Announcing the topic of a forthcoming weekend retreat. Please get in contact with us if you are interested in participating. Dates and venues TBA.

Philosophical Retreats

Plato on the Care of the Soul.

In this we will base the weekend on Plato’s Apology of Socrates, the Phaedo and parts of the Republic. In the Apology Socrates speaks of how his whole philosophical mission is motivated by what he calls ‘care of the soul’:

‘I go around doing nothing but persuading both young and old among you not to care for your body or your wealth in preference to or as strongly as for the best possible state of your soul . . .’

This weekend is devoted to fully exploring the meaning of these words and why Socratic philosophy is to be understood as primarily a care of the soul. We will look at the doctrine of the soul in Plato’s works, particularly in the Phaedo: what is the soul? is it indestructible or does it die with the body? What is the connection between the doctrine of the soul and metaphysics? and, How do we go about caring for the soul?

What does Socrates mean by the extraordinary and shocking claim that ‘that the one aim of those who practice philosophy in the proper manner is to practice for dying and death.’ What is the relationship between philosophy and mortality?

The contemporary philosopher Simon Critchley said: ‘what defines human life in our corner of the planet at the present time is not just a fear of death, but an overwhelming terror of annihilation.’ So is philosophy at bottom a strategy for dealing with our own mortality and the unavoidable inevitability of our own death?

Be as it may, this is not really about death but about life. Michel de Montaigne said: ‘He who has learned how to die has unlearned how to be a slave’. What exactly are we enslaved to when we have failed to deal with our mortality?

Paradoxically it seems, the path to happiness passes through learning to die. Seneca, echoing Socrates: ‘He will live badly who does not know how to die well.’

Finally, the inner mystery of Christianity – genuine and lasting joy only follows on from a dying to self. Is taming the ego a necessary step towards happiness?

All the great religions and philosophies seem to agree on this point, now what does Plato have to teach us about it?