Plutarch’s Practical Ethics: The Social Dynamics of Philosophy
The Second Sophistic (c.AD 60-250) was a time of intense competition for honour and status. Like today, this often caused mental as well as physical stress for the elite of the Roman Empire. This book, which transcends the boundaries between literature, social history, and philosophy, studies Plutarch’s practical ethics, a group of twenty-odd texts within the Moralia designed to help powerful Greeks and Romans manage their ambitions and society’s expectations successfully. Lieve Van Hoof combines a systematic analysis of the general principles underlying Plutarch’s practical ethics, including the author’s target readership, therapeutical practices, and self-presentation, with five innovative case studies. A picture emerges of philosophy under the Roman Empire not as a set of abstract, theoretical doctrines, but as a kind of symbolic capital engendering power and prestige for author and reader alike.