PlotinusMyth, Metaphor, and Philosophical Practice

Stephen R. L. Clark, University of Chicago Press, 2016

Plotinus, the Roman philosopher (c. 204-270 CE) who is widely regarded as the founder of Neoplatonism, was also the creator of numerous myths, images, and metaphors. They have influenced both secular philosophers and Christian and Muslim theologians, but have frequently been dismissed by modern scholars as merely ornamental. In this book, distinguished philosopher Stephen R. L. Clark shows that they form a vital set of spiritual exercises by which individuals can achieve one of Plotinus’s most important goals: self-transformation through contemplation.

Clark examines a variety of Plotinus’s myths and metaphors within the cultural and philosophical context of his time, asking probing questions about their contemplative effects. What is it, for example, to “think away the spatiality” of material things? What state of mind is Plotinus recommending when he speaks of love, or drunkenness, or nakedness? What star-like consciousness intended when he declares that we were once stars or are stars eternally? What does it mean to say that the soul goes around God? And how are we supposed to “bring the god in us back to the god in all”? Through these rich images and structures, Clark casts Plotinus as a philosopher deeply concerned with philosophy as a way of life.

(Text by the author)

 

Contents

 

Preface
Acknowledgments

Part I: Prolegomena
1.         Why Read Plotinus?
2.         How to Read Plotinus
3.         Theories about Metaphor
4.         Dialectic

Part II: Metaphorically Speaking
5.         Naked and Alone
6.         On Becoming Love
7.         Shadow Plays and Mirrors
8.         Reason Drunk and Sober
9.         Dancing
10.       Remembering and Forgetting
11.       Standing Up to the Blows of Fortune

Part III: The Plotinian Imaginary
12.       Platonic and Classical Myths
13.       Spheres and Circles
14.       Charms and Countercharms
15.       Invoking Demons
16.       Images Within and Without
17.       Fixed Stars and Planets
18.       Waking Up

Part IV: Understanding the Hypostases
19.       Matter
20.       Nature
21.       Soul
22.       Nous
23.       The One

Part V: The Plotinian Way

Bibliography
Index of Passages from the Enneads
Index of Names and Subjects

 

Reviewed by Gerard O’Daly, University College London: Version at BMCR home site

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