Front Page Titles (by Subject) French and German - The Ethical Treatises, being the Treatises of the First Ennead
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French and German - 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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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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The six Enneads—six sets of Nine treatises—do not constitute or include a formal step-by-step statement or demonstration of the Plotinian doctrine: the entire system is assumed in each of the separate treatises, which take the form of special developments or demonstrations of significant points, not chapters in one work of consecutive exposition.
Hence, failing a previous knowledge of the main doctrines, almost any of the treatises must appear incomprehensible or, worse, be radically misunderstood; the terminology, simple enough in itself, becomes dishearteningly mysterious or gravely misleading.
A serious misapprehension may be caused, to take one instance among several, by incautiously reading into terms used by Plotinus meanings or suggestions commonly conveyed by those words in the language of modern philosophy or religion; on the other hand, there is in places almost a certainty of missing these same religious or philosophical implications or connotations where to the initiate the phrase of Plotinus conveys them, intensely.
Thus, it is not easy, without knowledge and the training of habit, to quiver with any very real rapture over the notion of becoming “wholly identified with the Intellectual-Principle,”: when it is understood and at each moment deeply realised that “The Intellectual-Principle” is the highest accessible “Person” of the Godhead, is very God, is the Supreme Wisdom immanent within the human soul and yet ineffably superior to all the Universe beside, then perhaps we may feel the great call to the devotion that has such a reward.
We must, then, learn at the very beginning what are the main lines of the Plotinian explanation of the Heavens and the Earth and the Human-Being if we are to obtain from our author, our temporary Master, the depth of his philosophical meaning and the warmth of his religious fervour.
It is not possible to cram the Plotinian system unhurt into a confined space: to be brief is necessarily to be inaccurate: what follows is merely a rough chart intended to give the first essential orientation, to indicate the great highways in their main course and to name the commanding landmarks: it is the natural and necessary introduction to the Terminology, nothing more.