Philosophy and Idling

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Date(s) - 4th April, 2019 - 7th April, 2019
All Day

Gladstone Library


The Idler Philosophy Retreat: a four day retreat at the residential Gladstone’s Library with Tom Hodgkinson and Dr Mark Vernon

Idler editor Tom Hodgkinson and author Mark Vernon are back at Gladstone’s Library for a four day programme of philosophical talks. Our “idling” retreat will take in the great philosophical idlers Socrates, Christ, Wilde and many more, and discuss the importance of space and attention when appreciating life, from the everyday to the spiritual realm. We’ll learn about the importance of idling in the ancient world, how the Puritans attacked it, and how to bring more time for contemplation into our own lives.

For more information and booking click here.


Thursday 4 April
2-4pm – Check in and afternoon tea.
6pm – What is philosophy? Tom Hodgkinson on the birth of a new science in ancient Athens, with special reference to Plato’s Symposium, the drunken dinner party where the origins of philosophy are revealed.
7.15pm – Dinner
8.30pm – Introductions. We discuss who we all are and the purpose of the retreat.

Friday 5 April
9.30am – A History of Idling, Part One. Tom Hodgkinson offers a history of idle thought from Lao Tzu to Christ to Aquinas to the Reformation.
11am – Coffee
11.30am – The History of Gladstone’s Library with warden Peter Francis. Tom interviews Peter on founder William Gladstone’s vision of a place for retreat and his idea of liberal values.
1pm – Lunch
2pm – Rest and study break
4pm – A History of Idling, Part Two: Tom discusses developments in idling philosophy from the early modern period to the present day, and its great enemies, the Industrial Revolution and the Digital Revolution.
7pm – Dinner
8pm – Film: screening of Slavoj Zizek’s The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema.

Saturday 6 April
10am – Questioning: Mark Vernon opens up the meaning of ancient philosophy’s doubt and scepticism, as opposed to always doing and seeking distraction, as ways to expand life by discovering the unknown.
11.15am – Coffee break
11.45am – Sauntering: Mark Vernon takes us into the medieval world and how people had the time out to go on extensive pilgrimages, which opened up the inner life of places that’s so hard to find today.
1pm – Lunch
2-4pm – Walk across Gladstone’s park
4pm – Attending: Mark and Tom on the importance of empty time for play and the imagination – play being something that children practice and adults manage to do, if they’re lucky. With Mark and Tom.
7pm – To local hostelry Glynne Arms for drinks and feast

Sunday 7 April
10am – Vision: Science tends to work on the assumption that we can possess the world by taking it apart, but the idle way is more about inhabiting the life of the world for its own sake, through felt and even mystical experience.
11.15am – Coffee
11.30am – Idling and everyday life: Final wrap-up session.
1pm – Lunch
2pm – Conclusions and goodbyes
3pm – Ends