Sunday, June 3, 2012

Who owns Plato?

I attended the workshop "édition des textes et recherche interdisciplinaire" at the École Normale Supérieure last week.  As I mentioned in a preceding post,  I'd been thinking about Eben Moglen's talk "Innovation under Austerity," and since I expected that introducing Moglen's argument might be a bit provocative for the traditional audience I expected at the ENS, I cleverly thought I would win them over, or at least delay their criticism, by paraphrasing one of Moglen's memorable soundbites:  "No one owns Plato."

Not so clever.  Apparently, when you gather in the august Salle des Actes at ENS, you can meet people who believe they do own Plato, and don't care to share with others who fall short of their standards, thank you very much.

 (In the foreground, keynote speaker Gregory Crane, director of the Perseus Project defensively photographs the photographer;  partially masked by the screen are the plaques on the walls of the Salle bearing the names of such distinguished scholars in many fields as Louis Pasteur and Fustel de Coulanges.)

Just for fun, I googled the phrase "plato download":  as the screen grab illustrates, google estimated something over 17 million hits for that phrase, including texts in Greek and translation in a variety of languages, podcasts and ebooks (as well as downloads of software packages named after the son of Ariston).  I also found the Wikipedia article on Ruhollah Khomeini noting that Khomeini considered Plato's views "in the field of divinity" to be "grave and solid".   (Since some of the would-be owners of Plato also object to Wikipedia, I can pass along its reference to Kashful-Asrar, p. 33 as the source of that assertion.)

So while I can appreciate highly theorized concerns about the preparation needed to appreciate Plato "properly", the Anglo-Saxon empiricist in me looks at these Google search results and still wonders — just who exactly owns Plato?


Aurélien Berra said...

Dear Neel,
Bene dixisti! Let me just add as a comment that Paris is not France, the ENS is not Paris, the Salle des Actes is not the HQ of French DH, but that it was great to have CHS and Perseus digital classicists in France, that it was symbolically important to have you in the Salle des Actes and that French DH is a growing community – a moveable feast?

Assma said...

I recently asked a professor how he balanced his "digital" research and his "traditional scholarly publishing." [If I nursing admission essay remember correctly] he said he didn't, that the former was interesting and exciting and the latter totally boring.

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