A British scientist says he's discovered a secret code in the works of the ancient Greek philosopher Plato. What is "the hidden philosophy of Plato"? And how can we market it?
University of Manchester historian and philosopher of science Jay Kennedy has undertaken a five-year study of the legendary philosopher and found that they contain a "regular pattern of symbols." Noting that some "key phrases, themes and words" popped up at regular intervals in the rigidly-spaced text (35 characters per line), Kennedy discovered Plato's secret message: DRINK MORE OVALTINE.
Ha, no, apparently the message is just, "Plato liked math." Seriously:
His findings, published in the American classics journal Apeiron, suggested Plato was not only a secret follower of Pythagoras but also shared his belief that the universe's secrets lay maths and its numbers.
The study, which has created excitement in the academic world, also suggests he anticipated the scientific revolution of Galileo and Sir Issac Newton by about 2,000 years after "discovering its most important idea (that) the book of nature is written in the language of mathematics"....
He argued that Plato did not use the code for pleasure, but instead for his own safety after his teacher [Socrates] was executed for heresy.
Cool, right? We love secret stuff! We read Foucault's Pendulum. It was awesome!
Except. This is not really a "hidden" message, unless it is "hidden" from you because you are "illiterate." Plato wrote about math all the time! In The Republic he encourages people to study "arithmetic" as it is a key to "true being." And there's no real reason for him to hide it anyway—Socrates wasn't sentenced to die for, like, using a graphing calculator. He was executed because he was pissing off powerful people. Not that Dr. Kennedy cares:
"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 unravelling them reveals the hidden philosophy of Plato."
Well, yes, the books do contain codes and symbols. They are called "words" and "letters" and you can "unravel" them by "reading" them. Look: If "cracking the code" is the only way you can get excited about interpreting philosophy, well, knock your socks off.
But millions of people have "cracked the code" of Plato, already, by reading Plato and thinking about what the words might mean. It isn't that hard, and you don't need some kind of absurd pretend "secret" message to have an opinion about Plato or his ideas. Loudly claiming there is a difficult hidden code in his work—or in the Sistine chapel, or the Mona Lisa—and implying that you have figured out, once and for all, the secret message of the ancients? All this does is warp everyone's sense of how to engage with philosophy, or literature, or art, and produce shoddy Dan Brown ripoffs.