Ancient Philosophy Course: Starting May 2013
Ancient Philosophy with Dr Mark Vernon
6 week course now booking : Starts Monday 13th May.
Dr Mark Vernon is a writer, broadcaster and teacher. He began his professional life as a priest in the Church of England. He has a PhD in philosophy, and degrees in theology and physics. His most recent books are two on God – God: All That Matters (Hodder) and The Big Questions: God (Quercus) – and he has written books on friendship, wellbeing and the good life.
The ancient philosophy course draws on his book, Plato’s Podcasts: The Ancients’ Guide to Modern Living (Oneworld). Mark writes regularly for publications in the UK, including the Guardian, TLS and The Tablet. He also broadcasts on the BBC. He is an Honorary Research Fellow at Birkbeck College, University of London and a keen blogger at www.markvernon.com
Idler Course Testimonials
‘Mark is a great teacher who helps to bring clarity to some potentially very intimidating subjects.’
‘A great place to think, laugh and learn.’
‘It is much better to be talk philosophy than to read it.’
‘I never spent Sunday afternoons looking forward to Monday until I joined this course!’
13th May: The Pre-Socratics and the birth of philosophy
Socrates is the seminal figure of western philosophy, but he himself emerged from a tradition already centuries old. In this evening we will consider the thought of individuals from Thales, sometimes called the father of philosophy, to the big hitters such as Heraclitus and Parmenides, who argued over whether everything is in a state of flux or is, ultimately, one. The surviving texts of these philosophers are fragmentary but we can build up a fascinating picture of their extraordinary takes on the world, ideas that have echoed across the centuries to our own day.
20th May: Socrates and Plato and the examined life
Socrates is arguably the most influential figure in western philosophy, though oddly he wrote not a word. Most of his ideas come to us via Plato, from the notion that the unexamined life is not worth living, to that of dying for a principled cause. But what are his great insights? Why is he so important? And can Plato be trusted, because this was a philosopher who had his own, powerful ideas about how to live – ideas we will explore too.
27th May: Aristotle and the study of happiness
He has been called the first scientist and his philosophy dominated in the west right up to the Renaissance. Today, he is increasing influential for his work on virtue ethics, an approach to moral philosophy that is gaining wide recognition once more. How to be happy? What does it mean to have a friend? How should we organise society so as to flourish? We will ask these questions and more of Aristotle.
3rd June: Stoicism and the discovery of the logos
The Stoics offered probably the most successful practical philosophy of life right up to the Christian period – individuals from Cicero to Marcus Aurelius followed them – and even when the new religion arrived, Stoic ideas were imported. Notions about ‘going with the flow’ and ‘keeping a stiff upper lip’ can be traced back to Stoic ideas, and behind them lie a fully developed understanding of the nature of the cosmos.
10th June: Epicurus and the question of pleasure
Hedonism is the philosophy for a consumer age, though Epicurus – the founder in the west of this strand of thought – would have critiqued our way of life severely. Pleasure is the central question for him, but the trick is to enjoy small pleasures rather than become addicted to ever bigger, unsustainable highs and kicks. Epicurus taught in a garden and wrote from matters such as friendship, to the atomic nature of matter.
NB No course on 17th June
24th June: The Sceptics and Cynics: how to rebel and suspend disbelief
These two groups of philosophers were, in a way, the punk-rockers of the ancient world. The Sceptics, from the ancient Greek for ‘searcher’, argued that it is better to suspend your relentless questioning when answers clearly are not to be found: rest easy with mystery. The Cynics, after the word for ‘dog’ because they were accused of living like dogs, challenged the other philosophers by holding a finger to all social conventions. They were Greece’s equivalent of the Hebrew prophets, calling the powerful, the mighty and the confident to account.
|Place||The Idler Academy, 81 Westbourne Park Road, W2 5QH|
|Dates||Monday 13th May to Monday 24th June, with a weeks break on Monday 17th June.|
|Time||6:30pm till 8pm|
|Class Size||Maximum of 20|
|Cost||£150 / £135 Fellows|
|To Book||Add to basket or call 0207 221 5908|
|Benefits||Idler exercise book & pencil / glass of Sfuso wine|