Plato – Easy to read, hard to understand

Great book launch in Sydney the other night! What a party!  …And judging by the number of attendees … people truly are interested in Plato!  Thanks for all your support!

But one thing that surprised me a little was the question I was asked the most – ‘How long did the book take to write?’

It’s a good question.  Had I written a children’s adventure book (without Plato) the same length (approx. 27,000 words) the novel would have taken 6 months to write, then after several rounds of structural editing, 6 months to rewrite. A copy editor adds about another 3 months of adjustments.  So in total – 15 months.  Done!

BUT because I wanted to write about Plato, the book took MUCH, MUCH, longer.   Of course I had to start off with Plato’s original texts – easy to read, hard to understand.   Let us remember, Plato was writing in an ancient time, in a context unrecognisable to ours, with words we don’t use.  So after I had read Plato’s texts, I had to read what the academics had to say about Plato.  And being academics, they never agree.  Take the Myth of the Cave for example – below is a list (not exhaustive) of possible meanings.

An Analogy of:

  • Knowledge of the Eternal World (or Plato’s world of the Forms)
  • The state of the human condition
  • Philosophical enlightenment
  • Importance of education
  • Spiritual enlightenment
  • What is illusion? What is reality?
  • People need to experience, not be told

…the list goes on…

In Plato’s Academy, I pick the first one. I interpret the Myth of Cave, as Plato’s analogy for people living in the darkness, seeing only what is around them (the shadows), not able to see the eternal world (or Plato’s world of the Forms, or world of Ideas). Plato argues that the philosopher can see the eternal world (the prisoner who escapes the cave) and it is his duty to educate the others (return to the cave). But as you can see, there are many interpretations.  When you have time, I encourage you to read Plato’s Myth of the Cave, it’s a very short piece of literature, beautifully written, and decide for yourself.  Plato would have liked that.

So to answer the question, with extensive reading and research, Plato’s Academy took me about four years to research and write.  My next book is on Descartes ─ I find him easier to understand than Plato, so I am guessing it won’t take me as long!

 

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