Friday, March 18, 2016


A Race Apart

Pierre Hadot (1922-2010), Philosophy as a Way of Life: Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault, tr. Michael Chase (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1995; rpt. 1999), p. 57:
Thus philosophers are strange, a race apart. Strange indeed are those Epicureans, who lead a frugal life, practicing a total equality between the men and women inside their philosophical circle — and even between married women and courtesans; strange, too, those Roman Stoics who disinterestedly administer the provinces of the empire entrusted to them and are the only ones to take seriously the laws promulgated against excess; strange as well this Roman Platonist, the Senator Rogatianus, a disciple of Plotinus, who on the very day he is to assume his functions as praetor gives up his responsibilities, abandons all his possessions, frees his slaves, and eats only every other day. Strange indeed all those philosophers whose behavior, without being inspired by religion, nonetheless completely breaks with the customs and habits of most mortals.
Porphyry, Life of Plotinus 7 (tr. Mark Edwards):
There was also another senator, Rogatianus, whose conversion from that life was so complete that he renounced all his possessions, manumitted the whole of his household and even renounced his title. When he was about to go forth as a praetor, in the presence of the attendants he neither went forth nor paid any attention to his magistracy; electing not even to live in his own house, he went the rounds of his friends and associates, dining here and sleeping there, though eating only every other day. The consequence of his renunciation and indifference to life was that, though he suffered so much from gout that he had to be carried on a litter, he recovered his strength and, though he was unable to stretch out his hands, he used them much more ably than those who engaged in manual trades. Plotinus made him welcome and, heaping the highest praise upon him, constantly held him up as an example to those who engaged in philosophy.

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