For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

Plutarch's Lives: Volume III

by Plutarch (1916)

Abstract

Key Passage

(Pericles) Labour with one’s own hands on lowly tasks gives witness, in the toil thus expended on useless things, to one’s own indifference to higher things. No generous youth, from seeing the Zeus at Pisa, or the Hera at Argos, longs to be Pheidias or Polycleitus; nor to be Anacreon or Philetas or Archilochus out of pleasure in their poems. For it does not of necessity follow that, if the work delights you with its grace, the one who wrought it is worthy of your esteem. Wherefore the spectator is not advantaged by those things at sight of which no ardour for imitation arises in the breast, nor any uplift of the soul arousing zealous impulses to do the like. But virtuous action straightway so disposes a man that he no sooner admires the works of virtue than he strives to emulate those who wrought them. The good things of Fortune we love to possess and enjoy; those of Virtue we love to perform. The former we are willing should be ours at the hands of others; the latter we wish that others rather should have at our hands. The Good creates a stir of activity towards itself, and implants at once in the spectator an active impulse; it does not form his character by ideal representation alone, but through the investigation of its work it furnishes him with a dominant purpose. (p.5)

Keywords

Plutarch, Ancient Greece, Greek Mythology, Poetry, Virtue

Themes

Plutarch, Work in Ancient Greece

Links to Reference

Translator

Perrin, B.

Citation


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