Author: Paolo Torri

Abstract

The present article consists in an analysis of the Platonist telos of homoiosis theoi, with a particular focus on its link and debt to the Aristotelian ideal of the theoretical life (bios theoretikos). After outlining the concept of telos in ethics through its Aristotelian and Stoic origins, the present work examines the main relevant passages from Plato’s dialogues (the digression in the Theaetetus, the last book of the Republic, and especially the final passage of the Timaeus) in which there exists a tension between the ideal of theoria and the necessity for praxis which permeates Plato’s investigation of the good life. The analysis then moves to the Middle Platonist tradition (i century bceiii century ad): all the main sources on this period are taken into account (mainly the ‘handbooks’ of Platonism by Alcinous and on Apuleius, but also a testimony attributed to Eudorus of Alexandria, Plutarch, the Anonymous Commentator on the Theatetus and Albinus). Through a thorough analysis of these sources, this work investigates the role of praxis in relation to theoria and the function of the divine paradigm in the shaping of the new ethical ideal. The aim of this study is to challenge the oversimplified characterization of Middle Platonist ethics as being completely otherworldly that has dominated scholarship so far, via a close analysis of all sources in the Platonist tradition. Conclusions are original in that they restore praxis as a crucial component of the Platonist perfect life, in continuity with Stoicism, and identify the divine paradigm (which corresponds to the demiurge) not as the basis for a theological and apolitical ethics, but rather as the foundation of the human possibility to gaining justice and virtue.

In: Thinking, Knowing, Acting: Epistemology and Ethics in Plato and Ancient Platonism