Plotinus’ Doctrine

26 08 2008

And yet a literary monument from antiquity is something very different from a modern composition. Nowadays, it is possible for an author to say, “I am Madame Bovary.” Today, authors lay themselves bare, expressing and liberating themselves. They strive for originality, for what has never been said before. Philosophers set forth their system, expounding it in their own personal way, freely chosing their starting point, the rhythm of their expositions, and the structure of their work. They try to stamp their own personal mark on everything they do. But like all productions of the last stages of antiquity, the Enneads are subject to servitudes of a wholly different nature. Here, originality is a defect, innovation is suspect, and fidelity to tradition, a duty. “Our doctrines are not novel, nor do they date from today: they were stated long ago, but not in an explicit way. Our present doctrines are explanations of those older ones, and they use Plato’s own words to prove that they are ancient.”

-Pierre Hadot, Plotinus or the Simplicity of Vision