The Society for Ancient Greek Philosophy Newsletter


John M. Rist

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Plotinus' views on man and his value must be closely related to his views of the One. His first principle is radically different from that of the Platonists, Aristotelians, and Stoics who precede him. In many respects, as in all other areas of his thought, his conception is a synthesis of what went before, but it cannot be overemphasized that it is a new conception, a dynamic first principle whose character as efficient cause is to be viewed in terms of Eros and of will as much as of mind and knowledge.

That being so, and man being a microcosm, one should expect to find - and we do find - a different conception of man, and, compared with Plato and Aristotle, a new intrinsic importance assigned to him. Man in Plotinus is created perfectible and valuable, but he may not live up to himself; if he does not do so, it is own fault and neither man nor gods should be held responsible. Above all, for Plotinus no saviour god is required to get us out of the troubles in which we immerse ourselves through crime and folly.


John Rist presented “Plotinus and the Value of the Human Person” to the Society at its meeting with the American Philological Association in Vancouver in 1978. It was partially incorporated into his 1982 book, Human Value, published by Brill.

For information about the author, see Wikipedia, "John Rist"