The Battle of the Gods and Giants: The Legacies of Descartes and Gassendi, 1655-1715 [Book Review]

Review of Metaphysics 48 (3):662-663 (1995)


The Eleatic stranger in Plato's Sophist characterizes philosophy as an unending battle between two camps. It is, he says, a battle "between the Gods and the Giants" over the nature of reality. The Giants here are the materialists who attempt to explain everything in terms of underlying material mechanisms. The Gods, on the other hand, are the Friends of the Forms who find that material reality can only be explained by grounding it in a world of immaterial intelligible ideas. Clearly, Plato had in mind here his own dispute with the Sophists. Nonetheless, the stranger's words can, with some validity, be taken as indicating a fundamental division running throughout the history of philosophy. One is reminded of the Aristotelians' dispute with Democritean atomists or more recent debates among philosophers of science over reductionism.

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Michael W. Tkacz
Gonzaga University

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