The Faith of a Liberal: Selected Essays by Morris R. Cohen

By Morris R. Cohen | Go to book overview

7
CALVINISM WITHOUT THE GLORY OF GOD

THROUGH THE STORMS of centuries the philosophy of Plato has stood out as a beacon by the light of which all kinds of mariners--mystics, skeptics, theologians, mathematicians, communists, eugenists--have steered their diverse courses. But men are not as a rule satisfied with the light and the vision of beauty which minds like Plato radiate in all directions. They must claim exclusive ownership. Hence different schools and sects all endeavor to annex Plato as one of their own. Mr. More tries to make of Plato an orthodox Calvinistic moralist. I do not mean to accuse Mr. More of willfulness. He has read Plato long and carefully--more carefully than the hasty reader can well appreciate. But, as Xenophanes remarked twenty-five centuries ago, men always make their gods in their own image, the Greeks like Greeks, the Ethiopians like Ethiopians. Does not Milton make the Lord argue like a theologic logician, of the school of Peter Ramus? And does not Renan make Christ a sympathetic but disillusioned romanticist?--while Tolstoi paints him as a nonresisting Russian peasant. It is therefore quite natural that Mr. More, apparently more interested in Calvinistic theology than in Greek life and science, should represent Plato as a somewhat softened and more urbane Jonathan Edwards. No account, however, of Plato can be historically accurate which considers Plato's ethics entirely apart from any of the conditions of Greek

____________________
Published as a review of Paul Elmer More, Platonism, in The New Republic, Vol. 16, p. 143 ( August 31, 1918).

-72-

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