Empty esotericisms: doctrines of secret writing and the politices of a Platonic code

TitleEmpty esotericisms: doctrines of secret writing and the politices of a Platonic code
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsWalsh, S
Ancient AuthorsPlato Phil. (TLG 0059)

The aim of this article is to address the recently renewed debate pertaining to esotericism, secret messages encoded within writings from antiquity, especially in the writings of Plato. The question of esotericism has assumed a prominent role within debates concerning the history of political thought. Ever since Leo Strauss offered his suspicion that there were secrets 'buried in the writings of the rhetoricians of antiquity', the idea that philosophers deliberately concealed their true beliefs in a way that few could detect has been fiercely debated. More recently, the research of J.B. Kennedy has made international headlines for discovering a musical pattern embedded within Platonic writings, a pattern that Kennedy insists is evidence of Plato's Pythagorean allegiance. The theses proffered by Strauss and Kennedy are empty doctrines of esotericism, or empty esotericisms. These doctrines insinuate the presence of secret or coded writing within Platonic dialogues but reveal no actual secret. These theses of esotericism falsely represent Plato as hyper-cryptic. Without actually providing substantive content, these notions of esotericism compel the reader to merely negate the exoteric writings of Plato, which actually render his already heterodox writings as commonplace and orthodox. [http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/imp/pol/2012/00000029/00000001/art00004]


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