Modernity and Plato
Hailed upon its publication in German as “one of the most important philosophy books of the past few years,” Arbogast Schmitt’s Modernity and Plato undertakes a critical reflection on the history of the concept of rationality. Contrary to modernity’s claim that it “discovered” self-reflective thought through the turn to the individual in the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, Schmitt demonstrates that modernity did not discover rationality: it merely transformed the ancient concept. In so doing, it turned away from the Platonic and Aristotelian understanding of rationality as based upon the principle of non-contradiction to a Stoic conception based upon the alleged self-evidence of empirical objects. This turn leads to an impoverishment of the concept of thought, which is now limited to the representation and reconstruction of the “data” received through sensory perception.
Modernity, Schmitt argues, in contrast to the popular perception of it, is neither especially original nor especially critical. Nor has it succeeded in overcoming metaphysics, since the “elevation of the individual object” to the ultimate measure of all knowledge is itself laden with metaphysical presuppositions. A critical reflection on what thought genuinely is and ought to be thus opens the way to a fundamental reconsideration of the relationship of antiquity to modernity and to a better appreciation of the intellectual accomplishments of the ancients.
About the Author
Arbogast Schmitt is Honorary Professor of Greek and Latin Philology at the Free University, Berlin, and Emeritus Professor of Classical Philology and Greek at the University of Marburg.
Praise for the German edition
With this book, Arbogast Schmitt renews a grand German academic tradition and establishes himself as one of the foremost international Plato and Aristotle specialists of his generation. . . . By showing how the “modern” appropriation of the Platonic and Aristotelian legacy has been misread as an entitlement of “modernity,” Schmitt opens the intellectual possibility for a systematically serious return to the powers of ancient philosophy. Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, Albert Guérard Professor in Literature, Stanford University
This is a thoroughly astonishing book. A single classical scholar confronts the Herculean task of taking up anew, in an original way and contrary to the dominant view, the epochal battle over the legitimacy of modernity. Gnomon