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ON MORAL VIRTUE (DE VIRTUTE MORALI)If the present essay is the work of Plutarch,1 we may, perhaps, be surprised at the diffuseness with which the author permits himself to wander at leisure over the preserves of Aristotelian psychology, while almost completely neglecting the promises made in such high-sounding terms in his first sentence. The purpose of the essay is apparently to refute certain tenets of Stoic psychology, and these are, to be sure, attacked with some spirit, but at such length and with so little attention to logic or to their intended meaning, that complete success is not to be expected. The point which is continually belaboured is that there are two parts of the soul, the Rational and the Irrational; for Moral Virtue to arise, the Rational must control the Irrational. So much our author has gleaned from Aristotle and to this he adds very little; nor can he apply his vast reading in poetry and philosophy with much effect to the demolition of Stoic dogma, which he appears in several points to have misunderstood. On the whole, [p. 17] whether from the standpoint of popular or from that of serious philosophy, this is one of the least successful of Plutarch's works.2 A word on the terminology is necessary : Aristotelian usage is probably intended throughout the greater part of the w ork. I have, therefore, followed most English Aristotelians in my rendering of many terms, with δύναμις ‘capacity’ or ‘faculty’ or ‘power,’ φρόνησις ‘prudence,’ and the like. ἕξις I have rendered ‘acquired state,’ but πάθος and its forms and derivatives I have translated ‘emotions,’ ‘passions,’ ‘experiences,’ according to my interpretation of the context.3 It is interesting to notice that Pope in the Essay on Man (ii. 51 if.) has apparently drawn his philosophy from Plutarch's diluted Aristotelianism rather than from the fountain head.4 The ms. tradition is fairly good. The work has been well edited by Mr. Pohlenz in the Teubner series ; from this edition most of the critical notes and the parallel passages have been taken. The work is No. 72 in Lamprias's catalogue of Plutarch's writings.
1 The only recent attempt, that of Hartman, to show that it is not, relies on the looseness of the reasoning, the tediousness of the argumentation, and the absence of anything that might be called structure. But all three of these are by no means unusual in admittedly genuine works. The language and phraseology appear to the present editor, at any rate, to be Plutarchean.
3 See Mr. H. Rackham's very just remarks in the preface to his recent (L.C.L., 1935) edition of the Atheniensium Respublica.
4 Cf. T. Sinko (Eos, xv. 1909, pp. 119-122), who further holds this essay to be the product of Plutarch's youth, comparing the more mature attitude toward the passions to be found in De Cohibenda Ira and De Tranquillitate Animi.