chapter  6
Ethics and politics
Pages 22

General expositions of ancient philosophy o en stress the centrality of ethics in ancient thought. A basic motivation for all philosophical enquiry in antiquity, at least since Socrates, is answering the question of how one ought to live one’s life. Ancient ethics is o en called “eudaimonistic”. e philosophical schools of the era agree that the ultimate end (telos) of human life is to be happy, to achieve wellbeing (eudaimonia). e happiness sought is not a eeting moment of pleasantness or even euphoria: most philosophers agree that a properly happy life is one that can be assessed as a happy whole, an existence that is stable and happy in the long run. More o en than not this happiness is seen to coincide with living virtuously. Another strong tendency shared by many ancient philosophers, even the hedonist Epicureans, is the idea that the activities of the rational part of the soul are the most capable of securing an invulnerable and permanent state of well-being. Like Aristotle, Plotinus equates happiness with living well (to eu zēn). Both living and goodness are notions that appear to a di erent extent and in di erent manners on di erent levels of the Neoplatonic hierarchy. us the kind and degree of goodness suitable for human beings depend on the kind of life particular to them. is is especially life according to the intellect in us (Schroeder 1997). Neoplatonism also follows the ancient teleological tendency to try to describe and reveal things

in their purest and most complete, perfected form. For this reason, the gure of the wise man, spoudaios, is a central gure of ethics (cf. Schniewind 2003).