Dialogue on the Threshold

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Friday, 27 March 2015

Form and mere matter

It is hardly an exaggeration to say that in Plato, in spite of his wonderful savour of literary freshness, there is nothing absolutely new: or rather, as in many other very original products of human genius, the seemingly new is old also, a palimpsest, a tapestry of which the actual threads have served before, or like the animal frame itself, every particle of which has already lived and died many times over. Nothing but the life-giving principle of cohesion is new; the new perspective, the resultant complexion, the expressiveness which familiar thoughts attain by novel juxtaposition. In other words, the form is new. But then, in the creation of philosophical literature, as in all other products of art, form, in the full signification of that word, is everything, and the mere matter is nothing.

Walter Pater, Fellow of Brasenose College, Plato and Platonism. A Series of Lectures, Second Edition, 1895, Macmillan and Co., Limited, London, 1902, p. 8

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