A series of footnotes to Plato

«So far as concerns philosophy only a selected group can be explicitly mentioned.

There is no point in endeavouring to force the interpretations of divergent philosophers into a vague agreement.

What is important is that the scheme of interpretation here adopted can claim for each of its main positions the express authority of one, or the other, of some supreme master of thought – Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Locke, Hume, Kant. But ultimately nothing rests on authority; the final court of appeal is intrinsic reasonableness.

The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.

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.»

 

– Alfred North Whitehead, “Process and Reality”, p. 39 [Free Press, 1979].

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