Monday, May 17, 2010

Economical with the quote

An article published yesterday in the New York Times ( on philosophy claimed:

> As Alfred North Whitehead said,
> philosophy is a series of footnotes to Plato.

According to Wikiquote, Whitehead writes in his Process and Reality, "The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato."

So, not philosophy, but western philosophy is a series of footnotes to Plato, at least, according to Whitehead. And one assumes that the definition extends to around 1929, when the work was published. Had Whitehead read Nietzsche? His colleague Russel was obviously misinformed about Nietzsche, with at least the factual bits misrepresented in his history of philosophy.

The extension of Whitehead's thesis to all of human philosophy makes it hard to defend the charge of either arrogance or ignorance on the author's part.

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