Just another book review…

I couldn’t resist discussing this review of Plato’s Laws from Amazon. Since I don’t want to spoil the experience of the review itself, I’ll leave my comment until after and say only that no knowledge of the Laws is necessary to fully enjoy it (the reviewer doesn’t have any either). The reviewer begins:

I read this book as part of my research into Plato himself.

What kind of research I wonder? Maybe we’ll find out…

 It’s hard for me to see how relevant a book like this is today. Plato’s world was very different than today. People owned slaves, there was no internet or mass communications, Christianity didn’t even exist yet, etc..

However it did provide some of the insights I was looking for about Plato himself.

So far, so mundane. Nice asymmetry though: the rise of Christianity, slavery and…the internet.

Plato’s writings have a smooth quality. St. Augustine called Plato’s philosophy very ‘clear’. Reading his works can almost be like a sort of religious experience since he often talks about the various mythological gods and God Himself. A book carries the spirit of the author I guess.

Ah yes, the much vaunted “smoothness” and “clarity” of Plato’s writing is both more obvious and more enjoyable in translation. Still, it’s nothing out of the ordinary for an Amazon review.

Plato believed in reincarnation and the law of karma. For example he felt that the death penalty is a blessing in disguise for incorrigible criminals since it prevents them from contaminating their souls with even more evil.

(Maybe. No. Yes.)

 I feel this book shows the influence of two things that were very important for Plato; his belief in Atlantis and the books in the old testament of the bible that talk about the details of those laws that were given from on high. These two things were always there deep in his thoughts.

The bullshitting begins.  Plato invented Atlantis for his own purposes, yes, but it’s never mentioned in the Laws; and the idea that he read the Old Testament is downright silly.  So we now know two things about our reviewer, both of which put us on guard: he hasn’t read the book, yet he feels compelled to talk about it. Something is up, and the reviewer is about to play his hand:

Atlantis was a utopian society at first and it seems that for all of his life Plato was trying to recreate this ideal society. But I doubt that he could have imagined the information that came out in the 1900s from the great Edgar Cayce (Osiris). Sometimes when people see flying saucers those are our ancestors from Atlantis travelling through time.

It is not a coincidence that fate chose Plato to preserve the legend of Atlantis for future generations. He was there on Atlantis himself at the very beginning.

But of course! Flying saucers are really time-traveling Atlanteans and Plato lived for nine thousand years—from the time of Atlantis until the time of classical Greece—and then died in the third century…or did he?

Interestingly the author of this translation doesn’t agree that The Laws shows how Plato became more realistic when he realized that the idealistic society described in The Republic could never become a reality. That is a common theory that many people believe.

Rather he feels Plato would have known that The Republic could never [become] a reality.

I think the next thing I’ll read about Plato is a biography as part of my ongoing research.

So a final quibble with the translator and it’s back to the old talking crystals for some more research.

Notice two things about this review. The first is the seamless transition from mulling over the historical importance of Plato to the “information” provided by Edgar Cayce about how flying saucers are time-traveling Atlanteans.  The reviewer is obviously not a raving lunatic, incapable of coherent thought.  Yet total nonsense has woven itself into the fabric of his otherwise rational mind: the belief in time-traveling residents of a fictional ancient civilization coexists alongside opinions about the relative realism of a political theory.

Second, note the un-self-consciousness of the reviewer’s remarks. Most of us have likely entertained the possibility of aliens visiting Earth.  But we balk when adding up the possibilities: we can believe that aliens exist and perhaps that they’ve visited Earth; but carrying it further into believing that aliens regularly visit Earth in secret to abduct us and probe our nether regions is simply absurd.  Moreover, few of us believe in even the first possibility in such an un-self-conscious way.  We’d never slip into talk of alien visitations in a public forum so nonchalantly, let alone go into specifics about how Atlanteans are visiting us from the past (or future) in space ships.

Now, one could dismiss this review as the sort of wackiness characteristic of the internet age, when everyone has access to the public forum.  But I think it points to something far more profound: it’s a sign of the growth of conspicirism and solipsism in the wake of the decline of traditional religion and the rise of individualism.  As G. K. Chesterton said, people who don’t believe in God, don’t believe in nothing, they believe in anything.  Add the sort of ideological individualism we have in modern times and you have a perfect recipe for believing in time-traveling Atlanteans and who knows what else.

No matter how you slice it, it doesn’t bode well.

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