Fw: BMCR 2004.05.02, Alexandrine Schniewind, L'e/thique du sage
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Subject: BMCR 2004.05.02, Alexandrine Schniewind, L'e/thique du sage
> Alexandrine Schniewind, L'e/thique du sage chez Plotin. Paris:
> Librarie Philosophique J. Vrin, 2003. Pp. 238. ISBN 2-7116-1616-9.
> EUR 32.00.
> Reviewed by John Dillon, Trinity College, Dublin (dillonj@...)
> Word count: 927 words
> This monograph, a revision of the author's doctoral thesis, sets out to
> examine the ethical position of Plotinus from the perspective of his
> doctrine of the sage, the 'spoudaios ane^r', and in particular through
> an exegesis of his tractate 'On Well-Being', Enn. I 4 . The
> doctrine of the 'spoudaios' in indeed an excellent perspective from
> which to evaluate the nature of Plotinus' ethics, and S[chniewind] does
> a fine job of setting out the chief issues. Plotinus' position is
> notable, even within the Platonic tradition. He sees the 'true man'
> (with which only the spoudaios is properly in touch) as that
> 'undescended' part of the soul which remains in a state of unification
> with Intellect. Anyone who is activated at this level has attained a
> state of inner, god-like calm and should no longer be affected by
> either passions or the accidents of external existence. It is in such a
> state that true eudaimonia lies. The issue arising from this, which is
> one on which S. finds herself somewhat at odds with this reviewer,
> among others, is how far such a sage can have any real relation,
> affective or pedagogic, with his fellow-men -- and thus engage in any
> form of ethical praxis.
> That is indeed a nice point, and I shall have a little more to say on
> it presently. But first a survey of the contents of the work. In an
> introductory chapter, S. sets out her stall, and provides also a useful
> overview of previous scholarship on the topic of Plotinus' ethics.
> Then, in Ch. I, she surveys the uses of the term spoudaios and the
> various concepts of the spoudaios, or 'sage', first in Plato, but then
> more particularly, in Aristotle and the Stoics. Here she identifies the
> main -- and contrasting -- features of the 'wise man' in, especially,
> Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics and in the reports of Stoic doctrine
> taken from Stobaeus and from Diogenes Laertius (this latter culminating
> in an impressive 'table of the qualities of the sage', pp. 40-2).
> Plotinus, of course, is indebted to both schools for his concept of the
> sage, though more to the latter. For the likeness of the sage to god,
> certainly, and the concept of the sage as a kano^n and a metron (p.
> 37), he borrows from Book X of Aristotle's EN. Nonetheless, it is the
> apatheia of the Stoic sage that most attracts him -- though with the
> significant qualification that that aspect of the sage which is free
> from passions and affections is not the unitary soul of the Stoics but
> rather the 'undescended', higher soul of his own system.
> The core of the monograph is in fact a fairly close exegesis of Enn. I.
> 4 : On Well-Being (peri eudaimonias), and in Ch. II S. provides
> some remarks preliminary to that. Here S. makes one very sound
> observation, and one that is not so sound. It is helpful, I think, to
> note (p. 55) that I 4  can be viewed together with III 2-3 [47-8]:
> On Providence, and indeed V 3 : On the Knowing Hypostases and What
> is Beyond, as constituting a late conspectus of salient issues in
> Plotinus' ethics and his physics; not so fortunate, it seems to me, is
> her suggestion (pp. 66-7) that the treatise is pitched at three
> pedagogic levels: chs. 1-4, which are primarily doxographic, at an
> outer circle of auditors, 5-11 at more advanced disciples, and 12-16 at
> an inner circle of 'assistants', such as Amelius and Porphyry. I think
> it highly unlikely that Plotinus was intending any such distinction,
> though he does only gradually reveal the full complexity of his
> At any rate, the next four chapters (III: La de/finition du bonheur du
> traite/ I 4; IV: La nature double de l'homme; V: L'homme heureux dans
> la traite/ I 4; VI: Le spoudaios dans la traite/ I 4) in effect take us
> through the tractate, focussing primarily on the uses of the terms
> eudaimo^n and spoudaios, as well as (most interestingly) on the use of
> the term allos anthro^pos, 'other man' to denote the 'inner man', or
> higher consciousness of the sage. It is a useful exercise, and very
> lucidly performed. Just one detail I would draw attention to here: in a
> section on the 'joy and tranquillity' of the sage, where she notes that
> P. uses the adjective hileo^s at 12. 8, she might have recognized that
> P. is probably borrowing the term from Plato, Laws VII 792CD -- a most
> interesting passage.
> A further chapter surveys other uses of the term spoudaios throughout
> the Enneads, notably certain passages in III 4, III 2, IV 3, III 1, IV
> 4, III 8, II 9, and I 2, all of which serve to fill out in various ways
> our view of the spoudaios. At various places she is concerned to
> emphasise the concern shown by the sage, as Plotinus portrays him, for
> the welfare of others, and that is something I would not deny; but it
> remains nonetheless crucial, I think, that no concern for the
> misfortunes of others can be allowed to interfere with the sage's inner
> calm (cf. I 4, 32ff.). Plotinus' benevolence resembles, it seems to me,
> that of the One itself, not that of Mother Teresa.
> Finally, in a brief Conclusion, she summarizes her findings, and
> appends a comprehensive bibliography and useful indices of passages
> quoted and of the chief concepts discussed. I find the work a most
> useful addition to scholarship on Plotinus' ethics, even if I remain in
> disagreement with some of its conclusions.
> The BMCR website (http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/bmcr/) contains a complete
> and searchable archive of BMCR reviews since our first issue in 1990.
> It also contains information about subscribing and unsubscribing from
> the service.
- Has anyone seen the somewhat new book
Neoplatonic Philosophy: Introductory Readings?
(edited by John Dillon, on Hackett Pub)
Very curious as to the contents, but cannot
seem to find a TOC or any real information
on the it. No local bookstores are presently
carrying this and I was hoping someone here
might be able to serve me some details on this
before I decide what edition to order.
- Here is the book description from Amazon.com:
"The most comprehensive collection of Neoplatonic writings available in
English, this volume provides translations of the central texts of four
major figures of the Neoplatonic tradition: Plotinus, Porphyry, Iamblichus,
and Proclus. The general Introduction gives an overview of the period and
takes a brief but revealing look at the history of ancient philosophy from
the viewpoint of the Neoplatonists. Historical background-essential for
understanding these powerful, difficult, and sometimes obscure thinkers-is
provided in extensive footnotes, which also include cross-references to
other works relevant to particular passages."
I have ordered this book for myself, and will be glad to offer a
description/review, after I peruse the volume. In any case, given the
quality of work produced by the editors of this volume, I see no reason not
to purchase it forthwith.
Edward Moore, S.T.L.
----- Original Message -----
From: "..." <chris@...>
Sent: Monday, May 03, 2004 12:31 AM
Subject: [neoplatonism] Neoplatonic Philosophy: Introductory Readings
> Has anyone seen the somewhat new book
> Neoplatonic Philosophy: Introductory Readings?
> (edited by John Dillon, on Hackett Pub)
> Very curious as to the contents, but cannot
> seem to find a TOC or any real information
> on the it. No local bookstores are presently
> carrying this and I was hoping someone here
> might be able to serve me some details on this
> before I decide what edition to order.
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