Plutarch’s polemic against Colotes’ view on legislation and politics. A reading of Adversus Colotem 30-34 (1124D-1127E)
À la fin de son Adversus Colotem, Plutarque attaque la conception épicurienne de la politique (1124D-1127E). Son point de départ est une citation littérale de Colotès. Ce dernier avait apparemment conclu son pamphlet polémique par une appréciation enthousiaste de l’œuvre de législateurs anciens. Plutarque réagit fermement en opposant les médiocres résultats de la pensée d’Épicure aux réalisations impressionnantes des membres des autres écoles philosophiques.
Dans cet article, on examine de près la position de l’épicurien Colotès et la réponse de Plutarque. Les différents arguments sont analysés un par un, et cette analyse de détail montre qu’aucun des arguments critiques de Plutarque ne saurait convaincre un épicurien. Pourtant, plusieurs d’entre eux posent des questions pertinentes et projettent une lumière intéressante sur les stratégies polémiques de Plutarque et sur ses conceptions philosophiques.
Mots clés :contrat, désir, loi/législation, magistrat, monarchie, douleur, plaisir, stratégies polémiques, politique, réserve/restriction, sécurité, réalisation de soi, tranquillité de l’esprit
Keywords :polemical strategies, compact, desire, law/legislation, magistrate, monarchy, pain, pleasure, politics, qualification, security, self-realisation, tranquillity of mind
Parole Chiave :contratto, desiderio, legge/legislazione, magistrato, monarchia, dolore, piacere, strategie polemiche, politica, eccezione, sicurezza, realizzazione di sé, tranquillità dell’anima
Notes de l’auteur
This paper benefited greatly from several rich discussions during the conference. I am indebted to many of the participants (esp. to Th. Benatouïl, D. Delattre, J.-B. Gourinat, A. Laks, P.-M. Morel, J. Opsomer, E. Spinelli, F. Verde, C. Vieillard and J. Warren) and to the anonymous referee of the journal.
1The last section of Plutarch’s Adversus Colotem, which contains the chapters 30 to 34, focuses on politics and legislation, and, as is well known, in cauda venenum. The contributions in this volume that deal with the work’s previous sections already show that the venenum is certainly not confined to the tail: the whole work, in fact, is quite poisonous. In that sense, the final section only adds, as it were, the finishing touch. We may begin by providing a general schematic survey of its content:
|1124D: quotation from Colotes: “The men who appointed laws and usages and established the government of cities by kings and magistrates brought human life into a state of great security and peace and delivered it from turmoil. But if anyone takes all this away, we shall live a life of brutes, and anyone who chances upon another will all but devour him.” (translation B. Einarson and P.H. De Lacy)||[chapter 30]|
|1124D-1125C: opposition between Epicureanism and the other philosophers- 1124D-E: the other philosophers have no need of laws to deter them from living like beasts- 1124E-1125C: the Epicureans are in need of the laws, since they in fact resemble the beasts in pursuing pleasure|
|1125C-F: the doctrines of Epicurus abolish legislation and government- 1125C-D: Epicurus’ dissuasion from participation in political life- 1125D-F: Epicurus’ view of the gods||[chapter 31]|
|1126A-E: the great political accomplishments of Colotes’ opponents- Democritus (1126A)- Parmenides (1126A-B)- Empedocles (1126B)- Socrates (1126B)- Melissus (1126B)- Plato (1126C-D)- Zeno (1126D-E)||[chapter 32]|
|1126E-1127E: the results of Epicurus’ doctrines:- 1126E-F: no positive results at all- 1127A: but only negative dissuasion- 1127A-B: and criticism of famous statesmen- 1127B-C: and of lawgivers||[chapter 33]|
|- 1127D: together with contempt for the laws- 1127D-E: concluding evaluation||[chapter 34]|
2This general survey may suffice as a brief outline of Plutarch’s principal arguments in this section. I first provide a few general comments on the whole section, by way of introduction, and then turn to the text itself and deal with it more systematically and in detail.
- 1 See G. Roskam, “Arguments as Boxing Gloves. Ethics of Philosophical Polemics in Middle Plat (...)
3First of all, I would like to point out that Plutarch’s argumentative approach in this final section broadly resembles that of the other sections, but is also different in a certain respect. And this difference, I think, is directly connected with the fact that in this case, the point of departure for Plutarch’s attack is not Colotes’ criticism of another philosopher, but Colotes’ own Epicurean doctrine. In the previous sections, the recurrent pattern is as follows: while Colotes blames his opponent for endorsing x, Plutarch shows that this opponent cannot be blamed for endorsing x but that actually Colotes himself, as an Epicurean, should be blamed for endorsing x. In short, Colotes is guilty of the charges he formulated himself against others, and thus time and again fails to meet the basic rules for a good philosophical discussion. 1 Not the doctrines of the other philosophers make life impossible for us, but the Epicurean views, and Colotes does not realise that he is actually attacking his own master. In this section, on the other hand, the pattern is as follows: while Colotes himself endorses x, Plutarch shows that it is rather all the other philosophers who endorse x, but that Colotes himself should be blamed for not endorsing x. From the methodological point of view, this is obviously a variation on the same theme, or, to return to my imagery: it is a somewhat different admixture of basically the same poison.
4Apart from that, this final section has much in common with the foregoing sections, such as the typically Plutarchan style, of course, characterised by its wealth of quotations and its rich imagery, or several eristic strategies. Moreover, Plutarch’s attack against Colotes (and, through him, against Epicurus and Metrodorus) is here coupled with an implicit defence of the philosophical position of Colotes’ opponents, a position moreover which is shared by Plutarch himself. We can find traces of this combination also in the previous sections. Here again, then, we can read between the lines a passionate oratio pro domo.
- 2 J. Boulogne, Plutarque dans le miroir d’Épicure. Analyse d’une critique systématiqu (...)
5If that is true, the interaction between Plutarch’s anti-Epicurean criticism and his defence of his own point of view adds much to the polemical dynamics of this section. These chapters fundamentally contain a confrontation between two diametrically opposed perspectives. In the words of Jacques Boulogne: “L’opposition est totale et ne permet pas la discussion, car chacune des deux perspectives récuse la validité de l’autre”. 2 I would conclude these introductory remarks with a few words on both these positions.
- 3 Plutarch’s argument in Maxime cum principibus is analysed in G. Roskam, Plutarch’s (...)
- 4 See, e.g., Num. 20, 8-9; Comp. Dem. et Cic. 3, 4; see also Dion 1,3; G.J.D. Aalders, Plutar (...)
- 5 As appears, e.g., from Praec. ger. reip. 813BC; see J.-C. Carrière, “À propos de la politiq (...)
6As a Platonist, Plutarch was convinced that active political engagement is important for one’s own self-realisation. The philosopher has the duty to enter into public life and thus maximise his usefulness for his country. He can do this especially by educating powerful rulers towards virtue. Plutarch develops this political ideal in two little works: That the philosopher should especially converse with rulers and its counterpart To an uneducated ruler. 3 Several passages from Plutarch’s works also show that he endorsed the Platonic ideal of the philosopher-king. 4 On the other hand, Plutarch was himself a ζῷον πολιτικόν: he held several political offices at a local level and was probably in touch with many influential Romans. In his most important political work, the Political precepts, he appears as an experienced politician who is willing to combine high-minded Platonic ideals with sober-minded pragmatism (even with a Machiavellian touch5). His Lives are important in this respect as well, but that would lead us too far. I conclude briefly that Plutarch was absolutely convinced, for many reasons, that the true philosopher should engage into politics, and that he himself also practised what he preached.
- 6 See G. Roskam, “The Displeasing Secrets of the Epicurean Life. Plutarch’s Polemic a (...)
- 7 De tranq. an. 465F-466A.
- 8 De tuenda san. 135B-D.
- 9 Non posse 1097A-1100D.
- 10 De tuenda san. 135B.
7From this perspective, it is of course not surprising that he radically opposes Epicurus’ apolitical views. He devotes a whole work to the refutation of Epicurus’ notorious advice to “live unnoticed” and attacks this aspect of Epicurus’ philosophy also in various other treatises, including even the Lives. 6 In his view, withdrawing from public life does neither contribute to tranquillity of mind, 7 nor to corporeal health, 8 nor even to personal pleasure. 9 In short, such a life is fitting for an oyster or the trunk of a tree, not for responsible and energetic citizens. 10
- 11 I discuss Epicurus’ position in detail in Live unnoticed (Λάθε βιώσας). On the Vici (...)
- 12 A. Barigazzi, “Sul concetto epicureo della sicurezza esterna”, in ΣΥΖΗΤΗΣΙΣ. Studi sull’epi (...)
- 13 VS 34 and 39; KD 27, 28 and 40.
- 14 KD 6, 7 and 14. It would be wrong, however, to regard these passages as an interest (...)
- 15 Seneca, dial. 8,3,2-3 (= fr. 9 Us.); see Cicero, rep. 1,10 and 1,11; G. Roskam, Live unnoti (...)
8What about Epicurus, then? Was he such an oyster after all? This is obviously not the place to deal with Epicurus’ position in detail. I here confine myself to its very essence – just enough perhaps to show that he was no oyster at all – and shall come back to some relevant details while reading Plutarch’s text itself. 11 For the time being, it suffices to recall that Epicurus dissuades his followers from entering into politics because such political engagement would spoil rather than contribute to their personal pleasure, and because it is usually concerned with unnatural, empty and unlimited desires. Important in this respect is also the notion of security (ἀσφάλεια), which helps a great deal in maintaining tranquillity of mind12 and usually rests on the decision to lead a sequestered life (see KD 14). Furthermore, friends contribute a great deal to such security, 13 which is also safeguarded by the laws – an important point in this context, to which we shall soon return. As a rule, the troubles and dangers which a political career implies seriously harm this security, although Epicurus admits that occasionally, ἀσφάλεια has also been established by means of political engagement14 and that exceptionally, the Epicureans should participate themselves in politics. 15 This concise overview already shows that Epicurus’ view was much more nuanced than Plutarch would have us to believe.
9The importance which Epicurus and his followers attach to the laws is also illustrated in the verbatim quotation from Colotes which opens this final section:
τὸν βίον οἱ νόμους διατάξαντες καὶ νόμιμα καὶ τὸ βασιλεύεσθαι τὰς πόλεις καὶ ἄρχεσθαι καταστήσαντες εἰς πολλὴν ἀσφάλειαν καὶ ἡσυχίαν ἔθεντο καὶ θορύβων ἀπήλλαξαν· εἰ δέ τις ταῦτα ἀναιρήσει, θηρίων βίον βιωσόμεθα καὶ ὁ προστυχὼν τὸν ἐντυχόντα μονονοὺ κατέδεται (1124D).
The men who appointed laws and usages and established the government of cities by kings and magistrates brought human life into a state of great security and peace and delivered it from turmoil. But if anyone takes all this away, we shall live a life of brutes, and anyone who chances upon another will all but devour him. (translation B. Einarson and P.H. De Lacy)
10This is a famous and much discussed passage, which indeed contains interesting information about Colotes’ social and political philosophy. Although this is only a small quotation, it is a rich text and there can be found many striking parallels with Epicurus’ own work and with that of later Epicureans.
- 16 Hermarchus, ap. Porph., Abst. 1,10,4-11,1; see also 1,7,1; 1,8,2; 1,10,2.
- 17 Lucretius, 5,1143-4.
11– First of all, Colotes alludes to the crucial role of ancient legislators in the process of human civilisation. That the Epicureans attached great importance to the actions of these ancient legislators is also shown by Hermarchus’ discussion of the origin of homicide laws16 and somewhat less explicitly by the famous genealogy in book five of Lucretius’ De rerum natura. 17
12– Secondly, Colotes refers to the relevance of βασιλεύεσθαι καὶ ἄρχεσθαι for tranquillity of mind. This is interesting: even in Colotes’ Epicurean perspective, it is thus important that such government exists. We may presume that a political vacuum would soon bring about a bellum omnium contra omnes (here crystallised in Colotes’ striking imagery ὁ προστυχὼν τὸν ἐντυχόντα μονονοὺ κατέδεται). Of course, Colotes never argues that these kings or magistrates should endorse the Epicurean point of view: they should only guarantee social stability and security, that is all. But the Epicureans were neither subversive philosophers nor anarchists.
- 18 DRN 5,1105-12 and 5,1136-44 respectively.
- 19 Y. Benferhat, Ciues Epicurei. Les épicuriens et l’idée de monarchie à Rome et en I (...)
- 20 R. Westman, Plutarch gegen Kolotes: Seine Schrift “Adversus Colotem” als philosophiegeschic (...)
13– Thirdly, still on the phrase βασιλεύεσθαι τὰς πόλεις καὶ ἄρχεσθαι: I must confess that I am not completely sure about the precise meaning of this pair. The Loeb translation quoted above interprets it as “the government of cities by kings and magistrates”. That makes sense, of course, and we may point to an interesting parallel in Lucretius, although we should note then that Lucretius actually regards βασιλεύεσθαι and ἄρχεσθαι as two different, successive phases. First, the most gifted and powerful individuals became kings, and only in a later phase, when gold had been discovered and every individual began to pursue imperium for himself, magistrates were created in order to replace the kings who had been killed. 18 In Colotes, on the other hand, the καί rather suggests that both βασιλεύεσθαι and ἄρχεσθαι belong to the same phase. If that is true, one might argue, as has been done recently by Yasmina Benferhat19, that this passage shows that early Epicureans such as Colotes had no distinct preference for monarchy, but could also appreciate a democratic government. I agree with this general view, but I doubt whether this particular passage could really be adduced as compelling evidence. In fact, I am not sure whether ἄρχεσθαι can only refer to a democratic government. In itself, it just refers to the condition of being ruled, without specifying at all whether by a king or a magistrate. In that sense, ἄρχεσθαι can be regarded as the equivalent of Lucretius’ parere. This is the suggestion of Rolf Westman20, and that is obviously what is important in Colotes’ view: ἄρχεσθαι or parere guarantees order and prevents the turmoil (θόρυβος) which is so pernicious for the Epicurean’s tranquillity of mind. So I would be inclined to accept R. Westman’s interpretation. Yet, one should note that somewhat further, Plutarch again combines βασιλέως καὶ ἄρχοντος (1125A). Although it is true that even here, the term need not refer to a magistrate in a democratic constitution, yet I think that on the basis of this passage, one may well argue that Plutarch would interpret the general ἄρχεσθαι in the passage from Colotes indeed primarily as being governed by magistrates rather than kings. Whether Plutarch’s interpretation does justice to Colotes’ position is another question of course, which I prefer to leave open here.
14– Fourthly, the result of the legislators’ activities is security and peace, ἀσφάλεια and ἡσυχία. These are two technical terms of paramount importance, which often return in the works of Epicurus himself and in those of later Epicureans. I may here in passing merely recall the important text of Kyria doxa 14, where both are most interestingly combined (ἡ ἐκ τῆς ἡσυχίας ἀσφάλεια).
- 21 Themistius, or. 26, 324a: ἔθετο δόγμα μὴ φύσει εἶναι τὸν ἄνθρωπον κοινωνικόν τε καὶ ἥμερον; (...)
- 22 KD 31-38; Hermarchus, ap. Porph., Abst. 1,7,1-12,6; Lucretius, DRN 5,1019-20 and 11 (...)
15– Fifthly, the abolishment of the law amounts in Colotes’ view to a return to the life of the beasts. Indeed, Epicurus was convinced that human beings are not social by nature and that everybody in the end mainly takes care of himself. 21 That may imply that social behaviour, or in more Epicurean terms the willingness to avoid both βλάπτειν and βλάπτεσθαι, can only rest on a kind of compact, expressed in clear laws. Again, we have many significant parallels in Epicurus himself, Hermarchus and Lucretius. 22 It should hardly be added that all of these parallels show that Colotes’ position was perfectly orthodox.
- 23 P.H. De Lacy, B. Einarson, Plutarch. Moralia, Volume XIV, Cambridge (Mass.) and London, Har (...)
- 24 Epictetus, 2,20,35; see also 1,5,10 and 2,20,23.
- 25 R. Westman, Plutarch gegen Kolotes, op. cit., p. 86.
16There is one final question which I would like to discuss with regard to this fragment from Colotes, namely: what was its relevance in Colotes’ work? Is it possible to discover the original function of this argument? There are two alternatives that have been defended. According to B. Einarson and P.H. De Lacy, this fragment belongs to Colotes’ attack against Arcesilaus23. This is possible of course: Colotes could have argued that Arcesilaus’ sceptical philosophy implied a destruction of the laws. A somewhat similar argument can in fact be found in Epictetus24. There is, however, also a second possibility. Plutarch mentions that the fragment is to be found at the end of Colotes’ polemic (τελευτῶντος ἤδη τοῦ βιβλίου). It may have belonged to a concluding section in which Colotes attacked all the non-Epicurean philosophers for abolishing the laws with their doctrines (and at the same time, directly or indirectly, presented Epicureanism as the only correct and acceptable philosophy). This is the alternative proposed by R. Westman25, and I am inclined to side with him. One of the most important arguments in favour of the latter view is, I think, that in Plutarch’s reply to this argument of Colotes, Arcesilaus does not appear at all, whereas most other philosophers who are attacked by Colotes are explicitly mentioned. Now if Colotes’ argument would only have been directed against Arcesilaus, as B. Einarson and P.H. De Lacy believe, Plutarch would probably at least have defended the Academic philosopher as well. Since this is not the case, I would conclude that Colotes at the end of his book launched a final attack against all the non-Epicurean philosophers, arguing that their theories also make life impossible as far as politics or legislation is concerned.
17Plutarch’s evaluation of Colotes’ position is perfectly clear: οὐ δικαίως οὐδὲ ἀληθῶς (1124D). It is neither just nor true. The next section then contains Plutarch’s principal and most fundamental reply to Colotes’ view. And as it can easily be inferred from the above schematic survey, it consists of two components. Plutarch asks himself what would happen when the laws are indeed abolished and distinguishes between two groups of philosophers: the non-Epicurean philosophers (1124DE) and the Epicureans themselves (1124E-1125C).
18First, then, when one lives according to the doctrines of philosophers such like Parmenides, Socrates, Heraclitus and Plato, there will be no problem at all: people will then remain afraid of what is shameful (τὰ αἰσχρά) and instead honour justice (δικαιοσύνη), the gods, and virtue. I think this argument is basically correct, but I doubt whether it would convince Epicurus or Colotes. I confine myself to two brief remarks on this section.
- 26 See G. Roskam, “Plutarch’s Attack on Epicurus’ Ideal of an ‘Unnoticed Life’. Polemical stra (...)
19– First, it may be observed that Plutarch here keeps silent about Arcesilaus, probably because it was more difficult to defend him in this context. This does not mean that Arcesilaus was indeed blameworthy in this respect and that he did abolish the laws by his sceptical views. But his case requires a more detailed and somewhat more complex defence. In that respect, this omission of Arcesilaus illustrates one of Plutarch’s typical polemical strategies: he prefers to focus on “obvious” points and common sense arguments rather than providing careful and lengthy theoretical discussions. 26
- 27 This ambiguity definitely obscures Plutarch’s argument, but it is fair to say that (...)
20– My second remark concerns the persuasiveness of Plutarch’s argument for an Epicurean. I think the main problem here lies with the subject of δεήσομεν and φοβησόμεθα (1124E): “we”, but to whom does this refer?27 If it refers to everybody, then Plutarch’s argument would be very strong indeed. If really everybody would willingly adopt a virtuous course, following his reason instead of the laws (as Xenocrates would have it), then Plutarch is right that we would not live a life of the brutes. An Epicurean would reply, I guess, that (1) he strongly disagrees with Plutarch’s fundamental philosophical point of view and that even apart from that, (2) such a situation is in any case extremely hypothetical. But what if the “we” only refers to intelligent people, to “we the philosophers”? Then, Epicurus would argue that such a situation would ruin the philosophers’ security. For the great majority would then indeed live like the beasts, and the result would in all likelihood be that the enlightened philosophers would soon be devoured, so to say. A Platonist can even in such circumstances stick to the Socratic insight that, after all, it is better to suffer wrong than to do it; that, in other terms, it is better to end up as the virtuous meal of others than as the wicked glutton. Epicurus, on the other hand, would lay different accents: he would especially be concerned with his own pleasure and security, thus with the aim of not being devoured. He was no oyster after all.
Secondly, Plutarch asks what would happen if the laws are destroyed and we follow the Epicurean standards. In such a case, so Plutarch argues, we would indeed live like the brutes, neglecting divine providence and virtue, and only pursuing corporeal pleasures (1124E-1125A). And in fact, Plutarch goes on insisting that there is no difference at all between the beasts and the Epicureans: both are only concerned with base corporeal pleasures and reduce anything else to it (1125A-C). What to think about this argument?
- 28 See G. Roskam, “Arguments as Boxing Gloves...”, op. cit., p. 230, on the omnipresence (...)
- 29 Cicero, fin. 2,32 (= fr. 398 Us.); see also 1,30 (= fr. 397 Us.) and 1,71.
- 30 The Epicurean will never consider nature as his only model and norm, but will always (...)
- 31 As is shown by Hermarchus, ap. Porph., Abst. 1,12,5-6.
21– Let us begin with the last point, that is, the similarity between the Epicureans and the beasts. This, of course, sounds like an easy and cheap criticism. It can always help to insult the philosophical opponent and suggest that he does not even surpass the level of ordinary beasts. And in all likelihood, this polemical strategy is at the very heart of Plutarch’s attack: it is probably his main, if not his only intention. 28 Yet we may pause here for a moment, because the matter raises an interesting question. We know that Epicurus himself regarded animals as specula naturae which sufficiently prove that pleasure should be regarded as the highest good, and pain as the chief evil. 29 To a certain extent, then, even Epicurus himself appears to connect beasts and human beings, so that we may worry once again whether Epicurus, after all, was not an oyster. To be honest, I still keep thinking that he was not. Even in an Epicurean perspective, there are of course important differences between rational human beings and beasts. 30 In this particular context, I would especially point to Kyria doxa 32, where it is said that beasts are not able to make compacts. It is precisely thanks to such compacts that human beings became able to defend themselves more accurately against the beasts and thus gradually surpass their level. 31 And thus, we are back to Colotes’ position.
- 32 Porphyry, Ad Marc. 27, p. 292.5-7 Nauck (= fr. 471 Us.): οἱ τὴν ψυχὴν κακῶς ἔχοντες διακειμ (...)
- 33 Stobaeus, 4,1,143 (= fr. 530 Us.): οἱ νόμοι χάριν τῶν σοφῶν κεῖνται, οὐχ ὅπως μὴ ἀδ (...)
- 34 The question whether such a society can still be called just is discussed in J.M. Armstrong (...)
- 35 Hermarchus, ap. Porph., Abst. 1,8,4.
- 36 Diogenes of Oenoanda, fr. 59, I, 2-12.
22– Does all this imply, then, that on closer inspection, Plutarch’s argument is justified? He indeed argues that the Epicureans need the law in order to avoid the life of the beasts. Is this not what the Epicureans say themselves? The answer is obviously no! Plutarch’s argument is in fact extremely malicious. He argues (in 1125A) that the Epicureans need laws and rulers in order to deter them from devouring their neighbours because of their gluttony (ὑπὸ λαιμαργίας) that is overbold through atheism (ἀθεότητι θρασυνομένης). This, of course, does no justice at all to Epicurus’ position. In an Epicurean point of view, λαιμαργία is rather the characteristic of people with a bad soul. 32 Such people need the laws in order to be restrained. The true Epicurean, on the other hand, is only concerned with limited desires, which do not require the gluttonous devouring of other people. Accordingly, he only needs the law in order to gain security. A well-known fragment in Stobaeus is particularly clear in this respect: the laws exist for the sake of the sages, not in order to prevent them from doing wrong (which is what Plutarch suggests) but in order to guarantee that they are not wronged. 33 Again, when everybody would become an Epicurean, there would be no need of any law. 34 This argument, which explicitly occurs in Hermarchus35 and in the famous fragment from Diogenes of Oenoanda about the Golden Age, 36 utterly refutes Plutarch’s malicious suggestion. Of course, this is only a hypothetical situation – no less hypothetical than its counterpart in the previous section. As things are, laws are necessary to safeguard the Epicureans’ security and tranquillity, not to prevent their alleged wicked behaviour.
23In the next section, that is chapter 31, Plutarch for the last time in this work turns to his polemical tu quoque-strategy (or, perhaps better, σὺ μόνος, since the other philosophers are not guilty of the same mistake). The core argument of this section is concisely summarized at the very end of the chapter (1125F): τὸ ἐγκαλεῖν ἑτέροις ἅπερ αὐτοὶ πράττουσι. Plutarch here tries to show that Colotes blames others for what the Epicureans do themselves, that is, to abolish the laws and the political constitution through their doctrines. Again, Plutarch puts forward two arguments.
- 37 See Adv. Colot. 1125D; Non posse 1098C-D and 1100D (= Metrodorus, fr. 41 K.); see on this f (...)
24First of all, the Epicureans overthrow the state by their apolitical doctrines (1125CD). This passage contains several particularly interesting fragments which provide much information about Epicurus’ position. I regret that there is no space to deal with these fragments in further detail and here confine myself to the general conclusion that Plutarch provides a good and fairly reliable picture of the Epicurean point of view. Of course, he especially selects radical quotations (including the famous one from Metrodorus that there is no need to save the Greeks but merely to eat and drink and gratify the belly without harming it; a fragment which twice returns in Non posse too), 37 and this strategic selection to a certain extent obscures the more nuanced character of Epicurus’ philosophy, but it neither ignores important qualifications (such as the ἑκὼν εἶναι in 1125C) nor conceals the protreptic enthusiasm of the Epicurean original. There is only one element which may seem somewhat distorted, that is, the supposed Epicurean doctrine that to be king is a fault and a mistake: ἁμαρτίαν and διάπτωσιν are quite strong terms, and Epicurus may have been a little less straightforward, but I think that fundamentally, he would indeed argue that by being king, one considerably harms one’s personal pleasure and thus generally commits a crucial mistake.
- 38 Epicurus’ view of law and justice has often been discussed, and his fundamental respect for (...)
25However that may be, I would conclude that Plutarch’s presentation of Epicurus’ apolitical doctrine in this passage is basically correct. This does not mean, however, that his argument is convincing too. In fact, it is quite typical that Plutarch interprets Epicurus’ position as a menace to the political establishment. This interpretation, I think, reveals as much about Plutarch as it does about Epicurus. As far as the latter is concerned, his apolitical attitude of course does not imply a lack of respect for political authority and legislation, which is of paramount importance for personal security. No Epicurean would even think of abolishing the law. 38
26Plutarch’s second argument is that the laws are also abolished by Epicurus’ atheism, because these laws first and foremost concern our belief in the gods (1125D-F). Plutarch here strongly emphasizes the social importance of religion: it is regarded (in 1125E) as the support (ἔρεισμα) and base (βάθρον) that holds together (συνεκτικόν) all society (ἁπάσης κοινωνίας) and legislation (καὶ νομοθεσίας). Once again, this argument primarily illustrates the personal convictions of the priest of Apollo, yet this should not blind us for the possible value of Plutarch’s argument. For Greek religion no doubt had an important social relevance and was a crucial factor in building community. Against that background, we may well ask what would be the social implications of Epicurus’ famous first Kyria doxa.
27In order to answer this question, we should distinguish, I think, between two different situations.
- 39 Philodemus, De pietate col. 28, p. 790-810 Obbink (= fr. 169 Us.); see also col. 20 (...)
- 40 Plutarch, Non posse 1102B; see also Adv. Colot. 1112C; Cicero, nat. deor. 1,123 and (...)
28– First of all, under the real circumstances of the existing state, Epicurus gladly participated in the traditional religious ceremonies. 39 His opponents (including Plutarch) often interpreted this as a mere comedy, continuously played for fear of the multitude, 40 but in all likelihood, Epicurus himself saw no inconsistency in attending such religious festivals with more pure, truly Epicurean intentions. As things are, then, Epicurus’ view of the gods does not entail negative results for his society.
- 41 See T. O’Keefe, Epicureanism, Durham, Acumen, 2010, p. 144: “Epicurus is profoundly hostile (...)
- 42 D. Clay, “Individual and Community in the First Generation of the Epicurean School”, in ΣΥ (...)
29– Secondly, what would happen when everybody would become an Epicurean? Would that mean the end of religious rites? This is a more difficult question. I would answer that, first of all, this is a very hypothetical situation and that Epicurus usually refrains from apodictic statements about such issues. 41 Secondly, even in such a situation, there would probably exist rites and festivals which hold the Epicurean community (or communities) together. 42 This appears from Epicurus’ testament, in which he took care that his followers would celebrate several days, such as his own birthday, in commemoration of himself, Metrodorus, and other members of the community. Such festivals would of course be fully in line with, and even based on, the Epicurean way of life. Thirdly, Epicurean friendship would probably be a much more important factor in building community than the traditional gods.
- 43 See G. Roskam, Plutarch’s Maxime cum principibus philosopho esse disserendum..., op (...)
- 44 P.-M. Schuhl, “Une école des sciences politiques”, RPhilos 84, 1959, p. 101-103; A.-H. Chro (...)
30In chapter 32, Plutarch provides a catalogue of several great achievements of other, non-Epicurean philosophers. He mentions several famous deeds (such as Empedocles’ walling up of clefts in order to deliver his country from sterility and plague, or Zeno’s brave attitude towards the tyrant Demylus), but also several faits divers. For instance, this passage contains very interesting information about the political activities of several members of the early Academy (including fairly obscure figures such as Aristonymus or Delius of Ephesus). Plutarch was obviously thoroughly familiar with this aspect of the history of the Academy, 43 and this chapter is actually one of the most important sources for the political influence of Plato’s Academy (which has often been regarded as a school of politics). 44 In passing, I would first like to make two brief observations.
- 45 According to the Suda (2,44,11-12 Adl. = Democritus, fr. DK68A2), Democritus held o (...)
- 46 Stobaeus, 4,39,25 (= Democritus, fr. DK68B3); see G. Roskam, Live unnoticed (Λάθε βιώσας).. (...)
31– Firstly, Democritus is the only philosopher in the whole list who is mentioned because of a doctrine rather than a deed. In all likelihood, Plutarch was simply unable to find a significant political achievement, 45 but still wished to introduce Democritus into the list, and therefore pointed to a doctrine. And even this doctrine he may have misrepresented, in that he may have turned a merely descriptive observation into a normative advice (crystallised in the term παραινεῖ). In any case, this advice (of which, by the way, Plutarch is testis unus) does not fit in very well with Democritus’ famous doctrine of μὴ πολλὰ πρήσσειν. 46
- 47 Diogenes Laertius, 4,39.
- 48 Ibid.
32– Secondly, Plutarch here once again ignores Arcesilaus. Probably, he was again unable to find relevant information. In any case, Diogenes Laertius informs us that Arcesilaus spent his time wholly in the Academy, shunning politics, 47 and I know of no relevant statements by Arcesilaus which could be inserted here. Moreover, we may recall that the only time Arcesilaus went on behalf of his native city as an envoy to Antigonus, he failed in his mission. 48 In view of his thorough familiarity with the Academic tradition, we may suppose that Plutarch knew this well enough, and therefore deliberately omitted Arcesilaus from his list.
- 49 Non posse 1097A-1100D; see H. Adam, Plutarchs Schrift Non posse suaviter vivi secun (...)
33The core of Plutarch’s argument in this chapter, then, concerns the valuable accomplishments of non-Epicurean philosophers, which are diametrically opposed to the trivial occupations of the Epicureans. It is clear that this is an important argument for Plutarch himself. In his view, such great political achievements are part and parcel of, or even a necessary condition for, human self-realization, and in Non posse, he argues at length that such political engagement yields far more pleasures than the base Epicurean βίος ἀπολαυστικός. 49 Epicurus’ evaluation, on the other hand, is based on completely different standards. In his perspective, such great achievements are only praiseworthy if they contribute to pleasure, but this, although possible, is certainly the exception rather than the rule. In that sense, Plutarch’s whole list would not convince Epicurus at all. I’ll soon come back to this.
- 50 See supra, n. 2.
34But before turning to the next chapter, I would like to make one further point. As I said, it is perfectly clear that Plutarch’s argument in this chapter would fail to convince an Epicurean. Yet we should not be blind for its rhetorical power. We may well wonder whether many people would not feel that, in a way, such glorious achievements are more honourable and in a certain sense more human than Epicurus’ messing around in his Garden and his concern with his belly, however rational he may have been. Was, for instance, Socrates’ behaviour not much more noble indeed? Should we not prefer the gadfly to the oyster? What would be Epicurus’ final reply to this argument? I think it may have been a double one. First of all, he could have argued that the unhappy fate of Socrates (or Plato’s troubles in Syracuse, or the end of Zeno, and so on) in fact show the strength of his own alternative, which does not ask such a self-sacrifice from its adherents. Secondly, he would perhaps deny that the pleasures which Socrates or Plato could have derived from their noble deeds would counterbalance the greater pains, and even if he would admit this possibility, he would in any case never agree that one needs to do such spectacular or ambitious things in order to be happy. On that point, Plutarch’s and Epicurus’ views are diametrically opposed, and we again end up with the conclusion of Boulogne: “l’opposition est totale et ne permet pas la discussion”. 50
35In the last section of Adversus Colotem (comprising the chapters 33 and 34), Plutarch examines the results of Epicurus’ doctrines. This question is not without importance in the context of ancient polemics, where a philosopher’s doctrines are often evaluated on the basis of his own πρᾶξις. In Plutarch’s view, then, the Epicurean doctrines yield no positive results at all. The Epicureans derive their pleasures from trifling activities which they themselves praise excessively. They are parasites who provide only negative advice, who ridicule important politicians and public-spirited thinkers (1126E-1127C), and who are willing to break the law whenever they get the opportunity to do so safely (1127D). In short, the Epicureans are subversive thinkers who make well-ordered social life impossible.
36These last two chapters are very interesting for several reasons. Lack of space prevents me from discussing them in detail. Here, I confine myself to some comments on a few crucial aspects of Plutarch’s arguments.
- 51 Cicero, de orat. 3,64; Epictetus, 2,20,6-20 and 3,7,19.
- 52 G. Roskam, Live unnoticed (Λάθε βιώσας)..., op. cit., p. 121-125.
37– First of all, is Plutarch right to regard the Epicureans as parasites? This is a traditional argument that can also be found in Cicero and Epictetus, 51 and to a certain extent, I would be inclined to agree here. Although later Epicureans such as Philodemus try to show that the Epicureans were likewise useful for the state, 52 it remains true, I think, that at least to a certain extent, Plutarch may well be right that the Epicureans “enjoy the advantages of civilized life without paying their share” (1127A). The question remains, however, whether Epicurus can really be blamed for this. In principle, everyone is free to become an Epicurean, and when everybody would indeed do so, there would be no need of traditional politics any more. As things are, there are always people who follow their empty ambitions and engage into politics. Such people, however, should not blame Epicurus for the problem of their pains, if they do not accept the solutions which he offers them. In a certain sense, then, Epicurus is forced to be a parasite, and he is not to be blamed for that.
- 53 Diogenes Laertius, 10,120 (= fr. 577 Us.): μόναρχον ἐν καιρῷ θεραπεύσειν.
- 54 See G. Del Mastro, “Il PHerc. 1589 e una nuova testimonianza su Temista e Leonteo”, CErc. 3 (...)
- 55 See D. De Sanctis, “Il filosofo e il re: osservazioni sulla Vita Philonidis (PHerc. 1044) ” (...)
38– Secondly, it is true that Epicurus generally wrote in order to dissuade people from entering politics, although it may be added that his works also contained many qualifications, all of which are here omitted by Plutarch, and that his position was not only negative, since he also provided his own positive alternative: tranquillity of mind, security, ἡσυχία, and all the pleasures of an unnoticed life. There is one phrase, however, which deserves further discussion here, that is, Plutarch’s complaint (in 1127A) that the Epicureans write on kingship ἵνα φεύγωμεν τὸ συμβιοῦν βασιλεῦσι. I would argue that Plutarch is basically right on this point as well. Of course in this case too, he omits important qualifications, for Epicurus granted that the sage will pay court to a king when the occasion is appropriate. 53 Yet he would not have advised to live with a king: the term συμβιοῦν, which may well reflect the Epicurean concept of συμβίωσις, 54 implies a much more permanent situation than an occasional θεραπεύσειν. And such a life, indeed, would entail all kinds of dangers: the Epicurean should continuously be on his guard against possible whims of the king, he may be involved in intrigues at the Court, may be slandered by other courtiers, and so on. In that sense, an Epicurean can obviously derive little benefit from living at a Court: it would even damage his security. If that is true, this has important implications for the position of later Epicureans such as Philonides, who lived at the Seleucid Court, 55 or even Philodemus, who associated with the powerful Piso. It may be interesting to ask to what extent their position was completely orthodox in this respect.
- 56 See supra, n. 14.
39– Thirdly, Epicurus’ criticism of famous politicians is of course extremely offensive to Plutarch, the author of the Parallel Lives. Epicurus’ position should be understood against the background of the calculus of pleasure and pain. As a rule, politics yields more pain than pleasure, and in that sense, many illustrious politicians could indeed be regarded as silly fools. This passage contains an interesting (and fairly unique) example of a typically Epicurean attack on one such distinguished politician, namely Epameinondas. We may add here too that Epicurus was prepared to take into account exceptional cases. A politician who succeeds in reaching greater security through his political engagement can in principle be praised, 56 although he remains a rara avis.
- 57 Discussions of this problem can for instance be found in R. Westman, Plutarch gegen Kolotes(...)
- 58 Cicero, off. 3,39.
- 59 Thus also V. Goldschmidt, La doctrine d’Épicure et le droit, op. cit., p. 122; see R. Mulle (...)
- 60 This explains the relevance of the term ἁπλοῦν in Epicurus’ answer; thus rightly G. Seel, “ (...)
- 61 As is demonstrated very well by P.A. Vander Waerdt, “The Justice of the Epicurean Wise Man” (...)
- 62 I deal with the whole problem in detail in “Will the Epicurean Sage break the law if he is (...)
40– I pass over Metrodorus’ interesting criticism of the philosophers who draw up political constitutions (1127B-C) and turn immediately to Epicurus’ position towards the laws, discussed in the final chapter. Plutarch tells us that Epicurus raised the difficult question whether the sage will break the laws if he knows he will never be detected (εἰδὼς ὅτι λήσει). His answer was that it is difficult to provide an unqualified predication (τὸ ἁπλοῦν ἐπικατηγόρημα, which is technical terminology). Plutarch “kindly” enough helps his readers to understand what this means: “That is to say: I shall do it, but do not wish to admit it” (1127D). This is a famous, much discussed passage. There is no need here to provide a lengthy status quaestionis on this matter. 57 It may suffice to say that several scholars believe that Plutarch is basically correct and that the Epicurean sage will indeed transgress the laws when he can be sure that he will never be punished. Most, however, including myself, believe that Plutarch is quite uncharitable here. Epicurus’ answer should not be understood as a mere attempt to obscure his intentions. First of all, his caution was probably to a great extent motivated by the presupposition εἰδὼς ὅτι λήσει itself. In later discussions, the Epicureans simply refused to accept this presupposition and continued to do so. 58 They preferred to insist that they are thus confronted with a presupposition that is and always remains – I would almost say by definition – unreal. It is not unlikely that Epicurus’ cautious refusal to give an easy, unqualified answer at least partly rests on a similar acknowledgement of this fundamentally hypothetical character of the presupposition. 59 At the same time, however, his reply also illustrates the generally qualifying nature of his philosophy and the great importance he attaches to a sober-minded evaluation of concrete circumstances. 60 There can be little doubt that the Epicurean sage, who is only interested in satisfying his natural and necessary desires, will usually have no need at all to break the law. 61 But it cannot be excluded a priori that under a particular circumstance, a thorough evaluation by the sage’s φρόνησις might show that breaking a particular law while being certain to escape detection would yield important advantages. Such cases would be extremely exceptional, no doubt, and hypothetical too, but the mere fact that they are at least possible ex hypothesi explains why Epicurus does not simply deny that the sage will ever break the law. In any case, his position on this difficult problem was much more subtle than Plutarch suggests, and this is what is important in the context of this contribution. 62
41By way of conclusion, I would like to make the following four observations, in an attempt to imitate the praiseworthy conciseness of Epicurus’ Kyriai doxai (though not its powers as a τετραφάρμακον):
1) None of Plutarch’s attacks on Epicurus in this section is really convincing.
2) Yet it is unwise to neglect Plutarch’s criticisms all together (which is often done in philosophical discussions): he sometimes raises interesting questions which deserve a more detailed discussion.
3) Furthermore, this section is of paramount importance as a reliable source for the positions of Epicurus, Metrodorus, and Colotes.
4) Plutarch may have been a viper; Epicurus was no oyster.
1 See G. Roskam, “Arguments as Boxing Gloves. Ethics of Philosophical Polemics in Middle Platonism”, LEC 76, 2008, p. 204-222.
2 J. Boulogne, Plutarque dans le miroir d’Épicure. Analyse d’une critique systématique de l’épicurisme, Villeneuve d’Ascq, Presses du Septentrion, 2003, p. 185.
3 Plutarch’s argument in Maxime cum principibus is analysed in G. Roskam, Plutarch’s Maxime cum principibus philosopho esse disserendum. An Interpretation with Commentary, Leuven, Leuven University Press, 2009. On Ad princ. iner., see A. Tirelli, Plutarco. Ad un governante incolto. Introduzione, testo critico, traduzione e commento, Naples, D’Auria, 2005.
4 See, e.g., Num. 20, 8-9; Comp. Dem. et Cic. 3, 4; see also Dion 1,3; G.J.D. Aalders, Plutarch’s Political Thought, Amsterdam, Oxford and New York, North-Holland Pub. Co., 1982, p. 41; G.J.D. Aalders, L. de Blois, “Plutarch und die politische Philosophie der Griechen”, in W. Haase and H. Temporini (ed.), ANRW II 36.5, Berlin and New York, De Gruyter, 1992 (p. 3384-3404), p. 3391.
5 As appears, e.g., from Praec. ger. reip. 813BC; see J.-C. Carrière, “À propos de la politique de Plutarque”, DHA 3, 1977 (p. 237-251), p. 239-240 and P. Desideri, “Plutarco e Machiavelli”, in I. Gallo, B. Scardigli (ed.), Teoria e prassi politica nelle opere di Plutarco. Atti del V Convegno plutarcheo (Certosa di Pontignano, 7-9 giugno 1993), Naples, D’Auria, 1995, p. 107-122.
6 See G. Roskam, “The Displeasing Secrets of the Epicurean Life. Plutarch’s Polemic against Epicurus’ Political Philosophy”, in A. Casanova (ed.), Plutarco e l’età ellenistica, Atti del Convegno internazionale di studi, Firenze, 23-24 settembre 2004, Florence, Università degli Studi di Firenze, 2005, p. 351-368; and on De latenter vivendo, A. Barigazzi, “Una declamazione di Plutarco contro Epicuro: il De latenter vivendo”, Prometheus 16, 1990, p. 45-64; U. Berner, et al., Plutarch. Εἰ καλῶς εἴρηται τὸ λάθε βιώσας. Ist “Lebe im Verborgenen”eine Gute Lebensregel?, Darmstadt, Wiss. Buchges., 2000; G. Roskam, A Commentary on Plutarch’s De latenter vivendo, Leuven, Leuven University Press, 2007. For a general overview of Plutarch’s criticism of Epicurus, see J.P. Hershbell, “Plutarch and Epicureanism”, in ANRW II, 36.5, op. cit., p. 3353-3383, and J. Boulogne, Plutarque dans le miroir d’Épicure, op. cit.
7 De tranq. an. 465F-466A.
8 De tuenda san. 135B-D.
9 Non posse 1097A-1100D.
10 De tuenda san. 135B.
11 I discuss Epicurus’ position in detail in Live unnoticed (Λάθε βιώσας). On the Vicissitudes of an Epicurean Doctrine, Leiden and Boston, Brill, 2007. See also A. Long, “Pleasure and Social Utility. The Virtues of being Epicurean”, in H. Flashar, O. Gigon (ed.), Aspects de la philosophie hellénistique: neuf exposés suivis de discussions, Vandœuvres-Genève, 26-31 août 1985, Geneva, Fondation Hardt, 1986, p. 283-324; D.P. Fowler, “Lucretius and Politics”, in J. Barnes, M. Griffin (ed.), Philosophia Togata. Essays on Philosophy and Roman Society, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1989, p. 120-150; G. Roskam, A Commentary on Plutarch’s De latenter vivendo, op. cit., p. 17-41; E. Brown, “Politics and Society”, in J. Warren (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Epicureanism, Cambridge, CUP, 2009, p. 179-196.
12 A. Barigazzi, “Sul concetto epicureo della sicurezza esterna”, in ΣΥΖΗΤΗΣΙΣ. Studi sull’epicureismo greco e romano offerti a Marcello Gigante, Napoli, Gaetano Macchiaroli, 1983, p. 73-92; M. Schofield, “Social and Political Thought”, in K. Algra, J. Barnes, J. Mansfeld, M. Schofield (ed.), The Cambridge History of Hellenistic Philosophy, Cambridge, CUP, 1999 (p. 739-770), p. 748-756; G. Roskam, Live unnoticed (Λάθε βιώσας)..., op. cit., p. 37-40.
13 VS 34 and 39; KD 27, 28 and 40.
14 KD 6, 7 and 14. It would be wrong, however, to regard these passages as an interesting perspective that the Epicurean could always use in order to justify his decision to engage in politics. The main importance of these doctrines lies in the interpretative key which they provide for evaluating the careers of the great statesmen of the past, as is illustrated, for instance, by Torquatus’ argument in Cicero’s De finibus (1,34-36). See also B. Besnier, “Justice et utilité de la politique dans l’épicurisme. Réponse à Elizabeth Asmis”, in C. Auvray-Assayas, D. Delattre (ed.), Cicéron et Philodème. La polémique en philosophie, Paris, Éd. Rue d’Ulm, 2001 (p. 129-157), p. 154-155.
15 Seneca, dial. 8,3,2-3 (= fr. 9 Us.); see Cicero, rep. 1,10 and 1,11; G. Roskam, Live unnoticed (Λάθε βιώσας)..., op. cit., p. 50-56, and A Commentary on Plutarch’s De latenter vivendo, op. cit., p. 37-40.
16 Hermarchus, ap. Porph., Abst. 1,10,4-11,1; see also 1,7,1; 1,8,2; 1,10,2.
17 Lucretius, 5,1143-4.
18 DRN 5,1105-12 and 5,1136-44 respectively.
19 Y. Benferhat, Ciues Epicurei. Les épicuriens et l’idée de monarchie à Rome et en Italie de Sylla à Octave, Bruxelles, Latomus, 2005, p. 41: “Le parallélisme créé par la répétition de la conjonction καί ne paraît pas laisser de doute sur la volonté d’accorder la même valeur à la monarchie et à un régime démocratique.”
20 R. Westman, Plutarch gegen Kolotes: Seine Schrift “Adversus Colotem” als philosophiegeschichtliche Quelle, Helsingfors, Finnische Literaturgesellschaft (Acta Philosophica Fennica 7), 1955, p. 84 n. 2.
21 Themistius, or. 26, 324a: ἔθετο δόγμα μὴ φύσει εἶναι τὸν ἄνθρωπον κοινωνικόν τε καὶ ἥμερον; Lactantius, inst. 3,17,42 (= fr. 523 Us.): dicit Epicurus (...) nullam esse humanam societatem: sibi quemque consulere; ibid. (= fr. 540): dicit Epicurus (...) neminem esse, qui alterum diligat nisi sua causa; see Epictetus, 2,20,6; fr. 580-581 Us.
22 KD 31-38; Hermarchus, ap. Porph., Abst. 1,7,1-12,6; Lucretius, DRN 5,1019-20 and 1144-50.
23 P.H. De Lacy, B. Einarson, Plutarch. Moralia, Volume XIV, Cambridge (Mass.) and London, Harvard University Press, 1967, p. 179-180.
24 Epictetus, 2,20,35; see also 1,5,10 and 2,20,23.
25 R. Westman, Plutarch gegen Kolotes, op. cit., p. 86.
26 See G. Roskam, “Plutarch’s Attack on Epicurus’ Ideal of an ‘Unnoticed Life’. Polemical strategies in De latenter vivendo”, in J. Ma. Nieto Ibáñez, R. López López (ed.), El amor en Plutarco, León, Publicaciones Universidad de León, 2007 (p. 867-876), p. 873-874; and “Arguments as Boxing Gloves...”, op. cit., p. 226-230.
27 This ambiguity definitely obscures Plutarch’s argument, but it is fair to say that this unclear first person plural is taken from Colotes himself (βιωσόμεθα): Plutarch is merely arguing dialectically from what Colotes said, and it is possible indeed that Colotes’ argument already showed the same ambivalence.
28 See G. Roskam, “Arguments as Boxing Gloves...”, op. cit., p. 230, on the omnipresence of abuse in Plutarch’s anti-Epicurean polemics. Epicurus, by the way, was no less “gifted” than Plutarch on this respect; see Non posse 1086E-F and Diogenes Laertius 10,8, with the thorough discussion of D.N. Sedley, “Epicurus and his Professional Rivals”, in J. Bollack, A. Laks (ed.), Études sur l’épicurisme antique, Lille, Université de Lille III (Cahiers de philologie, 1), 19, p. 119-159.
29 Cicero, fin. 2,32 (= fr. 398 Us.); see also 1,30 (= fr. 397 Us.) and 1,71.
30 The Epicurean will never consider nature as his only model and norm, but will always rely on his reason in order to judge what should be done, a point that is made with admirable precision and clearness in P.-M. Morel, Épicure. La nature et la raison, Paris, Vrin, 2009.
31 As is shown by Hermarchus, ap. Porph., Abst. 1,12,5-6.
32 Porphyry, Ad Marc. 27, p. 292.5-7 Nauck (= fr. 471 Us.): οἱ τὴν ψυχὴν κακῶς ἔχοντες διακειμένην πένονται πάντων ἀεὶ καὶ εἰς πολυτρόπους ἐπιθυμίας ὑπὸ λαιμαργίας ἐμπίπτουσιν.
33 Stobaeus, 4,1,143 (= fr. 530 Us.): οἱ νόμοι χάριν τῶν σοφῶν κεῖνται, οὐχ ὅπως μὴ ἀδικῶσιν ἀλλ᾿ ὅπως μὴ ἀδικῶνται.
34 The question whether such a society can still be called just is discussed in J.M. Armstrong, “Epicurean Justice”, Phronesis 42, 1997 (p. 324-334), p. 330, and T. O’Keefe, “Would a Community of Wise Epicureans Be Just? ”, AncPhil 21, 2001, p. 133-146.
35 Hermarchus, ap. Porph., Abst. 1,8,4.
36 Diogenes of Oenoanda, fr. 59, I, 2-12.
37 See Adv. Colot. 1125D; Non posse 1098C-D and 1100D (= Metrodorus, fr. 41 K.); see on this fragment D.N. Sedley, “Epicurus and his Professional Rivals”, op. cit., p. 132, and G. Roskam, Live unnoticed (Λάθε βιώσας)..., op. cit., p. 72-73.
38 Epicurus’ view of law and justice has often been discussed, and his fundamental respect for the existing legislation emphasised; see, e.g., R. Philippson, “Die Rechtsphilosophie der Epikureer”, AGPh 23, 1910, p. 289-337 and 433-446; R. Muller, Die Epikureische Gesellschaftstheorie, Berlin, Akademie-Verlag, 1974; “Konstituierung und Verbindlichkeit der Rechtsnormen bei Epikur”, in ΣΥΖΗΤΗΣΙΣ, op. cit., p. 153-183; and “Die epikureische Sozial- und Rechtsphilosophie”, in M.W. Fischer, O. Gigon (ed.), Antike Rechts- und Sozialphilosophie, Frankfurt am Main, P. Lang, 1988, p. 113-128; V. Goldschmidt, La doctrine d’Épicure et le droit, Paris, Vrin, 1977; A. Alberti, “The Epicurean Theory of Law and Justice”, in Α. Laks, Μ. Schofield (ed.), Justice and Generosity. Studies in Hellenistic Social and Political Philosophy. Proceedings of the Sixth Symposium Hellenisticum, Cambridge, CUP, 1995, p. 161-190; P.-M. Morel, “Épicure, l’histoire et le droit”, REA 102, 2000, p. 393-411; B. Besnier, “Justice et utilité de la politique dans l’épicurisme.”, op. cit.
39 Philodemus, De pietate col. 28, p. 790-810 Obbink (= fr. 169 Us.); see also col. 20, p. 554-559, col. 26, p. 730-737, and col. 51, p. 1451-1461 Obbink.
40 Plutarch, Non posse 1102B; see also Adv. Colot. 1112C; Cicero, nat. deor. 1,123 and 3,3; Atticus, ap. Euseb., PE 15,5,12 (= fr. 3 Baudry); Origen, Cels. 7,66 (= fr. 390 Us.); Dionysius episc., ap. Euseb., PE 14,27,11; see also Philodemus De pietate col. 49, p. 1402-1412 Obbink.
41 See T. O’Keefe, Epicureanism, Durham, Acumen, 2010, p. 144: “Epicurus is profoundly hostile to doing ethics via this sort of thought experiment” [viz. the story of Gyges].
42 D. Clay, “Individual and Community in the First Generation of the Epicurean School”, in ΣΥΖΗΤΗΣΙΣ, op. cit., p. 255-279 ; and “The Cult of Epicurus: an Interpretation of Philodemus, On Epicurus (PHerc. 1232) and other Texts”, in Atti del XVII Congresso Internazionale di Papirologia (Napoli, 19-26 maggio 1983). Vol. 2, Naples, Centro Internazionale per lo studio dei papiri Ercolanesi, 1984, p 677-679.
43 See G. Roskam, Plutarch’s Maxime cum principibus philosopho esse disserendum..., op. cit., p. 44-51; see also M. Bonazzi, “Plutarco, l’Academia e la politica”, in P. Volpe Cacciatore, F. Ferrari (ed.), Plutarco e la cultura della sua età, Atti del X Convegno plutarcheo, Fisciano e Paestum, 27-29 ottobre 2005, Naples, D’Auria, 2007, p. 267-280.
44 P.-M. Schuhl, “Une école des sciences politiques”, RPhilos 84, 1959, p. 101-103; A.-H. Chroust, “Plato’s Academy: The First Organized School of Political Science in Antiquity”, The Review of Politics 29, 1967, p. 25-40; see also the studies of A. Wörle, Die politische Tätigkeit der Schüler Platons, Darmstadt, Kümmerle, 1981 ; and K. Trampedach, Platon, die Akademie und die zeitgenössische Politik, Stuttgart, Franz Steiner Verlag, 1994.
45 According to the Suda (2,44,11-12 Adl. = Democritus, fr. DK68A2), Democritus held office in his native city, but it is far from certain whether this information is reliable (see G.J.D. Aalders, ‘The Political Faith of Democritus’, Mnemosyne Ser. 4, 3, 1950 (p. 302-313), p. 313, and C. Farrar, The Origins of Democratic Thinking, Cambridge, CUP, 1988, p. 195; less sceptical is J.F. Procopé, “Democritus on Politics and the Care of the Soul”, CQ NS 39, 1989 (p. 307-331), p. 309). See also Cicero, de orat. 3,56.
46 Stobaeus, 4,39,25 (= Democritus, fr. DK68B3); see G. Roskam, Live unnoticed (Λάθε βιώσας)..., op. cit., p. 19-21.
47 Diogenes Laertius, 4,39.
49 Non posse 1097A-1100D; see H. Adam, Plutarchs Schrift Non posse suaviter vivi secundum Epicurum. Eine Interpretation, Amsterdam, John Benjamins Pub. Co., 1974, p. 46-47 for a brief discussion of Plutarch’s argument.
50 See supra, n. 2.
51 Cicero, de orat. 3,64; Epictetus, 2,20,6-20 and 3,7,19.
52 G. Roskam, Live unnoticed (Λάθε βιώσας)..., op. cit., p. 121-125.
53 Diogenes Laertius, 10,120 (= fr. 577 Us.): μόναρχον ἐν καιρῷ θεραπεύσειν.
54 See G. Del Mastro, “Il PHerc. 1589 e una nuova testimonianza su Temista e Leonteo”, CErc. 38, 2008, p. 221-228, p. 224.
55 See D. De Sanctis, “Il filosofo e il re: osservazioni sulla Vita Philonidis (PHerc. 1044) ”, CErc. 39, 2009, p. 107-118, on Philonides’ philosophical activities at the royal Court.
56 See supra, n. 14.
57 Discussions of this problem can for instance be found in R. Westman, Plutarch gegen Kolotes, op. cit., p. 185-189; V. Goldschmidt, La doctrine d’Épicure et le droit, op. cit., p. 118-123; R. Muller, “Konstituierung und Verbindlichkeit der Rechtsnormen bei Epikur”, op. cit.; N. Denyer, “The Origins of Justice”, in ΣΥΖΗΤΗΣΙΣ, op. cit. (p. 133-152), p. 145-147; P.A. Vander Waerdt, “The Justice of the Epicurean Wise Man”, CQ 37, 1987 (p. 402-422), p. 406-411; G. Seel, “Farà il saggio qualcosa che le leggi vietano, sapendo che non sarà scoperto? ”, in G. Giannantoni, M. Gigante (ed.), Epicureismogreco e romano, Atti del Congresso internazionale, Napoli, 19-26 maggio 1993, 3 vol., Naples, Bibliopolis, 1996, p. 341-360; B. Besnier, “Justice et utilité de la politique dans l’épicurisme”, op. cit., p. 136 n. 17; P.-M. Morel, Épicure. La nature et la raison, op. cit., p. 24-26.
58 Cicero, off. 3,39.
59 Thus also V. Goldschmidt, La doctrine d’Épicure et le droit, op. cit., p. 122; see R. Muller, “Konstituierung und Verbindlichkeit der Rechtsnormen bei Epikur”, op. cit., p. 154.
60 This explains the relevance of the term ἁπλοῦν in Epicurus’ answer; thus rightly G. Seel, “Farà il saggio qualcosa che le leggi vietano, sapendo che non sarà scoperto? ”, op. cit., p. 359-360.
61 As is demonstrated very well by P.A. Vander Waerdt, “The Justice of the Epicurean Wise Man”, op. cit.; see also R. Westman, Plutarch gegen Kolotes, op. cit., p. 188; R. Muller, “Konstituierung und Verbindlichkeit der Rechtsnormen bei Epikur”, op. cit., p. 155; G. Seel, “Farà il saggio qualcosa che le leggi vietano, sapendo che non sarà scoperto? ”, op. cit.; P. Cosenza, “La dimostrazione della non eleggibilità dell’ingiustizia nella Rata sententia 34 di Epicuro”, in G. Giannantoni, M. Gigante (ed.), Epicureismo greco e romano, op. cit., p. 361-376. See also the important passage in Cicero, fin. 1,53 (= fr. 397 Us.), where Torquatus argues that the Epicurean can easily satisfy his natural desires sine ulla iniuria.
62 I deal with the whole problem in detail in “Will the Epicurean Sage break the law if he is perfectly sure that he will escape detection? A difficult problem revisited”, TAPA 142, 2012, p. 23-40.Haut de page
Pour citer cet article
Geert Roskam, « Plutarch’s polemic against Colotes’ view on legislation and politics. A reading of Adversus Colotem 30-34 (1124D-1127E) », Aitia [En ligne], 3 | 2013, mis en ligne le 30 mai 2013, consulté le 29 mars 2017. URL : http://aitia.revues.org/731 ; DOI : 10.4000/aitia.731Haut de page
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