From Plato to Platonism
Lloyd P. Gerson
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Was Plato a Platonist? While ancient disciples of Plato would have answered this question in the affirmative, modern scholars have generally denied that Plato’s own philosophy was in substantial agreement with that of the Platonists of succeeding centuries. In From Plato to Platonism, Lloyd P. Gerson argues that the ancients were correct in their assessment. He arrives at this conclusion in an especially ingenious manner, challenging fundamental assumptions about how Plato’s teachings have come to be understood. Through deft readings of the philosophical principles found in Plato's dialogues and in the Platonic tradition beginning with Aristotle, he shows that Platonism, broadly conceived, is the polar opposite of naturalism and that the history of philosophy from Plato until the seventeenth century was the history of various efforts to find the most consistent and complete version of “anti-naturalism."
Gerson contends that the philosophical position of Plato―Plato’s own Platonism, so to speak―was produced out of a matrix he calls “Ur-Platonism.” According to Gerson, Ur-Platonism is the conjunction of five “antis” that in total arrive at anti-naturalism: anti-nominalism, anti-mechanism, anti-materialism, anti-relativism, and anti-skepticism. Plato’s Platonism is an attempt to construct the most consistent and defensible positive system uniting the five “antis.” It is also the system that all later Platonists throughout Antiquity attributed to Plato when countering attacks from critics including Peripatetics, Stoics, and Sceptics. In conclusion, Gerson shows that Late Antique philosophers such as Proclus were right in regarding Plotinus as “the great exegete of the Platonic revelation."
Sextus Empiricus’s admirably lucid presentation of that account followed by Arcesilaus’s criticism: For they [the Stoics] hold that three things are linked to each other: knowledge, belief, and, placed between these, grasping. Of these knowledge is sure and stable grasping unalterable by reasoning; belief is weak and false assent; and grasping is what is between these, assent to a graspable presentation. According to the Stoics, a graspable presentation is true and such that there could not be a
the refutation of the argument that the soul is an ‘attunement.’ At Rep. 442A10–D1, temperance (σωϕρ´οσυνη) is defined as the two lower parts of the soul ‘having the same belief’ as the highest part of the soul about who should rule. Rudebusch (2009, 71–73) rightly argues that the so-called brute desires are no such thing but in fact require conceptual contextualization. 40. See Tim. 90A–B. The proof for the immortality of the soul from recollection in Phaedo assumes that the immortal soul is the
Christopher Rowe The last Socraticist I will consider is Christopher Rowe, whose 2007 book, Plato and the Art of Philosophical Writing, takes a radically new approach in opposition to the position that the dialogues somewhere contain the philosophy of Socrates and somewhere else contain the philosophy of Plato.84 Rowe wants to argue that all the dialogues are Socratic, that is, that Plato is in every dialogue representing Socratic philosophy.85 What appears to most as a change of mind on Plato’s
Krämer 1990, 203–17. 77. See Meta. Ν 7, 1081a22, etc., where whoever is the subject of Aristotle’s criticism, it is clear that ‘Dyad’ is a shortened form of ‘Indefinite Dyad.’ At Α 6, 987b25–26, Aristotle says that Plato differed from the Pythagoreans in making the Indefinite a duality. See Phil. 16C1– 17A5, 23C–27C on the Unlimited and the Limit. I take it that even if we suppose that in Philebus the Unlimited refers to a principle of sensibles, we may suppose that it is an instantiation of the
simply suppose that the logical distinctions that are made in one and two provide the framework for the Platonic hypostases; they are not direct references to them. I think that this is fact the case, but if so, it does not by itself invalidate the later Platonic understanding of Plato’s Platonism. See Halfwassen 1993 for an argument that Speusippus originated the interpretation of Parmenides according to which there is a hierarchical ordering of the hypotheses of the second part. Also, Horn