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The Disillusioned Hegelian: Barker's Readings of Plato

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Abstract:

Ernest Barker wrote two books on the political thought of Plato, both of which were also directly related to his study of the political thought of Aristotle. This essay examines the way Barker's readings of Plato changed, first from the earlier to the later of his two books, and then from the later of these books, written during WWI, to his translation of Aristotle's Politics, written during WWII. The contention is that, as Barker himself partly confessed, WWI led him to read hopes into Plato's works that he not had before and that he abandoned in WWII. This shift in reading Plato was essentially a shift in Barker's allegiance to political Hegelianism (of the sort he imbibed from T.H. Green), which, while it intensified during WWI, had given way entirely to a thoroughly English Whig Constitutionalism by the end of WWII. The abandonment of Hegel enabled Barker to reach not only a better understanding of Plato in his Aristotle book but also a better and more wry understanding of German philosophy.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2006

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