Volume 11, 2013
Études sur l'intellection, l’âme, les formes poétiques et le théâtre
Daniela Patrizia Taormina
Il n’y a pas d’homme, lâche ou brave, qui ait échappé a sa Moira (Il. 6. 488‑9). Porphyre vs. les stoiciens sur l’autonomie individuelle et l’origine du mal
In an excerpt preserved by John Stobaeus in the chapter of the Anthologion entitled Peri tôn eph’hêmin (II 8. 42 pp. 172.9-173.2 Wachsmuth = fr. 271. 105-126 Smith), Porphyry addresses the issue of the origin of evil within the context of a broader investigation of individual autonomy : is it enough to envisage man as a subject with the freedom to act in order to make him responsible for evil and thus to free God of any responsibility with regard to the ills besetting individuals ? An answer to this question is provided on the basis of a comparative reading of the Myth of Er (Plato, Republic 617 E-620 E) and of Homer (Iliad 6.488-9 ; Odyssey I 32-4). The conclusion reached is that evil is not intrinsic to human nature, but rather concerns certain forms of existence which individuals opt for when they disregard the divine and forego rationality. Consequently, God is not responsible for evil.
The exegetical and argumentative strategy adopted by Porphyry in order to support this answer suggests that his stance is a polemical one, targeting Stoics in particular. Against Chrysippus’ reading of the same verses from Homer, which leads to a deterministic perspective, or at any rate one likely to prove inconsistent (SVF II 925, 999), Porphyry offers an interpretation of Homer as a coherent thinker and a forerunner of Plato : Homer is seen to have proposed a kind of dichotomy between the self-determination and the necessity that characterise the life of the soul, and as having assigned individuals the faculty of choosing between virtue and vice, thus making them ultimately responsible with regard to evil.