Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Plato: Composer and Closet Pythagorean


Plato, a heretic? No, surely not! But according to Jay Kennedy, a scholar from Manchester, England, this could very well be the case. If one examines Plato's works in their original scroll from, one will notice that every 12 lines there is a passage that discusses music. According to Kennedy, this is something that likely wouldn't have gone unnoticed by Plato's readers. Unlike today's 8-note scale, the Ancient Greeks used a 12-note scale, and so it's postulated that, by using the aforementioned pattern, Plato could have been trying to communicate some sort of musical message.


What sort of message? Well, Kennedy thinks that, just maybe, Plato could have secretly been a Pythagorean. No, this has nothing to do with trigonometry -I don't think. See, Pythagoras and his followers believed that mathematics and music were the keys to the universe (oh, but of course!) Because the beauty we hear when we hear harmonies can be attributed to certain mathematical ratios, witnessing such beauty was the experience of the perception of the direct mathematical order underlying the world. Pythagoras worshipped this mathematics and for some reason, were viewed as weirdo heretics. In fact, they were violently persecuted because, obviously, such believers were working to overthrow the gods of Olympus.


This being the reality of the situation, Plato couldn't come out and tell people he was in agreement with these guys without fear of being banished or worse, and researchers think that he may have embedded a hidden message in his works (in The Republic, at least). It's even hypothesized that it could be a melody or score embedded in the text.


Plato, a composer and secret code expert? I like him better already!