January 4th, 2009
From Heaven to Earth:
Plato's Philosophy and the World We Live In
by David Horan
Though Plato lived over 23 hundred years ago, yet his works still exercise a profound influence on our world today. Alfred North Whitehead once said of the European philosophical tradition that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.
Plato founded the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the western world, and his writings—which were inspired by his teacher Socrates—helped to lay the foundations of Western philosophy.
This was a presentation for all those who would love to learn more about the life and work of Plato, one of the most significant and influential philosophers of all time.
In today's world we often separate Philosophy from Politics, Economics, Theatre, Literature and the troubles of our time. For Plato and Socrates this was a dangerous separation. Socrates, through the life he lived, and Plato, through his teaching and writing, demonstrated that Philosophy is a rich and vital activity, directly relevant to every aspect of people's lives.
This lecture described how Socrates and Plato engaged with the philosophers, poets, playwrights, politicians, villains, tyrants and thugs of their time. Encouraging people to examine their beliefs and motives was, for these two men, the most important work of all. Such examination was not an abstract, theoretical exercise but a practical, urgent necessity; a life of wisdom was something to be lived, rather than just talked about.
From Heaven to Earth demonstrated how Plato and Socrates eloquently call upon us to do the same—to make Philosophy, or the pursuit of wisdom, the main priority of our lives. The problems of our time, as in Ancient Greece, are ultimately not political, economic or psychological but philosophical.
Only by means of Philosophy can the world maintain a safe and steady course, avoiding the errors and pitfalls that inevitably accompany the failure to appreciate one's own true nature or inquire into ultimate reality. David Horan has had a long and abiding love of Plato's works, and is an inspirational speaker on this subject. Sharing his deep love and knowledge of Plato, David demonstrated how to bring the words of Plato to life in our own times.
About the Presenter
A long-time member of the School of Philosophy in Dublin, David Horan has been a devoted student of Plato for many decades. In conjunction with Irish universities, he has organised the public "Day with Plato" event for the past 21 years, introducing thousands of people to the works of Plato.
In recognition of his work, he has recently been granted a commission to re-translate the entire works of Plato, a project that will occupy him for many years to come. In recent years, he has also been involved in producing dramatisations and films of Plato's dialogues.
David has been running Plato Study Weeks world-wide since 2004, and has conducted group tours to Greece, incorporating the study of Plato with visits to key sites of the ancient world.
If you wish, you may download a Transcript of this Lecture [PDF, 120 KB].
This third talk in the Lifestyle and Culture Lectures series was a great success. Some 350 people enjoyed David's illuminating talk, as illustrated by the following feedback comments below.
David delivering the lecture
A snapshot of the audience
A Socratic dialogue following the Lecture!
Feedback from a Visiting Academic
"Entertaining and impressively well read and knowledgable speaker. My companions and I have academic backgrounds in philosophy and we all thought David an excellent speaker...
"The discipline of philosophy is in dire need of 'public relations' to lift its profile, and the topic is particularly timely right now. Many young people think philosophy is 'impractical' or not relevant to non-academic careers, and apparently, I'm told, some employees share this mistaken impression. Therefore, we are seeing fewer university applicants to philosophy programs. While this is in large part a result of 'credentialism' and an excessive focus on narrow vocational aims, I think a positive first step in correcting perceptions starts with ordinary people.
"Thanks for your efforts to bring philosophy to the wider community through programs such as this lecture series."
If you are interested in all things Platonic, you may like to visit the Plato Forum, hosted by our sister site in London.
Lecture display 1
Lecture display 2
Plato and Socrates