Chapter

On Curiosity

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/9780199583263.003.0008
On Curiosity

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This chapter deals with Plutarch's ‘psychotherapeutic’ text On Curiosity, in which he strongly condemns the desire to discover other people's evils, which, he suggests, is omnipresent in the cities of the Roman Empire. In Plutarch's analysis, such malicious curiosity goes hand in hand with envy and malice: in order to win what they perceive to be a zero-sum game for reputation, people try to discover and spread scandal about others. Starting from this premiss, Plutarch demonstrates that the reader's tactics do not yield social esteem: curiosity often leads to danger, always to dishonour. By engaging in a subtle dialogue with various traditional readings of curiosity, Plutarch manages to guide the reader away from malicious curiosity, to promote himself and his own writings, and to avoid a possible rebound effect when criticizing others for criticizing others.

Keywords: On Curiosity; curiosity; meddlesomeness; psychotherapy; envy; malice; zero-sum game; reputation; rebound effect

Chapter.  14647 words. 

Subjects: Classical Philosophy

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