By Rudolf Bernet
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Whereas Cottingham seems to suggest that both are inherently in direct opposition (for example, ‘critical scrutiny’ is opposed to ‘humble submission’ on p. 31), we do not need to construe the Platonic tradition as necessarily committed to such a strict alternative. The issue is less ‘either or’ than ‘both and’. There are historically inﬂuential Platonists for whom control of nature can be seen as a benign by-product of contemplation. Indeed, Descartes’s own image of philosophy as a tree with metaphysical roots and more practical branches in the other sciences suggests that the contemplative core of the subject is compatible with branches that offer immediate fruits.
T. Coleridge, Biographia Literaria (Princeton, NJ: Bollingen, 1983), II 27. 7 Copyright © British Academy 2007 – all rights reserved Proceedings of BA Vol. 149 TEXT 8/11/07 07:30 Page 51 COMMENTS ON COTTINGHAM 51 In conclusion, one might argue that Platonism (whether implicit or explicit) is not quite as quietist as Cottingham implies. Of course ‘control’ has pejorative associations. But in fact the general optimism of maîtres et possesseurs de la nature has a certain (and perhaps surprisingly) Platonic origin.
Most patristic and medieval Christian writers did not worry about Aristotle’s ‘third man argument’ or Plato’s own reaction to that critique, but used Platonic ideas that had already been ‘baptised’ in Christian theology, often in ignorance of their pagan source. 4 Cottingham notes, however, that ‘the gap between acknowledging an inscrutable divine ﬁat and simply accepting the unexplained explanatory Henry More, Philosophical Works (London, 1712), p. XI. H. More, A Platonick Song of the Soul, ed.
An introduction to Husserlian phenomenology by Rudolf Bernet