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Soul, Body and World: Plato’s Timaeus and Descartes’ Meditations

  • Catherine Wilson
Part of the International Archives of the History Of Ideas book series (ARCH, volume 196)

Christian Platonism has been aptly described by James Hankins as ‘one of those sunken Atlantises of the mind between the old world of traditional Christian society and the new world of the Enlightenment’, and historians are agreed that philosophical appeals to innate ideas and moral truths, and discussions of love and friendship in the seventeenth century owed much to the renewed interest in Plato that had begun in the Renaissance. Broader claims have been made as well for a positive influence of Platonism on the newly mathematised physical sciences, but these, by contrast, have proved difficult or impossible to substantiate. Platonic and Neoplatonic concepts such as hierarchies of being, the world-soul, astral influences and the metaphysics of light, were antithetical to the new mechanical philosophy. The Cambridge Platonists, who set themselves against Descartes and Hobbes, emphasised the impotence of matter, even guided by divinely ordained laws of motion, to produce all the phenomena of the world. Leibniz, who developed one of the most ingeniously wrought systems of philosophy of the early modern period in order to correct what he saw as the errors and deficiencies of the mechanical philosophy, repeatedly emphasised his allegiance to Plato.

Keywords

Seventeenth Century Sensory Experience Good World Moral Truth Early Modern Period 
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© Springer 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Catherine Wilson

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