Political Implications of Ancient Platonism in Rabelais’s Tiers Livre

In: Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek and Roman Political Thought
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François Rabelais’s (1483-1553) Tiers Livre (1546) constitutes a turning point in the five books of Gargantua and Pantagruel, as war finally ends and peace reigns over the Utopian kingdom. Peace brings with it the question of whether Panurge, one of Rabelais’s main characters, should marry. Pantagruel, the prince of Utopia, calls a banquet of experts, each representing a strand of Western civilization, to decide this question. The arrangement of this banquet where each expert speaks in turn and at length, uninterrupted by the others, allows Rabelais to portray the arrayed opinions perspectivally or independently. Rondibilis, a medical expert who speaks at the banquet, presents a Platonism that focuses on ‘natural consequences’ and that appears less adulterated by Christianity and later forms of philosophy than the Neoplatonism of most of Rabelais’s contemporaries. Rondibilis’s advice of resignation to nature is reflected as well in the political rule of prince Pantagruel.