The birth of modernism/the death of Aristotle and Plato

Modern_Philosophy_by_KamuelaThe classical period of philosophy was dominated by the Socratic philosophers Plato and Aristotle and their various theories of the forms. Augustine is generally considered to be simultaneously the last classical man and the first medieval man. The medieval period was again marked by the re-discovery and synthesis of Platonic and Aristotelian ideas with the new monotheistic religions of Islam and Christianity – with the most important thinker of this time being Thomas Aquinas.

After the medieval period came the Renaissance. And with the Renaissance came a broader rediscovery of ancient texts of the contemporaries of Aristotle and Plato such as the atomist Democritus and the sophist Protagoras,  and also of Hellenistic thinkers such as Epicurus. As a natural consequence of this, the previously unquestionable Scholastic apparatus of Thomistic-Aristotelian thought so painstakingly developed by Aquinas and his contemporaries began to crumble.

In this way, the modern philosophical movement is not unprecedented. It follows the usual historical pattern: a time of certainty, followed by a time of skepticism, followed by a time of renewed vigor.

In the same way that Augustine can be thought of as the first medieval man, Rene Descartes can be thought of as the first modern man. Descartes began an assault on the Scholastic tradition, arguing that many of its doctrines were either plainly false or superfluous. Descartes sought to rid philosophy of thoughts of forms, final causes, natures and etc. and begin again anew with what was certain and necessary. Over the coming posts, I will examine his work more closely.


10 responses to this post.

  1. […] « The birth of modernism/the death of Aristotle and Plato […]


  2. […] early Modernity, a new generation of philosophers was attempting to provide answers to timeless philosophical […]


  3. […] along with John Locke and George Berkeley. Hume is unarguably among the most influential of modern philosophers, with several interpretations of his work leading to the development of utilitarianism, pragmatism […]


  4. […] discussed previously, one of the hallmarks of modern philosophy was the tendency to think of substances sans final causes. One of the consequences of this type of mechanistic inquiry was to view man as being in a […]


  5. […] philosopher and prominent Enlightenment thinker who became a pivotal figure in the development of modern philosophy. Kant is similar to Plato in that he set about solving the problems of the two major philosophical […]


  6. […] hears the canard “philosophy bakes no bread”, the most obvious retort available in the modern era would be the influence of Marx. Marx’s seminal works The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital […]


  7. […] The above signaled the birth of the pragmatic thesis that it is the function of an idea that represents its truthfulness rather than any supposed correspondence to reality. With its rejection of classical and medieval rigour, pragmatism conforms neatly to the spirit of modern theoretical inquiry. […]


  8. […] a way, Darwin’s theorising is the perfect modern archetype. Platonic philosophies outright rejected change in the immutable world of the forms (which includes […]


  9. […] writings touch upon the issue of religion and the divine, there lies a fascinating intersection of modern ideas. While Charles Darwin had provided the scientific theory of the mechanistic origin of man […]


  10. […] Noam Chomsky (1928 -) is an American philosopher who would go on to be a major thinker in the school of analytic philosophy. Many have gone so far as to call Chomsky the father of modern linguistic theory. He was also instrumental in founding the scientific discipline of cognitive science, where the processes of the mind are viewed as subjects of modern scientific inquiry. […]


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