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The Prometheus Trust’s Ninth Annual Conference



Know Thyself

(This venue is now confirmed)

Friday to Sunday 4th-6th July, 2014


(For details of previous conferences click here)

(For full details of the conference program click here)

"With respect to myself indeed, I have not leisure for such an undertaking; and this because I am not yet able, according to the Delphic precept, to know myself. But it appears to me to be ridiculous, while I am yet ignorant of this, to speculate things foreign from the knowledge of myself. Hence, bidding farewell to these, and being persuaded in the opinion which I have just now mentioned respecting them, I do not contemplate these, but myself, considering whether I am not a wild beast, possessing more folds than Typhon, and far more raging and fierce; or whether I am a more mild and simple animal, naturally participating of a certain divine and modest condition." – Socrates, in the Phaedrus.

The famed exhortation of the Sanctuary at Delphi, know thyself, was embraced by the Platonic tradition as an essential first step in the philosophic life. Indeed, given the view that there is nothing in the great cosmos which is not reproduced microcosmically in the human self, the precept might, in this sense, be considered as the whole of the philosophic path.

This conference invites contributions from those inspired by the Delphic exhortation and by the long history of the varied human responses to it. The Prometheus Trust hopes that contributors will not only consider past responses, but also the prospect before us: for the need for a quiet discovery of the self may be lost in the noise of a world in which information is available in ever increasing quantity and speed. What is the prize that awaits the self-knower? How are we to transform information into knowledge, and knowledge into wisdom? How can we carry forward the philosophic tradition of true self-knowledge in the rapidly changing world in which we live? 

We especially value a mix of participants and presenters – academic and non-academic, specialist and non-specialist – and encourage all those who are attempting the noble task of discovering the self to contribute.

Conference program, including abstracts and some complete papers - click here.


Keynote Speaker: Professor John Bussanich - “Plato, Yoga and Self-Realisation”

Ancient Platonism bears striking similarities to various South Asian traditions in regard to the metaphysics of the self and cosmos, karmic ethics, and techniques of liberation, among other issues. My aim is to sharpen our understanding of these facets of Platonic thought by examining the more detailed cosmic maps, yogic practices, and formulations of the degrees of insight on the way to the highest wisdom presented in classical Vedānta, Yoga, and early Buddhism. For these traditions, liberation is conceived in terms of the removal of accretions to the self – which create delusion and suffering – by means of right living, sense-withdrawal, and calmness and insight meditation. South Asian traditions conceive of salvation in terms of a psychological cosmology in which the hierarchy of consciousness mirrors the structure of the universe. For them, as for Plato, spiritual practices transform our normal conceptual categories and emotional states, which are conditioned by manifoldness and darkness, replacing them with a deep sense of oneness, luminous wisdom, and happiness.

Professor Bussanich is a faculty member of the University of New Mexico, Philosophy, in Albuquerque. His interests include Philosophy, Ancient India and Ancient Greek Ethics.

Thomas Taylor Lecture: Stephen R.L.Clark

“Going Beyond Our Worlds to find the World: what "Reason" is really for”

As Plotinus pointed out, very many living creatures (both human and non-human) manage their local lives quite well without recourse to ‘reason’ (Ennead I.4 [46].2, 35-43): the value of intellectual endeavour to uncover real relationships, real distinctions and implications, rests on the value of reality itself, without regard to personal or practical advantage. Human beings, if they are to be reckoned something else than ‘animals’, must have an eye to the whole truth, the cosmos as a living reality, rather than the simple local worlds, the Umwelten, of all other creatures (see Ennead VI.6 [34].17, 42, as interpreted by R.Ferwerda La Signification des Images et des Métaphores dans la Pensée de Plotin (J.B.Wolters: Groningen 1965) p.33: ‘l’intelligence possède la sphere totale; l’animal lui est postérieur et ne possède que la sphere de l’animal’). The World, our predecessors thought, was primarily for human beings and gods - because only human beings and gods are even acquainted with the World as such. ‘Animals know only one world, the one which they perceive by experience, internal as well as external. Men alone have the faculty of conceiving the ideal, of adding something to the real’ (E.Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life: A Study in Religious Sociology, tr.J. Swain (Allen & Unwin: London 1915), p. 421).

Stephen R.L.Clark, formerly a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, Lecturer in Moral Philosophy at the University of Glasgow, and Professor of Philosophy at the University of Liverpool, and the author of many books, is now retired from paid employment. He continues to manage an international e-list for philosophers, and to serve as Associate Editor of the British Journal for the History of Philosophy.

Fees and accommodation

We still have places available both residential and non-residential, and welcome further participants.

Conference fee: This charge is £40 and is payable with your booking. It is non-refundable in the event of cancellation.

The conference will take place at Gilwell Park Conference Centre, Chingwell, London, E17 7QW, which is comfortable and well appointed.  Residential prices are for full board for the weekend (from Friday supper to Sunday tea) and are £140 (£95 for students) – participants are encouraged to attend for the whole weekend and there are no reductions for partial attendance.  Students are requested to share a bedroom if there are no single rooms available when they book. Please contact the Treasurer if you cannot afford these fees as it may be possible to offer you a bursary. Accommodation fees are payable by end of May.

For those who wish to attend the conference on a non-residential basis, the cost is £70 for the weekend. This price includes refreshments and a light lunch, but does not include evening meals, nor the conference fee of £40.  

Booking forms can be downloaded here and are also available from the Conference Secretary at the above address or phone number or by email: Completed forms with your deposit of £40 should be returned as soon as possible.

Conference 14 - Booking Form PDF format                  Conference 14 - Booking Form WORD format

Travel: Gilwell Park is 1.5 miles from Chingford Railway Station which is on a direct line from London Liverpool Street Station.

Contact the conference secretary for further information:
Briony Addey, The Prometheus Trust, 6 Fairways, Dilton Marsh, Westbury, Wilts, BA13 3RU, UK.


01373 228195 (or, from outside the UK country code 44 then 1373 228195)