Parmenides Publishing

Titles by Lloyd P. Gerson

Plotinus ENNEAD V.5:
That the Intelligibles
are not External to the Intellect,
and on the Good
Translation, with an Introduction, and Commentary


Series Edited by
John M. Dillon and Andrew Smith

July 2013
ISBN 978-1-930972-85-8
220 pages • 5 x 7.5 • Paperback

  Lloyd P. Gerson
Lloyd P. Gerson
is professor of philosophy in the University of Toronto. He is the author or editor of some 20 books and approximately 200 articles and reviews, mainly in ancient philosophy. He works especially on Plato, Aristotle, and Plotinus. He has also translated works of Aristotle (with H. G. Apostle), Hellenistic philosophy (with Brad Inwood), and Neoplatonic philosophy (with John Dillon).

Platonists beginning in the Old Academy itself and up to and including Plotinus struggled to understand and articulate the relation between Plato’s Demiurge and the Living Animal which served as the model for creation. The central question is whether “contents” of the Living Animal, the Forms, are internal to the mind of the Demiurge or external and independent. For Plotinus, the solution depends heavily on how the Intellect that is the Demiurge and the Forms or intelligibles are to be understood in relation to the first principle of all, the One or the Good. The treatise V.5 [32] sets out the case for the internality of Forms and argues for the necessary existence of an absolutely simple and transcendent first principle of all, the One or the Good. Not only Intellect and the Forms, but everything else depends on this principle for their being.

Plotinus was a Platonist, committed to expounding the doctrines put forward by Plato some seven centuries earlier. He was born and educated in Egypt, where he studied the teachings of Plato under the guidance of Ammonius Saccas. He came to Rome in 244 CE and built up a circle of followers devoted to studying Plato through Plato's own works and those of philosophers, both Platonist and non-Platonist, of the intervening centuries. From his fiftieth year Plotinus himself wrote down, in Greek, the findings of the seminars, and these writings were later edited by one of his pupils, Porphyry, and published in six groups of nine treatises entitled the Enneads (from the Greek word for nine – ennea).

Gerson's translation is painstakingly accurate, achieving fluency and clarity without simplifying Plotinus' often hyper-concentrated style. If one compares it with the distinguished English translation by A. H. Armstrong,3 there are gains in precision as well as in contemporary idiom. (Full review)
—Gerard O'Daly
University of London

"This book is a tour de force, taking one straight to the heart of a treatise at the core of Plotinus’ system through a translation of stunning fluency, backed by an insightful, authoritative and user-friendly commentary, and complemented by all the extras now expected of such translations. Gerson shows his incredible commitment to making Plotinus' philosophy better known and better appreciated by those who might not have expected to discover such treasures there."

—Harold Tarrant
University of Newcastle

Gerson focuses on a crucial section of the Enneads where Plotinus argues for the identity of Intellect and Intelligibles, explains how the One transcends Being, and the priority of The Good. This section is critical for understanding Plotinus' influence on subsequent metaphysical and theological thought. Gerson's translation is clear and readable, and his extensive commentary places Plotinus' arguments in the context of the philosophical traditions of his time.

—Tony Preus
Binghampton University
Gerson’s translation and commentary on Enneads V.5 is an essential guide to one of Plotinus’ most important treatises. Students of Plotinus’ noetic theory should begin here.
—John Bussanich
University of New Mexico

Lloyd P. Gerson’s Plotinus, Ennead V.5: That the Intelligibles are not External to the Intellect, and on the Good is the second installment in the new series The Enneads of Plotinus, edited by John Dillon and Andrew Smith and published by Parmenides Press. The volume is a treasure find offering a perfect match between text and interpreter. Ennead V.5 addresses two of the principal questions of Plotinus’ metaphysics: how Intellect, the second underlying principle of existence, is identical with its objects, the intelligible beings; and how the One, the first underlying principle of existence, while a source of Intellect, is beyond Intellect and the intelligible. These questions are treated in the hands of Gerson, one of the most authoritative and original interpreters of Plotinus’ thought today, with erudition, analytical vigor, and contagious enthusiasm. If this series propitiously began with Barrie Fleet’s translation and commentary of Ennead IV.8, the treatise dealing with the soul’s descent in the body, it could not have found a worthier successor than Ennead V.5, the treatise devoted to Intellect’s substantiation from the One and the non-discursive nature of the One. Gerson’s translation and commentary showcase the intellectual forcefulness of Plotinus’ thought while rendering it enviably readable and attractive to modern audience, inviting both the experienced and the aspiring reader of late ancient philosophy.

—Svetla Slaveva-Griffin
Florida State University
Gerson has produced an important contribution to Plotinian scholarship in general and to the still small number of commentaries on Plotinus in English in particular. His translation of the central Ennead V.5 is lucid without being unfaithful to the Greek original and his commentary offers the reader a wealth of explanation, which will both benefit the neophyte to the often obscure and difficult thought of Plotinus and stimulate the expert with instructive interpretations of the text.
—Dr. Matthias Vorwerk
The Catholic University of America

In this translation and commentary, professor Gerson tackles a crucial treatise of Plotinus, the V.5 That the Intelligibles are not External to the Intellect, and on the Good. The treatise presents the famous doctrine that the Intellect is or comprises the intelligibles: its thinking is a peculiar kind of self-thinking in which the objects are internal to the thinker itself. The second part of the treatise connects the epistemological worries to Plotinus’ philosophy of the unique, unqualified first explanatory principle, the One.

What Gerson does in this volume is pushing the text philosophically as far as possible. In his hands, Plotinus is shown grappling on hard epistemological problems: how – and why - to differentiate between true belief and infallible knowledge, what problems representationalism proposes within discussions on ontological truth; how, in that framework, the truth of predicative judgements is grounded upon infallible cognition of the intellect. These even from the contemporary perspective recognizable problems are, however, firmly tied to the tradition in which Plotinus is working on. The commentary reveals the passages of Plotinus predecessors, especially Plato and Aristotle, needed to contextualize and penetrate his view.

Commentaries come in different forms. A philosophical commentary is, since its birth in antiquity, a literary genre of its own. In the best of cases, the commentator not only provides instruments and references that help the reader with the original text. Rather, he is as much a philosopher as the person whose work triggered the writing of the commentary in the first place. It is in this way that Gerson understands the role of the commentator, creating, in the form of this volume, a powerful tool for anyone interested not only in the philosophy of Plotinus, but in ancient philosophising on knowledge, truth, thinking, explanation, and primary principle.

—Pauliina Remes
Uppsala University

In Ennead V.5 Plotinus articulates, with exceptional clarity and fullness, some of the most important and distinctive features of his philosophy. Here he sets out his most cogent arguments for the unity-in-duality of intellect and intelligible being, followed by one of the most complete explanations anywhere in the Enneads of why and in what sense the first principle, the One, must be “beyond being.” Hence it is gratifying to find that this treatise, translated and with a commentary by such an outstanding scholar as Lloyd Gerson, is among the first to appear in the new publication of the Enneads from Parmenides Publishing.

Gerson’s translation is true to the original, philosophically precise, and eminently readable. Where he has had to make difficult decisions in rendering the Greek, these are noted and justified in the commentary, which also offers illuminating comparisons with other translations. The commentary addresses virtually every line of the text, combining historical and philosophical perspectives: Gerson sets Plotinus’ ideas in relation to Epicureanism, Stoicism, and Scepticism, as well as Aristotle and of course the Platonic tradition, while at the same time providing careful analyses of Plotinus’ argumentation in strictly philosophical terms. The volume thus makes an noteworthy contribution to the study and understanding of the philosophy of Plotinus both as a vital moment in the history of western thought and as a philosophically significant body of thought in its own right.

—Eric D. Perl
Loyola Marymount University

Lloyd Gerson, a leading scholar of the history of Hellenistic thought and interpreter of Plotinus’ philosophy, has given his readers an excellent translation of Ennead V.5 {32} and a highly enlightening commentary. Both are designed to help his readers understand the difficult philosophical doctrines stated in the selected basic text. Both parts of the book render Professor Gerson’s treatment an outstanding accomplishment, indeed an achievement. Every page of the book shows his mastery of the Plotinian philosophical world as well as his expertise as its interpreter. Gerson’s Plotinus stands out as a model of scholarship.

—John P. Anton
Distinguished Professor of Greek Philosophy
and Culture Emeritus
University of South Florida Tampa, FL