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Ancient World Seminar: Darren Gardner (RUG) – "From the Agora to the Gymnasium: Philosophical Training at Plato’s Palestra"

Wanneer:ma 16-01-2017 16:15 - 17:30
Waar:Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies (Oude Boteringestraat 38), room 130
Darren Gardner

The development of Philosophical discourse and educational practices in Athens transitioned from public displays, such as those found in the Agora, to more secluded gatherings such as private dwellings and gymnasiums. This change is epitomized by Plato and his followers who, differing from Socrates and his companions, met in the confines of the Academy rather than in open public spaces. The Academy, like other palestras, was a place where athletes trained and exercised under the watchful eye of the gymnasiarch; likewise young thinkers engaged in philosophical discourse under the guidance of Plato. In this talk I discuss how and why the use of an exercise space is important for the cultivation of philosophical thinking. It both safeguards potentially dangerous discussions from public misunderstanding and shapes the kinds of practices that help the philosophical learner strengthen his or her thoughts. Moreover, I will also consider how Plato’s notion of gymnastic exercise in dialogues such as the Republic and the Parmenides, an essential part of Plato’s educational program, can be contextualized by reflecting on the setting at Plato’s palestra.

Having defended his PhD in Philosophy at the New School for Social Research in New York City in January 2016, Darren Gardner is currently a visiting researcher at the University of Groningen. He specializes in ancient philosophy, especially Plato’s metaphysics, and wrote his dissertation on ‘Exercise and Insight: Gymnastics in Plato’s Parmenides’. Next to being dedicated to research and teaching in the field of ancient philosophy he is also a professional woodworker with his own studio in Brooklyn.