Plotinus’ student and editor, Porphyry (232/3 - c.305 CE), is considered a founder of Neoplatonism. A scholar and traveler, he studied various religions and languages across the Roman Empire. He is responsible for the revival of Aristotelian thought and championed rationalism and logic. A literary critic of great skill, he edited Plotinus’ writings into six sets of nine chapters each, called the Enneads.
He is famous for his scathing critiques of Gnosticism and Christianity; in fact his critical analysis was not surpassed until the nineteenth century. He believed that these religions’ rituals and dogmas were for the irrational, those who could not practice philosophical contemplation.
He also developed a hierarchy of substances or categories ascending from the physical to the incorporeal and described the interactions between them. Porphyry’s writings on ethics and virtue show that he believed that the path to divinity is through philosophical contemplation and separating the rational mind from the passions, and that the telos of the moral life is ‘becoming like God’. He also thought that a moral life brought no harm to other beings, even when providing oneself with food, and embraced pacifism towards all other forms of life, including animals and even plants.