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Biography of Plotinus

Feelosofi – Plotinus, a neoplatonist philosopher who was born in 205 AD, made his name as one of the central figures in the history of ancient Greek thought. His life and works played an important role in the development of the neoplatonic tradition, which became the basis for philosophical and theological thought in the Middle Ages.

Born in Egypt, Plotinus studied in Alexandria before delving into philosophical teachings in Rome. His most famous work, the “Enneads,” became a major foundation in the Neoplatonic system, developing concepts such as emanation and spiritual ascension. In a historical context, Plotinus not only represents the pinnacle of ancient Greek thought but also bridges the gap between Plato’s philosophical legacy and the formation of Christian thought. Plotinus’ influence extended from the Archaic period to the Renaissance, signifying his important role in shaping human understanding of existence and transcendence.

Plotinus’ Thoughts


Nous represents pure intellect or wisdom. In Plotinus’ view, Nous is the overarching principle of intelligence, encompassing eternal knowledge and divine wisdom. Nous is a reflection of the One, which is the source of all existence. Through Nous, basic concepts such as truth, beauty, and justice are acquired.

In the context of neoplatonic hierarchy, Nous becomes an intermediary between the transcendent One and the material world. Plotinus stated that humans can achieve unity with Nous through spiritual ascension and deep contemplation. By understanding ourselves, humans can achieve the highest understanding of reality and attain true happiness. This concept, which marks Plotinus’ important contribution to the history of thought, reflects an attempt to depict the intellect as a bridge between material existence and eternity.


Emanation is the idea that everything comes from a single source called “the one” or “the good.” Plotinus viewed the One as a transcendent, pure, attributeless principle that produces lower levels of existence through the process of emanation. In his emanative hierarchy, Plotinus constructs three main levels: the One, Intellect (Nous), and Soul (Psyche).

The One produces the Nous, which is pure intellect or wisdom, and then the Nous produces the Soul, which is the link between the spiritual and material worlds. Emanation is not a physical or temporal process but rather an ontological expression of infinite existence. This concept provides a foundation for understanding how existence is divided into hierarchical levels that reflect the complexity and beauty of reality as a whole, while also marking Plotinus’ contribution to developing the neoplatonic tradition of thought.


Psyche occupies the third position in the neoplatonic hierarchy of emanations after the One and Nous (Intellect). Psyche is considered the link between the spiritual world born of the Nous and the lower material world. Plotinus viewed Psyche as the principle of life and vitality, containing a psychic aspect that functions as an intermediary between the wisdom of Nous and matter.

In this context, psyche reflects the complex relationship between spirit and body. Through the process of spiritual ascension, humans can achieve union with Psyche and, ultimately, with the One. Plotinus emphasized the importance of introspection and self-purification as steps toward union with Psyche. This concept of psyche reflects Plotinus’ central role in forming an understanding of human existence as an entity connected in a complex manner with spiritual and material dimensions.


In Plotinus’ thought, happiness (eudaimonia) is the highest goal that can be achieved through a spiritual journey and ascension towards unity with the One. For Plotinus, true happiness cannot be found in material pleasures or the achievements of the physical world alone. Rather, happiness lies in a deep understanding of spiritual reality and union with divine wisdom.

Plotinus emphasized that true happiness is achieved through introspection, self-purification, and a deep understanding of the nature of existence. In Plotinus’s view, happiness is not only individual but is also related to general moral and spiritual well-being. He emphasized that humans who achieve unity with the One will achieve happiness that exceeds all the happiness of the material world. Plotinus’s concept of happiness provides a moral and transcendental dimension, offering a deep view of the nature of happiness as the highest achievement in the search for the meaning of life.

Spiritual Awareness

Spiritual essence, in Plotinus’s philosophy, represents a journey of inner metamorphosis aimed at achieving unity with the One, the source of all existence. This concept signifies the process of ascension from lower levels to higher levels in the neoplatonic hierarchy of emanation. Plotinus stated that humans have the potential to experience spiritual essence by realizing the existence of the One through introspection and self-purification. Spiritual ascension involves the purification of the soul from ties to matter and the impulses of the sensory world.

Plotinus emphasized that through deep contemplation, humans can achieve understanding of higher realities and free themselves from material limitations. This ascension is not just intellectual knowledge but also direct experience that brings existential transformation. In this context, spiritual essence becomes a path to achieving true happiness and unity with the One, enriching the meaning of life with a deep spiritual dimension. Thus, Plotinus’s concept of spiritual essence provides a philosophical direction that invites humans to search for higher meaning beyond material limitations.

Non-material Existence

In Plotinus’ system of thought, the concept of non-material existence is a key element that confirms the existence of a higher level of reality than the material world. Plotinus rejected the materialist view, which considered matter to be the only real reality. Instead, he asserts that true existence lies on a higher level, which is non-material and transcendent. The One, as the source of all existence in Plotinus’s thought, is considered to be absolute goodness that cannot be measured or explained by material categories.

Thus, immaterial existence represents a dimension that transcends physical limitations and represents a purer essence. This concept not only offers a new understanding of the source of existence but also opens the door to deep reflection on the nature of reality and the purpose of life. In Plotinus’ view, the emphasis on non-material existence became a call to abandon attachment to the material world in favor of a search for higher meaning and unity with divine wisdom.

Absolute Goodness

In Plotinus’s philosophical system, the concept of absolute goodness (the good) appears as the central pillar, which is the source and foundation for all existence. The good, or absolute goodness, is identified as a transcendental principle that is unlimited and pure, being the driving force for the emanation process that forms the levels of existence. Plotinus views the good as the source of moral goodness, truth, and beauty, which are the basis for all reality.

In this view, goodness is not only a moral attribute but also a principle that defines the nature of things. Plotinus emphasized that humans can achieve true happiness by directing their will and actions towards unity with the good through their spiritual essence. This concept of absolute goodness marks Plotinus’ contribution to establishing the ontological and ethical foundations of the neoplatonic tradition, enriching human understanding of the purpose of life and the essence of existence. Thus, the good in Plotinus’s thinking becomes a moral and spiritual guide that invites humans to achieve unity with the highest principles in the search for the meaning of life.

Works of Plotinus

  • “Enneades” (c. 270 AD)
  • “Plotini Opera Omnia” (Collected works of Plotinus, compilation after his death)


Plotinus emphasized the importance of inner purification, spiritual essence, and union with the One as the paths to true happiness. Concepts such as emanation, nous, psyche, non-material existence, and absolute goodness became central pillars in the construction of his view of reality.

Plotinus’ thought invites us to see existence as a hierarchy involving spiritual and material dimensions. This conclusion also highlights Plotinus’ role as an intermediary between Plato’s thought and the development of Christian thought, creating a philosophical legacy that influenced the history of Western thought. Thus, through his deep thoughts, Plotinus enriched human insight into the meaning of life, happiness, and the relationship between the physical and spiritual worlds.


What was Plotinus’ main contribution to the history of philosophical thought?

Plotinus made important contributions in developing the neoplatonic tradition, introducing concepts such as emanation, Nous, Psyche, and absolute goodness. His thinking not only influenced Ancient Greek thought, but also formed the basis for philosophical and theological thought in the Middle Ages.

How does Plotinus describe the process of spiritual ascension in his thought?

Plotinus describes spiritual ascension as an inner journey aimed at achieving unity with the One, the source of all existence. This process involves self-purification, deep introspection, and understanding of spiritual realities. Spiritual essence in Plotinus’s view is not only as intellectual knowledge, but also as a direct experience that brings existential transformation.

How does Plotinus interpret the concept of happiness (eudaimonia)?

For Plotinus, true happiness cannot be found in material pleasures or the achievements of the physical world alone. Happiness lies in a deep understanding of spiritual reality and union with divine wisdom. By directing will and action towards unity with the One through spiritual essence, humans can achieve true happiness that exceeds all the happiness of the material world.


  • Plotinus: The Enneads – A. H. Armstrong (1984)
  • Plotinus: An Introduction to the Enneads – Dominic J. O’Meara (1995)
  • Plotinus: On Beauty – Plotinus, terjemahan oleh Thomas Taylor (2010)
  • The Essential Plotinus – Plotinus, terjemahan oleh Elmer O’Brien (1964)
  • Plotinus, or the Simplicity of Vision – Pierre Hadot (1993)
  • The Cambridge Companion to Plotinus – Lloyd P. Gerson (1996)
  • Plotinus or the Philosophy of the Beautiful – Émile Bréhier (1934)
  • Plotinus’ Cosmology: A Study of Ennead II.1 (40) – Stephen R. L. Clark (2006)

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Raymond Kelvin Nando
Writer, Researcher, & Philosophy Enthusiast