Thursday, June 19, 2008

Leddy, Neven. "Review of David Wiliams' ROUSSEAU'S PLATONIC ENLIGHTENMENT." NDPR June 28, 2008.

Williams, David Lay. Rousseau's Platonic Enlightenment. University Park: Pennsylvania State UP, 2007. Williams' thesis is that Rousseau shared with Plato a philosophical dependence on immaterial concepts, which he elaborates on the preface:
Here we see a combination of the metaphysical, ontological, and political dimensions [of Rousseau's Platonic affiliation]: the commitment to transcendent ideas as the ultimate authority for moral and political arguments. (xxvii)
What Williams calls Rousseau's Platonic affiliation is presented as encompassing matters epistemic, faith in god, the immaterial soul, and freedom of the will, but not an institutional affinity -- at least not in this initial presentation. His use of 'Platonic' includes Plato himself and those whom Williams quite reasonably assigns to a Platonic tradition including St Augustine, Ficino, Descartes, Leibniz and Malebranche. Williams does not differentiate between Platonic and neo-Platonic. He also bluntly nails his own Platonist colours to the mast in what might be called his "so what?" moment, where he gestures towards the beneficial wealth-generating aspects of materialism, but despairs over the ethical vacuum that results in undergraduate cheating on exams, performance enhancing drugs, corporate plunder, and genocide. . . . Read the rest here:


  1. This is reminiscent of the course taught by Neven Leddy at Simon Fraser University in Spring 2008, n'est-ce pas?

  2. This is reminiscent of a course taught by Neven Leddy at Simon Fraser University (Spring 2008), n'est-ce pas?

  3. Curious -- did Leddy assign or discuss this book in class? Or do you mean that he was interested in the moderns' appropriation of Epicureanism?

  4. A good question from Anonoymous 2, I thought. My impression was that Mom / Anonymous 1 meant that Leddy taught a course on Rousseau that was either based on or at least sympathetic to the premises of Williams' book. I tried to find a similar course description at Simon Fraser U but without success. Can anyone point us to one?