Front Page Titles (by Subject) IV.: COMMENTARIES - The Ethical Treatises, being the Treatises of the First Ennead
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IV.: COMMENTARIES - Plotinus, The Ethical Treatises, being the Treatises of the First Ennead [253 AD]
The Ethical Treatises, being the Treatises of the First Ennead, with Porphry’s Life of Plotinus, and the Preller-Ritter Extracts forming a Conspectus of the Plotinian System, translated from Greek by Stephen Mackenna (Boston: Charles T. Branford, 1918).
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The translator has necessarily been indebted for guidance, direct and indirect, to many works of metaphysic, theology and even history—but there are some which must be particularly named, books to which he has been under the deepest, constant obligations in the immediate grappling with the text, books also to which the novice in Plotinian studies may be usefully directed.
The Neo-Platonists: a study in the history of Hellenism: by Thomas Whittaker (Cambridge University Press: 1901): as a formal scientific exposition of the entire history of the school and a chart of the Plotinian system (some sixty pages summing the Enneads) this book is of the first value.
Much useful suggestion is contained in “The Wisdom of Plotinus: a Metaphysical Study” by Charles J. Whitby, London (William Rider and Son: 1909).
There is nothing more helpful, in its own wide sphere, towards the understanding and appreciation of Plotinus than the late Principal Caird’s beautiful work “The Evolution of Theology in the Greek Philosophers: Gifford Lectures for 1901-2” (Glasgow: MacLehose: 1904): this book, written in the loftiest spirit, contains some exquisite fragments from the Enneads: the author presumably disdained the humble work of a mere translator, but had he given us a complete rendering the world would have been the richer by a classic of thought and a classic of language.
In “Neo-Platonism” by C. Bigg, D.D. (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge: 1895), we have a good general summary, rather popular in tone, of the system and of its antecedents and results.
Another work which would serve as an adequate explanation of practically the whole system is “The Problem of Evil in Plotinus”: B. A. G. Fuller: 1912: it includes translations of many cardinal passages and is written throughout in as lucid a style as has ever expounded a metaphysical system.
“The Philosophy of Plotinus,” by David Sylvan Guthrie (Philadelphia, Dunlop Printing Co., 1896): is a brief summary containing a helpful index to the most fundamentally significant passages of the Enneads.
The valuable works of Miss Underhill, dealing with the history and methods of the schools and masters of mysticism, are too well known to need more than the naming.
The translator owes acknowledgment to G. R. S. Meade, whose great labour on the Hermes’ documents gave him much valuable suggestion.
Edward Carpenter’s work “The Art of Creation” (George Allen: 1907) will be found very helpful as exhibiting, in modern terms and with the support of modern metaphysical and scientific investigation, a great deal that is either basic or implied in the Plotinian system.
French and German
No specialist student in Plotinus can pass over Jules Simon’s “Histoire de l’École d’Alexandrie”: it is very full, very minute; it is disfigured in places by a strange, a most unphilosophical scorn where Plotinus’ magnificent attempt to explain the Universe is found to involve the contradictions or lacunæ perhaps inevitable to all such efforts religious or philosophical: Simon’s figure-references to the Enneads are not seldom faulty.
Vacherot’s volume, of the same title as Simon’s, is another work of capital importance: it is described by H. Guyot as intelligent, systematic, the best existing in French and still to be read with profit even after Zeller’s exposition: M. Guyot, however, finds that Vacherot’s Hegelianism somewhat mars his judgments upon the Plotinian system.
“L’Infinité Divine depuis Philon jusqu’à Plotin”: Henri Guyot: (Paris: Alcan: 1906). This little book contains in less than one hundred of its two hundred and fifty pages some of the most original and subtlest analysis, synthesis and interpretation yet presented of Plotinus’ dominant ideas: it is very lucidly written, and even pleasantly: an English translation would add to the language another valuable document of Metaphysical Mysticism.
“Die Lehre vom Logos in der Griechischen Philosophie”: Dr. Max Heinze: Oldenburg, 1872. A most valuable work.
“Die Psychologie des Plotin”: Dr. Arthur Richter: (Halle: 1867).
In all the books mentioned will be found more or less extensive bibliographies, including works, mostly in German, which the present translator either has not been able to procure or has not found very useful.
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It would not be right to close this chapter of acknowledgment without some expression of the translator’s deep obligation to Mr. Ernest R. Debenham, whose interest in Plotinus and friendly offices in the publishing world have resulted in the production of this version of the first Ennead.
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