Parmenides Publishing

Titles by Gerard O'Daly


PLOTINUS Ennead I.1:
What is the Living Thing?
What is Man?
Translation, with an Introduction, and Commentary


Series Edited by
John M. Dillon and Andrew Smith

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December 2017
227 pages • 5 x 7.5 • Paperback


Gerald O'Daly
is Emeritus Professor of Latin at University College London and former Dean of its Faculty of Arts and Humanities. His research has concentrated on philosophy and literature in late antiquity, and his books include Plotinus’ Philosophy of the Self (1973), Augustine’s Philosophy of Mind (1987), The Poetry of Boethius (1991), Augustine’s City of God: A Reader’s Guide (2004), and Days Linked by Song: Prudentius’ Cathemerinon (2012). Several of his articles are collected in Platonism Pagan and Christian: Studies in Plotinus and Augustine (2001).

Ennead I.1 is a succinct and concentrated analysis of key themes in Plotinus' psychology and ethics. It focuses on the soul-body relation, discussing various Platonic, Aristotelian, and Stoic views before arguing that there is only a soul-trace in the body (forming with the body a “compound”), while the reasoning soul itself is impassive and flawless. The soul-trace hypothesis is used to account for human emotions, beliefs, and perceptions, and human fallibility in general.

Its problematic relation to our rational powers, as well as the question of moral responsibility, are explored. Plotinus develops his original and characteristic concept of the self or “we,” which is so called because it is investigated as something common to all humans (rather than a private individual self), and because it is multiple, referring to the reasoning soul or to the “living thing” composed of soul-trace and body. Plotinus explores the relation between the “we” and consciousness, and also its relation to the higher metaphysical entities, the Good, and Intellect.

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).

"In one of the last of Plotinus's treatises, which his editor and disciple placed at the beginning of the Enneads, he addressed the question of our own identity: what are we, and what is it that asks? O'Daly's new translation and his characteristically detailed and scholarly analysis of Plotinus's arguments, as well as their Aristotelian and Platonic context, will be an essential resource for any scholar or philosopher wishing to understand Plotinus's conception of ourselves as undying intelligences yoked, in this life, to the living thing which is our ordinary self. It is a notable edition to a valuable series."

Stephen R. L. Clark
Emeritus Professor of Philosophy
University of Liverpool

This is one of Plotinus’ latest treatises, in which the author offers a concise but systematic overview of his views on the human soul, its cognitive and emotional dynamics, and its relation to the other levels of reality. By posing the question ‘What are we?’ as his starting point, he explores issues pertaining to the variety of the soul’s experiences, its various states of consciousness and its moral accountability. In G. O’Daly’s carefully wrought new translation and commentary the reader finds a useful guide that helps him to unravel Plotinus’ occasionally cryptic line of argumentation and to penetrate into some of the most fascinating aspects of his philosophising.

Paul Kalligas
Professor of Ancient Philosophy
Director of the European Cultural Centre of Delphi

Plotinus’ profound reflections on the “we” or self and its multiplicity are among the most distinctive features of his philosophy, and treatise I.1 is his most sustained discussion of this topic.  O’Daly’s translation is at once accurate and readable, while his commentary guides us through the dense argumentation with admirable precision and clarity.  The commentary is especially noteworthy for its recognition of the great extent to which Plotinus is indebted to and in conversation with Aristotle, while differing from him at key points.

Eric Perl, Professor and Chair, Department of Philosophy Loyola Marymount University

Ennead 1.1 is Plotinus’ penultimate treatise in the chronological order and can be seen as his philosophical testament. The treatise is exceedingly difficult and contains some of Plotinus’ most intriguing thoughts on such crucial issues as the nature of the self, the relation of body and soul, the nature and limits of knowledge. Prof. Gerard O’Daly offers a masterly translation with commentary of this demanding work. The reader is guided through Plotinus’ intricate text with learning, ingenuity and exemplary clarity. In his commentary, Prof. O’Daly illustrates Plotinus' intellectual background, his use of previous authors, the philosophical significance and the structure of his reasoning. This is a splendid work of scholarship, written by one of the great authorities on this domain. It will be indispensable reading for all those interested in Plotinus’ philosophy and, more generally, in the Ancient theories of the self.

Riccardo Chiaradonna
Professor of Ancient Philosophy
Roma Tre University

“With an admirable introduction which places Ennead I.1 within the chronological and philosophical context of Plotinus’ writings as a whole, along with a lucid and engaging translation paired with extensive and helpful critical notes and comparison of Plotinus’ views with that of especially Aristotle but also Plato, Alexander Aphrodisias, the Stoics, and other philosophers, Gerard O’Daly has done a valuable service to students of Plotinus and ancient philosophy in general. Ennead I.1 represents some of Plotinus’ most mature treatments of fundamental topics in his ethics, psychology, biology, theory of perception, and epistemology. O’Daly is a helpful guide, examining and explaining the philosophical rationale for Plotinus’ views throughout this treatise, and usefully assessing where he follows and diverges from other rival ancient conceptions of self-identity, responsibility, happiness, and self-knowledge. O’Daly provides regular and useful cross-references to other translations in this series, as well as secondary literature on both Plotinus and wider scholarship in ancient Greek philosophy. This edition is highly recommended.”

—Gary Gabor
Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Hamline University