On a New Interpretation of Plato’s Political Philosophy

"On a New Interpretation of Plato's Political Philosophy," Social Research, Vol. 13, No. 3 (September 1946).


Professor Wild’s recent book on Plato is not simply a historical work. His presentation of Plato’s doctrine of man is animated by the zeal of a reformer and is meant to bring about a radical reorientation of the “philosophy of culture.”  Thoroughly dissatisfied with modern philosophy in all its forms, and unwilling to take refuge in Thomism, Wild turns back to classical philosophy, to the teaching of Plato and Aristotle, as the true teaching. At present very few will be prepared to accept his basic premise. But it is safe to predict that the movement which his book may be said to launch in this country will become increasingly influential and weighty as the years go by. However one may have to judge of his thesis, or of his book, the question that underlies his book, and to which his thesis is an answer, goes farther to the roots of the problems of the social sciences than any other question of which I am aware that has been publicly raised in recent times.

That question concerns the legitimacy of the modern approach in all its forms, as distinguished from the classical approach. It revives, after more than a century of silence, the issue which is known as la querelle des anciens et des modernes and which is generally supposed to have been settled, if not by Newton and Rousseau, at any rate by Hegel. Wild’s book shows certainly that this apparently obsolete issue has again become a question.