Philosophy before Plato

Street view in Ephesus
Heraclitus was from Ephesus on the Eastern side of the Adriatic Sea

The soul possesses a logos which grows itself.

So wrote Heraclitus of Ephesus, whose sayings are all the more enigmatic because they survive only in fragments. Philosophy emerged in the 6th century and was flourishing across Greece and its colonies at the end of the 5th century BC when Plato was born. The writings of Plato and Aristotle depict a lively philosophical debate between diverse schools, which we only know of otherwise through hearsay and gossip. But then there are these precious few authentic fragments of their original writings.

Join Martin Black of the Independent School of Philosophy for a close examination of some of the most intriguing ‘pre-Socratic’ fragments through which you may spy the very beginnings of the European tradition of science, philosophy and metaphysics.

Ancient Greek language & the first philosophers: a second online class is now available, Monday nights from 25 October. Book Now BOOKED OUT

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

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.