Term Dates: 03 May - 18 July 2021 (half term 31 May - 06 June)
A ten-week starter course considering the philosophical ideas and questions affecting our everyday lives. Offered via Zoom in the spring term.
Do any of us really know who we are? Or why? For thousands of years, philosophy has been searching for answers and seeking the truth in everything. Through Practical Philosophy we seek understanding not through theory, but from our own direct experience. Living life to the full.
Classes are held online via Zoom and each one lasts 90 minutes.
Classes will take place on the Bank Holiday, Monday 03 May.
These opening sessions consider how philosophy can help us enjoy richer, less stressful lives.
What is practical philosophy?
‘What would a wise person do here?’
Philosophy means the love of wisdom. Our course is intended to show how philosophy can help us enjoy richer, less stressful and more useful lives. This opening two sessions consider these aims, and introduces simple exercises in mindfulness and the application of wisdom you can practise in daily life.
Who am I, really? My body? My emotions? My strongly held beliefs? My soul? Possibly all of these? Possibly none?
Such questions have preoccupied philosophers down the ages. We look at practical ways to explore who we really are and how to tap our true potential.
What is our state of awareness?
Why does it fluctuate during the day?
Often the most notable quality of wise people is their alertness to the subtleties of a situation. They are awake, perceptive and curious.
We look at deeper levels of awareness, and consider how we may become more awake to ourselves, our surroundings, and the events we meet.
The present moment
Living in the now, mindfulness.
What is the potential of the present moment?
We review our own experience of attention through a model featuring attention centred, captured, open and scattered, and how these each relate to the past, present and future.
We examine the extraordinary brightness and freedom naturally available in the present moment. A straightforward practice is introduced
Plato’s views on justice.
What does it mean to live justly?
According to Plato, justice and injustice do not start ‘out there’. They begin within us. For justice to prevail, Plato suggests that we must learn to avoid being ‘tyrannised’ by our passions and fears to the extent they overrule our reason.
We discuss the practicality of Plato’s ideas on justice in our daily lives.
The Threefold Energy
The Vedic model of three fundamental energies.
Sometimes we seem not to have enough energy, or the wrong kind. A wise person can act consistently despite these varying conditions.
We consider how to recognise differing energies, how to gain and conserve them and how to use them wisely.
The light of reason
What is reason? How can it enrich our lives? We look at guidelines for Socratic dialogue and how to use them. Developing reason in decision-making and action are also discussed, with practical applications. Obstacles to reason are considered. Everyone has the faculty of reason and we can all use it and develop it.
The power of beauty
What is beauty?
Is there such a thing as absolute beauty?
Beauty has the capacity to open the heart and bring delight. In this session we discuss our direct experience of beauty in its different form: of the sensory world, of thought, of feelings, of the inner nature, and of conduct.
We consider Plato’s idea of there being ultimately one beauty – beauty absolute – ‘not knowing birth or death, growth or decay’.
Unity in diversity
Looking for the common thread in life.
What is the effect of finding unity?
When we look around, we see enormous diversity in nature. The wise person looks for the unifying factor: that which allows all this apparent diversity to be seen as part of a single whole.
Seen in this way, life then has the best chance of being led freshly and openly.
The desire for truth
What is truth?
How does the desire for truth show itself?
Practical philosophy is about discovering the truth of things – not theoretically, but in our own experience.
In this final session we look back and ask ourselves how our search for truth has fared as the term has progressed. We discuss what has been discovered and how, in our own way, we may continue to develop it in our daily lives.