Philosophy: “Platonic Gibberish”

  • John Hoyles
Part of the International Archives of the History of Ideas/ Archives internationales d’histoire des ideés book series (ARCH, volume 39)


Norris lived in an age when the Enlightenment was in the making. It is thus hardly fair to relate his thought to an external homogeneity, which when he wrote did not exist. The byways of his eclecticism need to be explored in order to show how he built up his philosophy bit by bit in reponse to the pressures of his age. These pressures include some miscellaneous and heterogeneous concepts, which eventually became part of the fabric of the Enlightenment, but they made themselves felt above all in the influence of Plato, Descartes and Locke. In his reaction to these influences, Norris adumbrates in many ways the philosophy of the Enlightenment, chiefly by filtering elements of Cambridge Platonism through to the 18th century, and eventually to Coleridge. In this he carries on the work of More, by registering, both ideologically and aesthetically, the waning of the Renaissance and the eventual rise of Romanticism. Norris’s ambivalence at the threshold of the Enlightenment means that he is particularly well-equipped to register this change. His isolation is not that of personal eccentricity. For two elements meet in him, as they met in the Cambridge Platonists, and Platonism and Cartesianism have in themselves an ambiguous relation to the Enlightenment. Under the influence of Plato and Descartes, Norris pursues philosophical byways which are both original and representative.


Cartesian Dualism Plastic Nature Middle Life Enlightenment Philosophy Heterogeneous Concept 
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Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, Netherlands 1971

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  • John Hoyles

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