The Prometheus Trust is planning to run fortnightly philosophy session in Bristol on Wednesday evening from 7.30 to 9pm at:
Hydra Bookshop, 34 Old Market, Bristol, BS2 0EZ.
Our first session will be on 3rd October 2018.
Further details from email@example.com or phone 01594 726296
These evenings include short talks and/or readings from Platonic writings – but we hope they will be genuinely interactive, with all participants invited to contribute to our collaborative search for truth. No previous experience of formal philosophy is required.
Admission is free, but we do encourage those who are able to donate between £2 and £3 in order to cover our costs.
Most of these evenings are self-contained and every effort is made to make them accessible to the newcomer, while allowing the great profundity of the Platonic tradition to step forward and speak to us at whatever level our present understanding sits. Some of these sessions are coupled together, in order to give us the space to examine more fully particular texts and themes, but even here we will ensure that if those attending have missed the first of the two sessions a recap of what has gone before will help all participants to pick up the main threads of the theme.
We will make available (as a PDF download) the text we are studying, well before the date of the meeting.
The Trust has run similar activities for some 17 years, and in our experience they allow the most profound questions concerning human life, the nature of reality, and our interactions, to be explored at once both seriously and with good cheer. Our aim is to provide a forum for honest and straight-forward enquiry, but which is unafraid to explore inward-moving paths too often neglected by modern schools of thought.
3rd October: Platonic philosophy as a spiritual path
This is the first of a planned programme of talks and discussion sessions run by the Prometheus Trust in Bristol. The emphasis will be on audience participation and any lectures will be brief, and have plenty of time set aside for collective exploration of emerging themes and ideas.
As this is the Prometheus Trust's first regular meeting in Bristol we thought we might begin with an attempt at a broad brushstroke lecture on philosophy and the Platonic tradition. We'll look at some fundamental questions – What is philosophy? What is the wisdom which it cultivates? What part does it play in human life? How do we go about finding a stable foundation for philosophical enquiry? What powers does a human being need to exercise in the philosophical exploration of truth?
After what will necessarily be a brief look at such questions, we'll go on to look at the Platonic tradition as the great tap-root of Western culture: what did Plato, his predecessors and his successors think they were doing as they philosophized? How did they address the differing levels of human experience? In what way did their approach to philosophy differ from what is now considered to be "doing philosophy"? What (self-imposed) demands were placed upon a would-be philosopher?
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we will attempt to look at the Platonic tradition not as a historical artefact, but as a living, breathing, growing tradition – one which, should any individual so choose, can be entered and which both gives and receives insights to and from today's men and women.
We will aim to keep the formal lecture to no more than 40 minutes so that we have a least an hour for an open forum discussion of these ideas. Although we hope to offer some firm foundations for future meetings, the evening will be very much a starting point and one which will raise far more questions than it answers. Download the text: Platonic philosophy as a spiritual path
October 17: What is the self?
In the Platonic schools of late antiquity, Plato's dialogue the First Alcibiades was considered the best introduction to the study of philosophy. At its heart lies the exhortation to "know thyself" which was said to be inscribed above the entrance to the Sanctuary at Delphi in which the oracle of Apollo was given to those who sought to answer life's questions.
In this session we’ll read a passage from the dialogue and consider the reasons why Plato and his tradition considered the Delphic command to be so important. Various questions will, no doubt, be raised: What does it mean to know the self? Is it even possible to know the self? What effect does self-knowledge have on the rest of one’s knowledge? What kind of being is it that must work at knowing the self? Does the attempt to know the self change the direction of life?
Download the text: Know Thyself Reading
October 31: Plato's Cave
Plato's famous story of prisoners chained to benches deep in a cave, only able to see shadows on the wall which they take to be the whole of reality, presents us with a fundamental question: is what we take to be real, truly so? If there is something beyond this world of materiality, is there a path out of the cave into the upper world of light? What kind of creatures would we become if we were to find our way to that place? And what kind of responsibilities would follow upon its attainment? We'll begin the evening with a brief talk about the themes of Plato's Republic and the place of the cave story in it. Then, after reading the story of the Cave from the dialogue, we'll spend our evening discussing these and other profound questions.
Download the text: The Cave
November 14: Knowledge and belief in Platonic philosophy
All human beings in a healthy condition have the capacity to discover and know truth: we also have a capacity to believe. What is the difference? How reliable is each? Where does knowledge come from, and where does belief spring from? Do we recognize when we (or others) are acting from one or the other? In what respect is belief without knowledge useful? Plato's Meno looks at some of the implications of acting from both knowledge and belief, and raises questions which every thoughtful man and women should address, if they are to act in the best way.
An important element of Plato’s exploration of knowledge is to identify different levels of knowledge and their relation to different levels of reality: in the Republic he presents his outline of these levels in a passage known as “the divided line”, so after we have looked at extracts from the Meno, we’ll read this passage. We should have an hour plus for a general discussion about our understanding of knowledge and belief.
Download the text: Knowledge in Plato
November 28: Diotima's path of Love
In the Symposium Plato has Socrates recall the teaching of the mysterious priestess Diotima which outlines a path of love moving from the love of body through ever more beautiful stages until finally the lover reaches a vision of the Beautiful itself. For those who have been told that Plato is merely a dry rationalist, the power of this passage – with its clear connections to life-changing initiation and its embrace of desire as integral to human progress – may come as a surprise. (Reading: The Symposium 201e - 212c.)
Part of a regular monthly series of evenings aimed at introducing some of the fundamentals of Platonic philosophy to those who are interested in a tradition that can call upon the insights of thinkers stretching back some 3,000 years and yet still inspires many today who seek an inner and outer life that is just, beautiful and good.
The evening will start with a short talk which will introduce the Symposium, its important concepts, and the "story so far"; we will then read the five or six pages from the Symposium concerning Diotima's Mysteries of Love, timed to last around 15-20 minutes, and which will form the basis of a further hour's collaborative exploration.
Download the text: Symposium - Diotima and the path of Eros
December 12: The journey of the Soul in Platonic philosophy
In the writings of Plato and those of his successors in the ancient world, the soul is depicted as a curious creature that moves from life to life experiencing a number of differing conditions. Essentially immaterial, she nevertheless often identifies with embodied states and forgets her true nature: the recovery of the consciousness of that nature is the universal task set before every human being. For Plato this quest lies at the heart of the philosophic project. We will explore the great cycle of soul life as set before us by Socrates in the Phaedrus and the part that knowledge and justice play in that cycle as explained in the Republic. After reading some extracts from the dialogues we should have at least an hour to discuss the radical challenge which this view of the human being and its destiny presents to us.
Download the text: The journey of the Soul