"The unexamined life is not lived." – Socrates, The Apology.
Cecil Sharp House, 2 Regent’s Park Road, London, NW1 7AY
The Prometheus Trust runs regular meetings in London. We meet at Cecil Sharp House fortnightly on Monday evenings, from 7.30 to 9.15 – but with time after this for more informal chats, if so desired.
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 £3 and £5 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.
We also plan to run a reading group over the autumn, going through Plato’s Phaedo. This will run from 6 to 7.15pm immediately before each of the Monday evening sessions. Click here for details.
We also run similar sesions in Bristol fortnightly on Wednesday evenings: click here for details.
November 5th - Parmenides - On Nature
Parmenides (perhaps 520-440 BCE) has been linked to the school of Pythagoras by some scholars: he was certainly an central figure in the Eleatic school of philosophy which flourished in Magna Graecia (Southern Italy) and which clearly influenced Plato. His poem On Nature (which survives in fragmentary form) is framed as an initiatory vision: it speaks of the oneness of being, and the path of knowledge; it also speaks of the ever-changing world which is the subject of opinion €an altogether less certain sphere of understanding. We'll look at some of the fragments and endeavour to follow Parmenides through the "gates of the ways of Night and Day."
Download the text: Parmenides On Nature
November 19th - The Platonic Tradition on Evil
What is evil? Does it exist, or is it merely an experience? Does it arise from a principle, and if so, what kind of principle could it be? Can something or somebody be "pure evil"? What happens if we claim that evil does not exist?
These and similar questions have been asked by human beings throughout history and at particular times with an urgency born from the press of circumstances. What does the Platonic tradition have to say about such matters? Plato has Socrates say (in the Theaetetus), "But it is impossible, Theodorus, that evils should be destroyed; (for it is necessary that there should be always something contrary to good) nor yet can they be established in the Gods; but they necessarily revolve about a mortal nature, and this place of our abode."
We'll look at some of the insights on the subject from the thinkers of the Platonic tradition and explore both the metaphysics of evil and its ethical aspects.
Download the text: The Platonic Tradition on Evil
December 3rd - Knowledge in the Platonic Tradition
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
The following is a draft syllabus for 2018: descriptions and downloadable text will be available as each date approaches.
The above syllabus is very much a draft and subject to revision as we go along. We have highlighted in red dates when the normal fortnightly pattern is disrupted.
An outline of our approach
The Prometheus Trust, a registered educational charity, exists to encourage, promote and assist the flowering of philosophy as the living love of wisdom. It aims especially at re-introducing philosophy as a transformative activity – one that gradually draws into activity all that is best in the human self, so that both the inner and outer life are directed towards that which is truly good, rather than that that which only appears to be good. "Beatific contemplation does not consist of the accumulation of arguments or a storehouse of learned knowledge, but in us theory must become nature and life itself." - Porphyry, 3rd century AD.
The starting point for our studies and reflections is the writings of the Platonic tradition but we rely on the affirmation that every man and woman has within him or herself a connection to all the great truths which underlie reality: our joint discussions are aimed at bringing forth and into focus these truths, which otherwise might remain more or less obscured by the complexities of life. The Trust looks to follow the Platonic tradition's general approach - that merely because Plato or any of the other renowned thinkers inside or outside the Platonic tradition have asserted something we should not simply accept it but, rather, seek to see for ourselves whether or not (and in what way) any particular affirmation is true.
We hope to explore the ways of wisdom in a spirit of friendship and co-operation with anyone who is excited by the possibilities of philosophy: previous experience of philosophy or great cleverness are not required – just an interest in discovering the truth and a willingness to look beyond the appearance of things. By this means we may, perhaps, begin with words but journey to some understanding beyond words: as Plato wrote, "For a thing of this kind cannot be expressed by words like other disciplines, but by long familiarity, and living in conjunction with the thing itself, a light as it were leaping from a fire will on a sudden be enkindled in the soul, and there itself nourish itself."
For further details, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Venue: Cecil Sharp House
2 Regent’s Park Road
NW1 7AY Google maps link