I must admit to feeling a sceptical gut reaction when I first read about J. B. Kennedy’s brand new article on Pythagorean number theories being embedded in the structure of Plato’s dialogues – a possible key to his unwritten doctrine. I first read about it in The Guardian‘s rather popularizing account. After doing some more searches, and finally checking the original paper published in Apeiron, I am happy to say it looks much more solid than one first expects when hearing something along the lines of “lone scholar x cracking codes in the works of legendary intellectual hero y“.
In other words, it is nothing like this (or, for those who read Norwegian, this). It seems, in fact, to be an example of how mathematical analyses (based on stichometry in this case) can be used together with a strong historical case based on a number of sound contextual considerations to provide an argument that is, truth be said, both potentially revolutionary and convincing enough to be taken seriously by historians.
I don’t need to say more about the contents of Kennedy’s thesis here, as information is easily available other places. For example at Scientific Blogging, Kennedy’s website, his blog (with other links), or the paper itself. I do however feel tempted to return later in order to bring out some contrasts to (bad) scholarship of the type that was discussed in the previous post (which superficially may look somewhat similar, particularly when popularized).
Be that as it may, the paper will certainly be discussed a lot among Plato scholars. And the immediate reception will quite probably be divided.