"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 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.
We also run similar sesions in Bristol fortnightly on Wednesday evenings: click here for details.
23rd September: Plato on Justice
A recurring theme in the dialogues of Plato is the profound relationship between the human self and justice: all ten books of the Republic are dedicated to the examination of this relationship, and although the speakers often turns aside to explore other issues, the central theme is never far away. Towards the end of the dialogue, Socrates says that the most important thing to study is the good life and that, having an eye to the nature of the self, we should comprehend “both the worse and the better life, pronouncing that to be the worse which shall lead the soul to become more unjust, and that to be the better life which shall lead it to become more just, and to dismiss every other consideration.” We notice that the point of focus here is the soul (psyche) – that invisible something that is understood to be the unific seat of selfhood, which gives life to the body, and which has the power to know and to make choices. It is on this understanding that all the important ethical principles of Platonic philosophy are based.
We’ll read an extract from the Gorgias which puts forward profoundly challenging consequences to this soul-centred view of life and its ethical dimensions, and discuss our understanding of the issues raised.
Download the text: Justice in the dialogues of Plato
7th and 21st October and 4th November: A Platonic view of the Odyssey
Homer, that half-legendary, half-historical figure who links the oral story-telling age of mythology to the literate age of high Greek civilization is known for his two great epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey: the Platonic tradition mined both works for their profound insights into the human condition. Over three evening sessions we will concentrate on the Odyssey which is seen by Platonic philosophers as a representation of the soul's re-ascent to her true home – the celestial "Ithica." The tests that Odysseus undergoes as he makes his way from the shores of Troy, laden with treasure, to the cave upon Ithica's shore in which the Goddess Athena appears before him can be considered as images of the various trials each of us must face as we cross the ocean of life before regaining the lost empire of the soul. We will draw upon the writings of the neoplatonists and on Thomas Taylor’s essay ‘On the Wanderings of Ulysses’ and consider what lessons the epic holds for us and our own wanderings (The second and third sessions will start with a brief summary of the previous sessions’ main points).
Download the text: A Platonic view of the Odyssey
18th November and 2nd December: The Apology of Socrates
Plato’s account of the apology or defence offered by Socrates in his trial when charged with impiety and the corruption of youth in Athens is one of the great moments in philosophic literature in the west. It demonstrates the seriousness with which Socrates took his quest for wisdom - a search which even the threat of death could not prevent. The priority that the Platonic tradition gives to the care of the soul over and above all other human endeavours is encapsulated in Socrates exhortation, “O best of men, since you are an Athenian, of a city the greatest and the most celebrated for wisdom and strength, are you not ashamed of being attentive to the means of acquiring riches, glory and honour, in great abundance, but to bestow no care nor any consideration upon wisdom and truth, nor how your soul may subsist in the most excellent condition?” And perhaps we who live in a civilization which we consider to be marked by intelligence and strength should attend to that plea with greater thought than Socrates’ earlier judges. We will read and discuss the Apology over two sessions (starting the second session with a short summary of the first half, for those who are absent from the first session).
Download the text: Apology of Socrates
The following is a draft syllabus for 2019: 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