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Plotinus was an ancient philosopher who is credited with being the originator of Neo-Platonism, a late-Antiquity Graeco-Roman philosophical philosophy. His metaphysical teachings have inspired centuries of Pagan, Christian, Jewish, Islamic, and Gnostic metaphysicians and mystics. He is also known as the last most prominent pagan philosopher. He constructed a metaphysics of comprehensible sources of the rational universe and the human spirit, telling the world that ‘the One’ or ‘the Good’ is the ultimate cause of everything. It is completely simple and cannot be captured by the mind or resolved in any way. He regarded himself as the expositor and advocate of the philosophical attitude whose highest example was Plato himself, and he was a loyal follower of Plato. He had a strong influence on 17th century England, medieval Islamic spirituals, and medieval Indian intellectuals, in addition to Western philosophy. The whole corpus of Plotinus’ talks, gathered and edited by his student Porphyry into six books of nine discourses each, characterizes his philosophy. They’re known as the ‘Enneads,’ and they’ve been passed down to us.

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Childhood and Adolescence

Plotinus’ life, like that of other ancient philosophers, is little known, but because one of his pupils, Porphyry, wrote a biography on him, we know more about him than any other ancient philosopher.

Plotinus was born in the Egyptian city of Lycopolis in the year 204 or 205 C.E. He came to Alexandria in his late twenties to further his education in philosophy. Until he met Ammonius Saccas, he was dissatisfied with any teacher’s teachings.
He began studying under his newly discovered master, as well as the intellectual works of Alexander of Aphrodisias, Numenius, and other Stoics.

Work & Life

Plotinus decided to extend his intellectual curiosity to the Persian and Indian philosophers at the age of 38, after studying in Alexandria for about eleven years.
For his next mission, he joined Gordian III’s army, which was tasked with capturing Persia. Unfortunately, they failed, and Plotinus was forced to flee the country after Gordian’s death, which is why he went to Antioch.

Plotinus arrived in Rome at the age of 40, under the rule of Philip of Arab, and established a network of scholars that included Porphyry, Amelius Gentilianus of Tuscany, and Senator Castricius Firmus, Eustochius of Alexandria, Zoticus, a critic and poet, and others.

Marcellus Orontius, Sabinillus, and others were among his students in the Roman Senate. He had female students and stayed at the home of Gemina, one of his female disciples. He was a correspondent of Cassius Longinus, a philosopher.

In Rome, he became well-known within the royal family, winning Emperor Gallienus and his wife Salonina’s admiration. He also attempted to resurrect an abandoned village in Campania, which he dubbed the ‘City of Philosophers.’

He spent his dying days in Campania, on the property of his buddy Zethos. “Strive to give back the Divine in yourselves to the Divine in the All,” Plotinus said at the conclusion, with Eustochius by his side.
When Plotinus died in 270 C.E., the second year of Emperor Claudius II’s reign, he was 66 years old.

About 17 years after Plotinus’ death, his essays were published as ‘Enneads.’ Porphyry collated and organized his notes himself; previously, they were essentially a jumble of notes and essays that Plotinus used in his lectures.

His Major Projects

Plotinus is regarded as Plato’s most important critic and interpretation, and hence the founder of Neo-Platonism. He was also a completely original thinker, influenced by the Stoics and Neo-Pythagoreans as well as Plato.

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He could have been of native Egyptian, Roman, Greek, or Hellenized Egyptian ancestry, according to legend.
Plotinus, like other true Platonists, as opposed to materialism, sees it as a mocking of truth and soul, which is why he refused to have his portrait drawn one night.
He never mentioned his ancestors, childhood, or where or when he was born.

Material achievement, according to Plotinus, can not lead to actual human satisfaction, and hence “no single human being does not either potentially or effectively possess this item we hold to constitute happiness.” I.4.4 (Enneads). His perspective on happiness is one of the most important contributions he made to Western thought. He was the first to propose that eudaimonia (happiness) can only be attained via consciousness.

He was opposed to the practice of using astrology to predict one’s fortune.
Neo-Platonism had a strong influence on Emperor Julian the Apostate.
Plotinus’ views and Neo-Platonism inspired medieval Islam.

Plotinus was a major influence on the Cambridge Platonists in the 17th century, as well as a number of writers ranging from Samuel Taylor Coleridge to W. B. Yeats and Kathleen Raine.

Plotinus’ writings were referenced by Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Ananda Coomaraswamy in their own publications as an exceptional explanation of Indian monism, notably Upanishadic and Advaita Vedantic thinking.

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