- (c. AD 205–270)The founder of Neoplatonism . Plotinus was born in Egypt. After study with the Alexandrian teacher Ammonius Saccus, he travelled in pursuit of wisdom to Persia, but eventually fled to Antioch and Rome in 244. Under the protection of the emperor Gallienus, Plotinus started a school of philosophy; shortly after the death of Gallienus he died of leprosy, possibly in some kind of political exile. Plotinus' works of note are the Enneads, written between 253 and 270, and collected by his pupil Porphyry (they are called ‘Enneads’ from the Greek ennea, nine, because each of the six books contains nine sections).Following the largely discredited Second Letter attributed to Plato, Plotinus divides the realm of intelligible things into three: the One, Intelligence or nous, and the Soul. The One is the absolutely transcendental, unknowable object of worship and desire. The world of intelligence is that of ideas or concepts, but conceived as ideas in the mind of the One, although also conceived as the realm of number. Finally, below intelligence there is the soul, incorporeal, substantial, and immortal, and capable of transmigration (see metempsychosis ). (Below even souls are the denizens of nature, but these may be so negative as not to properly partake of existence at all.) Some but not all souls are sunk into terrestial bodies, which is bad. But the world as a whole is also a living organism, or an example of the one Soul. Perhaps the most characteristic doctrine of Plotinus is that the One ‘emanates’ or overflows, like light from the sun, to create the realm of Intelligence, and that in turn emanates into the world of the soul, although it remains obscure whether this emanation is a joyful procreative act of the higher creative principle, or a kind of betrayal and polluting fall of the lower. In any event, it is in contemplation of the higher, creative principle that the lower receives its form or impress. But it is also as reflections of the one cosmic Soul that individual souls exist, and their aim must be to direct their contemplation back up the hierarchy, eventually to obtain light and vitality by contemplative absorption in the One. See also Neoplatonism.
Philosophy dictionary. Academic. 2011.