from 4pm to 7pm
3-week course: Plato and the pursuit of truthThree afternoons on the Platonic ways of truth-seeking
- Tim Addey
Drama as an instrument of truth
"Suddenly, a loud knocking was heard at the door, together with intoxicated voices and the sound of the pipe" – Plato, in the Symposium
Plato's dialogues have challenged readers to explore questions of truth and reality for the last 2,400 years: during that time humankind's view of truth and the universe we inhabit has undergone many changes – but Plato's philosophy remains alive with his profound questions.
For many specialists in Platonic philosophy the arrangements of logical questioning in the speeches of the characters of the dialogues constitute the whole of his approach to philosophy: but is this really the case? We need to ask why Plato wrote dramatic dialogues rather than straight-forward treatises, and why the philosophical questions are shaped by his drama rather than by the themes he explores.
The first of three Sunday afternoons on Plato's approach to truth-seeking, we aim to explore the insights that the dramatic action brings to the dialogues. We will spend an hour looking at some of the most powerful dramatic moments in the Platonic body of work and, after a short break, open up the meeting to a discussion about the ideas we can see emerging from this approach.
Story-telling as an instrument of truth
"Be as children, and listen" – Plato, in The Statesman
The second of three Sunday afternoons of Plato's approach to truth-seeking, we aim to explore some of the stories his characters tell during the dialogues. What does story-telling add to the rational arguments from which they arise? What advantage is there in myth and story to compensate for the loss of precision when dialogues move from dialectical argument to the strange tales Plato has speakers relate?
We will spend an hour looking at examples of his stories, and the way they are embedded in the dialogues; after a short break we will open up the meeting to a discussion about this way of philosophizing, and what it adds to the rational element of the dialogue.
Questioning as an instrument of truth
"Divinity compels me to act as a midwife . . . but when souls, not bodies, are pregnant." –Plato, in the Theaetetus
The third of three Sunday afternoons exploring Plato's approach to truth-seeking, we aim to explore the different ways that careful questioning allows hidden truths to emerge from common opinions, and half-formed thoughts or from conflicting positions and unexamined assumptions. We will also look at the way Socrates in particular approaches different characters with appropriate strategies – for his is a more subtle art than many realise.
We will spend an hour looking at various passages of the dialogues, selected to illustrate particular approaches and after a short break, open up the meeting to a discussion about this form of philosophy.