Lullabies for the dying

Open lecture | Existentialist Society (Melb) | 2-4pm, Sat, 2 Oct | zoom link

Last Judgment 1306 Fresco, 1000 x 840 cm Cappella Scrovegni (Arena Chapel), Padua
The Last Judgment by Giotto (1306) Arena Chapel, Padua, Italy

For Plato, scientific discourse (logos) is all about making arguments that can be found to be true or false either by reference to experience (empirical science) or otherwise by reference to the formal nature of things (the formal sciences). These days we would say that physicists and mathematicians make and defend “falsifiable” hypotheses.

But what about discourse that can’t be falsified? Well, that’s where we come to good old fashioned storytelling. In The Republic, Plato rejects traditional literary education based on the myths of gods and heroes, not so much because they aren’t true, but more because these stories don’t promote good psycho-social health. To serve this purpose in his ideal republic, Plato proposes the development of a new mythology.

These new morality tales would include stories about the soul’s afterlife that could help overcome fear of death for those who have led a just life but to exacerbate fear for those who have not. Samples of such inventions that appear in Plato’s Socratic dialogues bear a striking resemblance to the myths of the afterlife that subsequently made their way into the folklore of Christianity and that then became the prime motive of popular Christian morality. One of these stories is told by Plato’s ideal man, Socrates, just before taking the poisonous hemlock, to “enchant” himself as he says, as though a lullaby for the dying.

Join us at the Melbourne Existentialist Society (zoom, 2pm, Sat, 2 Oct) where we consider the extent to which the success of Christianity is based on a Platonic propaganda strategy in which the inherent fear of death is manipulated to effect social control.

Sunday Philosophy Café (lockdown special)

Moses, Isis and Hermes chatting (cropped)
Moses, Isis and Hermes chatting face-to-face (before lockdown)

While this Melbourne lockdown is dragging on and on and on…, we thought to catch-up for a casual philosophy chat. Join us on this zoom link for morning coffee on Sunday (12Sept21) from 10.30 am (Melb time).

This is an opportunity for broader discussion than what tends to unfold in class. Current and past students as welcome, as are other folks interest in Plato and philosophy. (Nice to let us know you’re coming | Dial-in details available on request)

So we hope to see you Sunday morning with a cup of coffee and maybe some philosophical questions you’ve been pondering.

Also note that there is currently only one class scheduled for the Twilight term (starting 26 Oct 21), and so this might bookout early. For details about “Ancient Greek Language and the First Philosophers” see the listing on the Courses page.

Spring term starting soon

Orpheus charms the beasts (source: Dallas Museum of Art)

Places are still available in all Spring evening classes starting the week of Monday, 23 August, 2021.

If you are new to Plato and philosophy, then we recommend for starters Reading Plato [BOOKINGS CLOSED]. If you ever wondered about the origins of Christianity then you might try Platonism and Christianity [BOOKED OUT]. In the new course for continuing students [BOOKED OUT], we will be reading not only the Timaeus (cosmology), but also a curious set of short dialogues: Critias (the Atlantis myth), Meno (learning-as-recollection) and Ion (enthusiastic rhapsody).

All classes were planned to be online-only using zoom, except Reading Plato (classroom + online option). However, with a likely extension of the Melbourne lockdown, it looks like Reading Plato will also move to online-only.

See more on the Courses page.

Spring 2021 enrolments now open

Stone relief depicting  the destruction of the Jewish Second Temple in 70 AD, Arch of Titus, Rome.
When Christianity and Judaism went their separate ways:
Destruction of the 2nd Temple, 70 AD (Arch of Titus)

Enrolments are now open for Spring evening classes starting the week of Monday, 23 August 2021.

Those new to philosophy, or new to Plato, would best take our foundation course, Reading Plato (Wednesdays, classroom & online).

For those who missed out last year, Platonism and Christianity is on again. If you are curious about the origins of Christianity, and especially its origins in Hellenistic philosophy, then this course might be for you (Mondays, online).

For continuing students, there is a new course exploring the fantastic psycho-physical cosmology and cryptic mathematical passages of Plato’s famous Timaeus. We then continue on to the Critias and finish with its account of Atlantis.

See more on the Courses page.

The Phaedrus from Pico to Derrida

Giovanni Pico della Mirandola
At the age of 23, Pico della Mirandola thought he might bring together intellectuals across Christendom in a convocation of divine ascent and for this purpose he penned an oration that has since come to define Renaissance humanism. The oration was never delivered as his project failed spectacularly and by the age of 31 he was dead, kill by poisoning. ( image source).

In Platonic Love last night we discussed the influence of Plato’s Phaedrus on two very different philosophical schools.

First came the influence on Renaissance humanism through Marsilio Ficino and Pico della Mirandola and their revival of the philosophical aspiration towards ecstatic union with the divine:

Continue reading “The Phaedrus from Pico to Derrida”

The Symposium in Oxbridge

Last night in Platonic Love discussion turned to the affinities between ancient Greek homoeroticism and the ‘camp’ culture in British public schools and university from the late 19th century to the middle of the 20th century. This affinity is exemplified by a 1965 movie adaptation of Plato’s Symposium, which was nevertheless censored of any explicit sexual references that might offend those outside the insular Oxbridge world.

The Drinking Party, 1965 adaptation of Plato’s Symposium directed by Jonathan Miller