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Plutarch's Practical Ethics

Lieve Van Hoof

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780199583263
Published online September 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191723131 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199583263.001.0001
Plutarch's Practical Ethics

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The Second Sophistic was a time of intense competition for honour and status. Like today, this often caused mental as well as physical stress for the elite of the Roman Empire. This book studies Plutarch's practical ethics, a group of twenty-odd texts within the Moralia designed to help powerful Greeks and Romans manage their ambitions and society's expectations successfully. According to Plutarch (c. AD 45–120), the key for a happy life lies with philosophy, yet instead of advancing philosophical values as an alternative for worldly ambitions, as did other philosophers, he presents philosophy as a way towards distinction and success in imperial society. By thus subtly redefining what elite culture should be like, Plutarch also firmly establishes himself as an intellectual and cultural authority. This book combines a systematic analysis of the general principles underlying Plutarch's practical ethics, including the author's target readership, therapeutical practices, and self-presentation, with innovative interpretations of five case studies (On Feeling Good, On Exile, On Talkativeress, On Cuiusity, Precepts of Health Care). A picture emerges of philosophy under the Roman Empire not as a set of abstract, theoretical doctrines, but as a kind of symbolic capital engendering power and prestige for author and reader alike. Transcending the boundaries between literature, social history, and philosophy, Van Hoof makes a strong case for the pertinence and vitality of this often neglected group of texts, and incisively shows Plutarch to be not just a philanthropic adviser, but also a sophisticated author strategically manipulating his own cultural capital in pursuit of influence and glory.

Keywords: Second Sophistic; Plutarch; ancient philosophy; practical ethics; ambition; On Feeling Good; On Exite; On Talkativeress; On Cusiosity; Precepts of Health Care

Book.  328 pages. 

Subjects: Classical Philosophy

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Table of Contents

Introduction in Plutarch's Practical Ethics

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Philosophy and Society in Plutarch's Practical Ethics

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Strategies for Promoting Philosophy in Plutarch's Practical Ethics

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Plutarch as a Philosopher in Society in Plutarch's Practical Ethics

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On Feeling Good in Plutarch's Practical Ethics

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On Exile in Plutarch's Practical Ethics

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On Talkativeness in Plutarch's Practical Ethics

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On Curiosity in Plutarch's Practical Ethics

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Precepts of Health Care in Plutarch's Practical Ethics

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Conclusion in Plutarch's Practical Ethics

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