Lieve Van Hoof

in Plutarch's Practical Ethics

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780199583263
Published online September 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191723131 | DOI:

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This chapter gives a list of Plutarch's practical ethics and summarizes the characteristics that set them apart from especially his Lives, works of technical philosophy, and Delphic dialogues. These characteristics include the author's target readership, therapeutical practices, and self-presentation, which are shown to have two important consequences. The first is that Plutarch may be much closer to the Second Sophistic than is usually assumed: he is not just a philanthropic adviser, but also a sophisticated author strategically manipulating his cultural capital in pursuit of influence and glory. The second point is that Plutarch's practical ethics turn our attention away from doctrinal history and encourage us to look at imperial philosophy as a social phenomenon: in the practical ethics, philosophy is activated by Plutarch as a kind of symbolic capital engendering power and prestige both for his readers and for himself. In this way, Plutarch's practical ethics show the social dynamics of philosophy.

Keywords: practical ethics; readership; therapy; self-presentation; Lives; Delphic dialogues; Second Sophistic; cultural capital; philosophy

Chapter.  4741 words. 

Subjects: Classical Philosophy

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