Platonic Love is back and in the classroom for Winter 2021

Das Gastmahl des Platon (1869) by Anselm Feuerbach | Source: Wikipedia
Alcibiades and revelers gatecrashing what had until then been a relatively sober and discursive drinking party: a scene from Plato’s ‘Symposium‘ as depicted by Anselm Feuerbach (1869) | Source: Wikipedia

Enrolments are now open for Winter evening classes starting the week of Monday 21 June.

Those new to philosophy and Plato would best take our foundation course Reading Plato (online). For continuing students who missed out last Spring, Platonic Love is offered again, and this time in the Lonsdale Street classrooms. In this popular and accessible course, Plato’s Symposium comes alive with readings from the famous (notorious!) drinking party speeches. The theme of love continues with the Phaedrus, which includes the famous myth of the soul as a winged-horse Chariot.

Below the surface frivolity, there is in fact lots of provocative philosophy running through the Symposium and Phaedrus. However, if you are one of those hardcore philosophy nuts, then you might otherwise wish to join the group currently reading Theaetetus. For Winter term, they have decided to go on and tackle Plato’s Sophist.

This meandering attempt to define the character of ‘the sophist’ – the teacher of rhetoric – starts deceptively playful. But then, towards the end it shifts gear as it enters into the ‘higher dialectic’ (as referenced in the Republic) to give Plato’s answer to Parmenides in the most advanced version of his so-called ‘Theory of Forms’. This is Bernie’s favourite dialogue, and he can’t wait to show you how it presents the peak of Plato’s achievement.      

Autumn Sessions starting soon

Plato and Aristotle as depicted by Raphael in the School of Athens 1511
Plato pointing up, Aristotle pointing down in Raphael’s School of Athens

Places are still available in our Autumn evening classes starting the week of Monday 12 April 2021. If you are new to Plato and philosophy, we recommend for starters Reading Plato [NOW BOOKING FOR WINTER]. Continuing students are challenged to go deeper into Platonic philosophy by reading Plato’s Theaetetus [BOOKED OUT]. Delve into the geometric imagination behind the dialogues by practicing Platonic Esoteric Geometry [BOOKED OUT]. Meanwhile, Happy Easter!

Autumn 2021 enrolments now open

Greek vase depicting young men anointing with oil after exercising in the gymnasium.
In Plato’s Theaetetus, a brilliant geometry student is engaged by Socrates after anointing at the gymnasium.

Enrolments are now open for Autumn evening classes starting after Easter 2021. Those who are new to philosophy and Plato would best take our foundation course Reading Plato [BOOKINGS NOW CLOSED]. A new course for advanced students will be reading one of Plato’s great offerings to our tradition, the Theaetetus. This dialogue between Socrates and his young look-alike, Theaetetus, surveys several answers to the question: What is it to know something? Those who missed out on our first run of Platonic Esoteric Geometry will be pleased to hear that it is running gain. This hands-on class will convene in the Lonsdale Street classrooms, while the other classes remain online due to ongoing COVID restrictions.

The Spiral of Theodorus

Spiral of Theodorus Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Spiral_of_Theodorus.svg
The root spiral of Theodorus Source

In Plato’s dialogue, Theaetetus (p. 147d), there is a cryptic description of a complicated geometrical diagram that the geometrician, Theodorus, drew for his students. Down through the centuries there has been much speculation about exactly what Theodorus was supposed to have drawn.

We know that it involved the roots of square areas in the natural number series up the area of 17, and so √17. But then at √17 Theodorus stopped, so we are told, because after that the diagram got ‘entangled’ (enescheto).

What happened after √17?

Continue reading “The Spiral of Theodorus”

Platonism and Buddhism

Ancient Gandhara Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/94/Gandhara_map.jpg/640px-Gandhara_map.jpg
Ancient Gandhara in the upper Indus valley is where a Hellenistic culture turn Buddhist. Source

Session 4 of Reading Plato comes to the Phaedo’s myth of the soul’s transmigration, where students are often astonished by the similarities with Buddhist doctrine. This raises the question of whether Platonism influenced Buddhism, or whether Plato and Buddhism share a common source.

This question has been raised many times down through the centuries and continues to be asked by modern scholars. Much of the interest centres around the ancient Gandharan civilisation of the northern Indus valley in modern day Pakistan. Gandhara was part of the great Persian Empire until Alexander’s conquest, when it came under Hellenistic influence in its art and culture. But then it turned to Buddhism.

Continue reading “Platonism and Buddhism”