Irony and the Historical Method
This chapter examines Pater’s reading of Heraclitus as it developed through his career, from the conclusion to The Renaissance onwards. Setting Pater’s classicism in dialogue with his comments on the ‘historical method’ in Plato and Platonism, the chapter contextualizes Pater’s discussion of Heraclitus alongside that of his friend Ingram Bywater and nineteenth-century German traditions, and particularly Schleiermacher’s hermeneutics. From Marius onwards, Pater rereads Heraclitus, distancing himself from a ‘popular’ image of the philosophy of flux, emphazising terms such as Logos and ‘harmony’, before discussing the philosopher’s political significance in Plato and Platonism. The chapter concludes by suggesting that Pater’s classicism as it is exemplified in his reading of Heraclitus, always a reading proceeding through the prism of other readings, is somewhat ‘ironic’, always displaced.
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