Chapter

Philosophy and Society

Lieve Van Hoof

in Plutarch's Practical Ethics

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780199583263
Published online September 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191723131 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199583263.003.0002
Philosophy and Society

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This chapter starts by demonstrating that Plutarch's practical ethics—by contrast with what might be suggested by Ziegler's label ‘popular-philosophical’—cannot be termed popular on account of their target readership. Plutarch's choice of topics in these writings is tailored to the highly educated, powerful elite of the Roman Empire: he discusses problems that arise because of society's expectations of its elite and because of the elite's ambitions within society. By contrast with other philosophers, Plutarch does not aim to resolve these problems by downplaying social pressure, rejecting ambitions, or defying expectations. Instead, he presents philosophy as a resource to meet these more effectively and thus to function better within society. Plutarch's practical ethics are not about teaching the reader Platonic philosophy systematically, but about helping him to adopt a broadly philosophical attitude, a more philosophical way of perceiving, evaluating, and acting in society, in which self-love gives way to self-knowledge.

Keywords: reader; elite; ambitions; society; philosophy; practical ethics; social pressure; self-love; self-knowledge; Plato

Chapter.  9879 words. 

Subjects: Classical Philosophy

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