The Roman philosopher Plotinus (c. 205-70) is perhaps best known today for his doctrine of self-transformation through contemplation of the ideal: "Never stop sculpting your own statue, until the godlike splendour of virtue shines forth to you." Since its publication in France in 1963 and through subsequent editions both there and abroad, Pierre Hadot's philosophical portrait of Plotinus has established itself as an introduction to the man and his thought. Michael Chase's translation - complete with a useful chronology and analytical bibliography - makes this book available to the English-speaking world. Hadot carefully examines Plotinus' views on the self, existence, love, virtue, kindness, and solitude. He shows that Plotinus, like other philosophers of his day, believed that Plato and Aristotle had already articulated the essential truths; for him, the purpose of philosophy was not to profess new truths but to help achieve a personal experience of the Eternal. Seen in this light, Plotinus' counsel against preoccupation with the body and all earthly matters stemmed not from disgust or fear, but rather from his awareness of the negative effect that bodily sensation and material concern could have on spiritual exercises. Arnold Davidson's introduction sets this book against the background of Plotinus scholarship and discusses Plotinus' continuing philosophical significance.
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