Platonists and deplatonizers

England was an outlier in the age of Enlightenment. It saw neither the emergence of an adversarial intelligentsia nor the rise of a new science of society. If there was an English Enlightenment, it was understated, unobtrusive and of a peculiarly conservative cast. These lectures approach the topic by way of eighteenth-century England’s acknowledged fascination with classical antiquity, focussing in particular on critical philology, pagan philosophical schools and ancient genres.

Lecture 5: Platonists and deplatonizers

The Platonic legacy was a vital, but contested and highly ambiguous presence in English culture from the mid seventeenth century to the early nineteenth. The influence of the Cambridge Platonists and, later, the outright neo-pagan Thomas Taylor, was overshadowed by a persistent and dominant critique of Platonism, in Bolingbroke, Gibbon, and Priestley among others.