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Aristotle and Other Platonists

For those of you who may be unaware of the Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews or who browse it intermittently, I direct your attention to John Bussanich’s review of Lloyd Gerson’s eminently important work, Aristotle and Other Platonists (Cornell University Press, 2005). Not only does Bussanich helpfully summarize and offer caveats to Gerson’s general argument, that Plato and Aristotle do not fundamentally differ in philosophical principles, but his review gives the reader both a peek into the current scholarship on these two classical philosophers and an introduction to the major philosophical issues that (despite Gerson’s coherent and primarily successful harmonization) seem to divide Aristotle and his Magister bonus.

By Eric Parker

Eric Parker (PhD McGill University) is the editor of the Library of Early English Protestantism (LEEP) at the Davenant Institute. He lives in the deep South with his wife and two children, where he is currently preparing for ordination to the diaconate in the Reformed Episcopal Church.

2 replies on “Aristotle and Other Platonists”

Well, there were lots of folks in antiquity who believed in their ultimate harmonization, so at least Gerson is in good company!

Also, I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but Gerson has a new book that just came out at the end of last year called “From Plato to Platonism.” You might be interested in it. Description from Amazon:

“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.””

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