Thursday, July 1, 2010
An interesting article, which references a website and companion blog. Dr. Jay Kennedy of the University of Manchester maintains that Plato's corpus is constructed around a twelve note musical structure or scale, common in the ancient Greek world. Using this idea, and a the related idea of a golden mean, (a line that is divided at approximately 61.8% of its length, a ratio used as a model in Plato's Republic and known as the 'twice divided line', with which he attempts to set out his epistemology, and correlated metaphysics of the Forms) Kennedy examines the Platonic dialogues, both those considered authentic, and others generally deemed spurious, to see if they are arranged according to the scale. He finds that the genuine dialogues do indeed evidence patterns organized around the 12 note structure, while the spurious ones do not.
For example, if you go about counting lines in the original Greek papyri, or the closest copies of these, you will notice that the overall line count is invariably some multiple of twelve. Also, within individual dialogues key points of transition, drama, philosophical import or moral flavor coincide with notes that were considered to be harmonious, dissonant or neutral, in the twelve note scale. A note was harmonious if it formed a small whole number ratio with the twelfth note. Any others were dissonant or neutral. Harmonious passages discuss virtue, justice, the forms, beauty and the like. Dissonant passages examine vice, negation, shame, war and conflict etc.. Like flavored passages recur across dialogues at nearly identical relative places within each dialogues relative to the 12 part structure, as reconstructed by Kennedy's line count methodology. He believes this correlation is too unlikely to be coincidence, and is strong evidence for his thesis.
Kennedy has a BLOG, now resident on my blog roll, and a very generous web page that offers PDFs of published articles and working drafts of a forthcoming book that elaborates his theory.
An intriguing promissory is that he believes he can extract a positive Platonic theory from the architectonic form he has discovered, something hidden in the structure, a sort of Straussian esoteric doctrine. One suspects that it will be Pythagorean in the main, and probably not traditional Greek theological fare. That would be no surprise. We already know that Plato's views were not traditional. Kennedy suggest Plato felt it necessary to obscure his beliefs in this way, in order to protect himself from suffering the fate of his mentor Socrates.
There is already plenty of evidence that Plato was enamoured with mathematics, and he certainly was a founding source of our modern view of the universe as governed by mathematical laws. His Timaeus is generally regarded as a prescient anticipation of the conceptual framework of modern physics and chemistry as mathematical disciplines. It will be interesting to see how the theory of forms will work into this, and its theological implications. For, Plato, while no atheist, held unconventional views (look up the Demiurge in the aforementioned Timaeus). What can we say about his theology? If Kennedy is right, we may be able to fill in the details by taking this 'esoteric' route. Kennedy speculates Plato might have been a deist before deism was cool. Who knows? Stay tuned!