80 - Delphic Utterances: Plutarch

Posted on 13 May 2012

Plutarch, a major figure of early Imperial literature, was also a Platonist philosopher. He gives us insight into Platonism before Plotinus, and also the letter E.

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Further Reading

For primary texts see the Loeb editions of Plutarch’s Moralia from Harvard University Press.

• F.E. Brenk, J.P. Hershbell and P.A. Stadter (eds), Plutarch, Illinois Classical Studies 13 (1988).

• J.P. Hershbell, “Plutarch and Stoicism” and “Plutarch and Epicureanism,” Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt 2.36.5 (1992), 3336-52 and 3353-83.

• C.P. Jones, Plutarch and Rome (Oxford 1971).

• R. Lamberton, Plutarch (New Haven: 2001).

• J. Opsomer, “Plutarch’s De animae procreatione in Timaeo: Manipulation or Search for Consistency?” in P. Adamson, H. Baltussen and M.W.F. Stone (eds), Philosophy, Science and Exegesis in Greek, Arabic and Latin Commentaries (London: 2004), vol.1, 137-62.

• J. Opsomer, “M. Annius Ammonius, a Philosophical Profile,” in M. Bonazzi and J. Opsomer (eds), The Origins of the Platonic System (Leuven: 2009), 123-86.

• L. Van Hoof, Plutarch’s Practical Ethics (Oxford: 2010).

List of online translations of Plutarch's works.

Comments

Peter Adamson 13 May 2012

Thanks to Jan Opsomer for help with the research on this episode and to Greg MacIsaac for the photo from Delphi!

CarolA 24 May 2012

As usual your program has opened up a whole new field of reading and research! What a pity more of Plutarch's works did not survive, although I suppose we can say the same for many of the philosophers studied so far.
Thank you so much for this wonderful series - I am enjoying every episode.

Thanks very much! Glad you are enjoying the series and that you liked Plutarch. I guess I think of him as the Platonist from this period whose words did survive but you're right that much has been lost; in that respect he is, sadly, far from unusual!

yousef damra 8 May 2015

Dear Mr.Peter

I would like to know,if possible, If there is any relationship between the dualism found in Plutarch's (rational and irrational spirts) and Nietzsche's early dualism of Dionysus and Apollo.
Your time and effort will be much appreciated - Yousef

That's an interesting question. I think not, though - at least I've never come across a suggestion to that effect. But I'm not a big Nietzsche scholar so I wouldn't necessarily know anyway. It strikes me that the two contrasts are really very different; the Dionysian impulse in Nietzsche is not malevolent, like the evil soul in Plutarch. It seems that what Plutarch is doing is much closer to Gnosticism.

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