Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Comparative Literature (Interdepartmental Program)

Document Type



Martin Heidegger exerted an immense influence over twentieth century thought by providing profound insights into the nature of Being as well as scathing social critiques, focused on the destructive force of late modern technological reductionism. As part of Heidegger’s project, he elaborated upon a sophisticated history of Being in which two great monsters of Platonism and Humanism are cast as Antichrist and False Prophet. Subsequently, however, his own student Ernesto Grassi argued that Renaissance Humanism was not a stepping stone towards subjectivism and technological thinking, but rather stood in conformity with the fundamental essence of Heidegger’s own project. This study seeks to perform the same service for the much maligned history of Platonic thinking. After reviewing the important details of the positions held by Heidegger and Grassi in the Introduction and Chapter One, I move on to an examination of the history of the interpretation of Plato in Chapter Two. Here I show that, when we approach Plato correctly, his thought conforms to insights later offered by Heidegger and Grassi. In the remaining chapters of the study, I demonstrate that this misunderstanding afflicts not only Plato himself, but it has also affected the interpretation of the entire Neoplatonic tradition. Thus, in Chapter Three, I show that Plotinus receives and expands upon the core insights which Plato possessed, and that Platonism’s role in the development of technological enframing has been gravely mistaken. In Chapter Four, I show how the later integration of Neoplatonic thought into some of the greatest Christian Platonists did nothing to eliminate these core insights of the Platonic tradition. Finally, in Chapter Five, I show that Marsilio Ficino, the Platonist painted by Grassi as the arch-villain who undermined the Heideggerian project of the Renaissance continued to maintain the fundamental insights of the Platonic tradition. Ultimately, therefore, Platonism, far from being the foundation of technological enframing in the modern era, is able to offer great assistance to the Heideggerian-Grassian project of renewing poetic and rhetorical speech as the foundation of philosophical thinking.



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Committee Chair

Stone, Gregory