In this episode of the Philosophy Hour at
Literary Tales we offer a concise half-hour tour of the moral philosophy of Plutarch through the Parallel Lives and Moralia. We find Plutarch advocate a philosophy of intimacy, friendship, and moral progression.
A bust of Plutarch, the Greco-Roman philosophy of antiquity and the most famous man of letters in the 2nd century. He is best remembered for his biographical-history book The Parallel Lives and for his essays on politics, philosophy, and religion codified together as the Moralia.
A bust of the Athenian general and statesman Pericles. Pericles is one of the many famous leaders and heroes of antiquity in Plutarch’s Parallel Lives. Plutarch generally presents Pericles is a positive light for moral imitation.
A bust of the Roman statesman, senator, Marcus Cato – better known to us as Cato the Elder. Cato the Elder is among the figures included in the Parallel Lives. Plutarch, however, does not paint Cato in a hagiographic light. Plutarch implicitly criticizes some aspects of Cato while praising him in other areas of his life. The point is meant to make the reader think about moral virtues and flaws in human heroes and what we should properly imitate vs. what we should reject for the sake of our own souls. Plutarch found Cato’s family life worthy of emulation, but his treatment of animals and his insistence on the destruction of Carthage were less worthy of admiration.
A first century Roman fresco depicting a love scene between a man and woman. Love, friendship, and family life are among the major topics of the essays of the Moralia.
A fourth century marble sarcophagus now in the Musée de l’Arles et de la Provence depicting marriage rites between a Roman man and woman. Family relations is one of the major themes Plutarch writes about in the essays of the Moralia. Plutarch himself was married and had many children, but only one daughter who died as an infant. An entire essay was written to his wife concerning the death of their daughter.
A marble sarcophagus in the Vatican Museum depicting young women playing a game together. Friendship is another one of the important themes of the essays of the Moralia. Plutarch was a great exponent of man’s social nature and the need for intimacy in life.