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Reviving an ancient-modern quarrel : a critique of Derrida's reading of Plato and Platoism

By Jones Irwin

Abstract

This thesis begins from an analysis of Derrida's specific readings of Plato and\ud Platonism, identifying there a modernist bias, which interprets these metaphysical\ud systems as if they were coextensive with Cartesian rationalism. Against Derrida, I\ud argue for a repositioning of Plato and Platonism in the context of an ancient-modern\ud quarrel. In replacing Descartes's "clarity and distinctness" with a pre-modern\ud emphasis on "faith" (pistis), I am seeking to challenge Derrida's diagnosis of a\ud perplexity or impasse (aporia) which cannot be overcome by philosophy. With\ud specific reference to the Meno and the Phaedrus, one can locate a three-tiered\ud Platonic dialectic beginning with an assertion of knowledge, followed by a necessary\ud deconstruction of this knowledge with, thirdly, a tentative reconstruction of\ud philosophy based on faith rather than knowing. In later chapters, I examine this\ud dialectic as it is developed in the Neo- and Christian- Platonist traditions, particularly\ud through the work of Plotinus, Boethius and Augustine.\ud On my interpretation, deconstruction remains at the second level of the Platonic\ud dialectic, that of impasse and perplexity (one of Derrida's most recent texts is in fact\ud entitled Aporias). Again with reference to an ancient-modern quarrel, it is my\ud contention that Derrida's unstinting stress on the "aporetic" is due to an overemphasis\ud of the Cartesian paradigm. Derrida identifies the exhaustion of what Deeley calls "the\ud classical modern paradigm" with the exhaustion of philosophy per se. But this\ud identification of philosophy with Cartesianism can be seriously challenged through a\ud renewed foregrounding of the premodern philosophical resources which Descartes\ud (and now Derrida) have sought to obscure

Topics: B1
OAI identifier: oai:wrap.warwick.ac.uk:4203

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