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PTCOLIM

 

London Evening Sessions:

The Examined Life

 

"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 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.

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.

Upcoming session:

 

June 18th - Plato on Tyranny in the Republic

The Republic was written by Plato around 380 BC.  It portrays a lengthy dialogue between Socrates, Thrasymachus, a noted sophist and teacher, and Plato's brothers, Glaucon and Adeimantus. Several others from Athens and elsewhere are present for the dialog including Polemarchus and his father Cephalus, the hosts of the evening gathering.  The theme of the dialogue is justice. What makes a person just or unjust, and by extension, what makes a city-state just or unjust?  Socrates offers a concept of justice having to do with how a person's soul is organised. The soul is made up of three parts: desire, thumos (or the spirited part), and wisdom. If these parts of the soul are organised rightly, each part doing what it does best like a well-functioning city-state, that soul is just, and as a result that person will be as happy as they can be in their particular circumstances. But if these parts of the soul are organised in a way that allows the wrong part to govern the personality, and thus the wrong motivations to dominate, the person will necessarily make the wrong choices, their behavior will be irrational, and Socrates argues they will be profoundly unhappy. Socrates points to the life of the tyrant to illustrate his point. 

Download the text: Tyranny in the Republic
 


July 2nd - Plato on Tyranny in the Gorgias

Both the Republic and the Gorgias look at both the internal constitution of a person and that of an organized society. How do we govern ourselves and how should a society govern itself? We explored in our previous session (on the Republic) how a tyrannical society and a tyrannical life arise.

The Gorgias is concerned with similar questions. The three main speakers in the dialogue argue with Socrates about the best life to live, and the aims this works towards. In political context of Plato's time Athenian democracy entailed a persuasive power being used by politicians and rhetoricians to persuade the citizens on a course of action. Does this give the most power to rhetoricians, as they can convince others to do what they want?

Eventually the conversation turns to a tyrant as a possible example of someone who gets what they want. But what power does a tyrant posses? Is the life of a tyrant an enviable one, or is he to be pitied? Socrates argues that although a tyrant may do as he pleases, he is unable to obtain what he truly wants, since he is unable to discern the "good" - the all-important criterion of human choices.  In the dialogue Polus, a rhetorician who has claimed that a clever rhetorician wields the same power as a tyrant, goes further and says that rhetoric is therefore a more profitable study than philosophy.  We'll read an extract from the dialogue in which Socrates attempts to show Polus that the path of tyranny is the worst possible for a human to follow.

 Download the text: Tyranny in the Gorgias

 

July 16th - 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:

 

July 30th - Porphyry’s Letter to Marcella

Porphyry’s philosophical letter to his wife Marcella is an extraordinary work which offers a range of profound and valuable reflections on living a philosophical life, as well as telling us much about women’s involvement in philosophy.

Porphyry wrote this letter to his wife while he was away undertaking important business for the Greeks and, within the letter, he encourages her to be philosophically independent and self-sufficient. Porphyry also draws on Diotima’s speech (in Plato’s Symposium) to encourage Marcella to see philosophy as a path of ascent to the gods. He reflects on what we are as human beings and how we can live the best life possible, even under difficult or challenging circumstances. Exploring the relationship between the soul and the body, the roles of the virtues or excellences in human life, and the nature of reality itself, Porphyry offers Marcella – and his reader in a wider sense – intimate personal reflections and advice on living a philosophical way of life, including how to overcome and move beyond obstacles, distractions and difficulties. 

We will read an extract from the Letter to Marcella and consider the philosophical way of life encouraged and advised by Porphyry.

Download the text:

 

Programme 2018

 

The following is a draft syllabus for 2018: descriptions and downloadable text will be available as each date approaches.

Subject [and text]

Presenter

File download

15 Jan

Lecture: Living the Platonic Tradition

Tim Addey

Living Plato

29 Jan

Plato's vision: One reality, two worlds, three natures? [Timaeus]

Tim Addey

Platonic vision

12 Feb

Proclus on the Republic’s tripartite soul

Tim Addey

Proclus - the tripartitie soul

26 Feb

Diotima's path of love [Symposium]

Crystal Addey

Diotima in Platos Symposium

12 Mar

Orphic Myth

Tim Addey

Orphic Myth in Plato

26 Mar

Myths of Life and the Afterlife 1 - the Gorgias

Miranda Addey

Myth of Judgement - Plato's Gorgias

23 Apr

Myths of Life and the Afterlife 2 - the Phaedo

Peter Lyle

Phaedo myth

30 Apr

Myths of Life and the Afterlife 3 - the Republic

Tim Addey

Myths of choice - Republic

14 May

Plato on Ideas

Tim Addey

Plato on Ideas

21 May

Porphyry on Arete (virtue) 1

Peter Lyle

Porphyry on Arete

4 Jun

Porphyry on Arete (virtue) 2

Peter Lyle

See above

18 Jun

Tyranny in the Republic

Stuart Dunbar

Tyranny in the Republic

2 Jul

Tyranny in the Gorgias

Miranda Addey

Tyranny in the Gorgias

16 Jul

Women as philosophers in the Platonic tradition

Crystal Addey

 

30 Jul

Porphyry’s Letter to Marcella

Crystal Addey

 

13 Aug

The levels of virtue

Stuart Dunbar

 

27 Aug

No meeting - Cecil Sharp House closed for the bank holiday

 

 

17 Sep

The Gods of the Platonic Tradition 1

Tim Addey

 

1 Oct

The Gods of the Platonic Tradition 2

Tim Addey

 

15 Oct

The Gods of the Platonic Tradition 3

Tim Addey

 

29 Oct

Providence

Tim Addey

 

5 Nov

Parmenides on Nature

Peter Lyle

 

19 Nov

The Platonic tradition on Evil

Stuart Dunbar

 

3 Dec

Knowledge in the Platonic tradition

Miranda Addey

 

17 Dec

Plato on Justice

Tim Addey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 education@prometheustrust.co.uk

Venue: Cecil Sharp House
2 Regent’s Park Road
London
NW1 7AY                Google maps link

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“Essentials of the Philosophy of Plato and his Tradition”

- a ten week introductory course January 15th - March 19th 2018
 

Click here for details

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