From beginner-friendly introductions to classic works by Plotinus, this page features books to suit any learning style. It’s important to note that there is no single best book on Plotinus. The best book for you will depend heavily on your preferred learning style and the amount of time/energy you’re willing to spend reading. For example, if you tend to find classic works of philosophy difficult to understand, you might want to start with a short, beginner-friendly introduction. If you prefer more depth, you can choose a more comprehensive introduction or read Plotinus for yourself.
It’s also worth noting that it is not a list of personal recommendations. Personal book recommendations tend to be highly subjective, idiosyncratic, and unreliable. This list is part of a collection of over 100 philosophy reading lists which aim to provide a central resource for philosophy book recommendations. These lists were created by searching through hundreds of university course syllabi, internet encyclopedia bibliographies, and community recommendations. Links to the syllabi and other sources used to create this list are at the end of the post. Following these links will help you quickly find a broader range of options if the listed books do not fit what you are looking for.
Here are the best books on or by Plotinus in no particular order.
Plotinus – Eyjólfur K. Emilsson
Category: General Introduction | Length: 420 pages | Published: 2017 Publisher description: 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 …
Plotinus: An Introduction to the Enneads – Dominic J. O’Meara
Category: Short Introduction | Length: 160 pages | Published: 1995 Publisher description: This book is addressed to readers new to the Enneads. One of the greatest of ancient philosophers, Plotinus is attracting ever-increasing attention from those interested in ancient philosophy, late Antiquity, and the importance of this period for the Western intellectual tradition. O’Meara presents a brief outline of Plotinus’s life, and of the composition of the Enneads, placing Plotinus within the intellectual context of the philosophical schools and religious movements of his time. He then discusses selected Plotinian texts in relation to a number of central philosophical issues to show how Plotinus’s thinking on these issues evolved, and to assess the historical importance of his philosophy.
The Cambridge Companion to Plotinus – Lloyd P. Gerson
Category: Comprehensive Overview | Length: 480 pages | Published: 1996 Publisher description: Plotinus is the greatest philosopher in the 700 year period between Aristotle and Augustine. He thought of himself as a disciple of Plato, but in his efforts to defend Platonism against Aristotelians, Stoics, and others, he actually produced a reinvigorated version of Platonism that later came to be known as “Neoplatonism”. In this volume, sixteen leading scholars introduce and explain the many facets of Plotinus’ complex system. They place Plotinus in the history of ancient philosophy while showing how he was a founder of medieval philosophy.
The Essential Plotinus – S.J. Elmer O’Brien
Category: Anthology | Length: 223 pages | Published: 1975 (2e) Publisher description: “The Essential Plotinus is a lifesaver. For many years my students in Greek and Roman Religion have depended on it to understand the transition from antiquity to the Middle Ages. The translation is crisp and clear, and the excerpts are just right for an introduction to Plotionus’s many-layered view of the world and humankind’s place in it.” –F. E. Romer, University of Arizona
The Enneads – Plotinus
Category: Classic | Length: 938 pages Publisher description: The Enneads by Plotinus is a work which is central to the history of philosophy in late antiquity. This volume is the first complete edition of the Enneads in English for over seventy-five years, and also includes Porphyry’s Life of Plotinus. Led by Lloyd P. Gerson, a team of experts present up-to-date translations which are based on the best available text, the editio minor of Henry and Schwyzer and its corrections. The translations are consistent in their vocabulary, making the volume ideal for the study of Plotinus’ philosophical arguments. They also offer extensive annotation to assist the reader, together with cross-references and citations which will enable users more easily to navigate the texts. This monumental edition will be invaluable for scholars of Plotinus with or without ancient Greek, as well as for students of the Platonic tradition.
The following sources were used to build this list: University Course Syllabi:
- Plotinus – PHIL 7009 | Fordham University
- Bibliography for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Plotinus
- Bibliography for the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Plotinus
Additional Resources You might also be interested in the following reading lists:
- The Best Introductory Philosophy Books
- The Best Books on the History of Philosophy
- The Best Books on Plato
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- Find the best philosophy books on a wide variety of topics with this collection of over 120 philosophy reading lists.
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A History of Western Philosophy in 500 Essential Quotations – Lennox Johnson
Category: Reference | Length: 145 pages | Published: 2019
Publisher’s Description: A History of Western Philosophy in 500 Essential Quotations is a collection of the greatest thoughts from history’s greatest thinkers. Featuring classic quotations by Aristotle, Epicurus, David Hume, Friedrich Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell, Michel Foucault, and many more, A History of Western Philosophy in 500 Essential Quotations is ideal for anyone looking to quickly understand the fundamental ideas that have shaped the modern world.