Re: [Indo-Eurasia] Mysteries unveiled in "Plato"?
- [Mod. note. Dan, maybe a deeper problem is the naive way in which
Kennedy thinks that "works of Plato" have been faithfully handed down to
for nearly 2400 years? Bloom too falls in that class, BTW. Our earliest
manuscript of anything ascribed to Plato as I recall is 9th century CE. - Steve.]
The insistence in the article that this is a "discovery," not a "reinterpretation" is disingenuous, since Kennedy's "recovery" of the Pythagorean elements in Plato's works is extremely superficial compared to the 1984 work by the musicologist Ernest McClain, _Pythagorean Plato: Prelude to the Song Itself_.
Plato aficionados will recognize the subtitle as a quote from the Republic ("song" being a translation of Nomos, which, alongside its other meanings, also means "religious songs" -- the "prelude" consists of astronomy and harmonics, i.e., epistemological math by eye and ear; the Song/Nomos is the 8 whorls/tones of the octave at the core of the Tale of Er in bk 10). That the Republic in particular was filled with musical allusions that were suppressed and obscured by the standard translations was a subject given much attention by Allan Bloom in the essays and annotations that accompanied his translation of the Republic, done in the late 70s.
In short, there is a pythagorean "code" in Plato's works -- (e.g., why is 4 the number of "justice"? Why is 729 [9 cubed] associated with the Tyrant? Why does Plato associate different musical modes with different political states and regimes?), but if you want the musico-mathematical details worked out with specificity and precision, consult McClain instead. (Tellingly, Kennedy does not include McClain in his list of references)
- Another problem: where's the science here? As far as I can tell, he argues that certain terms occur unexpectedly in positions corresonding to twelfths of the texts. In order to demonstrate that, he'd have to show that the correlation between those terms and those regions is higher than would be expected by chance. I didn't see anything that resembled the kind of statistical analysis I'd expect to see when making such an argument.
I know that standards in the humanities are different, but then the question is why this is being reported as "science"?
Dan Lusthaus wrote:
> [Mod. note. Dan, maybe a deeper problem is the naive way in which
> Kennedy thinks that "works of Plato" have been faithfully handed down to
> for nearly 2400 years? Bloom too falls in that class, BTW. Our earliest
> manuscript of anything ascribed to Plato as I recall is 9th century CE. - Steve.]
> The insistence in the article that this is a "discovery," not a "reinterpretation" is disingenuous, since Kennedy's "recovery" of the Pythagorean elements in Plato's works is extremely superficial compared to the 1984 work by the musicologist Ernest McClain, _Pythagorean Plato: Prelude to the Song Itself_.
> Plato aficionados will recognize the subtitle as a quote from the Republic ("song" being a translation of Nomos, which, alongside its other meanings, also means "religious songs" -- the "prelude" consists of astronomy and harmonics, i.e., epistemological math by eye and ear; the Song/Nomos is the 8 whorls/tones of the octave at the core of the Tale of Er in bk 10). That the Republic in particular was filled with musical allusions that were suppressed and obscured by the standard translations was a subject given much attention by Allan Bloom in the essays and annotations that accompanied his translation of the Republic, done in the late 70s.
> In short, there is a pythagorean "code" in Plato's works -- (e.g., why is 4 the number of "justice"? Why is 729 [9 cubed] associated with the Tyrant? Why does Plato associate different musical modes with different political states and regimes?), but if you want the musico-mathematical details worked out with specificity and precision, consult McClain instead. (Tellingly, Kennedy does not include McClain in his list of references)
- On Jul 1, 2010, at 2:11 PM, richardwsproat wrote:
> Another problem: where's the science here? As far as I can tell, heNow Richard, don't be snobby in a C.P. Snow sort of way. :^)
> argues that certain terms occur unexpectedly in positions
> corresonding to twelfths of the texts. In order to demonstrate that,
> he'd have to show that the correlation between those terms and those
> regions is higher than would be expected by chance. I didn't see
> anything that resembled the kind of statistical analysis I'd expect
> to see when making such an argument.
> I know that standards in the humanities are different, but then the
> question is why this is being reported as "science"?
Rao et al. and those guys who claimed that Pictish symbols were part
of a "writing system," misusing conditional entropy, were both
scientists and not humanities types, right -- biologists and
astronomers and even computer types? You just demolished these
guys in that article of yours in press.\
The world swarms with idiots: The humanities don't have all of them
(although I have to admit we have perhaps more than our fair share). :^)
- Steve wrote:
>The world swarms with idiots: The humanities don't have all of them(although I have to admit we have perhaps more than our fair share). :^)
There, there, Steve, are we forgetting the bureaucracies, the military, the
police, voters in general and hillbilly farmers?
But seriously, the humanities lack a professional "number consciousness". It
should be drilled into people working in these disciplines that if they are
using numbers and numerical relationships as part of their arguments, they
need to cooperate with a statistician, and they need to know some basic
statistics themselves, unless the numbers are completely trivial and the
conclusions self-evident. How do we do this? Simply by rejecting theses and
papers that use numerical arguments frivolously without the necessary tests
etc. This is a peer review matter, of course.
Unfortunately, even correct statistics are not always pure magic. I have
seen impeccable statistical arguments in articles that were utterly
uninteresting, and found articles very stimulating that were written in an
essayistic form, without numerical arguments. So numbers -- or a number
angle -- is not always interesting, but if they are used, the use should be
proper and professional.
Dr.art. Lars Martin Fosse
Haugerudvn. 76, Leil. 114,
0674 Oslo - Norway
Phone: +47 22 32 12 19 Fax: +47 850 21 250
Mobile phone: +47 90 91 91 45
- I no doubt risk sounding naïve and credulous, but since no one else better
qualified seems to have done it, perhaps I could register a doubt about the
curt dismissal of the Kennedy paper and its stichometrics.
Certainly in some periods and places mss get repeatedly interpolated,
but can we generalize this fact to all times and places? As far as I know,
it is only an assumption that, because the available mss of Plato are late,
therefore they must have been so extensively altered in the course of
transmission that any original patterning of the sort proposed would
inevitably have been lost.
I accept that early poets introduced very subtle patterns into their
compositions, and it would not be surprising if early prose writers did the
same. When studying Platos Republic recently, I was not struck by
interpolations. Indeed certain passages often regarded as interpolated by
mainstream classicists seemed to me to make sense as elements of a
deliberately constructed whole.
I often appreciate and accept Steves skepticism, but in this particular
case prefer to keep a more open mind. (I expect well continue arguing
about this sort of question when we meet in October?)
- Hi Nick,
This might indeed be a useful topic to take up further on the List. It
will largely have to wait until this weekend for me, however -- right
now very rushed.
On just one preliminary point that you raise below: It can, in fact,
be shown from lots of evidence that the Republic in particular, and the
Platonic corpus in general, was/were repeatedly interpolated (and at
times heavily "worked up" exegetically too) in ancient times.
(I'll point to some of this evidence over the weekend; for now, just
consider the conflicting views of the afterlife and myths that divide
the early books of the Rep. from what is found in Book X.)
Moreover, fantastic claims like Kennedy's can be traced back to
late-ancient commentators who viewed the writings ascribed
to Plato as Holy Scriptures -- the term 'Scriptures' is not an
exaggeration - meaning that they were supposedly totally
consistent and that contradictions in them were only apparent, as
revealed (they thought) once the mystical secrets in them were
revealed using the right exegetical methods.
It isn't accidental that these methods include the extreme kinds
of numerological techniques used by Kennedy, who in fact
borrows them in spirit at least from these systematizing
late-ancient Platonic commentators.
(The Sinologists on the List here will find close parallels in Karlgren's
Han dynasty "systematizers.")
Views of ancient texts and traditions like this of course go way
beyond those associated with Platonic traditions. They are nearly
universal in commentarial traditions, as the Sinologist John Henderson
and I argued at some length in a number of publications in the 1990s.
In any event, questions concerning the evolution of the Republic do
provide a nice place to discuss a lot of interesting issues, including these.
I do indeed look forward to seeing you again in October and discussing
such issues with you.
As an aside, why doesn't it surprise me that the only one to defend
Kennedy so far on the List is a dutiful follower of Dumezil? :^)
Thanks Nick -
On Jul 2, 2010, at 9:57 AM, Nick Allen wrote:
> I no doubt risk sounding naïve and credulous, but since no one else
> better qualified seems to have done it, perhaps I could register a doubt
> about the curt dismissal of the Kennedy paper and its stichometrics.
> Certainly in some periods and places mss get repeatedly interpolated,
> but can we generalize this fact to all times and places? As far as I
> know, it is only an assumption that, because the available mss of Plato
> are late, therefore they must have been so extensively altered in the course of
> transmission that any original patterning of the sort proposed would
> inevitably have been lost.
> I accept that early poets introduced very subtle patterns into their
> compositions, and it would not be surprising if early prose writers
> did the same. When studying Plato’s Republic recently, I was not struck by
> interpolations. Indeed certain passages often regarded as
> interpolated by mainstream classicists seemed to me to make sense as elements of a
> deliberately constructed whole.
> I often appreciate and accept Steve’s skepticism, but in this
> particular case prefer to keep a more open mind. (I expect we’ll continue
> arguing about this sort of question when we meet in October?)
- Dear Nick,
Regarding J.B. Kennedy, "Plato's Forms, Pythagorean Mathematics, and
I take it back: I agree now with Frits that the author is a "nut" and
that discussing his work much further is a waste of time -- even though
the mass media (including now even National Public Radio in the US) is
having a heyday with it. He's become, temporarily, a nut in demand.
I spent half of yesterday working through this article and other of
Kennedy's papers. They are grossly unrigorous from both philological
and statistical points of view -- and they get worse the more closely
you compare his claims with the textual evidence. Da Vinci code types
undoubtedly will love Kennedy's work, but it isn't going to be taken
seriously for long by any serious philologist.
And Kennedy certainly doesn't belong to that group. His training is in
philosophy, and predominantly not ancient philosophy either, judging
from the self-promotional bio he gives on his Website:
He makes a lot of unsubstantiated claims in his papers and on that
Website, but the one he most often emphasizes is that all Platonic
dialogues are supposedly neatly divided into twelfths, and that at the
division between each twelfth of each dialogue we find "musical
structures" occultly hidden in the text.
One thesis-killer here -- but you have to wade through
more than one of Kennedy's papers to see it -- lies in the vagueness
of what he claims as a "musical structure." Kennedy first divides the
major Platonic texts, which he implies have been of fixed
length since antiquity -- they weren't, as suggested below --
into twelfths, or segments of twelfths, and then claims that
he finds something of special significance at each of those divisions.
You can see what I mean by taking a look at the online paper he
entitles "A Visual Introduction to the Musical Structure of Plato's
Symposium," where he takes these claims to ludicrous lengths:
Figure 2 here is typical. The caption reads:
> The Symposium is Divided into Twelve Parts, Corresponding to a Twelve-So here the supposed "musical structure" hidden about half way through
> Note Musical Scale
> As the above figure shows, the scale divides the text of the
> dialogues into twelve equal
> parts, with Note 1 near the beginning of the text.
> The centre of the Symposium is emphatically marked. In a dialogue
> devoted to love, the conclusion of Agathon’s speech with its rousing
> rhetorical fireworks in praise of Eros flanks one side of the centre.
> Socrates, the philosophical hero of the dialogue, begins
> to speak at the centre.
the text, as Kennedy sees it, lies in the fact that on one side of
that division (how far on that side Kennedy doesn't say), we find
"rousing rhetorical fireworks in praise of Eros", followed by a change
right after that in the dialogue speaker.
Other "musical structures" he finds in the text are even more far-
fetched, as you'll see if you wade through this stuff yourself. Like
premodern exegetes, or a Kalyanaraman or Rajaram, Kennedy finds
secret meanings and correspondences everywhere.
Other, more interesting, problems underline the philological naivete
of Kennedy's work. Kennedy nowhere discusses the mass of evidence
known today that suggests that the works ascribed to Plato were
heavily edited and added to and subtracted from throughout antiquity.
The fact that those texts did evolve means that there is no way that
we can know the original lengths of the texts that would allow us to
break them into neat 12ths.
Kennedy uses modern editions of Platonic works -- which he further
alters computationally in ways he only vaguely explains,
making it impossible to replicate his work in detail; see pp. 5-6 --
which are all based on medieval (9th century and later) manuscripts
at best. Clear evidence exists that these manuscripts were not identical to
the texts as the ancients knew them.
The fact that Platonic works were often altered in ancient times is
known from much data that Kennedy doesn't mention. E.g., Diogenes
Laertius III 65-6, in his "Life of Plato," describing Platonic
manuscripts written ca. 600 years before any now extant, describes the
wide range of editorial marks found in these texts. These
included special marks denoting corrections and repetitions and
additions to the text viewed as spurious a good 600 years before the
manuscripts that the edition that Kennedy depends on were written.
We have especially good evidence that the Republic --
which Kennedy predictably makes much of as supposedly being designed
around "musical structures" -- evolved over time. A small portion of
the available evidence is quickly reviewed in Debra Nails, "The Dramatic
Date of Plato's Republic," published in the Classical Review in 1998.
You can download a copy here:
I cite here a passage (from pp. 393-4, minus Nail's heavy source
footnoting) from that article to give a taste of the *kinds* of
transmission problems involving the Platonic Corpus that Kennedy
appears to be unaware of. There is much more evidence of this
sort that Nails doesn't mention:
> There are several arguments that raise doubt that the Republic wasSee Nails' notes for these sources (Thesleff's work is especially
> written all at once. The least controversial is that Book I stood as
> a separate dialogue, an idea with us since 1839 that seems to have
> gained some acceptance. While there are still disputes over whether
> Book I as it currently exists is the original Book I, or whether it
> was rewritten into its present form; and while there are disputes
> about the dating of Book I as a separate dialogue, stylometric
> evidence argues for its similarity to other Socratic or elenctic
> dialogues. But there is a good deal more diversity to be accounted
> for in the Republic. Else has argued that a considerable portion of
> Book X, though not the myth of Er, was an addition to the dialogue.
> And, apart from the so-called early style of Book I, there is
> cramped late style in parts of the dialogue as well, by which I mean
> passages that resemble the distinctive prose of such dialogues as
> the Sophist, Timaeus and Laws. Thesleff has identified several late-
> style passages in Books II-V and VII, very likely indicating late
> revision of the Republic.
important on philological issues like this).
Conceptually, the Republic is famous for contradictory passages that
provide supporting evidence for this view. Some of the contradictions
are so obvious that they argue strongly against single authorship
theories. Near the beginning of Book III, for example -- here I'm
raising evidence not discussed by Nails -- the Republic sharply
condemns those who tell fearful myths of the afterlife, repeating tales
of the terrible rivers of Hades, etc. Then in Book X, which many
before Else have noted looks like it is tacked-on, we find perhaps the
most elaborate myth ever told in antiquity about the afterlife,
ironically concludingwith a discussion of the rivers of Hades.
Well, maybe this kind of internal contradiction is supposedly a hidden
example of musical dissonance in Plato's "musical structures"? :^)
Kennedy is not above making such arguments, as we can see in his
discussions of harmony and disharmony in his amateurish
piece on the Symposium.
Nails quickly points to some other evidence of the same sort (p. 394).
I again leave out her footnotes, which you can look at in the original:
> While this is not the place to rehearse the numerous arguments forAnd so on. My main point here is that if Platonic texts like the
> the existence of a proto-Republic, I would be remiss not
> to name a few of the more persuasive
> among them: (a) there are provocative parallels between Republic V
> and Aristophanes' Ecclesiazusae in ideology, action, and language --
> yet the play was produced in 392, long before the date normally
> assigned for the writing of the dialogue; (b) Aulus Gellius writes
> that a "two-roll" Republic came to light initially; (c) Timaeus
> explicitly purports to summarize the whole of the preceding day's
> discussion in fact summarizes only parts of the argument of
> Republic II, IV, and V.
Republic changed over time, and didn't come full-blown from the head
of Plato, we can hardly claim that Plato himself divided his texts
into nice neat twelfths, driven by numerological/musical motives.
Someone could in theory claim that the supposed musical divisions
Kennedy finds in Platonic writers were added by later Neo-Platonic
editors, redactors, and systematizers of the text. But that would blow
Kennedy's whole thesis, which is that these supposed divisions give us
direct insight into the mind of "Plato" himself.
As an aside, I can point out that the Neo-Platonists were, in fact,
capable of planting neat numerological structures in their own texts.
I've even written at some length about that issue myself.
They also claimed to find such things in the Platonic Corpus, just as
ancient Jewish exegetes thought they found such things in the Torah.
Kennedy in fact in his work is really only recapitulating ideas like these we
find in Iamblichus and Proclus, etc.
But the correspondences the Neo-Platonists found in "Plato" are as
far-fetched on philological grounds as the ones Kennedy finds there,
as is well-known to anyone who has ever made a serious study of
later Platonic traditions. No one who has can
be expected to take Kennedy's work seriously.
Other evidence that indicates that the text of the Republic evolved
over time comes from comparison of the differences we find in readings
of the earliest full manuscripts we have of the Republic, from the 9th
century CE, with 11 known short ancient papyrus fragments of the text
(the earliest from around the 2nd century CE), many of which conflict
with our present readings. You can find a full collation of these
fragments in Gerard Boter, _The Textual Tradition of Plato's
Republic_ (1986 <http://tinyurl.com/2eg6sk6>).
Leaving aside philological issues, there is also much
statistical fudging in Kennedy's paper that would give anyone a
migraine headache. Richard Sproat nailed it when he pointed to one
issue of this sort on the List the other day: ,
> Another problem: where's the science here? As far as I can tell, heOf course, since the "musical structures" Kennedy supposedly finds
> argues that certain terms occur unexpectedly in positions
> corresponding to twelfths of the texts. In order to demonstrate
> that, he'd have to show that the correlation between those terms and
> those regions is higher than would be expected by chance. I didn't
> see anything that resembled the kind of statistical analysis
> I'd expect to see when making such an argument.
at 12th intervals can be anything Kennedy finds significant, the situation
is even worse than Richard characterizes it.
I want to point to one especially wild numerical claim in Kennedy that
can be quickly falsified. In his recently published paper there is an
odd section in which he implies, among other things, that the length
of the texts of a whole string of dialogues are identical or at
least numerically proportional. He writes:
> Using a figure of thirty-five letters per hexameter line, calculationsHis implication here is that text of the Apology is supposedly half of
> of the total number of lines in the dialogues produce, with about
> one or two percent accuracy, impressively round numbers involving
> multiples of the number twelve:
> • The Apology is 1200 lines, or 100 per twelfth.
> • The Protagoras, Cratylus, Philebus, and the Symposium
> are each 2400 lines, or 200 per twelfth.
> • The Gorgias is 3600 lines, or 300 per twelfth.
> • The Republic is 12,000 lines, or 1000 per twelfth.
> • the Laws is 14,400 lines, or 1200 lines per twelfth.
the length of the Protagoras, Cratylus, Philebus, and Symposium --
which we are supposed to believe are all almost exactly the same
length (they aren't, as any quick character count using online Greek
texts will show) -- and 1/3 the length of the Gorgias and 1/10 the
length of the Republic, etc.
These would be amazing finds, if true. Unfortunately, there is no way
to figure out how Kennedy got these remarkably round numbers.
In footnote 35 in his paper Kennedy only suggests the methods
he used to get them. But he promises next time -- this sounds like
pseudo-decipherers' promises about their next paper -- "My work
in progress will discuss the principles determining
the absolute lengths of the dialogues."
Let me point out that if the ancient texts of "Plato" really were of
nearly perfect proportional lengths, that fact certainly would NOT
have been overlooked by Neo-Platonic commentators, who knew
the texts they had in hand line-by-line, by heart, since for them
they were Holy Scriptures.
In brief: more pseudo-scientific nonsense hyped for career benefits
and unfortunately successfully getting the attention of the gullible
press. (Look over Kennedy's website to see how carefully he prepared
himself for the press launch.)
Yes, Frits, a waste of time! But at least now I'm done with it. :^)
- Dear Steve,
Thanks for taking the trouble to write at length, and telling me plenty I
didn't know. I'd have answered sooner, but was at a nearly three-day
conference on Zoroastrianism (where for the first time I met fellow list
member Arash Zeini).
As was probably clear, I was not primarily interested in Kennedy's views
on Pythagorean mathematical structures, but rather in the use, in order to
criticize him, of the idea that interpolation must have led to great
differences between -4Cy mss and +9Cy mss. As you rightly surmise, this
relates to my more or less Dumézilian stance. I think that in the study of
Indo-Europaea standard views underestimate how much common heritage survived
till fairly recently; i.e. overestimate cultural flux or fluidity.
Re the Diogenes Laertius passage, which I didn't know, couldn't one read
it as showing what a lot of care was being given at that period (+3 Cy) to
the preservation of accurate texts? DL gives no hint as to how many or long
were the obelized passages or how the judgment 'spurious' was reached. The
papyrus fragments in Boter (again new to me) seem to offer only quite minor
I did know that many serious and learned classicists have regarded the
first and last books of the Republic as heterogeneous, and that some have
tried to identify other extraneous passages. But heterogeneity does not
necessarily mean that the passages are later additions, and the same applies
to inconsistencies. It may be helpful to compare the approach of Homerists
(Aristotle remarked on the poetic qualities of Plato's writing, DL 3.37).
Generations of serious scholars have tried to edit out passages of the
Homeric text, on the grounds that they are heterogeneous in one way or
another, or that they are inconsistent with other passages (Mahabharata
scholars do just the same). They thereby hope to 'get back to' a pure text,
one that lacks accretions, the one that Plato or Homer wrote.
But from a comparative point of view (I think), we are dealing in all
these cases with written texts that derive from earlier oral traditions
(perhaps also from bits and pieces of previous writing, now lost, but they
in turn would have oral origins). In this perspective, what the 'authors'
are doing is largely amalgamating and consolidating these earlier
traditions, which may well have been stylistically heterogeneous and to some
extent inconsistent. There is no need to assume that such 'defects' arose
from interpolations by copyists or others, after the dates attributed to the
'authors'. It's no great surprise if oral traditions transmitted by Plato
influenced other genres as well (Aristophanes); nor (Nails, points b and c)
if the oral traditions gave rise to shorter written versions as well as
fuller ones. The Mahabharata refers explicitly to longer and shorter
versions of itself.
It is difficult to treat this topic briefly (whence my doubts about
taking it further on the list). But there are reasons why stichometric
enquiries cannot be totally discounted. Some Indo-European poets certainly
gave very special attention to the half-way point of their compositions. I
first met the idea in Dumézil's Idées romaines (p. 280): Vergil's third
Georgic falls precisely into two halves, both of exactly 283 lines (devoted
respectively to large farm animals and smaller ones -- a significant
opposition in the shield of Achilles). In 'The Rig Veda between two worlds'
(2007) Stephanie Jamison, the creative and innovative but utterly serious
Vedic philologist, discusses the significance of the omphalos, the midpoint
of RV hymns. I was talking about the topic at lunch yesterday with another
list member, Jacob Dahl, who is equally confident of the significance of the
midpoint in cuneiform tablets...
Incidentally I liked your reference to me as a 'dutiful follower of
Dumézil'. I try! Dumézil predicted that his brand of comparativism would be
criticized and subsumed within wider approaches and encouraged
comparativists to attempt this. Though many Dumézilians stick to the old
trifunctionalist scheme and avoid criticizing the master, evidence is
accumulating that the triadic scheme needs to be subsumed within a pentadic
theory of IE ideology; and other criticisms are needed.
Hoping all this is constructive, Nick
- I'm resending this message, with several typos fixed, that I sent out
early this morning without proofing after an all-night writing
session. Nothing essential changed, but I prefer to clarify the
language for archival purposes, since the post deals with
some key philological issues. I've also added a brief note on non-
classical uses of stichiometry, just to point out that stichiometric
analyses weren't limited just to classical times or to the West. - Steve
Thanks much, Nick.
My only interest in this *was* in Kennedy's claims about the
supposed mathematical structures in the Platonic corpus. And after
taking a close look at his work once, I don't want to take the issue
up further. For all the reasons I raised at length in that post, I
don't believe his work being hyped in the popular press is
serious philological scholarship.
Quickly on two other matters you raise: I didn't simple assert on
general grounds the idea that stratification in the Platonic corpus --
'interpolation' is not the right term - occurred from antiquity
through the middle ages. I pointed out among other evidence that there
are major differences separating the 'received text' from the 9th
century and the 11 ancient fragments we have of the work.
I don't agree by any means that the differences in the texts are
minor. Boter himself, who lists the differences (but provided
little contextual information) is an old-fashioned textual scholar
committed to traditional stemma models. As others have pointed out,
Boter barely discussed these differences since he was seriously
disappointed with what he found in the fragments, which he hoped
would get us closer to what he imagined as "Plato's original text."
The problem as I see it is that Boter, like so many mainstream
before him, was misled by the old stemma model and single-author
models inherited from classical times of ancient layered corpora.
But as the Chinese tomb texts (among other sources) are teaching us,
looking for the "original text" in such cases may be less like tracing
a tree from branches to its trunk and more like futilely identifying
the source of a giant river like the Mississippi.
(I'm stealing the last metaphor from Richard Sproat, from exchanges we
had last week about Kennedy's work. Martin Kern in at least one paper on
the tomb texts spoke of preferring a "bush" to the traditional stemma or
"tree" metaphor. I always liked that, but I think that Richard's "river"
metaphor underlines the problem in classical philology even better.
I don't by the way discount the legitimacy in classical philology of
"stichiometric enquiries" (i.e., those dealing with ancient estimates
of the lengths of classical texts that involve counting individual
or verses, or syllables, etc., under the assumption that the lines are
of roughly tandard lengths).
But what Kennedy is doing really doesn't have much to do with
legitimate studies of that sort, whose clearest applications have to
do with texts in verse. Moreover, he fudges the data here too just as
in other places. Dodds, e.g., points out in a paper I read the other
day how frequently even in classical scrolls written by a single
length of the lines could vary significantly in different parts of the
Kennedy's thesis depends on a level of standardization in line
lengths that don't really show up in ancient Western texts.
[Added note to emended post: I recognize of course that stichometric
issues are of course also related legitimately to Vedic as well as
classical Western traditions, although this hasn't yet been mentioned
in this discussion. Also, I don't disagree with the claim, which Jakob
Dahl mentions, of the attention that ANE texts may pay to dramatic
positions in texts. But all these issues have little to do with
precise claims about the Platonic corpus. I should point out that in
my book _Syncretism in the West_ (1998) I discuss in great detail
numerological principles in medieval book organization in what
is arguably the most complex premodern scholastic treatise known.]
On, Dumézil, oh well, that's one for a few beers when we get together
this fall. :^) You know my view: that his work in 2010 is really only
of purely historiographical interest. I wouldn't deny that texts like
in the Mahabharata and Homeric corpus both reflect similarities of
some sort deriving from distant common origins in early Indo-European
cultures. That's hardly a radical thesis. But that doesn't justify
Dumézil's extravagant and untestable/unfalsifiable numerological
approach to those similarities, which are in some ways similar,
mutatis mutandis, to Kennedy's equally extravagant numerologizing.
Dumézil, though, does have legitimate historiographical interest as I
see it as a reflection of old-style structuralist thinking: his close
personal links here with Lévi-Strauss are here of obvious interest.
Kennedy will never claim the same status, and this is no longer the
heyday of structuralism, which came from the 1930s - 60s. Philology
On Jul 9, 2010, at 6:28 AM, Nick Allen wrote:
> Dear Steve,
> Thanks for taking the trouble to write at length, and telling me
> plenty I didn't know. I'd have answered sooner, but was at a nearly
> three-day conference on Zoroastrianism (where for the first time I
> met fellow list member Arash Zeini). As was probably clear, I was
> not primarily interested in Kennedy's views on Pythagorean
> mathematical structures, but rather in the use, in order to
> criticize him, of the idea that interpolation must have led to great
> differences between -4Cy mss and +9Cy mss.....
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