Adam Mickiewicz University

The presence of Plotinus

The self, contemplation, and spiritual exercise in the Enneads

Description and organization

In the center of “The School of Athens”, a famous fresco by Raphael, we can see Plato and Aristotle, the two philosophers who may have been indeed the greatest thinkers of antiquity. However, the scholarly endeavor of the last century has demonstrated with increasing consistency that Plotinus – although his name and legacy is not so popular – could well stand next to them, especially so, because he attempted to synthetize the views of those great masters of the past. His presence in the Western philosophy was, perhaps, a more silent one, but also very influential. Since Late Antiquity, Christian, Jewish and Muslim philosophers were inspired by him as well as Renaissance Platonists and German Idealists. In year 2020, 1750 years had passed by since Plotinus died in a Campanian villa during what seemed to be the last wave of an ancient pandemic, usually called the “Cyprian plague”. Or, as he saw it, since his final ascent from “the divine in us to the divine in the All”. The conference was planned for the year 2020 to celebrate Plotinus’ presence in the Western tradition, but had to be postponed for obvious reasons.

One of the topics which has recently attracted a lot of scholarly attention is Plotinus’ view of the self. It seems original, interesting and refreshing in the midst of our “culture of narcissism”, where we tend to be preoccupied more than ever by concepts such as the self, self-realization, identity, and individualism. What we would like to discuss, however, is not only Plotinus’ philosophical view of the self, but the connections between his concept of the self and the practical dimension of his philosophy, famously described by Pierre Hadot as “spiritual exercise” and “the way of life”. During the three days of our online meeting, we will explore the connections between Plotinus’ view of the self, its contemplative knowledge of the divine realities, which is the goal of philosophical life, and the practical methods of arriving at this knowledge and at the transformation of the self.


Day 1: The self Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Session Chair: Mateusz Stróżyński

Opening of the conference

Keynote lecture

The demiurgic Intellect and individual intellects in Plotinus

Lloyd Gerson (University of Toronto)


Plotinus: the self as the logos of the particularized soul

Siobhan Doyle (University College Dublin)

The self as potential for self-consciousness and independence

Yady Oren (University of Jerusalem)

Day 2 : Contemplation Thursday, 17 June 2021

Session Chair: Maria Marcinkowska-Rosół

Keynote lecture

Beginning to resemble the ground on which you walk: Ennead V.8.10.30 Sara Ahbel-Rappe (University of Michigan)


The dimmest intellection: Nature’s creation and awareness in Plotinus

Ágoston Guba (Eötvös Loránd University)

Beauty and spiritual exercises in the ascent towards God in Plotinus

Luciana Gabriela Santoprete (Laboratoire d’Études sur les Monothéismes, CNRS)

Day 3: Spiritual Exercise Friday, 18 June 2021 Session Chair: Krystyna Bartol

Keynote lecture
Rhetoric, philosophy, and spiritual exercise in Plotinus

Christian Tornau (Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg) Break

Everywhere and nowhere: the textual indeterminacy of the undescended soul in Plotinus as performative anagogic writing

Nicholas Banner (Independent)
Imagination and spiritual exercise in Plotinus

Mateusz Stróżyński (Adam Mickiewicz University) Closing remarks


Those interested in attending the conference remotely, please, contact Mateusz Stróżyński for further details (email address:

(Text by the organisers)



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