BMCR 2004.09.34

Plotinus: A Bibliography 1950-2000

Richard Dufour, Plotinus : a bibliography, 1950-2000. Phronesis.. Leiden: Brill, 2002. 174 pages ; 25 cm. ISBN 9789004127807 $139.00.

This volume utilizes the general format of Luc Brisson’s bibliography of Plato, as the compiler Richard Dufour [hereafter D.] acknowledges in his introduction to this work. The only difference is that D. has added four very helpful indexes to aid the user in locating precisely the works that he or she is seeking. These indexes are divided according to general themes; authors and themes; treatises; and Greek words, offering a handy tool for navigating the vast ocean of Plotinus scholarship that has emerged in the past fifty years.

The bibliography itself is divided into two major sections: Greek texts and translations, and Studies. The first section is helpfully subdivided into Greek texts and commentaries, including further subdivisions for manuscript studies, linguistic studies, commentaries on single treatises, groups of treatises, etc. In short, the arrangement is such that the researcher will not have to wade through superfluous entries to find material relevant to his or her topic. Each Study (1542 of them in total) is accompanied by a bold-faced number. These numbers are used in the four indexes, making location of entries very easy. In the Index of Themes, key-words are arranged alphabetically. The Index of Authors and Themes contains a listing of all entries that include an author other than Plotinus. The Index of Treatises uses the Porphyrian method of numbering the Enneads for easy reference. Finally the Index of Greek Words lists in transliterated form all Greek terms or phrases in the titles of studies.

D. states in his introduction that the aim of the bibliography is to be exhaustive. However, as D. explains, “most bibliographical reference works have not yet reached the year 2000. L’Année Philologique, for example, has just published the volume covering the year 1997.” Attempts were made by D. to locate new studies by searching library catalogues, consulting the latest issues of major journals, and even frequenting bookstores. “These efforts, however, can never contend with the incredible amount of work by institutions like L’Année Philologique. As a result, the exhaustiveness of this bibliography is slowly reduced as we near the new millennium” (1). Yet this unfortunate fact does not reduce the overall value of this volume. The immense amount of effort expended by D. in compiling this bibliography will surely be appreciated by Plotinus scholars, who will certainly find their own research aided. Given the overall quality of this volume, there is very little to criticize. A couple of very minor criticisms, which do not detract from the usefulness of this work, are to be noted.

D. has provided “explanatory notes” for certain references “bearing an ambiguous title or providing little information” (2). This is certainly a good idea, and useful as far as it goes. Yet I found some of these explanatory notes to be themselves ambiguous at times, and rather selective. For example, reference 50, to an article by A.H. Armstrong,1 contains the following explanatory note: “Concerns a text of Plotinus (II, 9, 9, 26-83) seemingly directed against the Gnostics, but which targets Christians” (39). The manner of this statement makes it unclear whether Armstrong himself makes this argument in the article, or if this is an editorial statement by D. In Armstrong’s introduction to his translation of this text, as well as his footnote to II, 9, 9, 50, where he references the Christian heresiologist Irenaeus’ similar remarks (in Adversus Haereses II. 30) against Gnostic theology, he points to the very similar critiques carried out against the Gnostics by both pagan Greek philosophers and orthodox Christian theologians.2 While it would surely have been impossible for D. to provide explanatory notes for all “ambiguous” entries, one would think that entry 738 (94), for example, on Heidegger and Neoplatonism (specifically Plotinus and Pseudo-Dionysius),3 would have warranted at least a brief explanatory note on the general thesis of that article.

There is also the matter of Greek transliteration. D’s decision to transliterate eta with the symbol è rather than with the standard ê seems unnecessary. These minor criticisms aside, the value of the volume is exceedingly high. It is easy to use, and is as exhaustive in its contents as it was possible to be, given the circumstances of compilation. Plotinus scholars, and anyone doing research in Neoplatonism, Gnostic studies, Patristics, and related fields, will warmly welcome this bibliography.


1. A.H. Armstrong, “Man in the cosmos. A study of some differences between pagan Neoplatonism and Christianity” in Romanitas et Christianitas. Studia I.H. Waszink a.d. VI kal. Nov. a 1973, 13 lustra complenti oblata, edd. W. den Boer, P.G. van der Nat, C.M.J. Sicking and J.C.M. van Winden, Amsterdam, North Holland Publ. Company 1973, 5-14.

2. A.H. Armstrong, tr. Plotinus, Ennead II, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press 1966), 220 ff, 260-261 (and note 1).

3. J.D. Jones, “A non-entitative understanding of being and unity: Heidegger and Neoplatonism [Plotinus and Pseudo-Dionysius]”, Dionysius (6), 1982, 94-110.