Investigating the three kinds of love in a talk given last summer at How The Light Gets In festival...
Friday, March 7 2014
By Mark Vernon on Friday, March 7 2014, 10:19
Investigating the three kinds of love in a talk given last summer at How The Light Gets In festival...
Friday, January 24 2014
By Mark Vernon on Friday, January 24 2014, 22:34
Philosophy in 12 Key Steps starts next week - a few places left!
Wednesday, December 18 2013
By Mark Vernon on Wednesday, December 18 2013, 15:34
Saturday, November 2 2013
By Mark Vernon on Saturday, November 2 2013, 08:36
Spend your Sunday at The Idler Academy learning about Socrates, Plato and the ancient schools. Price includes tea & coffee, lunch, afternoon cake and warming winter gin punch.
This is a lively, day crash course in philosophy, exploring the essentials you need to know about the ancient figures from Pythagoras to Plato, examining the origins of the western tradition in ancient Greece. The day will comprise of talks from Mark and group discussions, and there will be time for you to discuss any of your burning philosophical questions.
The day is divided in two. During the morning we will learn about the birth of Western thought, focussing particularly on the big hitters: Pythagoras, Heraclitus and Parmenides. Then we come to Socrates, arguably the most influential philosopher in history, alongside his disciples who are giants in their own rights, Plato and Aristotle. A number of schools of philosophy flourished then too, and during the Roman and early Christian period, notably the Stoics and Epicureans, and in the second half of the day we will examine the ways of life they advocated in the quest for insight and tranquility.
Order of the day
11:00 – 11:15 Arrival, tea & coffee and Introductions 11:15 – 12:00 The Pre-Socratics and the birth of western thought 12:00 – 1:00 Socrates, Plato and Aristotle 1:00 – 1:45 Lunch and open symposium 1:45 – 3:00 Stoics and Epicureans 3:00 – 3:30 Tea and cake 3:30 – 4:30 Cynics, Sceptics and what happened next 4:30 – 5:00 Conclusions, winter punch.
Sunday, October 13 2013
By Mark Vernon on Sunday, October 13 2013, 17:24
Tuesday, June 25 2013
By Mark Vernon on Tuesday, June 25 2013, 14:59
Monday 23rd September – Monday 9th December 2013
A twelve week crash course in philosophy, ancient and modern, western and eastern, examining key thinkers and key texts.
New to this course: - Read three key texts! - Explore Eastern philosophy! - Shine a light on the so-called dark ages!
1. Monday 23rd September 2013
Before Socrates: the birth of Western thought
We will consider the thought of individuals from Thales, sometimes called the father of philosophy, to the big hitters Pythagoras, Heraclitus and Parmenides, who argued over whether everything is in a state of flux or is, ultimately, one. The surviving texts of these philosophers are fragmentary but we can build up a fascinating picture of their extraordinary take on the world, ideas that have echoed across the centuries to our own day.
2. Monday 30th September 2013
Plato and Aristotle: the disciples of Socrates
Socrates is arguably the most influential figure in western philosophy. The richest picture of him comes to us via Plato, from the notion that the unexamined life is not worth living, to that knowing that he knows little or nothing. What are his great insights? Why is he so important? Plato taught Aristotle with whom we ask further questions. How to be happy? What does it mean to have a friend? How should we organise society so as to flourish?
3. Monday 7th October 2013
Stoicism and Epicureanism: ancient philosophy’s success stories
The Stoics offered probably the most successful practical philosophy of life right up to the Christian period. Notions about ‘going with the flow’ and challenging one’s emotions can be traced back to Stoic ideas. Second most successful was Epicureanism, a kind of hedonism though one that severely critiques our consumer way of life. The trick, they thought, is to enjoy small pleasures rather than become addicted to ever bigger, unsustainable highs and kicks.
4. Monday 14th October 2013
Immanuel Kant, politics and the Enlightenment
After Descartes two different attitudes towards the world took root. Empiricism claimed that only the senses could be trusted as a source of knowledge. Idealism argued that our mental construction of the world must come first. Kant is the towering figure of the Enlightenment, attempting to outline the limits of human knowledge. His essays, What Is Enlightenment?, answers with the clarion call to dare to know for yourself. Though he was also a conservative figure, arguing that society must decide on truth, as well as seeking to synthesis empirical and idealist assumptions.
5. Monday 21st October 2013
Karl Popper and the philosophy of science
Modern science is indisputably one of humankind’s most powerful inventions, but just what it discovers and how it works is widely contested. Popper is a crucial figure in this debate, with his measure of falsifiability. He also wrote very well about history and Darwinism. We will also consider Thomas Kuhn, and the notion of paradigm shifts, and other contemporary interpretations. This evening will help you to get a grip on what science can and can’t address, equipping you for living in a scientific age.
6. Monday 28th October 2013
Friedrich Nietzsche and philosophies of the self
In this session, we cast an eye towards what is known as continental philosophy, which is generally as interested in questions of how to live alongside those of analytic philosophy’s how can we know. Some regard Nietzsche as the most important philosopher of the last century or so. A psychologist and poet too, he never fails to provoke. Foucault provides another stimulating way into this different world. A disciple of Nietzsche, theorist of the self and sexuality, his ideas have also percolated very widely.
7. Monday 4th November 2013
Eastern philosophy today: Indian idealism and Buddhism
Recent philosophy in the West has been dominated by various forms of scientific materialism, which is perhaps why the ancient systems of India are of growing interesting. They offer an idealist conceptions of things, the notion that mind is the fundamental way in which we relate to the cosmos. Buddhist thought represents another development of this approach, a practical philosophy that seeks to address the problem of suffering and discontent, simultaneously raising key questions about the nature of the self and how to live.
8. Monday 11th November 2013
Eastern philosophy today: Confucianism and Taoism
The great philosophical systems of China used to be curiosities for a few students of the Far East. Today, their impact can be felt on lives in the West, partly as a result of globalisation, partly as a result of growing interest in non-Christian spirituality. We will examine the basics of Confucianism and Taoism, have a brief look at some of the key texts, and origins. There will be time to discuss their relevance today.
9. Monday 18th November 2013
Medieval philosophy today: Plotinus and Thomas Aquinas
Although, the medieval period is known as the dark ages, it produced some of the greatest philosophers of all time. Boethius’ Consolations of Philosophy was a best-selling for centuries, teaching that a right mind and heart can withstand all the pains of fate. And then came Thomas Aquinas, a monk in the new hippy order of Dominicans, whose interpretation of Aristotle is marked by genuine genius. His insights on the good life, on human psychology and on God, are still important today.
10. Monday 25th November 2013
Going deeper with a key text: Plato’s Symposium
It is said that sometime in 416BC, a group of notable Athenians, not least Socrates, sat down to discuss love. That’s Plato’s conceit, in his Symposium – one of those texts that you will recognise has influenced the way you think about love and beauty, truth and the highest vision to which mortals can aspire. It is a text to which you can return time and time again and always discover sometime new. We will do so in this reading-group style symposium.
'11. Monday 2nd December 2013''
Going deeper with a key text: Descartes’ Meditations
Descartes personal and highly readable reflection on what it is to be human stands on the threshold of a new way of being in the world, now called being modern. It turns doubt on itself to see what can be known for certain, and controversially concludes, ‘I think therefore I am’. Descartes is widely held responsible for mind/body dualism. In this symposium we will look his book, which he regarded as a spiritual reflection, and at what it means to live in his shadow.
12. Monday 9th December 2013
Going deeper with a key text: William James’ The Varieties of Religious Experience
Delivered as lectures, this set of reflections on religious experience have not really been beaten in the one hundred years since their publication. James – the brother of the novelist Henry – is a brilliant writer: witty, insightful, arresting and scholarly in equal measure. He writes in the period before philosophy became separate from theology and psychology, even more so from spirituality, a change that would have astonished the ancient philosophers. His book offers a way back to integrating these key domains of human interest and concern.
Sign up for all 12 weeks – £300 (2 weeks free), 6 weeks £150 (1 week free) or individual evenings – £30 an evening.
Tuesday, June 18 2013
By Mark Vernon on Tuesday, June 18 2013, 15:58
Feed your mind and body on the Idler Academy’s Foraging and Philosophy weekend.
Your hosts will be Tom Hodgkinson and Victoria Hull, and the weekend takes place at their Exmoor farmhouse.
Over the course of the weekend, you will learn how to forage on beach, moor, hedgerow and woodland with expert Lucia Stuart. You will learn how to identify and also how to prepare and cook wild plants, seaweeds, shellfish and flowers.
During the weekend we will also discuss philosophy and learn about the Epicureans with author Dr Mark Vernon.
We will feast, sing and reflect on the big question: how to live. We will teach you how to bake bread. You will eat well and think well. There will also be the opportunity to sleep a lot.
As well as foraged ingredients, you will sample local Devon cheeses, meats and preserves. And beer.
The house is situated on the spectacular cliffs on the north coast of Devon, close to Woody Bay (pictured).
£325 includes VAT and all talks, cookery lessons, foraging trips, information sheets, exercise book, pencil, two dinners, two lunches, coffee, tea, cakes, signed copy of Tom Hodgkinson’s Brave Old World and a welcoming cocktail.
Friday, April 12 2013
By Mark Vernon on Friday, April 12 2013, 15:06
Busting romance, reclaiming narcissism and the three things you need to know about love: a symposium.
Tuesday 23rd April, 7.00pm, at the Idler Academy, London
Falling in love is widely celebrated as the pinnacle of the experiences life can offer. This is one of the most pernicious and dangerous myths of our time. In fact, the best kind of love is… Well, is what? Join celebrated Mark Vernon for a symposium, with wine, on love.
In truth, contends Dr Vernon, there are different kinds of love that we learn about in different phases of our lives. Life tends to go well when we have good access to these different ways of loving. In this evening of talk and conversation, we will explore the different loves, what can go wrong with them, and how it can go well.
It turns out that there are three modes of loving. First, there is self-love, narcissism, which is required so that we can be comfortable in our own skin. Then there is the love of another that, when it is returned, nurtures us in trusting and loving others. And thirdly, there is love of life itself, which allows us to be open to all that life throws at us, firing our passions, creativity and courage.
Along the way, we’ll think about questions such as how many friends might one have, why love is not possible in a happy world, and whether love is really evolution’s way of blinding us to the difficulties of raising young.
Friday, February 22 2013
By Mark Vernon on Friday, February 22 2013, 16:46
Do, please, consider signing up for the Modern Philosophy course at The Idler Academy, beginning next Monday, 25th February. There are still places. I'd be delighted to see you there.
We consider first Thomas Aquinas, who was probably the greatest interpreter of Aristotle ever and one of the most brilliant philosophers of the medieval period though often forgotten today.
The following Monday we turn to Descartes, who was a modern sceptic though in some ways quite unlike the ancient sceptics, a difference that some feel has led modern philosophy up a dangerous cul-de-sac.
We then come to the empiricist and idealist traditions, associated with towering figures like Hume and Kant, that in some ways bring the differences between the Epicureans and the Stoics into the modern world.
Then we spend a couple of weeks looking at the philosophy of religion and the philosophy of science - twin themes that were major components of ancient thought, though of course have also changed dramatically in the modern world.
Saturday, February 2 2013
By Mark Vernon on Saturday, February 2 2013, 09:08
A couple of things coming up that may be of interest:
Sunday 3rd February, 1pm. Idle Sundays at Selfridges - Aristotle, Epicurus and the Vita Contemplativa, with one Dr Mark Vernon.
Wednesday, January 30 2013
By Mark Vernon on Wednesday, January 30 2013, 15:36
Does the book have a key idea? Yes. There are different kinds of love that we learn about in different phases of our lives. Life tends to go well when we have good access to these different ways of loving. So the book explores how we learn about the different loves, what can go wrong, and what can go well.
What are the different kinds of love? Recent developmental psychology suggests that there are three basic modes in which we love. There is self-love, which is required so that we can be comfortable in our own skin. There is the love of another that, when it is returned, nurtures us in trusting and loving others. And there is love of life itself, which allows us to be open to all that life throws at us, firing our passions, creativity and courage.
Why did you write this book now? In the 1950s, the psychologist Erich Fromm wrote a brilliant short book on love, The Art of Loving. Many of its insights still stand, but it does read as dated now, particularly about the relationships between men and women, and also about homosexuality. Also, Fromm wrote before modern developmental psychology. So I felt it was a good moment to update, in a way, Fromm's The Art of Loving.
Are these new ideas? They are, in the sense that developmental psychology has progressed in recent years. But it fascinates me how they link with ancient ideas too, remembered in myths and philosophy. So the book looks at a number of ancient myths, some well known like that of Narcissus; others almost forgotten, like the story of Eros and Anteros, which I think has many things to tell us about the struggles people find when they are in a couple
Is romance the highest form of love? No. I really think that the adulation of romantic love is a danger. The belief that there is one other person out there who will perfect your life is a powerful fantasy, hard to resist even by those who don't believe it. Romance is fine, but it must lead us to love life itself, with another, but not perpetually gazing into our beloved's eyes.
Is there a highest form of love? We need to be fluent in the various kinds of love. That said, I think that the love of life itself, manifest in creativity and friendship, is the richest flowering of human love. This is being able to stand in love. I talk about divine love too, the perception which may come that although we are thrown into life, life is underpinned by love. This sense is what religious people call God.
Friday, January 11 2013
By Mark Vernon on Friday, January 11 2013, 15:59
I took part in a discussion about the value of atheism in The Battle of Ideas last year, the video of the session now being available online.
I basically argued that the three biggest hitters - Freud, Marx and Nietzsche - were almost certainly wrong in their analysis of God and religion, but are very useful for believers to engage with. (I'm about 15 minutes in...)
Saturday, January 5 2013
By Mark Vernon on Saturday, January 5 2013, 15:34
'A real Tardis of book, with so much wisdom and information packed into so small a space, and elucidated with a brilliant clarity. Sourcing mythology, modern psychology and philosophy, it shines a light on this most commonplace yet complex of emotions.' Tim Lott
Friday, January 4 2013
By Mark Vernon on Friday, January 4 2013, 09:32
There are still a couple of places left on the six week, ancient philosophy course, at The Idler Academy, starting Monday...
Monday, December 31 2012
By Mark Vernon on Monday, December 31 2012, 17:54
'A profoundly benign and practical little book. Compact scholarship and wisdom with an original thesis.' Oliver James
Saturday, December 15 2012
By Mark Vernon on Saturday, December 15 2012, 10:10
I took part in a discussion about moral realism with Angus Ritchie and Julian Baggini at the LSE a week or so back, now online as a podcast.
I tried to talk about the moral imagination and moral emotions that draw us on a process of moral discovery, rather than whether there are moral facts. I feel that to ask that question up front is to put the cart before the horse, and leads to a rather dry debate, oddly disconnected from life.
Iris Murdoch's notion of the 'wider horizon' also appeals, her sense that the moral life stands beyond and before us, and is therefore transcendent. In this sense, morality is objective; that the good, beautiful and true is not made by us, but sought by us, and even seeks us.
Wednesday, December 5 2012
By Mark Vernon on Wednesday, December 5 2012, 09:00
I hugely enjoyed debating with Giles Fraser on whether you can be spiritual without being religious. The discussion is online here.
Roughly, I was advocating that spirituality comes before social action - it's a fruit, not a root - lest the Christian concern for justice become anxious, guilt-driven and deadening. Giles can't stand the word spirituality, though it seems plain to me that much of his appeal stems precisely from his spiritual vitality...
Tuesday, November 27 2012
By Mark Vernon on Tuesday, November 27 2012, 15:05
What was so unsettling about meeting Socrates? Why would you want to be a Stoic? How did Descartes radicalise the philosophical agenda? What is philosophy anyway?
These questions and more are explored in a series of evening classes on ancient and modern philosophy at The Idler Academy, the west London home of philosophy, husbandry and merriment.
The aim is to learn not just what different philosophers have argued, but how these rich traditions can resources us, body, mind and soul. On the ancient philosophy course we examine the pre-Socratics, Socrates and Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, the Epicureans, the Sceptics and the Cynics. On the modern philosophy course we consider the work of late medievals, Descartes, Hume and Kant, Nietzsche and Foucault, Popper and Kuhn, and others. Full details can be found online.
The evenings are taught by Dr Mark Vernon. Previous participants have said: 'I never spent Sunday afternoons looking forward to Monday until I joined this course!' 'It is much better to talk philosophy than to read it.' The price is £150 for six evenings, beginning in January.
A striking Christmas present? A wise gift for yourself? Book now: places are limited!
Tuesday, November 13 2012
By Mark Vernon on Tuesday, November 13 2012, 11:34
I preached a sermon for the first time in a long time last week, and it felt like a sermon not a talk. It was at St Edward's, Cambridge, the broad question being how to follow your heart?
In part of my sermon I make something of this Sufi story:
Friday, October 26 2012
By Mark Vernon on Friday, October 26 2012, 16:55
I'm speaking at the Bishopsgate Institute next Thursday 1st November on God, with Ziauddin Sardar speaking on Muhammad. Here's the blurb:
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