Freedom and Praxis in Plotinus’s Ennead 6.8.1-6




Plotinus, Freedom, Soul, Action, Practical Ethics


In this paper, I argue that Plotinus does not limit the sphere of free human agency simply to intellectual contemplation, but rather extends it all the way to human praxis. Plotinus’s goal in the first six chapters of Ennead 6.8 is, accordingly, to demarcate the space of freedom within human practical actions. He ultimately concludes that our external actions are free whenever they actualize, in unhindered fashion, the moral principles derived from intellectual contemplation. This raises the question of how the freedom of practical actions might relate to the freedom of intellectual contemplation. After considering two previously offered models – a model of double activity, and an Aristotelian model of practical syllogism – I offer a third alternative, namely a model of moral attunement, according to which our rational desires assume a kind of ‘care of the soul’ through active supervision. Practical life is thus imbued with freedom to the extent that the soul supervises its actions to conform to its will and choice of the good.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Bernardo Portilho Andrade, Emory University

Doctoral Student, Department of Philosophy, Emory University


ARMSTRONG, A. H. (trans.) (1966). Porphyry on the Life of Plotinus and the Order of His Books. Ennead I. Cambridge, Harvard University Press.

ARMSTRONG, A. H. (trans.) (1967). Plotinus. Ennead III. Cambridge, Harvard University Press.

ARMSTRONG, A. H. (trans.) (1984a). Plotinus. Ennead IV. Cambridge, Harvard University Press.

ARMSTRONG, A. H. (trans.) (1984b). Plotinus. Ennead V. Cambridge, Harvard University Press.

ARMSTRONG, A. H. (trans.) (1988). Plotinus. Ennead VI.6-9. Cambridge, Harvard University Press.

BENE, L. (2013). Ethics and Metaphysics in Plotinus. In: KARFIK, F.; SONG, E. (eds.). Plato Revived. Essays on Ancient Platonism in Honour of Dominic J. O’Meara. Berlin, De Gruyter, p. 141-161.

CORRIGAN, K. (2015). Divine and Human Freedom: Plotinus’ New Understanding of Creative Agency. In: MARMODORO, A; PRINCE, B. (eds.). Causation and Creation in Late Antiquity. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, p. 131-149.

CORRIGAN, K.; TURNER, J. (2017). Plotinus. Ennead VI.8. On the Voluntary and On the Free Will of the One. Translation with an introduction and commentary. Las Vegas, Parmenides Publishing.

DILLON, J.; GERSON, L. (2004). Neoplatonic Philosophy. Introductory Readings. Indianapolis, Hackett Publishing Company.

EMILSSON, E. K. (2007). Plotinus on Intellect. Oxford, Clarendon Press.

EMILSSON, E. K. (2012). Plotinus and Plato on Soul and Action. In: BARNEY, R.; BRENNAN, T.; BRITTAIN, C. (eds.). Plato and the Divided Self. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, p. 350-367.

EMILSSON, E. K. (2017). Plotinus. London/New York, Routledge.

FREDE, M. (2011). A Free Will. Origins of the Notion in Ancient Thought. Berkeley, University of California Press.

GERSON, L. (1994). Plotinus. London/New York, Routledge.

GREGOR, M. (2012). Kant. Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (translation). Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

GRUBE, G. M. A.; REEVE, C. D. C. (trans.) (1997). Plato. Republic. In: COOPER, J. (ed.). Plato. Complete Works. Indianapolis/Cambridge, Hackett Publishing Company, p. 971-1223.

HUTCHINSON, D. M. (2018). Plotinus on Consciousness. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

LAVAUD, L. (2007). Plotin. Traité 39. Présentation, traduction et notes. In: BRISSON, L.; PRADEAU, J.-F. (eds.). Plotin. Traités 38-41. Paris, Flammarion, p. 175-326.

LEROUX, G. (1996). Human Freedom in the Thought of Plotinus. In: GERSON, L. (ed.). The Cambridge Companion to Plotinus. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, p. 292-314.

LINGUITI, A. (2012). Plotinus and Porphyry on the Contemplative Life. In: BÉNATOUÏL, T.; BONAZZI, M. (eds.). Theoria, Praxis and the Contemplative Life after Plato and Aristotle. Leiden/Boston, Brill, p. 183-198.

LLOYD, A. C. (1990). The Anatomy of Neoplatonism. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

RUTTEN, C. (1956). La Doctrine des Deux Actes dans la Philosophie de Plotin. Revue Philosophique 146, p. 100-106.

SMITH, A. (1999). The Significance of Practical Ethics for Plotinus. In: CLEARY, J. J. (ed.). Traditions of Platonism. Essays in Honour of John Dillon. Aldershot, Ashgate, p. 227-236.

SMITH, A. (2005). Action and Contemplation in Plotinus. In: SMITH, A. (ed.). Philosophy and Society in Late Antiquity. London, University of Wales Press, p. 65-72.

WOOD, A. (2008). Kantian Ethics. New York, Cambridge University Press.




How to Cite

Andrade, B. P. (2020). Freedom and Praxis in Plotinus’s Ennead 6.8.1-6. Revista Archai, (30), e03031.