PLATO’S MEMOIRS

PLATO’S MEMOIRS

This was my third venture, after Socrates’ Prison Journal and Hypatia’s Lover, in presenting philosophy in a fictional framework. We know that the Laws was Plato’s last book and that he died before he had time to revise the book and prepare it for publication. I imagined that, when he finished writing the Laws he decided to put off the final revision of that bulky book to find time to write his memoirs. I supposed that his object and purpose in doing that was to correct misunderstandings that were spreading about his earlier works — which was in fact my object and purpose in concocting the Memoirs,

My original intention was to continue the ‘memoirs’ to make a book of some considerable length, but it so happened that at the time I contracted with the National Center for Translation (Cairo) for the translation of my books into Arabic. I found myself so busy with the translation work that I had to curtail the Memoirs. The result was this short book.

I will reproduce here one paragraph from the preface to give you a taste of the mood in which the book was written:

“Indeed, I must confess it. I am in despair. The modern mind is simply, totally, incapable of understanding Plato or Idealism in any form. Let me resort to analogy. Assuming that a computer thinks. It has a brain. Its brain is its hardware. It does not think with its brain. It thinks with its software. Its software is a system of symbols representing notions. Now, assuming that a human being is a computer. Its hardware is its brain. It does not think with its hardware. It thinks with its software. Its software is a system of methodological programmes and linguistic and mathematical symbols representing notions. The makers of the modern mind, from Francis Bacon and Descartes (opposed as these seemingly are) onwards gave that mind a very narrow programme. Give it as input ‘mind’, ‘soul’, ‘subjectivity’, it immediately returns: “Illegal operation. System is shutting down.” Such a mind can no more understand Plato than a computer programmed to compute the trajectory of a missile can understand “I wandered lonely as a cloud”.”

  1. R. Khashaba

July 22, 2016.

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