|Miira Tuominen, Senior researcher
Reverence for Gods in Porphyry’s Ethics of On Abstinence
In his treatise On Abstinence from Injuring Animals, Porphyry (c. 234-305) introduces a complex argument to the effect that a true philosopher should abstain from injuring such animals that are harmless to us and, ultimately use even plants considerately. The crux of his argument is that it is not permissible to take the life of another, especially because it is not necessary for our survival. The argument works in the context of late ancient Platonism with the assimilation to god as the goal of life. My current project is concerned with analysing what role concern for others and for ourselves play in the ethics that emerges from Porphyry’s treatise. Within the Centre of Excellence, I shall focus more specifically on the arguments in book II, largely based on Theophrastus’ On Reverence for Gods, concerning why reverence for gods – according to Porphyry and Theophrastus – neither requires nor ultimately permits animal sacrifice, let alone the consumption of the victim. I argue that Porphyry proposes a radical reform on what sacrifice means. Whereas the traditional notion presumes that something is destroyed for a higher cause, Porphyry only recommends devoting such things to gods that are not destroyed in the process: most importantly silence and pure thoughts. Therefore, instead of sacrifice Porphyry proposes devotion. God needs to be addressed with something good, and good is such that does not diminish through sharing.