Plotinus: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover


1st Edition

By Eyjólfur K. Emilsson


410 pages

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Plotinus (AD 205–270) was the founder of Neoplatonism, whose thought has had a profound influence on medieval philosophy, and on Western philosophy more broadly. In this engaging book, Eyjólfur K. Emilsson introduces and explains the full spectrum of Plotinus’ philosophy for those coming to his work for the first time.

Beginning with a chapter-length overview of Plotinus’ life and works which also assesses the Platonic, Aristotelian and Stoic traditions that influenced him, Emilsson goes on to address key topics including:

  • Plotinus’ originality
  • the status of souls
  • Plotinus’ language
  • the notion of the One or the Good
  • Intellect, including Plotinus’ holism
  • the physical world
  • the soul and the body, including emotions and the self
  • Plotinus’ ethics
  • Plotinus’ influence and legacy.

Including a chronology, glossary of terms and suggestions for further reading, Plotinus is an ideal introduction to this major figure in Western philosophy, and is essential reading for students of ancient philosophy and classics.


'[A] general introduction to Plotinus that is pleasant to read and very well informed, by a specialist who has written a great deal on Plotinus. … The exposition is clear, the argumentation rigorous, and no important Plotinian passage has been overlooked. This makes the book an invaluable resource. … This is an important book that brings to the surface the merits and the weaknesses of an interpretation that is tending to become standard in a context in which philosophy is no longer a way of life, but a university discipline.' - Luc Brisson, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

'The beauty of this book lies in the way that Emilsson guides the reader through both the intellectual background and legacy of the greatest philosopher of late antiquity. By engaging Plotinus in argument, Emilsson brings the Enneads to life, revealing a system behind unsystematic exposition, exposing philosophical reason where there is an apparent dogma.' - Pauliina Remes, Uppsala University, Sweden

'This is a reliable and readable introduction to Plotinus, from one of the leading scholars of his thought. It offers a level of detail that is unusual in an introductory volume, as well as engaging with the most recent secondary literature. It thus offers a good orientation for students, while also being of interest to seasoned readers of the Enneads.' - Peter Adamson, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Germany

Table of Contents



1. Life, Works, and Philosophical Background

2. The World According to Plotinus

3. The One and the Genesis of Intellect

4. Intellect

5. Soul

6. The Physical World

7. The Human Being, Part 1: The Lower Soul and the Body

8. The Human Being, Part 2: The Higher Soul and We Ourselves

9. Ethics, Part 1: Virtue, Happiness, and the Ethics of Everyday Life

10. Ethics, Part 2: Mystical Experience, Theodicy and Freedom, Beauty

11. Plotinus’s Legacy and Influence.



About the Author

Eyjólfur K. Emilsson is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oslo, Norway. He is the author of Plotinus on Sense-Perception (1988), Plotinus on Intellect (2007) and (with Steven K. Strange) of a translation and commentary, Plotinus: Ennead VI.4 and VI.5: On the Presence of Being, One and the Same, Everywhere as a Whole (2015). He has published numerous articles on Plotinus and other ancient philosophers and translated Plato’s Republic and other Platonic dialogues into Icelandic.

About the Series

The Routledge Philosophers

Routledge Philosophers is a major series of introductions to the great Western philosophers. Each book places a major philosopher or thinker in historical context, explains and assesses their key arguments, and considers their legacy. Additional features include a chronology of major dates and events, chapter summaries, annotated suggestions for further reading and a glossary of technical terms.

An ideal starting point for those new to philosophy, they are also essential reading for those interested in the subject at any level.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PHILOSOPHY / History & Surveys / Medieval