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424 LEITERS IN CANADA 1997 Lloyd P. Gerson, editor. The Cambridge CompaHion to Plotimts Cambridge University Press 1996. xiv, 462. us$64.95 cloth, us$19.95 paper This 'companion; belongs to a series of collections of essays on philosophers , which are designed to 'serve as a reference work for students and nonspecialists/ and to 'dispel the intimidation' felt by such readers when faced with the work of difficult thinkers. At the same time, 'advanced students and specialists' are also supposed to benefit from the update that these' volumes provide. Yet few companions can be all things to all travellers, and the present collection on Plotinus perhaps manages that demanding task rather less effectively than the volumes on Plato and Aristotle published recently in this series. The fault is not entirely that of the contributors, all sixteen of whom offer highly professional and up-todate studies. It lies more with Plotinus himself, a philosopher who drew on a long and complex tradition to address issues that are no longer integral to contemporary philosophy, whether that is defined with reference to the so-called analytical tradition, or to more expansive forms of cultural and ethical studies. In fact, outside a narrow circle of professional enthusiasts, Plotinus seems often to attract individuals of a religious persuasion, to whom discourse and argun1ents about metaphysical hierarchies and ideas of seli-transcendence are self-recommending. In his introduction the editor does suggest that anyone who doubts that Plotinus is a major philosopher should read him, and read the essays in this volume, 'and decide.' But neither the editor nor most of the contributors acknowledge the varied reasons why legitimate doubts can be raised about the contemporary philosophical significance of the Plotinian Enneads, or try to meet such reservations head on. Sara Rappe's excellent paper, 'Self-Knowledge and Subjectivity in the Enneads,' is an exception. Its philosophical sophistication and breadth should make it of interest to any student of the philosophy of mind. Otherwise, these are essays more for the converted than the convertible , and for fairly advanced converts too, already familiar with the practice of explicating Plotinus through paraphrase and internal comparison rather than with reference to th.e wider history of philosophy and its recurring problems. The beginner will be helped most by M.L. Gatti's survey of the Platonic tradition in chapter 1 (although it is often too much of a bibliographical report), and J.M: Ri.st's discussion of Plotinus and Christian philosophy in chapter 16. Otherwise; the reader will need to be armed with a text or translation to steer through the innumerable references that litter these studies of broadly defined topics. Of course Plotinus has to be documented this way, since, as the editor reminds us, his thought cannot be easily packaged into subdivided topics and problems. But in that case, should this volume have been advertised as anything other than a tool for specialists, or advanced students? At the risk of imposing arbitrary categories, three of the papers can be said to deal with metaphysics, four with psychology and epistemology, two HUMANITIES 425 with ethics, two with the realm of the physical world, one with eternity and time, and one with language (the latter a particularly insightful essay by F.M. Schroeder). Finally, one essay links Plotinus with later ancient Neoplatonists in their treatment of the topic of 'the causality of the First Princjple/ a useful historical exercise of which there might have been more specimens. Indeed, a companion to the Neoplatonists (like the forthcoming volume on the Presocrahcs in this series) would probably have been more useful to the scholarly world than one restricted to Plotinus. The editor and four of the contributors are Canadian, a tribute to the remarkable way in which the study of Greek philosophy has taken root here in recent decades. But the next generation of Canadian Plotinians, if there is to be one, will need to be nurtured by more accessible guides than the present 'companion.' Now that our sadly ailing classics departments have largely abandoned the study of ancient philosophy, that generation can be drawn only from students specializing in philosophy. Their needs and interests might have been more...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 424-425
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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