(c. 46 120)
Plutarch was born in
Chaeronea (in the Greek region of Boeotia), the son of a philosopher and
biographer, and educated at the Academy in Athens. He established his own school in his home
town. He served in various ministerial
posts and was eventually appointed a consul by the Emperor Trajan as well as
being installed (c. 95) as a priest
at Delphi for life. Plutarch was a
prolific writer on many subjects.
METAPHYSICS/ RELIGIOUS PHILOSOPHY
 God is Pure Good and Beauty, transcendental, and eternal [a];
and the world of time and
change was created by and derives its partial reality from Him [b]. Plutarch attributes evil to the World-Soul, though it
participates in Reason which emanates from God [c]. Between God and the world there are numerous intermediate beings [d], such as
star gods and daimons. Plutarch also
says there are five
elements earth, air, fire, water, and 'aether' [e].
 Plutarch distinguishes between reason (nous)
and soul (psuche). Both are embodied, but the former is more
divine and man's ruling 'daimon', while the latter is subject to evil passions [a]. The soul in both aspects is
immortal; and he emphasizes freedom of the soul from
bodily passions and its ultimate release when we may "gaze on the beauty of God" and achieve
happiness in the knowledge of truth [b]. As for knowledge in this world, Plutarch does
not really have a particular theory. In general he is suspicious not only of
superstition but also of all theory and dogmatism and prefers to rely on
probability [c], although he also puts his trust in an 'immediate intuition' (albeit
faint) of the Transcendental as well as in 'revelation' and 'prophecy' [d].
action consists in achieving moderation a mean between excess and defect [a]; and
Plutarch accepts that feelings
cannot be eliminated and have role to play in man's moral life [b]. Recognising the
brotherhood of man he
stresses that morality should be cosmopolitan [c].
There is little to
criticize in Plutarch's philosophy. While he drew on a wide variety of sources in an attempt to create a
unified system, he was in general undogmatic and claimed that his solutions to
philosophical problems were only probable. His views about the purification and immortality of the soul, which he
strongly defended against the criticisms of Stoics and Epicureans, are open to
the same objections as might be made against the similar teachings of Plato and
the Neopythagoreans. However, his wide
scholarship, his rejection of all superstition, and his emphasis on moderation
are his strengths.
R. H. Barrow, Plutarch and His Times.