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While the Dyad accounts for disorder and multiplicity, such as that of disordered matter before the creation of the ordered physical world, of which pre-cosmic stage Timaeus appears to speak in the Timaeus , god accounts for order and the nature and identity of objects and properties in the world. This metaphysical dualism is further strengthened by the assumption of two mediating entities through which the two principles operate; the Indefinite Dyad operates through a non-rational cosmic soul, while god through a rational one.

This is the same soul, which becomes rational when god imparts reason from himself to it. As a result of god's imparting reason to the world soul, matter ceases to move in a disorderly manner, being brought into order through the imposition of Forms on it. The postulation of a non-rational pre-cosmic world soul, inspired mainly by Laws X but absent from the Timaeus , allows Plutarch to dissolve the apparent contradiction in different works of Plato that the soul is said to be both uncreated eternal and created.

For in his view the first soul of the sensible world, the world soul, is created only in the sense that god, the demiurge of the Timaeus , makes it rational. The postulation of a non-rational pre-cosmic soul also allows Plutarch to account for the existence of badness in the world, because in his view residual irrationality abides in the world soul even when it becomes rational, which is accounted for by the fact that the world soul is originally non-rational in the sense that its movement is such, i.

This dualism non-rational-disorderly-bad vs. In this spirit Plutarch distinguishes both in the world and in human beings three aspects, body, soul, and intellect. The soul's concern with the body gives rise to the non-rational aspect, which amounts to disorder, vice, or badness, while the co-operation between soul and intellect promotes rationality, that is, order, virtue, benevolence. In an attempt to accommodate the diverse strands of ethical thought in Plato e. This assumes that he was not more than twenty years old at the time. We know little about Ammonius and his school, that is, also of Plutarch's institutional affiliation the evidence of On the E at Delphi F has been much debated; see e.

Donini a, —, b, —, Opsomer , , The main evidence about Ammonius' philosophical views is his speech as a character in On the E at Delphi E—C , on god, being, generation and corruption as well as his contributions to the discussion in On the Obsolence of Oracles F—C regarding divine justice and providence Dillon , —, Opsomer , — This evidence can be reasonably considered indicative of Ammonius' engagement with metaphysics, which must have stimulated Plutarch's own interest in metaphysical questions. Plutarch must have stayed in Athens not only during his studies with Ammonius but considerably longer, so as to become an Athenian citizen Table Talks A.

However, Plutarch spent most of his life in his native city and in nearby Delphi. There must have been two reasons for this; first, Plutarch's strong ties with his family, which apparently was wealthy enough to support his studies and travels Russell , 3—5 , and, second, his own interest in the religious activity of Delphi. The latter is testified to by the fact that Plutarch served in various positions in Delphi, including that of the priest of Apollo Table Talks E , and also in his several works concerning Delphi and the local sacred rituals On the E at Delphi, On Oracles at Delphi, On the Obsolescence of Oracles ; see Stadter These works demonstrate intimate knowledge of Delphi, its traditions, and activities.

Plutarch must have died after CE, the date at which he was appointed procurator of Achaea by Hadrian Eusebius' Chronicle. Plutarch was a prolific writer. The so-called Lamprias catalogue, an ancient library catalogue preserved mutilated , supposedly compiled by Plutarch's son Lamprias, lists works, several of them no longer extant Russell , 18— Plutarch's works divide into philosophical and historical-biographical. The latter, the so-called Lives Bioi of distinguished Greek and Roman men examined in pairs, demonstrate Plutarch's historical and rhetorical abilities, also showing his interest in character formation and politics Russell , — Plutarch's philosophical works, many of them dialogues set in Delphi or Chaeronea , cover half of his literary output.

In modern times they have been published under the collective term Moralia , a term first given to a collection of eleven ethical works preserved in a 14 th century manuscript Parisinus Graecus When the collection was augmented by many other writings preserved in other manuscripts on topics ranging from metaphysics, psychology, natural philosophy, theology, logic, to philosophy of art, the name was retained with the misleading implication that Plutarch's philosophical works are essentially or primarily ethical. Among Plutarch's works, several serve polemical purposes.

He wrote a number of works against the Stoic and Epicurean philosophies. An recte dictum sit latenter esse vivendum.

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All these works are marked by the use of a distinct polemical tone against assumed adversaries, and of recognizable polemical strategies. They are often captious and in many instances betray a less than fair engagement with the views being opposed see Warren , — and Kechagia , — for a vindication of Plutarch's polemics in Against Colotes. It is worth considering why Plutarch engaged in writing so many polemical works against the two main Hellenistic schools of philosophy.

One reason for Plutarch's preoccupation must be that the early Stoics and Epicureans both strongly criticized Plato. Another reason for Plutarch's engagement was the fact that both Epicureans and Stoics drew freely and extensively for their own purposes on Plato without acknowledging it and despite their criticism of Plato. This holds true especially for the Stoics see Babut a. They were inspired by the Timaeus , for instance, in their adoption of two principles, god and matter, but their god, unlike that of Plato, is immanent in the physical world and bodily, and he alone, without the Forms, suffices for the formation of matter.

The Stoics were probably guided to their view that only bodies exist by passages in the Sophist ac and in the Timaeus 31bc, 49d-e, 53b-c. For Plutarch, though, this is an utterly mistaken reading of the Timaeus De communibus notitiis DE. Plutarch's polemics were, then, motivated by his desire to advocate Platonism against what he regarded as misguided interpretations and criticisms on the part of Epicureans and Stoics.

This defense of Platonism was of vital importance for Platonism at Plutarch's time, since both Stoicism and Epicureanism were still thriving, mainly in virtue of their ethics. Plutarch wanted to show that Stoic and Epicurean ethics rest on mistaken assumptions about human nature and reality, which render their ethical doctrines useless De virtute morali , De Stoicorum repugnantiis EA, De communibus notitiis BD.

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Plutarch's polemics were fuelled by the view he shares with Hellenistic philosophers that the end of philosophy is to support ethical life see e. De profectibus in virtute ; if a school's ethical ideal is unrealizable or, worse, unworthy of human nature, this for Plutarch as for Antiochus, Cicero, De finibus 5.

As in the rest of his philosophical works, in his polemical treatises too, Plutarch aims to show that Plato's philosophy makes good sense as a whole, that is, it does justice to the world and human nature and can bring human beings to happiness see below, sect. The central line permeating Plutarch's relevant criticism is that Stoics and Epicureans contradict our common notions see e. De communibus notitiis CF and do not do justice to things themselves De profectibus in virtute 75FA. Ironically, perhaps, Plutarch's polemical writings are chiefly of interest—but also of very great value—for the many quotations they contain from Stoics, Epicurus, and other authors whose works were not preserved into modern times, and for his references to and paraphrases of their views in other passages of works available to him but not to us.

Were it not for Plutarch, our grasp of Stoic and Epicurean philosophy would be much less extensive than it is, and our ability to reconstruct and appreciate their ideas much reduced. Here is an overview of Plutarch's works, to give a sense of his conception of philosophy and of what in Platonist philosophy especially he valued. This, however, does not necessarily point to a lack of interest or knowledge on his part. Quite the opposite is the case. Plutarch is particularly attracted to epistemology because he considers this as a crucial aspect of Platonist philosophy.

He seeks to defend the epistemology of Academic skeptics like Arcesilaus and Carneades and on these grounds to advocate the unity of the Academy against the criticisms of Antiochus of Ascalon 1 st c. BCE; see below, sects. The latter two are indicative of a reawakening of interest in Aristotelian logic, beginning in the 1 st c. BCE, cultivated mainly by Peripatetics such as Boethus and Andronicus, but also characterizing Platonists of Plutarch's era, such as Eudorus and Nicostratus, who set themselves in dialogue especially with Aristotle's Categories.

Although the content of these Plutarchean works remains unknown, we do have Plutarch's own claim that Aristotle's doctrine of categories is foreshadowed in the Timaeus De an. Plutarch's interest in the Topics , on the other hand, must have been motivated by his interest in the dialectical methodology of arguing both sides of a question Karamanolis , 86—87; see further below, sect. Plutarch's works on epistemology cover a broad spectrum of issues. The lost work Whether He Who Suspends Judgment on Everything is Led to Inaction must have confronted the common accusation against skepticism voiced in its title.

His most important surviving works in metaphysics are those related to the interpretation of the Timaeus , namely On the Generation of Soul in the Timaeus De animae procreatione in Timaeo , On Isis and Osiris De Iside et Osiride ; from lost works of Plutarch relevant are the following: Where are the Forms?

Plutarch shows quite some interest in the explanation of natural phenomena in several surviving works, most importantly in: On the Face Which Appears in the Orb of the Moon De facie quae in orbe lunae apparet , On the Principle of Cold De primo frigido , On the Cleverness of Animals De sollertia animalism. Plutarch's interest in this area is apparently motivated by the wish to develop Platonist natural philosophy and also oppose the Stoics, who were dominant in this field especially since Posidonius 1 st c.

BCE , and in Plutarch's age with his much older contemporary Seneca ca. Given the importance of god in the world's coming into being according to Plutarch, he is seriously engaged with theology, especially with questions pertaining to the relation between god and man, such as the issue of divination, divine justice and divine punishment, and so on, in: On Oracles at Delphi De Pythiae oraculis , On the Obsolescence of Oracles De defectu oraculorum , On the E at Delphi De E apud Delphos , On Delays in Divine Punishment De sera numinis vindicta , and On the Daemon of Socrates De genio Socratis Socratis.

Plutarch's On the Generation of Soul in the Timaeus together with the ten Platonic Questions illustrate well his work as a Platonic exegete see Hershbell , Ferrari Plutarch's ethical works include some of theoretical orientation e. On Moral Virtue , which refutes the Stoic theory of virtue and some of practical one e. The tendency, however, to distinguish two altogether separate classes of ethical works following Ziegler , — is problematic given the considerable affinities between them, yet Plutarch does use different styles in them, presumably targeting different audiences Van Hoof , — Plutarch wrote also works on aesthetics and education, which one could classify also as works of practical orientation.

Plutarch, following Plato, evaluates poetry from the point of view of ethical education. The latter two could not have been merely historical, however; the historical perspective must rather have served to defend the point of view of the skeptical Academy, which Plutarch advocated as doing justice to the aporetic spirit of Plato's philosophy see below, sect. Plutarch lived in the wake of the revival of the dogmatic interpretation of Plato begun by Antiochus and Eudorus in the 1 st c.

BCE, which in a way he continues. Plutarch, however, shows a more complex philosophical profile, apparently through developing the version of Academic skepticism defended by Antiochus' contemporary Philo of Larissa and also slightly later Cicero. He strives for a synthesis of the skeptical interpretation of Plato, defended by the Academic skeptics Arcesilaus, Carneades and Philo, with that of Antiochus' dogmatic interpretation, according to which Plato held doctrines of his own.

For Plutarch, rather Plato accommodates harmoniously both an aporetic and a doctrinal element in his philosophy. According to Plutarch, the aporetic element in Plato encourages a way of searching for the truth without prejudices or a priori commitments, and this practically amounts to a dialectical inquiry, arguing either side of a given question; but this dialectical spirit does not deny the possibility of reaching firm conclusions, or even the possibility of achieving secure knowledge.

According to Plutarch, Plato had reached such conclusions in his dialogues, which can be identified as Plato's doctrines and yet he still preserved the spirit of unceasing inquiry, embedded in the dialogue form itself, by not holding them in a way which closed off reconsideration and further inquiry. This is why Plutarch advocates an epistemology that integrates both the suspension of judgment i. Suspension of judgment, he thinks, is rather an established method of philosophical research followed by several illustrious ancient philosophers Heraclitus, Parmenides, Socrates, Plato , rather than an innovation of Arcesilaus Adv.

For Plutarch, the Academic both appreciates Plato's aporetic spirit and still values his doctrines. Similar in this respect appears to be the position of the anonymous author of the 1 st c. In accordance with this conception of Platonism, Plutarch himself writes dialogues, which, like Plato's, are either dramatic e. De cohibenda ira , narrated e. De sera numinis vindicta , or mixed De genio Socratis ; see the typology of Platonic dialogues in Diogenes Laertius 3.

As in Plato, in Plutarch's dialogues too the speakers give long speeches in favor of a certain view Russell , 34— It is often unclear, however, with what view Plutarch sympathizes, despite the fact that sometimes he appears as character in some dialogues e. On the E at Delphi. Besides, Plutarch, following Plato again, often uses myths, metaphors, and analogies. The work On Isis and Osiris is particularly interesting in this regard.

In it Plutarch relates the myth of the two Egyptian deities, yet he interprets it allegorically as a story informative about god, being, and creation Ziegler , — Of special interest are the eschatological myths in Plutarch, as they integrate cosmological, psychological, and ethical considerations. This is the case with the myth narrated in On The Face Which Appears in the Orb of the Moon , which centers on the role of the moon in the world and its role in the life of souls see Cherniss, Plutarch Moralia , vol.

XII, Loeb, Introduction. These authorial practices present a problem for the scholar who wants to identify Plutarch's own philosophical views, just as they do with Plato's own dialogues. The works that unambiguously present Plutarch's opinions on exegetical and philosophical matters are On the Generation of Soul in the Timaeus , and Platonic Questions , while the others must be used with caution, for the reasons given above, or because of their polemical aim and tone see Opsomer Plutarch represents a synthesis also with regard to his philosophical interests.

On the one hand he shares Antiochus' emphasis on ethics, yet on the other he focuses considerably on metaphysics, which was revived by Eudorus end of 1 st c. Like them, Plutarch as noted above pays special attention to the Timaeus , which from then on became the keystone of Platonism. Plutarch is particularly interested in the generation of the soul, and he devotes an entire treatise to discussing one short passage, Timaeus 35a1—36b5 On the Generation of Soul in the Timaeus ; see Cherniss, Plutarch Moralia , Loeb vol.

It is not an exaggeration to say that Plutarch's interpretation of the Timaeus shapes his entire philosophy. In the case of natural phenomena, this means that explanations should make reference to intelligible causes De primo frigido B-C which account for the nature of things in the world, while in the case of human beings, their nature and their final end in life, that is, their happiness cannot be determined unless one understands that the human constitution is similar to that of the world, consisting of body, soul, and intellect De facie A, A, De virtute morali D.

Plutarch systematically employs the analogy between worldly macrocosm and human microcosm, suggested in the Timaeus , which is important also in Stoicism see below, sect. Plutarch is also familiar with Neo-Pythagorean and Aristotelian philosophies. Interest in both Pythagorean ideas and Aristotelianism were in vogue at the end of the 1 st century BCE and during the 1 st century CE, when Plutarch writes.

There is a wave of Neo—Pythagorean treatises written at this time, such as those of ps—Archytas, Euryphamus, Theages see Dillon , —, b, —, Centrone , while Plutarch's contemporary Moderatus attempted to systematize Pythagorean ideas as background to Plato he wrote a work Pythagorean Doctrines in many books; Stephanus Byzantius, s. Gadeira, Porphyry, Life of Pythagoras 48; Dillon , — Aristotelian philosophy, on the other hand, was revived by Peripatetics and Platonists alike during this period. In the Peripatetic camp this is the time when Andronicus of Rhodes was active, being responsible for a complete edition of Aristotle's works at the end of the 1 st century BCE, while Xenarchus of Seleukeia was critically engaged with Aristotle's physics.

But already before them, Antiochus and Cicero had been well acquainted with Aristotle's works, the former arguing that Aristotle was in essential agreement with Plato, at least in ethical theory Cicero, Academica I. Plutarch was familiar with several Aristotelian treatises from all periods of his writing career cf. Plutarch's attitude to Pythagoreanism and Aristotle is complex and sophisticated. Plutarch's cosmic principles, the One and the Indefinite Dyad De defectu oraculorum FA , allegedly found in the Timaeus , had long been considered Pythagorean in origin.

Plutarch shows his familiarity with Pythagoreanism in the second and rather cryptic part of On the Generation of the Soul in Timaeus , where he seeks to explain the nature and role of numbers and ratios in the Timaeus making repeated references to Pythagoreans. With regard to Aristotle, Plutarch is more cautious than Antiochus; he considers some of Aristotle's doctrines to be an articulation or development of Platonic philosophy e.

Aristotle's ethics, logic and science; see Teodorsson , and espouses them as being Platonic e. De virtute morali B-C , De an. However, he also criticizes Aristotle for contradicting Plato's presumed doctrines e. Hence it is wrong to portray Plutarch as an eclectic philosopher e. Ziegler , , F. Babbitt, Plutarch's Moralia , Introduction, vol. Rather Plutarch uses philosophers such as Aristotle only instrumentally in order to advance through them what he perceives as Plato's doctrines Karamanolis , 92— Plutarch shares with Antiochus Cicero, Academica I.

On this view, Xenocrates, Polemo and Aristotle developed and articulated Platonic philosophy, though not without faults, while the Stoics and Epicureans were instead guilty of systematic distortion.

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Plutarch is not a populariser either Babbitt op. Rather, Plutarch's work shows great complexity and sophistication and evinces the spirit of a meticulous interpreter, who ventures to advance innovative views, such as on the creation of the soul, on human constitution, as well as on ethics and poetics see below, sects.

Plutarch lived in an age in which philosophy had taken the form of exegesis of classical philosophical texts, but through this exegetical process philosophers in late antiquity such as Plotinus and the commentators on Plato and Aristotle crystallize and voice their own views on crucial philosophical questions. Indeed Plutarch takes some very interesting lines on metaphysics, psychology, and ethics, which became influential in later generations of Platonists, such as Plotinus and Porphyry see below, sect. Like the Hellenistic Philosophers and Antiochus, Plutarch appears to be particularly sensitive to the question of how we acquire knowledge.

Plutarch sets out to defend the interpretation of Plato's epistemology maintained in the skeptical Academy. Plutarch defends this epistemological position against the Stoic accusation that such an attitude leads to inaction, making life impossible, and also against the Epicurean claim that sense-experiences are always true.

The first two alone, Plutarch argues, against the Stoics, suffice to produce action Adv. Consequently, Plutarch argues, suspension of judgment saves us from making mistakes B but does not prevent us at all from acting. Opsomer , 88 has rightly noted that Plutarch's argument is very similar to that of the Pyrrhonian skeptics.

Plutarch recommends suspension of judgment as a method of testing and evaluating knowledge obtained through the senses Adv. This is not only because the senses often deceive us De primo frigido A, De E E ; the problem according to Plutarch rather is that the world is a place that cannot be known perfectly. This, however, does not amount to dismissal of the senses, which is how Colotes criticized Plato Adv. According to Plutarch, the senses are of limited application because they can at best inform us only about the sensible world, which is a world of generation, of appearances, not of being De E E.

For a Platonist like Plutarch, perfect knowledge can only be of being, and for that we need to transcend the sensible world and move our thought to the intelligible one De Iside DA. Plutarch makes a sharp distinction between sensible and intelligible knowledge, which corresponds to the fundamental ontological distinction between sensible or physical and intelligible reality Plat.

He appears to distinguish two distinct faculties of human knowledge, the sensory and the intellectual, each of which grasps the corresponding part of reality Plat. The cognitive faculty for intelligibles, the human intellect, is external to the embodied soul De an. Numenius fr. In Plutarch's view, human beings come to understand through the intellect by making use of the notions or concepts ennoiai , apparently identifiable with the Forms Plat. Indeed, knowledge of intelligibles can take one as far as to understand the divine realm ibid. This is the main task of philosophy for Plutarch.

Philosophy in his view must be inspired by the Socratic practice of inquiry, and this practice amounts to the continuous search for truth, which presupposes that, following the example of Socrates, one admits ignorance Adv. To be in a position to carry out this search for truth, however, one must search oneself and purify one's soul, Plutarch argues Adv.

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And he points out that Socrates promoted precisely this practice, using the elenchus as a purgative medicine, trying to remove false claims to knowledge and arrogance from the souls of his interlocutors, and to seek truth along with them, instead of defending his own view Plat. Plutarch does not defend the Socratic-Academic epistemology only at the theoretical level, but also applies it practically. While discussing in On the Principle of Cold whether cold is a principle rather than a privation and whether earth is the primary cold element, he defends suspension of judgment as the right attitude to take on the matter C; see Babut , 72—76 contra Boys-Stones b.

This is indicative of Plutarch's attitude to natural phenomena quite generally. He maintains that natural phenomena cannot be understood merely by means of investigating their natural causes. The discovery of the immediate, natural causes, Plutarch argues, is only the beginning of an investigation into the first and highest causes, which are intelligible De primo frigido B-C; Donini a, , Opsomer , —6. In other words, a metaphysical explanation in terms of the Forms and god, the creator of the universe, must be sought De def.

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This is what, for Plutarch, demarcates the philosopher from the mere natural scientist physikos ; De primo frigido B-C , a distinction further exploited by later Platonists e. Atticus fr. Plutarch is guided here by the dichotomy between natural and intelligible causes found in Phaedo 97BD and Timaeus 68ED Opsomer , Explaining the physical world through an appeal to natural causes alone is insufficient, Plutarch argues, since such an explanation ignores the agent god and the end for which something happens in the world De def.


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The fundamental ontological and epistemological distinction between the sensible and intelligible realms suggests to Plutarch an analogous distinction of corresponding levels of explanation Donini a, , Opsomer , Plutarch maintains that there are two levels of causality, physical and intelligible, and full understanding of natural phenomena requires the grasping of both. While in the case of natural phenomena suspension of judgment maintains an unfailing spirit of research, in the case of the divine realm, where human understanding is seriously limited, suspension of judgment, Plutarch suggests, is due also as a form of piety towards the divine De sera E; Opsomer , — Plutarch's metaphysics rests heavily on his interpretation of the Timaeus.

Plutarch maintains that the cosmogony of the Timaeus must be interpreted literally, which means that the world had a temporal beginning Plat. Timaeus 30a, 52db. Plutarch argues against the interpretation of most Platonists of his time, who refuse to understand creation in terms of an actual generation De an. This literal interpretation of the Timaeus also aims to solve the puzzle of how the soul in Plato is said to be both uncreated Phaedrus ca as well as created Timaeus 34ba; De an.

Plutarch tries to address these issues in a number of works see above, sect. Plutarch proposes the following interpretation. The cosmos is an ordered entity that has come into existence at a certain point when time did not exist; Plat. God puts this matter in order De an. De Iside E-F , which means that god cannot be the only cosmic principle, otherwise disorderly matter would be left unaccounted for.

Plutarch postulates two antithetic and antagonistic cosmic principles: the one is God the Monad or the One, the unitary eternal substance from which everything devolves; see below sect.

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This is why God is the object of striving for all nature De facie E. The Indefinite Dyad, on the other hand, is the principle of non-being, multiplicity, disorder, chaos, irrationality and badness De def. This principle is described as being identical with matter which is ordered by God De def. These two principles, God and the Indefinite Dyad, were allegedly accepted by the ancient Pythagoreans Diogenes Laertius 8.

Plutarch identifies the two principles with the Limited and the Unlimited of the Philebus he also calls the Indefinite Dyad limitlessness, apeiria ; De def. The two principles are constantly opposing each other in the form of goodness and badness De def. Although God, the One, prevails over the Dyad De def. Both the Indefinite Dyad and God relate to the universe through intermediaries, namely a non-rational and a rational world soul see above , which operate as antithetic powers of the two antagonistic cosmic principles.

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