Lecture Eleven

December 29th, 2013

Socrates’ Swan

The birth of the philosophy of Plato amid the troubled world of Ancient Athens

by David Horan

Socrates had a dream in which he saw a young swan on his knees which all at once put forth plumage and flew away uttering a loud sweet note. Next day the young Plato was introduced to Socrates who immediately recognized him as the swan from his dream.

The flight of the swan represents the beginning of Plato’s philosophy and its continuance through a tradition which has endured over thousands of years. Yet it was born in an ancient Athens beset by political and civil difficulties and conflict but also inheriting a glorious tradition of freedom, democracy and free speech. Plato’s privileged background set him on a natural course for political and public life but he turned instead to philosophy, rather than politics, as the only way to right the ills of society and bring happiness to individuals.

This lecture explored these key questions:

  • Why did Plato say that philosophy and not politics will right the ills of society?
  • What debt did he owe to his own teacher, Socrates, a man who said that he himself knew nothing?
  • How did Plato present his philosophy and what purpose did he envisage for it?
  • What can we learn from Plato and Socrates?

About the Presenter

David Horan is a senior member of the Dublin School of Philosophy and in conjunction with Irish universities he has organized the public “Day With Plato” event for the past 26 years, introducing thousands to the works of Plato.

He has produced film versions of three of Plato’s dialogues and live dramatisations of numerous others. David has run Plato Study Weeks since 2004 in Ireland, Italy and Melbourne and has lectured extensively on the dialogues in England, Holland, New York and Johannesburg.

He has been conducting group tours to Greece for 17 years combining the study of Plato with visits to the sites of the ancient world. He has led three 2 week seminars on various dialogues in Delphi, Greece.

He is currently producing a new translation of the Complete Dialogues of Plato. This work is being undertaken at the Centre for the Study of the Platonic Tradition in Trinity College, Dublin.

Past Feedback

“I really enjoyed the style of the presenter, easy to listen to with clear diction.”

“I was invigorated, stimulated and it re-ignited a desire to pursue, to enquire further.”

David Horan