[p. 2]


This slight and possibly fragmentary essay, or declamation, makes no considerable addition to the theory of knowledge. Virtue is assumed to be an ‘art’; since the practice of all other arts is unsuccessful without instruction, Virtue (ἀρετή), or the Good Life (τὸ εὖ ζῆν), or Prudence (φρόνησις) - for Plutarch appears to equate the three - must be learned, if we are to be successful in the dependent arts. Plutarch appeals as usual to common sense, but does not take the trouble to prove any of his assumptions; yet the work, even in its present mutilated state, is a graceful exercise in popular philosophy.

While Plutarch's slipshod and half-defined position is not directly contrary to that of Plato (e.g. in the Meno), it must be observed that two pupils of Socrates, Crito and Simon, wrote works with the titles, Ὅτι οὐκ ἐκ τοῦ μαθεῖν οἱ ἀγαθοί (That Men are not made Good by Instruction) and Περὶ ἀρετῆς ὅτι οὐ διδακτόν (That Virtue cannot be Taught), respectively.1 Whether these books differed radically from the Platonic or Socratic position, as developed in the Meno and the Republic, cannot be argued here.

We must note in passing that G. Siefert (Commentationes Ienenses, 1896, pp. 102-105) held that Plutarch [p. 3] wrote this work in connexion with the De Fortuna (see the parallels recorded in the notes) and that it is not mutilated, but unfinished.2 This is quite possible.3

The text is very uncertain, for although the essay appears in several important classes of MSS., they differ considerably among themselves. The text which must serve as the basis of the present translation is only presented with the greatest hesitation.

The work appears as No. 180 in the Lamprias catalogue, where it bears the title Περὶ ἀρετῆς εἰ διδακτέονβερναρδακις ωουλδ ριγητλψ εμενδ το διδακτὸν. ἀρετή.

1 Diogenes Laertius, ii. 121, 122.

2Ne hic quidem liber fragmentum est, sed schedula tantum a Plutarcho in suum usum obiter composita.

3 Xylander's supposition, recently repeated without argument by Hartman, that this is not a work of Plutarch, seems untenable.

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