This article examines philosophy and Roman philosophers, who were highly regarded but not considered worthy enough for public support. It begins by studying Emperor Marcus Aurelius' interest in philosophy, and then looks at philosophy as training for public service. The next section studies the “curriculum” for training in philosophy, along with the perception and function of philosophy in the Roman Empire.
This chapter describes Plutarch’s role as a Middle Platonist in the Second Sophistic. In philosophy he holds a literal interpretation of the Timaeus and often opposes the Stoics and Epicureans. He stresses the importance of philosophical inquiry and a certain caution, especially when speaking of difficult questions. His popular Table Talks (or Sympotic Questions) offer a kind of training in philosophical inquiry. In religion his monotheistic, Middle Platonic God has created the world and guides it with his providence through gods and daimones. He indulges in eschatological myths and is interested in foreign religions, especially Roman religion and the Egyptian Isis cult. One of his greatest contributions is in Platonizing and humanizing ethics. Greek paideia is the foundation for a good ethical life, which is based on reason over passion. In many ways he represents the ideal of an educated pepaideumenos in the Greco-Roman world of his time.