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Porphyry on Arete (Virtue or Excellence)

Short talk, reading and group discussion on the living basis of philosophy - arete (virtue or excellence).

In the ancient philosophical tradition in all it phases - Orphic, Pythagorean, Platonic, and Late Platonic (sometimes inaccurately labelled Neoplatonic), philosophy was understood not simply a way of thinking, but a way of life as well, which is unfolded by the study and practice of what was called arete, that is the excellences or virtues. These may also be used as meditational practices, which, once made familiar, can be seen throughout all the works of Plato, Parmenides, Plotinus, Aristotle, and many others. Indeed as Porphyry wrote, "Beatific contemplation does not consist of the accumulation of arguments or a storehouse of learned knowledge, but in us theory must become nature and life itself."

These living excellences are so fundamental, that they can be seen not only as essential to aid to the understanding of the individual, but also to the individual development, as well as integral to the human social structure, as Plato shows in his Republic and elsewhere.

This is our second session on this text (our first was on April 18th) - but if you missed that, we will start this evening with a brief summary of what was discussed then. We will look at this subject using an extract from the Auxiliaries to the Perception of Intelligible Natures by Porphyry (circa 233 – 305 c.e.) This philosopher, a Phoenician of royal descent, was born in Tyre (in modern day Lebanon) but who traveled to Rome to study under Plotinus to whom he became attached as a disciple and confidant. It is thanks to him that we have the inspired speeches of Plotinus, as he recorded and arranged them into the Enneads we have today.

The evening will consist of a brief introduction to the subject and its place in the Platonic tradition, a reading of an extract from Porphyry's text, and then an open discussion amongst those present about the ideas being put forward by Porphyry.

No previous experience of formal philosophy is required.

Entrance in free, but donations between £3-5 will be welcomed.

A PDF download of the extract we will be reading is available on our website together with further details of this and other Prometheus Trust's activities: www.prometheustrust.co.uk (the PDF is on the "London Monday Evenings" page.)


Peter Lyle | talks | www


Date and Time:

16 May 2016 at 7:30 pm


1 hour 30 minutes



Cecil Sharp House
2 Regent’s Park Road

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Organised by:

The Prometheus Trust
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