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London IRL: Greek Philosophy in This Day and Age
Sunday March 19 at 4:00 pm - 7:00 pm GMT
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The West likes to tell itself that Greek philosophy is at its heart. The Greeks emphasized eudaimonia, or flourishing: philosophy must lead to a better life. What nobler cause? Moreover, many of the central philosophical questions that we ask today were asked and answered in the writings of Plato, Aristotle, and others. As Whitehead put it in Process and Reality (1929):
“The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.”
At the same time, Athenian democracy was based on warfare, hegemony, and slavery. In Book I of the Politics, Aristotle explains to us that some humans are “slaves by nature.” If Athenian philosophy has set the tone for our modern understanding of who we are, then it has some explaining to do.
What does it mean to attribute such importance to the Greeks? Why read ancient philosophy in this day and age, and what can it do for us? What might it do to us? How can we learn from one culture’s deep exploration of the fundamental questions? How do Platonism, Aristotelianism, Stoicism, Epicureanism, and Pyrrhonism relate to our lives today?
And at the same time, how does reading the ancients doom us to asking the same questions over and over — and perhaps doom us to the same answers? To what extent does it broaden our perspective, and to what extent does it make us conformists, and homogenise us to a hierarchical and archaic way of thinking?