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The Philosopher's BanquetPlutarch's Table Talk in the Intellectual Culture of the Roman Empire$
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Frieda Klotz and Katerina Oikonomopoulou

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199588954

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199588954.001.0001

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Philosophy in Plutarch's Table Talk

Philosophy in Plutarch's Table Talk

In Jest or in Earnest?

(p.76) (p.77) 3 Philosophy in Plutarch's Table Talk
The Philosopher's Banquet

Eleni Kechagia

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores the role of philosophy in Plutarch's Table Talk. The emphatic presence and use of philosophical material throughout the sympotic conversations suggests that Table Talk can be read as a lesson, aimed both at beginners and the philosophically initiated. The particular format Plutarch chose for this work – namely, the hybrid between Socratic symposium and problemata literature – and the topics discussed, show that Table Talk operates as two-tier philosophical instruction. On one level, through amicable and seemingly light-hearted zētēseis into quasi-scientific questions, Plutarch teaches uninitiated readers the basic tools of philosophical inquiry. On another level, the aporetic style of the zētēseis, and the plausible, but not certain, open-ended outcomes, invite the philosophically versed to reconsider the limits of Peripatetic sciences, and to opt for a Platonist approach to natural philosophy instead.

Keywords:   apoertic style, beginners, Peripatetic science, philosophically initiated, Platonist natural philosophy, problemata, Socratic symposium

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