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Pater the ClassicistClassical Scholarship, Reception, and Aestheticism$
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Charles Martindale, Stefano Evangelista, and Elizabeth Prettejohn

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198723417

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198723417.001.0001

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Animism and Metaphysics in Pater’s Platonism

Animism and Metaphysics in Pater’s Platonism

(p.275) 15 Animism and Metaphysics in Pater’s Platonism
Pater the Classicist

Lee Behlman

Kurt Lampe

Oxford University Press

In Plato and Platonism (1893) Walter Pater offers a new, experiential approach to Plato’s metaphysics through his presentation of an animistic religiosity. Adapting Edward Burnett Tylor’s anthropological work on animism in Primitive Culture (1871), Pater presents the Ideas as ensouled agencies having the characteristics of persons. Far from echoing back to us in clear and reassuring tones our own prejudices about the world, the Platonist’s pursuit of Ideas brings her face to face with both her own subjectivity and the elusive subjectivity of others. A broader animistic Platonism was already in formation in the 1870s and 1880s in Pater’s aesthetic theory and practice. This includes his location of an animistic Platonist sensibility in Romantic poetry, his presentation of ancient Greek statuary as aesthetic objects that function very much like Platonic Ideas, and his treatment of the ‘gods in exile’ theme in the story ‘Apollo in Picardy’ (1893).

Keywords:   Walter Pater, animism, Edward Burnett Tylor, classical reception, Plato and Platonism

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