"The unexamined life is no life for humans." – 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 14 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.
The next sessions:
December 4th - Plotinus on Dialectic
Plotinus – the philosopher who gave so much impulse to the Platonic tradition in the 3rd century CE – wrote a short treatise on dialectic which begins, "What art is there, what method or practice, which will take us up there where we must go? Where that is, that it is to the Good, the First Principle, we can take as agreed and established by many demonstrations; and the demonstrations themselves were a kind of leading up on our way." In other words, the very act of dialectically exploring the ultimate goal of the philosophic life gives us a path towards it, in just the same way as exploring the possibilities of harmony in the making of music leads us to harmony itself.
In this session we'll look at most of the second half of Plotinus' treatise on dialectic (Ennead I, 3) and explore the profundities it contains – how the movement of the method of dialectic can lead to the stillness of contemplation, and how it can bring about a transformation of the life and the self.
Download the text: Plotinus - dialectic
December 18th - Proclus on Dialectic
The pursuit of truth through dialectic lies at the heart of the Platonic tradition: Plato himself called it the "capstone of philosophy" and in one of his most important dialogues, the Parmenides, he shows a young Socrates learning from an aged Parmenides this art. Centuries later, Proclus, one of the last heads of the Athenian academy, wrote a masterly treatise on the dialogue and its exploration of dialectic. This evening we'll read a couple of extracts from Proclus and look at what he called the "three energies of dialectic" and the outline of the basic steps of dialectic. We will see that treated in the right way, the would-be philosopher uses dialectic to pass beyond mere logic to an interior vision, for, says Proclus, "the whole of our life is an exercise to the vision of this; and the wandering through dialectic hastens to that as its port."
Download the text: Proclus on Dialectic
The following is a draft syllabus for 2017: descriptions and downloadable text will be available as each date approaches.
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