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Virtues for the People

Virtues for the People: Aspects of Plutarchan Ethics

Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Leuven University Press
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Virtues for the People
    Book Description:

    Plutarch of Chaeronea, Platonist, polymath, and prolific writer, was by no means an armchair philosopher. He believed in the necessity for a philosopher to affect the lives of his fellow citizens. That urge inspired many of his writings to meet what he considered people's true needs. Although these writings on practical ethics illustrate in various ways Plutarch's authorial talents and raise many challenging questions (regarding their overall structure, content, purpose, and underlying philosophical and social presuppositions), they have attracted only limited scholarly attention. Virtues for the People contains a collection of essays that deal with these questions from different perspectives and as such throw a new light upon this multifaceted domain of Plutarch's thinking and writing. Special points of interest are the concept of ‘popular philosophy' itself and its implications, its dependence on a more theoretical philosophical background, and the importance of moral progress, the therapy of wickedness, and the common experiences of everyday life.

    eISBN: 978-94-6166-118-0
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. Efficiency and Effectiveness of Plutarch’s Broadcasting Ethics
    (pp. 7-16)
    G. Roskam and L. Van der Stockt

    Ever since Plato, philosophy faced the question as to what extent its experts were expected to play an active role in society. Should the philosopher descend again into the cave in order to share his high insights with his fellow citizens and make them better? Plato himself answered in the positive, as did the Stoics later. Through their notorious άναισχυντíα and their shocking conduct, even the Cynics advocated a radical moral message. Epicurus, by contrast, as a rule refrained from entering into public life¹, although this withdrawal obviously does not imply that he refused to benefit other people². Similarly, the...

  4. 1. Virtues for the people

    • Semper duo, numquam tres? Plutarch’s Popularphilosophie on Friendship and Virtue in On having many friends
      (pp. 19-40)
      L. Van der Stockt

      K. Ziegler’s article “Ploutarchos” inRE, 1951, as astatus quaestionisof eighteenth-and nineteenth-century scholarship on Plutarch, was at the same time the influential forerunner of the renaissance of Plutarch studies that was soon to come. In that article, Ziegler offered a classification of Plutarch’s works and constructed fourteen categories, one of which is entitled ‘Die popularphilosophisch-ethischen Schriften’ and includesOn having many friends.

      We take it that Ziegler used the termPopularphilosophieagainst the background of the history of German philosophy, and that he applied to a group of Plutarchan works the activity of a number of philosophers of...

    • What is Popular About Plutarch’s ‘Popular Philosophy’?
      (pp. 41-58)
      Chr. Pelling

      In this chapter I will tentatively and obliquely address two general issues that tell on the question ‘what is popular about “popular philosophy”?’ First, does Plutarch himself have a concept of ‘popular philosophy’ which is different from some sort of ethics which is, say, more philosophical or recherché or theoretical? If so what, distinctively, is itfor, on what sort of issues is it felt to have particular purchase? And, secondly, not merely ‘what’ is popular philosophy for, butwhomis it for? Is the relation between ‘popular philosophy’ and ‘virtues for the people’ a wholly straightforward one? Is the...

    • Plutarch’s Lives and the Critical Reader
      (pp. 59-82)
      T.E. Duff

      In several of his prologues, Plutarch makes explicit claims for the moral benefit to be derived from reading about the great men of the past (e.g.,Aem. I; Per. 1-2;Demetr. I ). It is therefore striking that theParallel Livescontain very little explicit instruction on what to learn from reading about their subjects or how to behave as a result². In this paper I shall attempt to explore the ways in which the text does or does not guide the audience’s response to the subjects of theLives. I shall argue that the lack of explicit injunction is...

    • Greek Poleis and the Roman Empire: Nature and Features of Political Virtues in an Autocratic System
      (pp. 83-98)
      P. Desideri

      My contribution to this symposium will be to assess the particular characteristics which mark Plutarch’s idea of the perfect statesman: better said, of the perfect Greek statesman in a situation of autocratic external control of the city-state,i.e., in the context of the Roman Imperial age in which Plutarch himself lived¹. The first point to make is, in fact, that in his statements Plutarch accurately distinguished the politicians of his own lifetime (of whom he spoke mostly in hisMoralia) from the great men both of Greek and Roman past history (who were the protagonists of hisVitae parallelae). This...

    • Del Satiro che voleva baciare il fuoco (o Come trarre vantaggio dai nemici)
      (pp. 99-108)
      J.C. Capriglione

      Mi piace pensare che Plutarco è, a ben guardare, il risultato finale di un mondo che ha visto troppe guerre e troppe violenze, troppe lotte fratricide e sa, sente di essere arrivato ad un punto di non-ritorno: la pace con tutte le sue strane regole, le sue necessarie ipocrisie, la capacità di piegare molti istinti ‘naturali’ alle ragioni della ‘buona vita’ a fronte della minaccia del nulla, del baratro di barbarie che rischia di distruggere irreversibilmente i delicati equilibri interni ed esterni su cui poggia quella straordinaria macchina di potere che è l’impero romano.

      Mi piace pensare che Plutarco sia...

    • Plutarch’s ‘Diet-Ethics’. Precepts of Healthcare Between Diet and Ethics
      (pp. 109-130)
      L. Van Hoof

      This article deals with Plutarch’sPrecepts of Healthcare¹. Previous scholars have yielded valuable insight into the text’s philosophical or medical ideas, but they have not treated it as a literary composition as a whole. I propose to do for Plutarch’s treatise what John Ferrari , Chris Gill, and others have done for the Platonic dialogue, viz. read it as a unified composition². Additionally, I will read it from a broadly new-historicist perspective, as a struggle for intellectual authority in Plutarch’s contemporary world. My reading of this text thus combines close-reading with cultural-theoretical and socio-anthropological models, and will thereby touch upon...

  5. 2. Some theoretical questions on ethical praxis

    • Plutarchan Morality: Arete, Tyche, and Non-Consequentialism
      (pp. 133-150)
      H.M. Martin

      There is, to my sensibilities, very little in the writings of Plutarch of Chaeronea that is more eloquent and emotionally penetrating thanDemosthenes12.7-13.6¹. This passage begins with the statement (12.7-8) that, once Demosthenes had taken up the advocacy of the cause of the Hellenes against Philip as a noble purpose for his public life and had proved to be a worthy antagonist in this endeavor, he quickly became famous and so well known for the candor of his speeches that he was admired in Hellas, courted by the great king, and of greater concern to Philip than the other...

    • Virtue, Fortune, and Happiness in Theory and Practice
      (pp. 151-174)
      J. Opsomer

      Good luck and bad luck are surely facts of life. In the archaic Greek perception, lucky persons seemed to bene fit from the protection of benign higher powers, whereas malignant powers were held to be responsible for the misfortunes of those that were hit by bad luck. Hence the lucky ones were calledeudaimones, “in possession of a good daemon”. It has been said many times: the traditional translation foreudaimoniais misleading, as “happiness” nowadays refers to a certain feeling – it is private, subjective, psychological and episodic –, whereaseudaimoniadenotes an objective quality, that, moreover, attaches to an...

    • Plutarch Against Epicurus on Affection for Offspring. A Reading of De amore prolis
      (pp. 175-202)
      G. Roskam

      Anyone who is looking for beautiful testimonia of parental love for children in ancient literature will soon find Plutarch’sConsolatio ad uxorem. Confronted with the death of his little daughter Timoxena, Plutarch decided to write a letter of consolation to his wife. Near the beginning of this moving letter, he recalls the great joy at the birth of the child and refers to the pure delight that his affection (φιλστóργῳ) brought him (608C; cf. also 610E). Some pages further down, he also calls to mind the death of his eldest child and of his son Charon. In these painful circumstances...

  6. 3. Virtues and vices

    • Plutarch’s ‘Minor’ Ethics: Some Remarks on De garrulitate, De curiositate, and De vitioso pudore
      (pp. 205-222)
      A.G. Nikolaidis

      According to Ziegler’s classification, the largest category (twenty-three titles) of theMoraliatreatises comprises those which Ziegler (1964) labels as “Die popularphilosophisch-ethischen Schriften” (coll. 1, 66, 131ff.), a category which can accommodate even more titles, in my opinion, because some essays classified as “rhetorisch-epideiktischen” are in essence, despite their declamatory nature, fully fledged ethical tracts:An virtus doceri possit, for example, orAn vitiositas ad infelicitatem sufficiat, orAnimine an corporis affectiones sint peiores. In any case, if we attempt to subdivide Plutarch’s writings on popular ethical philosophy into smaller and more homogeneous group, we will probably create five subclasses....

    • Plutarchs Schrift gegen das Borgen (Περì τοṽ μἠ δεiν δανεíζεσθαι): Adressaten, Lehrziele und Genos
      (pp. 223-236)
      H.G. Ingenkamp

      Will man den Leser- oder Hörerkreis einer Schrift feststellen, den ein Autor sich wünscht, so gibt in den meisten Fällen der Blick auf ihre rhetorische Aufbereitung eine erste Auskunft. Nun führt die Frage nach dem Stil eines literarischen Werks zu verschiedenartigen und teilweise komplizierten Analysen, die im Rahmen dieser Untersuchung nicht möglich und, weil die Verhältnisse relativ einfach liegen, auch nicht nötig ist. Es sei deshalb nur darauf hingewiesen, daß der uns jetzt beschäftigende Traktat durch die Verwendung nicht weniger „ Sprungbrett-Argumente“ auffällt, was ihn der in einem ähnlichen Rahmen untersuchten Schrift über die Seelenruhe (Περì εύθvμíαζ) anzunähern scheint¹. Mit...

    • Competition and its Costs: Φιλονιχία in Plutarch’s Society and Heroes
      (pp. 237-256)
      Ph.A. Stadter

      “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” These words encapsulate not only the philosophy of Vince Lombardi, the professional football coach who made them famous, but that of a major segment of our society. Athletic contests, including the modern Olympic Games, honour victory above all. Intense competition arises from the pursuit of victory, so that athletic contests stir up and are nourished by rivalries not only among individuals and teams, but even among cities or nations. Competition in fact has become a hallmark of our society, and its bene fits are exalted in politics as essential to democracy and in...

  7. 4. ‘Popular philosophy’ in context

    • Astrometeorología y creencias sobre los astros en Plutarco
      (pp. 259-272)
      A. Pérez Jiménez

      En la inmensa obra de Plutarco, con excepción de algún tratado muy específico como elDe facie in orbe lunae, las referencias astrales son relativamente escasas. Eso no signi fica que no las haya, que ciertamente las hay y enfocadas desde todos los puntos de vista con que se podía afrontar el tema de los astros en el siglo I/II d.C. Quizá por eso la bibliografía sobre esta cuestión es también relativamente escasa. Hay algunos artículos que se ocupan de los conocimientos astronómicos de Plutarco, como los de Luigi Torraca, a propósito delDe facie¹ y Esteban Calderón, en el...

    • Bitch is Not a Four-Letter Word. Animal Reason and Human Passion in Plutarch
      (pp. 273-296)
      J. Mossman and F. Titchener

      Animals matter to us. Many humans are tremendous lovers of companion animals and devote the kind of temporal, monetary, and emotional resources to them and their well-being that we traditionally associate with child rearing. And yet all is not warm and fuzzy when it comes to the friendly beasts. We humans, concerned about our position on top of the food chain, are anxious that what we eat not give us resistance to antibiotics, or vCJ disease, or salmonella. From another perspective, we value animals in scientific research as disease and treatment models. It is becoming clear that all kinds of...

    • Autour du miroir. Les miroitements d’une image dans l’œuvre de Plutarque
      (pp. 297-326)
      F. Frazier

      L’idée de réexaminer l’usage de l’image du miroir, comparaison ou métaphore, chez Plutarque, est née de la convergence de plusieurs remarques ou questions rencontrées au fil du temps, pluralité qui est déjà significative de la richesse et de la complexité du sujet. Dans mes premières recherches d’abord, consacrées auxVies, j’avais été frappée, comme beaucoup, par la préface dePaul Émileet la description que Plutarque donnait de sa “vie en commun” avec les illustres modèles qu’il accueillait chez lui, évoquant le “miroir” qu’ils lui offraient pour “parer et conformer sa conduite à l’exemple de leurs vertus”. Ensuite, l’édition des...

  8. Bibliography
    (pp. 327-350)
  9. Index locorum
    (pp. 351-376)
  10. Abstracts
    (pp. 377-384)