How difficult are Plotinus & other later Platonists?

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dominics
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How difficult are Plotinus & other later Platonists?

Post by dominics » Tue Jul 26, 2016 6:46 pm

I would be interested what people think: How difficult are Plotinus & other Neoplatonists? On here, I haven't found much regarding these figures, -is anyone reading them? If so, how are you finding it, are there any good readers? I am a beginner and will be tackling Plato soon, but my goal is to read Plotinus at some point... So I would welcome any tips, ideas, or even just personal experiences! :)

mwh
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Re: How difficult are Plotinus & other later Platonists?

Post by mwh » Tue Jul 26, 2016 11:42 pm

I’ve read very little Plotinus, and find him extremely difficult, mainly because of his hardcore philosophical concepts and terminology. His use of Greek is not that hard, but his system of thought is. Trying to read him makes my head hurt, and for me it’s just not worth the pain. But then I can’t muster terribly much interest even in Plato’s notions of soul or forms.

Yes you must read Plato first, most definitely.

Here’s a sample, the beginning of the Enneads.
Ἡδοναὶ καὶ λῦπαι φόβοι τε καὶ θάρρη ἐπιθυμίαι
τε καὶ ἀποστροφαὶ καὶ τὸ ἀλγεῖν τίνος ἂν εἶεν; Ἢ γὰρ
ψυχῆς, ἢ χρωμένης ψυχῆς σώματι, ἢ τρίτου τινὸς ἐξ
ἀμφοῖν. Διχῶς δὲ καὶ τοῦτο· ἢ γὰρ τὸ μῖγμα, ἢ ἄλλο
ἕτερον ἐκ τοῦ μίγματος. (Pleasures and pains etc., “of what would they be? Either of soul, or of soul using body, or of some third thing from both—and this in one of two ways: either the mixture, or another, different thing out of the mixture.”) And so on and so excruciatingly on. He seems so rigorous, and ends in mysticism.
He tackles the question of soul first: Πρῶτον δὲ ψυχὴν ληπτέον, πότερον ἄλλο μὲν ψυχή, ἄλλο δὲ ψυχῇ εἶναι. … Ἤ, εἰ ταὐτόν ἐστι ψυχὴ καὶ τὸ ψυχῇ εἶναι, εἶδός τι ἂν εἴη
ψυχὴ ἄδεκτον τούτων ἁπασῶν τῶν ἐνεργειῶν …. “… Or, if ψυχη is the same as το ψυχῃ ειναι [whatever that means], ψυχη would be an ειδος (a Form) …” Aaaargh.

There may be “readers,” I don’t know.

—To counter my ignorant intolerance, here’s a wonderful essay (if you can access it) by a fan, E.R. Dodds, ex-Regius Prof of Greek at Oxford. http://www.jstor.org/stable/298281?seq= ... b_contents

jimleko
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Re: How difficult are Plotinus & other later Platonists?

Post by jimleko » Sun Aug 07, 2016 2:17 pm

While I love Plotinus, his Greek is incredibly difficult to read. Leaving aside philosophical difficulty, his Enneads are more like edited lecture notes than actual philosophical treatises, so Plotinus writes as if he were speaking. He tortures Greek grammar to the extremity (the amount of times I went to Smyth to attempt to make sense of it all, only to continue to be confused) and sometimes Porphyry doesn't fix Plotinus' typographical errors. All that being said, the semester I spent reading Enneads 1.1 was one of the most rewarding I've ever had, and I highly recommend the effort.

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