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:

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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

Winter Term starting soon

Drunken Alcibiades interrupting the symposium as depicted by Pietro Testa, 1648
Drunken Alcibiades interrupting the symposium as depicted by Pietro Testa, 1648 (Source)

Places are still available in our Winter evening classes starting the week of Monday, 21 June, 2021.

If you are new to Plato and philosophy, then we recommend for starters Reading Plato [BOOKINGS CLOSED]. Continuing students are challenged to go deeper into Platonic philosophy by reading Plato’s Sophist [BOOKED OUT]. As both these classes remain online, they will not be affected by continuing uncertainty about COVID restrictions in Melbourne.

Platonic Love [BOOKINGS CLOSED] is on again and hopefully still in the Lonsdale St classroom (otherwise online, we will keep you posted). This begins with reading and partly acting-out the speeches from Plato’s famously dramatic Symposium. The second half of the course takes up the picturesque dialogue set by a cool stream on a hot summer’s day between Socrates and the handsome young Phaedrus.

If the influence of Platonism on Christianity interests you, then join us for Bernie Lewin’s talk Philosophy to Scriptures as the Hellenic Museum, 11 am Saturday 19 June. This co-hosted event is permitted under the new COVID restrictions (i.e., starting 11 June). Alas, numbers will be limited, and so booking is essential. After the talk we can head upstairs and check out the Museum’s wonderful collection.

Platonism & Christianity talk at the Hellenic Museum

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The Hellenic Museum and the Platonic Academy invite you to a talk on the many and varied ways that Plato and Platonism influenced the development of Christianity.

| 11 am, Saturday, 19 June 2021| Hellenic Museum | 280 William St, Melbourne | Pre-booking necessary | Tickets includes Museum entry |

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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) [BOOKINGS CLOSED]. For continuing students who missed out last Spring, Platonic Love [BOOKINGS CLOSED] 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 [BOOKINGS CLOSED].

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.