Philosophy in Plutarch's <i>Table Talk</i>

Eleni Kechagia

in The Philosopher's Banquet

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199588954
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191728907 | DOI:
Philosophy in Plutarch's Table Talk

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This chapter explores the role of philosophy in Plutarch's Table Talk. The emphatic presence and use of philosophical material throughout the sympotic conversations suggests that Table Talk can be read as a lesson, aimed both at beginners and the philosophically initiated. The particular format Plutarch chose for this work – namely, the hybrid between Socratic symposium and problemata literature – and the topics discussed, show that Table Talk operates as two-tier philosophical instruction. On one level, through amicable and seemingly light-hearted zētēseis into quasi-scientific questions, Plutarch teaches uninitiated readers the basic tools of philosophical inquiry. On another level, the aporetic style of the zētēseis, and the plausible, but not certain, open-ended outcomes, invite the philosophically versed to reconsider the limits of Peripatetic sciences, and to opt for a Platonist approach to natural philosophy instead.

Keywords: apoertic style; beginners; Peripatetic science; philosophically initiated; Platonist natural philosophy; problemata; Socratic symposium

Chapter.  11909 words. 

Subjects: Classical Literature

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