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PTCOLIM

 

 Philosophy as the Love of Wisdom:

Ongoing courses of study via zoom
for those pursuing the traditon of Platonism

Prometheus Trust education in 2022

 

At present all our educational activities are run on-line via Zoom - we are committed to running in-person courses alongside our Zoom-based session from September 2022 onwards
(covid restrictions permitting): see here for details.

 

The Prometheus Trust’s educational activities are aimed at encouraging contemporary seekers of wisdom to explore the deep roots of the Platonic tradition - a tradition which in ancient times was explicitly regarded by its best proponents as the most direct means to the recovery of our own divine nature. Although Plato is widely read and studied today it is rare that he and his tradition are seen as offering a serious and transformative path of wisdom to modern men and women, as outlined in Plato’s Seventh Letter:

“It is requisite to show that philosophy is a thing of the greatest consequence, and that it is only to be obtained by great study and mighty labour. For he who hears that this is the case, if he is truly a lover of wisdom, and is adapted to and worthy of its acquisition, being a divine person, will think that he hears of an admirable way, that he ought immediately to betake himself to this path, and make it the great business of his life.”

For more than a thousand years men and women were drawn to the Platonic centres in order to cultivate the life of philosophy within a continuous tradition and it is this tradition that the Prometheus Trust seeks to bring to the fore, insofar as our resources and our understanding allows.

 

* * * * *

At present we run four different levels of on-line activity:

Open Sessions - open to all, and run on a monthly basis.

Introductory course - The Essentials of the Philosophy of Plato and his Tradition

Intermediate studies - two modules per year, each module exploring a dialogue or theme over 8 fortnightly zoom sessions.

Advanced studies - two modules per year, each module exploring a dialogue or theme over 8 fortnightly zoom sessions.

(All timings are in London time)

Open sessions - one Tuesday evening every month - these are informal sessions where a particular passage from the Platonic text or a particular theme is explored. Each subject is introduced by a brief talk (about 15 minutes or so) and then opened up for discussion among participants. No previous study of Platonic philosophy (or, indeed, any other kind) is required - although such is the nature of Platonic writings that even those who are well established in Platonic philosophy should find challenging elements emerging during these sessions. Details can be found here.

 

The Essentials of the Philosophy of Plato and his Tradition - a course designed to give a broad view of Platonism and to bring to light some of the more neglected aspects of the tradition. Our particular aim is to lay before participants the possibilities of Platonic philosophy as a spiritual path, exploring the insights of the ancient tradition while avoiding a dogmatic approach. The course is run over ten study/discussion sessions which are underpinned by 10 study papers and 10 background papers: we plan to run this on Tuesday evenings - Feb 22nd; Mar 1, 15, 22 and 29; Apr 12, 19 and 26; May 10, 17. We will also run it again on Sunday evenings starting on May 22. If there is sufficient demand it may also be repeated in the Autumn.

 

The following two courses are aimed at those who are, in varying degrees, committed to the exploration of the Platonic tradition as both a guide for the outer life and as an inner discipline of soul culture. We have divided the studies into “intermediate” and “advanced”, not to refer to the participants but simply to indicate some differences in the content of each set of studies: the intermediate studies are designed to ensure that foundational concepts are explored and questioned in a relatively systematic way; the advanced studies are designed to allow participants to go deeper into the mysteries and subtleties of the Platonic tradition. 

The three levels - the Essentials, Intermediate and Advanced - are there not only to allow a gradual progress of understanding but also to facilitate a deepening of commitment to the tradition. 

Intermediate Studies

There are two modules per year of these studies: each comprising 7 sessions every other Sunday evening. Our winter/spring module will explore one of Plato’s dialogues, while the autumn module will take a theme and draw on various Platonic writings: the dialogues and themes will be selected with a view to covering foundational concepts of Platonic philosophy.

The first of these modules will explore Plato’s First Alcibiades, with sessions on the following Sundays (6.00-7.45pm) 20 Feb; 6 & 20 Mar; 3 Apr; 1 & 15 May.

The second module is provisionally set to explore the theme of “Theology, Metaphysics and Myth” on 18 Sep; 2, 16 & 30 Oct; 13 & 27 Nov; 11 Dec.

 

Advanced Studies

These are run on a modular basis, one in the winter/spring, the other in the autumn: each comprising 8 sessions every other Sunday evening. Our winter/spring module will explore a theme drawing on a variety of Platonic texts, while the autumn module will look at one of Plato’s dialogues. Where possible our study of the dialogue will be supplemented by material from Commentaries from late antiquity.

The winter/spring module this year will be an in-depth exploration of the doctrine of Ideas, with sessions on 16 & 30 Jan; 13 & 27 Feb; 13 & 27 Mar; 10 & 24 Apr.

The autumn module will be an exploration of the Phaedrus (drawing on the Commentary by Hermias) with sessions on 11 & 25 Sep; 9 & 23 Oct; 6 & 20 Nov; 4 & 18 Dec.

 

These studies are offered to those who are looking to move deeper into the Platonic tradition, as a living teaching. What does this mean? It does not imply an exclusivity which rejects the insights of other traditions, nor does it demand that particular teachings usually denominated Platonic are accepted simply because of their apparent establishment within the tradition. At all times the endeavour is to respect the self-motive and self-sufficient nature of the enquiring soul. But the Trust works within the tradition because it holds that it is comprehensive and profound, offering the wisdom-fruits of men and women who have formed a golden chain over many centuries and millennia: while the ultimate movement is “a flight of the alone to the alone”, the assistance that each of us can receive from those who have contributed to our tradition is beyond measure.

To enter whole-heartedly into the tradition is not to become passive to it - in truth, it will not yield its best treasures until the individual seeks to contribute to it him- or herself. Platonism is a timeless conversation across the generations: our explorations are our attempt to listen more closely and to respond more generously to that conversation.

The advanced studies are especially aimed at those who feel themselves to be reasonably well established in the Platonic tradition, and who are committed to that tradition as their primary vehicle of philosophic endeavour.

The Trust is not in the business of judging individuals and so we leave it to you to decide whether or not you are likely to benefit by joining this level of exploration: if you would like to talk over the kind of level we are likely to be pitching the studies at please contact the education co-ordinator at education@prometheustrust.co.uk who would be happy to email or set up a private zoom session to talk it through.

We do need to emphasize that if you are looking simply to place Platonism in the context of what one might call the universal tradition of humankind, this is not what the explorations are aimed at - as honourable and as useful as such endeavours are. Our view is that one should drink deeply of a single coherent tradition and that an appreciation of the universal will spontaneously arise if, as it should be, the spirit of tolerance and openness is cultivated as part of that tradition. This ongoing course is our best attempt at assisting those whose focus is upon the Platonic path.

Our study of the foundational dialogues of Plato will be aided by the profound insights of the Platonists of late antiquity, as we endeavour to gain sight of, as Thomas Taylor puts it, “those great truths in the philosophy and theology of Plato, which though they have been concealed for ages in oblivion, have a subsistence coeval with the universe, and will again be restored, and flourish, for very extended periods, through all the infinite revolutions of time.”

Our modular format should allow new participants to join our on-going studies at the beginning of the modules in September or January: each module will be relatively self-contained but, of course, continued attendance should enable the student to build upon previous studies.

Practical details

The sessions will run on alternating Sundays, from 7.00 to 8.45pm (London time) for the advanced studies, and from 6.00 to 7.45pm for the intermediate studies - see above for dates. We do ask that participants make their best efforts to attend every session because we expect much of the value of any module to arise from the experience of the exchanges between ourselves as we build up our understanding of the text or theme that we are focussing upon.

There are no fees involved - the Trust runs all its teaching activities at cost as we consider the cultivation of wisdom to be not only priceless, but also the rightful inheritance of every soul and, as Socrates himself says in the Gorgias (at 420d), not something which should be subject to payments. Should participants feel so moved, the Prometheus Trust (a registered UK charity) welcomes donations, in order to further our work.

Where Prometheus Trust books form the basis of any module, we will be offering an extra “students’ discount” on our prices via our own website (unless you are in the US or Canada, in which case our distibutors OMA will be offering their own discount via a discount code which we will pass on to you).

Links to the zoom sessions and to the Slack forum will be provided by the education co-ordinator in good time.