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The Enneads of Plotinus (Mackenna Translation).
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.