Volume 43, Issue 4, December 2003
The Art of Living
Pierre Hadot’s Rejection of Plotinian Mysticism
This article examines Pierre Hadot’s rejection of the “purely spiritual” and “transcendent” philosophy of Plotinus as a viable philosophy of life. Despite an initial attraction to the Enneads, Hadot eventually concluded that the mystical quest of Plotinus was unrealistic and unacceptable because it required one to forsake the experience of the spiritual and ineffable in the concrete and the practical. I argue that Hadot’s critical assessment does not adequately appreciate the “descent vector” that is integral to Plotinus’s conception of the One. His mysticism requires reference not only to the efficacy of Intellect and the One but also to embodiment and creative participation in the everyday affairs of worldly existence. Plotinus cannot abandon the implications of the bi-directional dynamic of the One as it generates the richly diverse, beautiful cosmos. The profile of proper living extends across the ontological spectrum, observing the demarcations and dynamic affiliations, from the One to concrete materiality.