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Political Philosophy

Leo Strauss was Right

About Plato.

Discussions - 9 Comments

Unfortunately, the discoverer, one Prof Jay Kennedy (do note: a British prof of life sciences, not classics or humanities), sounds a lot more like the Dan Brown of Da Vinci Code fame than he does Leo Strauss. And he's found a reporter who will echo and amplify his techie lack of subtly and booster-ism.

The findings seem to center on finding "music related terms" in every 12th portion of text in the Republic and these lining up in a Pythagorean way, and intriguingly, in a manner to relates musical values to emotional ones. Not necessarily a surprising finding to scholars familiar with what Strauss and Benardete have shown about Plato's incredibly well-woven writing, but obviously if there are more such patterns to be found, as Kennedy says, it's important. We'll see how it pans out in the hands of scholars more familiar with Plato's work. (It does not appear to be the macro-pattern presented by Eva Brann's The Music of the Republic book, BTW.)

But again, this guy is a piece of work. Here's a few of the warning signs:

Kennedy argues that his findings show that Plato held that "discovering the scientific order of nature is getting closer to God. This could transform today’s culture wars between science and religion."

“It is a long and exciting story, but basically I cracked the code. I have shown rigorously that the books do contain codes and symbols and that unraveling them reveals the hidden philosophy of Plato.

THE code.

THE hidden philosophy.

Oh, brother.

And here's the reporter. "Plato led a dramatic and fascinating life. ...He was a feminist, allowing women to study at the Academy, the first great defender of romantic love (as opposed to marriages arranged for political or financial reasons) and defended homosexuality in his books. In addition, he was captured by pirates and sold into slavery before being ransomed by friends."

Contextually, compared to his culture, he might be considered some sort of feminist. But no, he was not what we would consider a feminist.

He did not, contrary to Martha Nussbaum's falsifications, "defend homosexuality." Indeed, it was pederasty that was the issue, and his critique of it is quite subtle but nonetheless there.

And yes, people had heard of and stood up for "romantic marriage" before Plato or Wordsworth or whoever. What a chestnut. And the topic hardly or never comes up in Plato's dialogues...but this hand-me-down factoid apparently stems from the discussion of "Platonic love" put forward in the Phaedrus. Wikipedia-education, this.

But the stuff about being (briefly) sold into slavery by pirates is true, if I recall correctly--it's somewhere in the 7th letter or in Plutarch's life of Dion. Of course, Plato himself made almost nothing of this--this episode of his life did not "fascinate" him.

Well, that's the reporter. And here is Dr Kennedy, making the case (he thinks he needs to!) for Plato's importance: “Plato...shifted humanity from a warrior society to a wisdom society. Today our heroes are Einstein and Shakespeare – and not knights in shining armour – because of him.” Leon Craig would have something to say about that (and notice the patently ignorant assumption that Shakespeare would not have us esteem warriors), and almost any scholar would know that the figure who most shifted our focus away from the glories of war-making was Jesus.

Speaking of Jesus, one last horrible bit:

“The result was amazing – it was like opening a tomb and finding new set of gospels written by Jesus Christ himself.
Plato is smiling. He sent us a time capsule.”

Poor chap. Because if this really turns out to be a major discovery, and Plato could know it was Dr. Kennedy who made it, he would not be smiling. Laughing, perhaps.

"The awe and beauty we feel in nature, Plato says, shows that it is divine; discovering the scientific order of nature is getting closer to God. This could transform today’s culture wars between science and religion."

mabye it also makes five different types of french fries?

Funny, I read the piece and was just about to quote the same section as Mr. Scott....ridiculous, presumptious, and self-important

How on earth does this validate ANY of the work Strauss did on Plato? Especially considering BS like the following:

Kennedy argues that his findings show that Plato held that "discovering the scientific order of nature is getting closer to God. This could transform today’s culture wars between science and religion."

I guess if you skip over the many pages Strauss wrote on Athens and Jerusalem it works?

Kennedy seems to think it is a new discovery to find that Plato wrote esoterically.

But as Carl Scott shows, Kennedy thinks that Plato wrote esoterically in the way Dan Brown would have an esoteric writer write.

He is a piece of work. Plato is a Gnostic and all that. But you guys are too negative. He could make Plato a best seller again and upgrade the reputation of Straussian scholars.

Thanks for all your comments. I'm actually an American, with a Ph.D. in philosophy. My speciality is ancient philosophy and ancient science. The history of science centre at the U. of Manchester happens to be in Life Sciences ...

Many of the quotes above are from the University's press release, which was designed to simplify my research for more popular media. The now wide scholarly debate is over the evidence and arguments summarized in my new book, and that I think you will find is surprisingly strong. Any comments or criticism are welcome. Jay

Thanks for all your comments. I'm actually an American, with a Ph.D. in philosophy. My speciality is ancient philosophy and ancient science. The history of science centre at the U. of Manchester happens to be in Life Sciences ...

Many of the quotes above are from the University's press release, which was designed to simplify my research for more popular media. The now wide scholarly debate is over the evidence and arguments summarized in my new book, and that I think you will find is surprisingly strong. Any comments or criticism are welcome. Jay

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