Platonism, Aesthetics and the Sublime at the Origins of Modernity
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In the shadow of Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger envisaged modern philosophy as a baneful aberration derived from Plato’s momentous misconstrual of truth as veritas logica. Whatever the accuracy of his diagnosis, he rightly stressed an important continuity between Plato and the age of Descartes. The postmodern attack upon metaphysics is at heart a critique of Plato. While in Germany some of Heidegger’s pupils, most notably Gadamer, rejected or refined Heidegger’s relentless polemic against Plato, French Heideggerians such as Derrida pursued it, pleading against the procrustean limits of Plato’s legacy. Derrida’s argument for the primacy of writing over speech in his La pharmacie de Platon (1972) mirrors this general trajectory of the reversal of Platonism initiated by Nietzsche. The positivistic strand of twentieth-century philosophy, whether Viennese or Anglo-Saxon, was equally rancorous in its denunciations of Plato. Popper denounced Plato as the enemy of an ‘open society’ and advocate of a ‘closed society’ and the harbinger of the horrors of twentieth-century fascism and communism. Notwithstanding his collaboration with Whitehead and his admiration for Leibniz, Bertrand Russell’s seminal work on the theory of descriptions and method of logical construction in the first two decades of the twentieth century was fuelled by a fear of illicit Platonic hypostases. Of course, recent philosophy has included adherents of Platonism such as Bergson, Gadamer, Simone Weil and Iris Murdoch, but these have been counter-cultural forces.
KeywordsCreative Imagination Plastic Nature Loeb Classical Library Platonic Idea Important Continuity
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