A Linear A Letter


Dear Plato:

Hey Plate, long time no hear from. its been a while. Anyway I am in receipt of your parchment, dated 385 B.C. Well you know the mail these days, with postal rates always going up and all.

And then there was all that talk a while back of eliminating weekend deliveries, well you catch my drift.

I realize your fellow countryman Herodotus helped inspire the motto “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” when he wrote of Persia and their early version of our “Pony Express.”

But I bet after the Christmas debacle by UPS (United Parcel Service) year before last, you probably wished they invested in a fleet of flying Pegasus’ huh?

Anyway, I had a little trouble deciphering your handwriting. With people so dependent on email and text-messaging these days, practically anything someone writes and sends always looks … all Greek to me.

So I see you’ve inherited a little peace of land outside of Athens, and you want to build a school on it?

I have to say—tuition’s being what they are these days—you could become the new King Midas.

But given that Greece and its current economy resembles a bank full of funny money (because of having paid so much to host an event you guys created in the first place—a little something called the Olympic games) you may want to hold off on that—heavy taxes you know.

Have you chosen a name for the school yet? If I may, why not try something simple like, “The Academy.” Its still in keeping with other institutes of higher learning, but direct and to the point.

You may not want to invest in other teachers as of yet either, being that you will want to start small and keep your cost down. College professors these days make so much, and then there are the unions, and tenure, and—not that I’m slamming education mind you, but who can afford it, right?

I remember you having a fondness for philosophy. Perhaps teaching what you know so well will serve you best at first. Then later you could expand your curriculum to include a study of mathematics and science. Those particular subjects get the short-shrift over here, so you would already be a leg up on us.

I recall you saying once that you felt a classical approach to teaching—instructing others to question and think for themselves—being preferable to learning by rote, a method we in America are quite fond of.

Its not all bad, but there is something to be said for your method, as I usually tend to do what I’m told, especially when my wife tells me too.

Well I better end this before I find myself submitting it to “Doubleday Press” for publishing. Lets do lunch the next time you’re in town. We can grab a Greek salad, or yogurt or something.toga

In the meantime; please try losing the toga. I know it’s more comfortable, but its not a good look for you.



Your Student







8 comments on “A Linear A Letter

  1. The Straussian reading of Plato depends upon knowing irony when you see it. Infamously, Straussians view the doctrine of the equality of women as presented in the Republic as a case of irony: it is a joke, they say, among gentlemen. Strauss finds it impossible to believe that Plato, given his historical context and the sociology of ancient Greece, was being serious.

    • True enough, as the social environment in Greece was definitely not conducive to equality when it came to matters concerning women. Consider the possibility that Plato was a advocate of radical thinking, inasmuch as women of the time were not accorded the rights men of the time were given—for example education, or public esteem. He then could have been seen as an extremist of his time. On the other hand, as Leo Strauss suggested or could have even possibly stated, “Plato, your not serious.” So I would have to say Yilmaz, I see your point, it’s one well taken.

      • When I was much younger Plato was my passion. I dreamed of going to an academic life and spending my days immersed in Platonic philosophy. The reality turned out to be much different. I found the academic establishment – the classicists – profoundly uninspiring. I wondered how and why it was that so many intelligent people – scholars, and Oxford dons – could turn Plato into such a boring old drudge. It’s a question of how to read the Platonic dialogues. In the English tradition, the first thing you do arrange them in chronological order. Then the game becomes plotting Plato’s “evolution” from his “early” phase, through his “middle” phase to his “late” phase. That is, the English study Plato through time, through the lens of history. The distinction between the early “Socratic” dialogues and the later “Platonic” ones is the mainstay of this framework. But this is not really the practice of philosophy. It is, rather, a “history” of philosophy. The English tradition is pervaded with historical thinking and historical assumptions. I felt refreshed when I discovered the works of the German scholar Friedlander. Here was a reader of Plato who viewed the dialogues as literary creations, not as signposts on a road of historical “evolution”.

      • I think it very interesting the American approach to the study of Plato follows such a pedantic path. On the other hand I’m very happy that your passion for Plato was finally realized in a less chronological approach.

  2. For me, a very helpful encounter was the works of the great French metaphysician, Rene Guenon. He is a writer – a mathematician – who composes essays and books over some 40 years and yet there is virtually no development in his ideas. His point of view is exactly the same at the end as it was at the beginning, and yet his works are fascinatingly rich explorations of the same viewpoint applied to various religious and philosophical traditions. After reading Guenon I felt more secure in my assumptions about Plato. Plato also is a metaphysician, and a mathematician. Why is it not possible that Plato had a firm position from the outset and that he has explored it in sundry ways and various contexts in his many works? In that case, reading Plato through a historical or chronological lens is as radically wrong as looking for “development” in Guenon.

  3. I suppose that Plato was a loyal, noble-born son of Athens, a patriot, and, as such, a dedicated devotee of the traditional religious cultus of the polis. He lives, however, in a turbulent age when the authority of traditional religion is waning and the traditional gods are being undermined by new thinking and increasing cosmopolitanism.

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