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Kant's Neoplatonism: Kant and Plato on Mathematical and Philosophical Method


  • Editor's note. This article is based on the annual Metaphilosophy Lecture given at Stony Brook University, State University of New York, on April 8, 2011.


Both Plato and Kant devote much attention and care to deliberating about their method of philosophizing. And, interestingly, both seek to expand and explain their view of philosophical method by one selfsame strategy: explaining the contrast between rational procedure in mathematics and in philosophy. Plato and Kant agree on a fundamental point of philosophical method that is at odds with the mathematico-demonstrative methodology of philosophy found in Spinoza and present in Christian Wolff. Both reject the axiomatic approach with its insistence on fundamental truths postulated from the outset. Both alike insist that philosophizing—unlike mathematics—is an exercise in theorizing where the questions of basicness and foundations come into view only after the inquiry has gone on for a long, long time—and certainly not at its start.