The Prometheus Trust runs fortnightly philosophy sessions in Bristol on Wednesday evenings from 7.30 to 9pm at:
Hydra Bookshop, 34 Old Market, Bristol, BS2 0EZ.
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:
3rd April: Ideas in Plato and his tradition
Plato is perhaps best known for his "theory of forms" – the view that things in the material world are produced and shaped by eternal ideas or forms. But although the fact of the theory is well known, the actual nature of forms as envisaged by Plato is badly misunderstood, and this has been the case for many centuries. Thomas Taylor, the great English Platonist, wrote, "The Platonic doctrine of Ideas has been, in all ages, the derision of the vulgar, and the admiration of the wise. Indeed, if we consider that Ideas are the most sublime objects of study, and that their nature is no less bright in itself, than difficult to investigate, this opposition in the conduct of mankind will be natural and necessary; for, from our connection with a material nature, our intellectual eye, previous to the irradiations of science, is as ill-adapted to objects the most splendid of all, 'as the eyes of bats to the light of day.' And yet unless the existence of these lucid beings is admitted, there can be no such thing as science; nor, indeed, any genuine knowledge at all."
Aided by some extracts from Plato and other Platonists, we will take a careful look at what ideas are (and what they are not); what their power is; the effect of ideas on the world we perceive through our senses; and what our relation is to ideas.
Download the text: Plato and Ideas
17th April: Porphyry and the Philosophic Death
One of the central themes of Platonic philosophy is the idea of the immaterial soul giving life to the body it occupies, but being “separable” from it - in other words its identity and integrity is not dependent upon the body. In the case of humans, this soul is marked by its ability to both reason and choose to live virtuously: what are the implications of this view? Porphyry in a short work sometimes known under the title “Auxiliaries to the Perception of Intelligibles” discusses important concepts which underlie this view - in what way the soul is attached to the material body; what kind of life leads to our recovery of a full independence; the nature of philosophy and the part it plays in that recovery. We will explore both passages from Porphyry’s treatise and extracts from Plato’s Phaedo - the dialogue which clearly inspired the work.
Download the text: Porphyry and the philosophic death
15th & 22nd May: Plotinus on Beauty
Plotinus, one of the sages of the Platonic tradition wrote two treatises that explored Beauty (Ennead I, 6 - On Beauty & Ennead V, 8 - On the Intelligible Beauty). Over two successive Wednesdays we plan to look at passages from these treatises, and explore some of Plotinus’ questions and themes - What is Beauty? What is the relation of beauty to virtue? How are we to participate in it? How does beauty manifest at different levels? The god-like contemplation of the inner Beauty of the Intelligible world.
Download the text: Plotinus - Beauty