Néoplatonisme et philosophie comparée

Abstract : "Comparative philosophy" was originally born in an historically determined context: that of the late 18th and mostly early 19th century, contemporary to the colonial appropriation of the world by the European states, which was accompanied by the intellectual project of setting up a "catalogue raisonné" of the world, natural and cultural. This paper sketches the perspective of a "compared comparatism" (a comparative approach of various comparative disciplines, mostly comparative grammar and comparative anatomy). The key assumption is that though the aime of the comparative approach originally was on the side of taxonomy, or, more precisely, of systematics (and, thus, of a synchronical and structural analysis), it accidentally paved the way for a historical or diachronic perspective, that was originally framed upon an evolutionist scheme. Thus, comparative philosophy originally addressed the issue: where to fit the "philosophies of elsewhere" within the system of all the systems? The most elaborate answer to this question was clearly that of Hegel; but it is also deeply frustrating for its tendency, very much natural though for a man of his times, to assign the "philosophies of elsewhere" to the times of the primordial (and primitive) beginnings. But the main argumentative axis of this paper is not at all the deconstruction of the "Orientalism" and of colonial, ethnocentric misunderstandings, which has been very well made by other authors. Our point lies mostly in the observation of a very important, though seldom noticed, shift in the history of European metaphysics. The modern heritage of the neoplatonic "scalar ontology" (Leibniz, Hegel…) tends to postulate a single series of being or species from the quasi-nihil (materia prima, pure potency…) and purely actual being (God), which was described in details in Arthur Lovejoy's classical book, The Great Chain of Being. To each intensive, quantitative degree of perfection would correspond only one qualitative degree (a species) or even one single individual (Leibniz). It is easy to see that this scheme governs Hegel's system too, especially in his attempts to bring historical matters into the field of philosophy. Our point is: having to renounce Hegel's totalization of the worldwide history of philosophy, which we do for very good and serious reasons, often implied renouncing the construction of a logical space in which all the systems could "consist" (a systematics of philosophical systems). The consequence is to abandon the history of philosophy as an integrative part of philosophy. In this paper, we show that most of the difficulties in Hegel's construction of a global overview of the history of philosophy rests upon a heavy misreading of its own neoplatonic sources, mostly Proclus. In Proclus, the procession of the decreasing levels of beings is never linear, but actually always branched. It actually functions more or less like the diffraction of the white light into colored lights: at each lower degrees, all the differences that were eminently encompassed in the higher one are developed and thus appear in their mutual opposition. So, each lower level is actually, not a single being (or species), but necessarily a multiplicity of complementary differences, an ontological plateau that Proclus sometimes calls a pleroma. Using this device of "speculative grammar" might allow us both not to renounce the idea of a philosophical global synopsis of philosophy and to match better with the actual historical facts, insofar as the diachronic perspectives that arose from comparative approaches in biology or linguistics actually concluded to a very much branched history of the evolution of either living species or languages. The perspectives opened in this paper are linked to the idea of using the concepts of homology and analogy as they are made use of in biology to understand, within this "proclian" metaphysical framework, the (ramified) history of philosophy on the one hand, and the way comparative philosophy proceeds, on the other hand.
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Contributor : Stéphane Arguillère <>
Submitted on : Wednesday, October 16, 2019 - 11:30:53 AM
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Arguillère Stéphane. Néoplatonisme et philosophie comparée. Alain Galonnier (CNRS-ENS). L'unique seul importe — Hommage à Pierre Magnard, 104, ⟨Peeters⟩, pp.3-22, 2019, Bibliothèque philosophique de Louvain, 978-90-429-3907-3. ⟨hal-02316128⟩

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