not a unity but a thing of parts; it brings the bodily nature into the inquiry, borrowing its principles from the corporeal: thus it thinks of the Essential Existence as corporeal and as a thing of parts ... (MacKenna)

But an account attempting to examine what is being said and which is not a unity, but something divided, bringing into the enquiry the nature of bodies whence it derives its principles, this account fragmented being, thinking it is like this ... (Armstrong)
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on 25 October 2007
The Enneads is a staggering vision of unity. The concept of the soul plays a central part. Here's my take at a very brief summation:

1. The source of the soul ... and of everything else lies in a oneness (the One) that can be inferred but never contacted. So the One isn't a personal God. It isn't aware of us, so it doesn't intervene in our affairs.

2. What the soul receives ... are the goodness and intelligence that emanated from the source and are the principal characteristics of our cosmos. We exist in a cosmos that is fundamentally good and intelligent and we can sense and see that.

3. The mixed blessing for the soul ... is embodiment in matter, which, on the positive side, provides a context for helping and for personal growth. In a world of many, the one soul appears as many souls.

4. The downside of that blessing ... are pain, isolation, and the suffering and distraction caused by attachment to material things. Evil is real but we're created in a fundamentally good and intelligent place and with powers to deal with it.

5. The way to live ... includes recognizing that the many souls are in fact one. Individuality is the reward and the price the soul paid to become embodied. Just as the One gives richly via its emanations, so we should give to the cosmos. Enjoy and feel awed by the beauty around and within you.

6. We're no small things ... but a product of the One, of its Intelligence and Soul... each of our souls linked to each other via that one soul.

7. Soul and body go well together. The individual body being material isn't permanent. But the soul and the cosmos are, so the soul re-enters material life via a new body.

Unlike some religious positions that may seem similar, all of this and more can be demonstrated in a rational presentation that begins with just a few stated assumptions. That's what you'll find in The Enneads, a culmination of centuries of ancient Greek philosophy. As much a treasure as a book can be.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 18 August 2007
it influenced 10 centuries of European Medieval thought, even though
no European had read it! But important Medieval writers and thinkers like St Augustine and the Pseudo-Dionyseus acted as conduits for his thought.

Plotinus borrowed from all the philosophies of the Classical and Ancient World. At the same time he placed great emphasis on the individual, so in this sense he is a kind of bridge between the modern and ancient worlds. Although his ideas are quarried by later Christian thinkers, Plotinus regards negative acts or behaviour as the product of a lack of intelligence, rather than the later Christian idea of evil itself being a kind of positive force. In fact pure intellect Plotinus regards as intrinsically good. It is this idea that becomes the foundation of Christian mysticism in the West, the idea that it is possible to know God through the intellect. God has three parts, the hightest of which is also a pure intelligence, according to Plotinus, who calls this highest part 'The Good.'

This book is really about the structure and order of Man, the Universe and Everything as it was seen in the late classical period, from a Platonist viewpoint. Interesting sections are on things like Astrology, then seen as a science: 'Are stars causes?'

One of the problems early Christians had is that the New Testament, unlike say Islam, does not provide a model of the Universe, a system ofmetaphysics or a detailed idea of what it is to be human, save in being sinful and requiring redemption. This book, like many others, was used as a source material by theologians such as St Thomas Aquinus, who were trying to construct an intellectual foundation around Christianity.

One of the problems people had in the past was not understanding biochemistry, of how matter can live, so they constructed a beautiful and interesting series of ideas about how souls enter and leave beings causing them to live or die.

One of the many interesting ideas here is how ideas themselves can have independent lives, as spirits as it were. This could be a forerunner of CG Jung's archetype theory of psychology.

This book is beautifully translated and very easy to read.
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on 12 October 2014
Excellent product that does just what I need.
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on 16 March 2015
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1 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 20 April 2013
I read a book on Plotinus called "The Essence of Plotinus" in 1988 and read it in India. In 1989-1990 I studied Plotinus with Richard Sorabji at King's College, LONDON. Sorabji was one of the few people I met who was willing to talk about the divine in a hearty way and write about things like mystical experience. I wrote a dissertation on Plotinus called "The Structure of awareness in the philosophy of Plotinus". I got a Ph.D. on Plotinus in 1997. I have published on Plotinus. My favourite essay I have written on Plotinus is called "Personal Beauty in the thought of Plotinus" which is available in the second chapter of "Neoplatonism and Western Aesthetics" (SUNY 2001).

Plotinus is the most genuine philosopher. He was looking for something that would not let him down.
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