The Prometheus Trust runs fortnightly philosophy sessions in Bristol on Wednesday evenings from 7.00 to 8.30pm at:
St Paul’s Learning Centre
94 Grosvenor Rd, Bristol BS2 8XJ
Further details from firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01594 726296
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 £2 and £3 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.
Upcoming sessions in 2019:
25th 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
9th and 23rd October: 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 two 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.
Download the text: A Platonic view of the Odyssey
6th and 20th November: 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