The Prometheus Trust runs fortnightly philosophy sessions in Bristol on Wednesday evenings from 7.30 to 9pm at:
Hydra Bookshop, 34 Old Market, Bristol, BS2 0EZ.
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 18 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.
Upcoming sessions in 2019:
6th March: Women as philosophers in the Platonic Tradition
“Women were members of almost every philosophical school and movement in the ancient world, including the Platonic tradition. In fact, individual female philosophers are attested as philosophical students of Plato’s academy and as philosophical teachers and students in the late Platonists schools in late antiquity. In the Symposium, Plato puts one of his important accounts about the nature of philosophy into the mouth of a woman, Diotima, who is represented as Socrates’ teacher and as a prophetess and priestess, as well as a philosopher. In the Republic, Plato has Socrates argue that natural talents are distributed alike among both genders and that women should be educated, trained and employed in the same fields and disciplines as men – in music, gymnastics and war, as well as in philosophy.
We will explore the importance and roles of women philosophers connected with the Platonic tradition, focusing on Axiothea and Lastheneia, female students in Plato’s Academy, Plutarch’s wife Timoxena and his colleague Clea (who was also a priestess), Gemina the Elder and Younger and Amphiclea, female philosophers who were members of Plotinus’ philosophical school, Porphyry’s wife Marcella, Sosipatra, one of the successors of Iamblichus’ philosophical school, and the famous Alexandrian philosopher, Hypatia. Since there are few philosophical works written by women that survive from the ancient world (an important issue in itself which will be discussed), we will explore a range of texts which depict and discuss the lives and works of these female philosophers, reflecting on the significant contributions made to philosophy by these women and the importance of women’s involvement in philosophy more broadly.
Download the text: Women Philosophers and the Platonic Tradition
20th March: A Platonic look at Homer’s Iliad
In the glittering and vast stellium that was ancient Greece, the two brightest stars were Plato and Homer: the former is known as the founder of the West's rational and systematic approach to truth, the latter as the founder of the West's literary tradition. But perhaps the simple division of philosopher on the one hand, and epic fiction writer on the other fails to capture the range of either: Plato's use of myth and story, and his power to move the reader in the drama of his dialogues, along with his ability to elevate and initiate those who follow him along the path of philosophy is there for any who are open to such possibilities. And Homer, whose understanding of the human condition and the stage upon which we are required to unfold our mysterious nature has rarely been surpassed, has perhaps obscured his wide-ranging wisdom by hiding it in symbolic and mythic language.
Can we draw the two together by reading Homer with Platonic eyes? Will Platonic concepts help us to gain a deeper understanding of the two great epics attributed to Homer, and will his verses give us insights into the narrative which Plato offers us, scattered through various dialogues, of the soul's journey?
Download the text: A Platonic look at Homers Iliad
3rd April: Ideas in Plato and his tradition
Plato is perhaps best known for his "theory of forms" – the view that things in the material world are produced and shaped by eternal ideas or forms. But although the fact of the theory is well known, the actual nature of forms as envisaged by Plato is badly misunderstood, and this has been the case for many centuries. Thomas Taylor, the great English Platonist, wrote, "The Platonic doctrine of Ideas has been, in all ages, the derision of the vulgar, and the admiration of the wise. Indeed, if we consider that Ideas are the most sublime objects of study, and that their nature is no less bright in itself, than difficult to investigate, this opposition in the conduct of mankind will be natural and necessary; for, from our connection with a material nature, our intellectual eye, previous to the irradiations of science, is as ill-adapted to objects the most splendid of all, 'as the eyes of bats to the light of day.' And yet unless the existence of these lucid beings is admitted, there can be no such thing as science; nor, indeed, any genuine knowledge at all."
Aided by some extracts from Plato and other Platonists, we will take a careful look at what ideas are (and what they are not); what their power is; the effect of ideas on the world we perceive through our senses; and what our relation is to ideas.
Download the text: Plato and Ideas