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Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Philosophy is a Series of Footnotes to Plato

I am a believer in Alfred North Whitehead’s famous statement: “The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.” (Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology; Part II; Chapter 1; Section 1) In the lines that follow, Whitehead goes on to put his statement on Plato in its proper context: “I do not mean the systematic scheme of thought which scholars have doubtfully extracted from his writings. I allude to the wealth of general ideas scattered through them. His personal endowments, his wide opportunities for experience at a great period of civilization, his inheritance of an intellectual tradition not yet stiffened by excessive systematization, have made his writing an inexhaustible mine of suggestion.”

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