Dr. Richard Carrier: What Is True

Richard Carrier, Ph.D., is a philosopher and historian with degrees from Berkeley and Columbia, specializing in the contemporary philosophy of naturalism and Greco-Roman philosophy, science, and religion, including the origins of Christianity. He blogs and lectures worldwide, teaches monthly courses online through his website, and is the author of many books, including his defense of a naturalist worldview in Sense and Goodness without God, his academic case for the non-existence of Jesus in On the Historicity of Jesus, as well as his colloquial summary in Jesus from Outer Space, his work on historical methodology in Proving History, his study of ancient science in both Science Education and The Scientist in the Early Roman Empire, his responses to 21st century Christian apologetics in Why I Am Not a Christian and Not the Impossible Faith, and an anthology of his papers on the subject of history in Hitler Homer Bible Christ.

He has also authored chapters in many other books, and articles in magazines and academic journals, and on his namesake blog, covering subjects from politics and history to philosophy and social justice.

Dr. Carrier’s latest book, Jesus from Outer Space: What the Earliest Christians Really Believed about Christ, has been called “Carrier’s best, most engaging, and readable work yet.” by author David Fitzgerald.

His most pertinent title, however, is Sense and Goodness without God: A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism.

For more about Dr. Carrier and his work see www.richardcarrier.info.

The goal we all should have is to have a complete, coherent worldview that is thoroughly evidence-based rather than built on mere desires and speculations, much less uninformed traditions. 

Dr. Richard Carrier

How did you become interested in this area?

I became a devout Taoist in high school, and by the time I was completing military service at sea years later I had come to realize Taoism was just as false a religion as any other. And yet Taoism was a complete, coherent, organized worldview of immense utility to me in understanding oneself and the world. So, when I was losing my faith I began asking, well, then, what is true? I immediately began writing notes and research plans for my first book, which a decade later became Sense and Goodness without God, a complete modernized worldview covering all the main branches of philosophy, from semantics and epistemology to metaphysics, aesthetics, morality, and politics, showing how they are all inextricably interrelated and inform each other. Those areas of study cannot be pursued in isolation from each other. The goal we all should have is to have a complete, coherent worldview that is thoroughly evidence-based rather than built on mere desires and speculations, much less uninformed traditions. 

At the same time as all of that, I was getting more involved in movement atheism and counter-apologetics, where questions of philosophy not only came up for study and investigation a lot, but where having well-founded solutions to all the major questions was of inestimable value in exploding false worldviews, both religious and secular. The mutual drive to build a complete, evidence-based worldview, and to continually question it to ensure its accuracy and coherence, was thus further inspired as my continual goals of defeating false belief systems and building and hewing my life to the worldview that could claim the greatest probability of being true given the information available to us.

A third track inspiring this life goal was my profession as a historian, which I acquired in graduate school after military service. I studied methodology and soon discovered that we need a coherent, defensible epistemology of history. This led to Proving History, my first peer reviewed monograph in the philosophy of history. But it became apparent that what I had learned of worldview theory applied here as well: you can’t construct a valid epistemology or methodology of history without working out where things stand in every other branch of philosophy, from semantics and epistemology generally, to, again, metaphysics and aesthetics, even morality and politics. Thus, the pursuit of philosophy became just as important to my career as a historian.

What’s the most important concept or idea that you teach people?

Besides what I already discussed, the fact that all fundamental branches of philosophy must be well studied to get correct conclusions in any one of them, the next most important idea I aim to convey to everyone is that critical thinking, which is essential to having reliable beliefs, rests on a counter-intuitive foundational principle that the only way to know whether you are right about anything, whether any belief you have is true, is to make every honest and powerful effort to prove it false. Because it is only by failing to do that that you can ever have a justified confidence that any belief is true. If all you do instead is aim to “verify” your beliefs, rather than falsify them, your beliefs will never be reliable.

“…the truth resides in the particulars…”

Dr. Richard Carrier

What do you think is the most important piece of practical advice that we can derive from your work?

Always start with actual particulars and build abstractions and generalizations from them; never just start with abstractions and generalizations and reason from there. Because the truth resides in the particulars, and if you skip a careful study of those, it is too easy to leap to abstractions and generalizations that are inaccurate or false or fail to reliably track reality. So, of every philosophy problem or question, always ask, “What is a real-world example of this?” and then go and collect as many of those real examples as you can, and study the question from there. And this means not hypothetical examples (so-called “thought experiments”; as useful, albeit perilous, as they may be), but actual ones. Actual real things, affecting actual real lives. Always ground your philosophy in reality. That is the only way to ensure it tracks reality.

Do you have a favorite quote that you use?

I don’t typically argue by quotation. But I have coined a few bon mots that I find myself having to repeat quite a lot, because they keep being pertinent. Perhaps top of that list is, “You can’t change what a thing is by changing what you call it.”

What advice would you give someone who wanted to learn more about what you do?

To learn more about my philosophy, the first place to start would be my books Sense and Goodness without God and Proving History, and my website’s categories drop-down menu (at richardcarrier.info) has several options in that subject, including just simply “philosophy.” There is also an article there, my Typos List for Sense and Goodness without God, which besides basic corrections includes an outline of what changes there have been in my philosophy since that book was published. 

But if one wants to become a philosopher in their own right, also on my website (among the top margin menus) I provide a starter list of recommended readings for anyone who wants to get their own start as a philosopher, by which I mean for the purpose of building one’s own reliable worldview; actually being a philosopher, as opposed to pursuing philosophy as a profession. The latter I typically don’t recommend, as it doesn’t pay well and buries your life in tasks almost none of which consist of actually doing philosophy, and academia has a tendency to destroy the creativity and breadth of interest in anyone immersed in it. Most “professional” philosophers too often end up narrowing their interests and pursuing them with blinders on rather than building worldviews or devoting their pursuit to practical application in human lives. 

Philosophy should be your religion, your devotional faith-pursuit. And though one can do that and pursue it professionally at the same time, counter-intuitively, you might find it easier to do if your professional life were consumed in a more productive passion, and philosophy were your personal life-project.

Suppose you were able to give a talk or workshop at the original location of Plato’s Academy, in Athens.

Well, of course that would be an experience worth having. But really, I’d just use it as an opportunity to explore ancient history roundabout, as my Columbia University dissertation was on the social and intellectual history of ancient Greco-Roman science, philosophy, and religion. So I’d be even more excited to visit important artifacts of the era, from the Antikythera Mechanism at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, to the inscriptions and ruins of the great temple hospice of Asclepius in Epidaurus. 

In light of that, if I did lecture at the original site of the Academy, I would probably speak on ancient contributions to the modern epistemology of science, and how only some of Plato’s students went on to make real progress on that, and by largely rejecting most of Plato’s ideas in philosophy—most prominently, Aristotle. I think it would be a living act of poetry to lecture on this point at the Academy, and then lecture the next day on Aristotle’s legacy through his successor Strato at the original site of the Lyceum that both men once ran!

Matthew Sharpe: The Only True Good

Matthew Sharpe is Associate Professor of philosophy at Deakin University, Australia.  He has taught philosophy for over two decades, and is the author of multiple books, including most recently Stoicism, Bullying, and Beyond (in press, 2022), The Other Enlightenment (in press, 2022), and (with Michael Ure), Philosophy as a Way of Life: History, Dimensions, Directions (Bloomsbury, 2021).  He is also the cotranslator of Pierre Hadot, Selected Writings: Philosophy as Practice (Bloomsbury, 2021), and someone whose work continues to centre upon ancient philosophy as a way or ways of life, and the ways it can still speak to people transformatively today.

How did you become interested in this area?

Like many young people, I became interested in philosophy out of existential concerns.  I then studied philosophy academically for many years, up to my PhD (on Slavoj Zizek).  I was especially interested, as I still am, in psychoanalytic theory.  Because it brings theoretical reflection to bear on understanding people, and also in affecting changes in their lives.  Much of academic philosophy doesn’t do this.  It was only after my PhD, when I discovered the work of Pierre Hadot, that I returned to ancient philosophy as a way (or ways) of life.  Since that time, I’ve been interested most of all in working on Stoic philosophy.  It was a real pleasure and surprise to me around 2014 or so, when I discovered that many other people around the world were covering similar paths, and that the Modern Stoicism movement was beginning to grow.       

 It is what a person does with what fortune delivers him, the opportunities and hazards, that makes that person, and enables them to live well or badly. 

Matthew Sharpe

What’s the most important concept or idea that you teach people?

I think the most important idea I teach students (not all of them agree) would be the core Socratic-Stoic idea that virtue is the only true good.  All of the other things our societies teach us to value as essential to have or avoid can either harm a person or help them: think of money or public office, for examples.  It is what a person does with what fortune delivers him, the opportunities and hazards, that makes that person, and enables them to live well or badly.  This idea strikes me as really profound.  Think of how many people argue that religious belief or observance is the only truly necessary thing, and then contrast that with the history of religions, which is full of so much bloodshed, hatred and prejudice, as well as the wonderful things different world religions have delivered people.  

Virtue alone never harms the person who has it—that is, following Plato, wisdom, moderation, courage, and justice.  The attributes are not easy to achieve, and people can still rationalise bad behavior as virtuous.  But the fundamental idea, of one thing in the universe that always benefits us, is a really important one to introduce students to.  I wish I had learned of it many years earlier in my own life than in fact I did.

What do you think is the most important piece of practical advice that we can derive from your work?

I have just completed Stoicism, Bullying, and Beyond (2022, Balboa-Hay Press), so perhaps I will answer this one by talking about this book I am just finalising.  The most important idea in that book is related to the idea of virtue as the only true good.  Here, it is the idea from Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations (VI, 6) that the best revenge is not to become like the person who would harm you.  That quote is a epigraph for the book, alongside the opening verse of Rudyard Kipling’s “If”, which seems to have been written as if Kipling had himself experienced what experts today call “mobbing”—basically being ganged up on in a workplace by bullies who lead with false accusations and rumors to try to blacken a colleague’s reputation. But:

If you can keep your head when all about you  

    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,  

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

    But make allowance for their doubting too;  

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

then, following these broadly Stoic and Socratic guides, you can survive and even thrive, despite this negative experience.  

The book is about explaining basic Stoic ethical and therapeutic ideas to mobbing or bulling targets.  Then, drawing on these principles, I set out a program of spiritual exercises they can draw on, firstly to take care of their psychological wellbeing in a situation in which their workplace has become unsafe, and secondly, centre themselves so they make the best decisions, and premeditate the different challenges involved in either taking legal action, or leaving their present job.  This is the first book of practical philosophy I’ve written, which adapts Stoic (and thus Socratic) ideas to a real-life situation too many people face, and which many are completely unprepared for.  But Stoicism, as a Socratic philosophy, is about how to best get through adversity, as well as prosperity.  So, I’m very proud of the book, and I hope that it reaches people and can assist them.

The Practical Stoic Podcast w. Simon J. E. Drew

Do you have a favorite quote that you use?

From Marcus Aurelius, as well as that the best revenge is not to be like the person who harms you, I love the maxim (in XI, 18, perhaps) that “benevolence is invincible”.  Someone once said that great adversity either makes a person very bitter, or very generous or, as the ancients might have said, great-souled.  At some level, though, if you can accept even being hated or disappointed, without becoming cynical, and without becoming hateful, that seems to me to be a fine thing.  Easy to say, hard to do, but always worth striving for.  If I am thinking of quotes that I will almost always use, though, it would have to be Socrates’ justification in Plato, when someone suggests that he can be released from prison on condition that he cease doing philosophy.  Socrates replies:

Men of Athens, I honour and love you; but I shall obey God rather than you, and while I have life and strength I shall never cease from the practice and teaching of philosophy, exhorting any one whom I meet and saying to him after my manner: You, my friend,—a citizen of the great and mighty and wise city of Athens,—are you not ashamed of heaping up the greatest amount of money and honour and reputation, and caring so little about wisdom and truth and the greatest improvement of the soul, which you never regard or heed at all? … For I do nothing but go about persuading you all, old and young alike, not to take thought for your persons or your properties, but first and chiefly to care about the greatest improvement of the soul. I tell you that virtue is not given by money, but that from virtue comes money and every other good of man, public as well as private. This is my teaching, and if this is the doctrine which corrupts the youth, I am a mischievous person.


For me, all of Stoicism is already here, in Plato or in Socrates.  And the entire philosophical tradition after Socrates is arguably oriented by this extraordinary self-defence, and defence of philosophy as teaching people to take care of the soul.

What advice would you give someone who wanted to learn more about what you do?

If the question is asking about someone who wants to know about philosophy more widely, then they could do worse than opening Plato’s Apology, or his Gorgias or even perhaps the Republic.  But people are drawn into philosophy for different reasons, and in different ways.  The novels of Dostoevsky, for example, or of many other more recent novelists prompt readers to ask many philosophical questions.  For myself, reading Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations at an especially difficult time in my personal life was life-changing, and I think that it still a book that can speak to people everywhere who are facing life challenges. 

For my own work, I don’t tend to think of this question too much, thinking myself as a tiny drop or at most a rivulet in a concourse of rivers, at the least.  I have written popular articles on Stoicism in The Conversation, however.  I also maintain a blog, called “Castalian Stream”, where I write a lot on Stoicism, Plato, Bacon, and other subjects which appeal to me.  For anyone who may be, or may have, faced workplace or schoolyard bullying, of course, Stoicism, Bullying, and Beyond is directed at people who may be coming to philosophy for the first time, and have next to no prior ideas about it.

Suppose you were able to give a talk or workshop at the original location of Plato’s Academy, in Athens.  

It would be a tremendous honor, of course.  It is a wonderful initiative to try to bring life to the archaeological site, which I have visited several times in the 2010s, as I travelled frequently to Greece before covid in connection with my teaching, family connections on the island of Naxos, and then for Stoicon 2019, just before the pandemic came.  There was something remarkable about this site, the origin of almost all higher education in the Western world, being left for so many centuries almost unremarked, with stones not much higher than your knees, so the visitor had to struggle in their minds to try to get some picture of what the place must have been like when Plato first taught there, or even when Cicero visited in the first century CE.  I am sure Plato himself, or indeed Cicero his admirer, would wish that the site be commemorated as it ought to be, and that is by becoming once again a place for philosophy and the pursuit of knowledge.

Scott Samuelson: The Deep Mystery of Being Alive

Scott Samuelson, winner of the 2015 Hiett Prize in the Humanities, is the author of The Deepest Human Life: An Introduction to Philosophy for Everyone (University of Chicago Press, 2014) and has published articles in the Wall Street Journal, the Huffington Post, the Chicago Tribune, the Chronicle of Higher Education, The Philosopher’s Magazine, and Christian Century. His article “Why I Teach Plato to Plumbers” in The Atlantic has been widely circulated. He’s been interviewed on NPR and given various public lectures and talks, including a TEDx talk “How Philosophy Can Save Your Life.”

Prof. Samuelson also teaches philosophy at Kirkwood Community College in Iowa City, Iowa as well as at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center, a.k.a. Oakdale Prison. He draws on his prison teaching in his second book, Seven Ways of Looking at Pointless Suffering: What Philosophy Can Tell Us about the Hardest Mystery of All. His upcoming book, Rome as a Guide to the Good Life, is slated to release in the Spring of 2023.

For more information, please visit https://scottsamuelsonauthor.com/.

How did you become interested in this area?

When I was sixteen, I noticed a book in the Iowa City Public Library about philosophy. I knew nothing about the subject, but I was intrigued and started flipping through it. One section was entitled “Five Proofs of God”—by someone named Thomas Aquinas. That there could even be one proof of God was mind-blowing enough—but five!? Since the section wasn’t all that long, I sat down and read it. I couldn’t make heads or tails of the proofs. Strangely, they insinuated doubt into my mind about God’s existence.

If we can do things like prove God, I wondered, doesn’t that mean we’re also capable of inventing God? Nevertheless, I was overwhelmed by the feeling that whatever Thomas Aquinas was doing was the greatest thing a human being could do. I wanted in. I wanted to be a philosopher, even though I had no clue what philosophy was. I started reading other philosophers (the existentialists at first) and have never looked back. There are probably several good ways of navigating life but let me stand up for heading down an alluring path with no idea where you’re going.

What’s the most important concept or idea that you teach people?

Socrates famously suggests that the unexamined life is not worth living. I’m not sure I’d go quite that far, but I consider it my mission as a teacher and writer to show the beauty of living the examined life. My first book The Deepest Human Life: An Introduction to Philosophy for Everyone is my most concerted attempt to get this point across. What does the examined life involve? Among other things, paying loving attention to the world, reading widely, listening to people, trying to understand what they’re doing and why, thinking clearly and honestly about what matters most, being willing to face suffering and tragedy, adjusting your beliefs in light of experience, and reminding yourself that the truth is always bigger than what you think it is.

There are two great impediments to the examined life. The first is the belief that you’re already in possession of what gives meaning and value to life, and anyone who disagrees with you is wrong. The second is the view that nothing gives meaning and value to life, so everyone is equally right. Both of these positions, admittedly, contain an element of truth. The dogmatist is right that there’s something real to understand, and the relativist is right that it’s hubristic to believe any one person is in full possession of it. But I take the essence of philosophy to be (as its etymology suggests) the love of wisdom: not the possession of wisdom but the desire for wisdom that you don’t yet—and may never fully—possess.

If all we do is war against suffering and death, we miss out on the deep mystery of being alive.

Scott Samuelson

What do you think is the most important piece of practical advice that we can derive from your work?

In a sense, it’s a variation on the old adage memento mori. In my book Seven Ways of Looking at Pointless Suffering, I make the case that it’s worthwhile to remember our mortality—and our vulnerability more generally. We’re used to trying to fix suffering and death (for instance, with medicine) and trying to forget about suffering and death (for instance, by distracting ourselves). But I argue that we should also face suffering and death. The arts can be especially helpful here, as can religion. I think philosophy at its finest—for instance, Stoicism—is particularly good at it.

If all we do is war against suffering and death, we miss out on the deep mystery of being alive. So, my piece of practical advice is that the good life involves the paradox of simultaneously opposing and accepting suffering and death. My metaphor for this is the martial arts. Martial artists fight as hard as they can against their opponents, but they always bow to their opponents before and after sparring. Likewise, we should try to minimize the misery in the world and prolong our lives up to a point, but we should also bow before the tragic mysteries—not just because they’re inevitable and intrinsic to life itself, but because doing so enhances the quality of our lives.

Do you have a favorite quote that you use?

I’m quite fond of Paul Valéry’s observation: “You can’t get drunk with the labels on the bottles.” In my view, people waste far too much time trying to get drunk on labels like Buddhism, evangelicalism, liberalism, Platonism, surrealism . . . Though I’m not opposed to labels, I prefer the wine.

What advice would you give someone who wanted to learn more about what you do?

Here’s another good quotation from a poet, this time from Randall Jarrell: “Read at whim!” I would also recommend looking at whim, conversing at whim, and thinking at whim—at least if you want to learn more about the kind of philosophy I do.

Suppose you were able to give a talk or workshop at the original location of Plato’s Academy, in Athens. 

I’d feel honored—but also intimidated. I’d imagine Plato’s great teacher cornering me with his withering irony, “Rare friend, how much you must know to feel qualified to speak in this illustrious place! Let me become your disciple so that I may walk away from our conversation enriched by your great wisdom. Surely you will not mind, since I am an ignorant man, if I ask you a few questions first . . .”

Martha C. Beck: Spiritual Humanism

Dr. Martha C. Beck is Professor of Philosophy at Lyon College in Batesville, Arkansas. She’s the author of fourteen books and over fifty book chapters and articles on Plato and Carl Jung, Plato and Greek tragedy, Aristotle and Greek tragedy, Aristotle and the United Nations’ Capabilities model for human development, Aristotle and Systems thinking, Aristotle and Environmental philosophy, Aristotle and feminist theory, the goddesses of Greece and feminist Jungian psychology, and her experiences growing up as a liberal.

Her articles have been published in journals in the United States, Greece, The Russian Republic, the Czech Republic, Australia, and China. She’s also delivered papers in Athens, Olympia, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Beijing, Shang Hai, Prague, and Ascea, Italy.

She received a Fulbright Fellowship to teach Western Thought at an Islamic State University in 2012 and received an Indonesia-funded grant to teach Environmental Ethics at the Islamic State University in Jakarta in 2017. She welcomes opportunities to teach abroad and hosts a YouTube channel, Dr. Martha Catherine Beck, Greek Philosophy that contains seventy-six videos and ten Playlists, all focused on the theme, “The Legacy of Ancient Greek Civilization in the Era of Globalization”.

How did you become interested in Greek philosophy?

My mother was an Art History teacher at the local state university. When I was eight, we went to England. She showed us all the cathedrals, museums, monuments, etc. I began to wonder, “What makes great art great?” That question has stuck with me.

When I was 10, my father, a Methodist minister, marched with Martin Luther King, jr. in Selma, Alabama. I remember it well. People called us and swore at him over the phone, so I knew that people disagreed about justice and injustice, virtue, and vice. I was also amid social unrest connected to the Vietnam War, attending high school from ’69-‘71. Greed fueled the war and in the name of “making the world safe from Communism”, we were engaged in building an empire. My father preached on these things, as well as the need for environmental conservation and sustainable living. All of this got me thinking even more about justice and virtue. Over time, I began to ruminate over more questions like whether the universe is created or eternal, and why that matters in terms of environmental sustainability.

It was in high school that I began intensely reflecting on my surroundings, and my past experiences with social unrest, injustice, the future of the environment, and my father’s ministries. I wasn’t aware there was entire subject based on this existential practice of questioning all that is, “Philosophy”.  So, in my second semester of my junior year in college, I declared it my major.

In my studies, I felt Plato’s story was my story. It felt as I was reading my own mind. Plato stole all my best ideas! I thought that I made those ideas up, but I found out Plato already did a much better job of it than I did. So, I wanted to be a Plato scholar because his works resonated so much with me. Plato’s dialogues are, to me, a huge map of the whole and all the parts, good and evil, with an image of a human being managing to live by the power of his mind (nous) throughout it all. What is piety? (Euthyphro), What is art? (Ion)… I asked these same questions throughout my life.

I describe Greek philosophy and culture as “Spiritual Humanism”. Aristotle’s virtues and Socrates’ way of life are a paradigm of how to live that can be applied to Jesus (Sermon on the Mount), Buddha, Muhammad, Confucius, Gandhi, and so many others. I use the word “spiritual” to mean the daimonic as Socrates describes it in the Symposium, but as is implicit throughout Greek myths, tragedy, Homer, Hesiod and so on. We are born to understand the patterns in the world, both in the universe and in human affairs. The way we understand these things always leads to a way of life.

Greek humanism appeals to our common humanity, making it very relevant today. Greek myths and stories can resonate with anyone with any walk of life. The patterns are everywhere and this is becoming more and more obvious. As the world is moving away from free and open societies and toward more authoritarianism, Plato’s dialogues are more relevant than ever. I’ve delivered my lecture on “The Rise and Fall of Athenian Democracy” worldwide to a receptive audience that understood my point well.

All of the aforementioned is only a small fraction of why I feel Greek philosophy and culture are vital and pertinent. My publications tie Aristotle to Greek tragedy, Plato, the United Nations Capabilities model of development, environmental protection and the formation of sustainable societies, the habituation of children for moderation and sustainability, and the place of the arts in developing a flourishing society.

We must be engaged citizens, to walk the walk and not just talk the talk.

Dr. Martha Catherine Beck

What is the most important concept that you teach people?

Perhaps it is the model of liberal arts education and the liberal arts educator. This model is disappearing for many reasons. One is overspecialization and the model of higher education as the university model rather than the model of small, liberal arts colleges, like Plato’s Academy. My entire undergraduate, graduate, and professional life has been spent in liberal arts colleges. I get to know my students well and they know my character also. Faculty evaluations include engagement in the life of the college and in volunteer activities beyond it. We must be engaged citizens, to walk the walk and not just talk the talk.

Lyon College’s catalog contains five characteristics of a liberally-minded adult which I have outside my office, which I tell my students that I structure my classes around, to model and I ask them to follow:

  1. Commitment to truth, understanding that one has to examine what “truth” is or what the word means
  2. Intellectual honesty (don’t think you know when you don’t know)
  3. Fairness to opposing points of view (avoid polarization and stereotyping)
  4. Patience with complexity and ambiguity (the problems we need to solve collectively are very difficult, so accept it and don’t look for simple solutions or believe political leaders that claim to have them);
  5. Tolerance of reasoned dissent

I ask students on the first day of class if they like the polarization they are living. In short, they don’t. So, I tell them that the only way to cease this is for them to decide to end it right here, in this classroom, while we’re discussing this incredibly relevant material. Then each student presents what they thought of the reading and then other students ask follow-up questions. I tell them that for their own sake they should decide not to polarize. They will have to lead the nation in twenty years, and they do not want to have to lead a severely divided society. So, now is the time that they should begin to create a better future. This idea sets the tone for the semester.

What is the most important piece of practical advice that we can derive from your work?

I would quote from Seneca’s On Tranquility of Mind, where he talks about how Socrates lived. Before the 30 Tyrants took over, Socrates was getting up every morning, talking to Athenians, trying to make them transparent about how they use their freedom and accountable for abusing it. Preserving a democracy requires people to render an account of how they live and why this way of life promotes flourishing. After he failed, during the reign of the 30 Tyrants, Socrates still went out and tried to comfort and encourage those who were grieving about the loss of their democracy, reproach those who had brought this about through their greed and ignorance, and set an example of how to live in the face of repression.

Socrates did not allow fear to control him. I have argued that Socrates is the paradigm example of Aristotle’s person with practical and theoretical wisdom. He exercises all the activities of soul in accordance with virtue in a complete life that Aristotle talks about.

Do you have a favorite quote that you use?

You are an Athenian, a citizen of the greatest city with the greatest reputation for both wisdom and power; are you not ashamed of your eagerness to possess as much wealth, reputation and honors as possible, while you do not care for nor give thought to wisdom or truth, or the best possible state of your soul?

Socrates, Apology

What advice would you give someone who wanted to know more about what you do?

Visit my YouTube channel, Dr. Martha Catherine Beck, Greek Philosophy. I have 76 video and 10 playlists all focused on the theme, “The Legacy of Ancient Greek Civilization in the Era of Globalization.” Then contact me for a follow-up conversation. I agree with Plato that the written word is not worth much. People project themselves into it and make it into whatever they want or need it to be. The real dialogue is in one’s soul, triggered through conversations with other minds. The light of the mind is triggered by two minds engaged in dialogue.

Suppose you were to give a talk or workshop at the original Plato’s Academy in Athens.

This is why I hope the Center has extensive opportunities for conversation in the summers. I spent 16 summers in Greece, just letting my mind be free to think about Plato and Greek culture in the way that was driving me crazy. When I read other scholarship, I hated it, so I had to figure out what I thought was true that made me think all of this was so bad. Gradually, I figured out my own mind. I decided that for 2800 years people have been coming to Greece to remember the culture and to be inspired in ways they could take home and inspire others and improve the quality of life where they lived. They are still doing this.

I am hoping that at least some of the people at the Center are also going out into the public and that we can meet in the summers and talk about our experiences. We should tell our own stories of the kinds of encounters we have and then we should make analogies with something in Plato or an application of something in Aristotle or some other ancient texts. Then we can talk about whether we think the analogy is good, but mostly how to add to it.

I want scholarship that is always tied not only to a model of a way of life, but to how we are all actually living. I wish we could meet every summer and meet long enough to create friendship bonds and a long history of working together on creating more flourishing societies wherever we live in the world.

David Fideler: Why Ancient Philosophy Matters Today

In our highly polarized world, ancient philosophers continue to remind us of unity, harmony, and the importance of human community.

David Fideler has worked as a college professor, editor and publisher, and the director of a humanities center. He studied ancient Greek philosophy and Mediterranean religions at the University of Pennsylvania and holds a PhD in philosophy.

Born in the United States, he currently lives in Sarajevo with his wife and son. He is the editor of the Stoic Insights website and an advisor to the Plato’s Academy Center in Athens.

David was recently interviewed by Michael Nevradakis, for the Greek magazine Orthos Logos, about “Why Ancient Philosophy Matters Today.” This is a version of the interview in English.

Michael Nevradakis: You’ve had an interesting life journey, making your way to Bosnia and specifically to Sarajevo, from Western Michigan. Tell us about that life path and what brought you to this part of the world.

David Fideler: That is an interesting question, and there are several dimensions to it. One part is that my wife is from here. But another reason I came here was because of the long history of spiritual pluralism in Sarajevo, where we live. When the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492, many came here, and we have one of the largest, ancient Jewish cemeteries in all of Europe. They liked life in Sarajevo and called it “Little Jerusalem” and “the Jerusalem of Europe.” And they lived side by side with Muslims, Orthodox Christians, and Catholics.

The amazing thing to us today is that all these religious groups got along and lived in harmony, in Sarajevo, for around 500 years, until the Bosnian war in the 1990s. For example, the main mosque is practically across the street from an old synagogue. And both of those buildings are about a three-minute walk from the Old Orthodox Church and the Catholic Cathedral. So you have this very small area in which all these religious buildings from different faiths are located.

Sarajevo is also amazing because it’s the meeting point of so many different cultures, which you can see reflected in the architecture. It’s the southern boundary of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the northern boundary of the Ottoman Empire, the eastern boundary of the Catholic Church, and the western boundary of the Orthodox Church. One moment you can be walking through a section with Austro-Hungarian architecture and suddenly be walking in a section with Ottoman architecture.

MN: What first motivated you to dedicate yourself, in this day and age, to ancient Greek philosophy and the works of Plato and the Stoics?

DF: When I was a teenager, I became interested in Plato and the Pythagoreans. So I started reading those kinds of writings, including Plato’s dialogues, when I was a teenager. I was also interested in ancient Greek religions, including the mystery religions and how they influenced the development of Christianity. Over the years, I worked my way through many different areas and topics relating to ancient philosophies and religions, and my interest never died out, even though it expanded into other areas. For example, I’ve also studied the history of science and the rediscovery of classical knowledge in the Italian Renaissance.

MN: What is Stoicism and Stoic philosophy all about?

DF: Stoicism is a philosophical school that originated in Athens around 300 BC. It was founded by Zeno of Citium, who spoke in the Stoa Poikilē, or “Painted Stoa”, in the agora. Unfortunately, Zeno and his followers in Athens produced dozens or even hundreds of writings, but none of those have come down in complete form. And the Painted Stoa today is just an unattractive ruin.

That said, there are many reports about what the Stoics thought, and they were heavily influenced by Socrates. Some ancient writers even called the early Stoics “Socratics”.

The Stoics followed Socrates in believing that “virtue is the only true good.” By that, they meant that people should develop an excellent inner character. So then, everything we do can be informed by excellence.

They also believed that nature was permeated by logos or rationality. Zeno said that if human beings want to find happiness or eudaimonia, we should “Live in agreement with nature.” This means that human beings should develop their own rational nature or the spark of logos we have within. That would allow us to accept the laws of nature and lead happy, tranquil lives.

While the early Greek Stoics focused on the study of nature (physics), logic, and ethics, the later Roman Stoics focused more on ethics—how to live a good and happy life.

The Stoics believed that some things are “up to us”, especially developing a good character, while most other things are not entirely up to us. They also believed that many kinds of emotions are based on mental opinions. A very famous Stoic line is, “It’s not things that upset us, but our opinions about things.” Today this is called the cognitive theory of emotion, which the Stoics discovered, and it forms the basis of modern-day cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

MN: Stoicism is said to have been the most influential philosophy of the Roman Empire. How did it impact the world during and after that era in history?

Figure 1. The three main Roman Stoics: Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius.

DF: The three most famous Roman Stoics were Seneca (c. 4 BC–AD 65), Epictetus (c. AD 50–135), and Marcus Aurelius (AD 121–180). And unlike the earlier Greek Stoics, most of their writings have come down to us.

Seneca’s writings cover hundreds of pages, and are the most comprehensive account of Stoic philosophy that we have in any surviving work. Epictetus was a Greek slave, who became freed, and started his own school of Stoic philosophy in Rome, after the death of Seneca. And Marcus Aurelius, of course, was both a student of Stoic philosophy and a Roman emperor. His Meditations sells well over 100,000 copies per year in English today. In terms of the influence of Stoicism, we can see that it was embraced by people ranging from a slave to a Roman emperor. And its influence continues today.

Stoicism went into decline after Marcus Aurelius, but it was quite influential during the Italian Renaissance. In fact, Petrarch, the founder of Renaissance humanism, read a bit of Seneca each day, which is a habit I developed too.

Over the past decade or so, there has been a huge revival of interest in Stoicism in the English-speaking world. I think that’s because our time closely resembles the Hellenistic period and the early Roman Empire. In other words, our world feels increasingly out of control. It felt that way before Covid and before the Ukraine war, and feels even more out of control now. One of the appeals of Stoicism, I think, is that it teaches people how to live good, worthwhile, and tranquil lives regardless of what is going on in the world at large. Another thing that is appealing about Stoicism is that some people see it as resembling a Western form of Buddhism.

The growing interest in Stoicism, though, isn’t just limited to the English-speaking world. My book Breakfast with Seneca, which is a guide to Seneca’s ideas for a general audience, is being published in sixteen languages worldwide.

MN: You are also regarded as an expert on the Pythagorean school and Pythagoreanism. What does this philosophy and this school of thought teach us today?

DF: According to ancient accounts, Pythagoras was the first person to call himself a philosopher or “a lover of wisdom.” He also was the first to call the universe a kosmos, “a beautiful order.” While we don’t have any first-hand writings from Pythagoras himself, I do think we have access to the most important Pythagorean ideas, which we find in Plato and other writers, relating to number, kosmos, and harmony.

The Pythagoreans believed that the world has a mathematical structure. Today, we can see this in the mathematical proportions of nature and living things, and the mathematical laws we discover in nature. Pythagoras said that the universe is a kosmos or beautiful order, but the reason why it is beautiful is because of mathematical harmony and proportion. The parts of a living creature, or a well-designed building, harmonize with one another to create the beauty of the overall structure. 

MN: How is such philosophical thought relevant and applicable in the present day, both individually and collectively?

DF: Harmony means “fitting together,” and the world itself, and living creatures, consist of whole/part relationships. Harmony gives rise to beauty. But without harmony, life itself wouldn’t exist, because life depends on these kinds of relationships. That makes the principle of harmony quite relevant.

Harmony is also essential for creating beautiful things, like buildings. The Greeks and Romans were very aware of these principles, which were rediscovered in the Renaissance. We can use harmony to understand many things about the workings of nature. But we can also use harmony, like they did in the Renaissance, to create a world that is beautiful, satisfying, and really worth living in. The Renaissance architect Leon Battista Alberti understood harmony very well, and he described it in this way: “I define beauty to be a harmony of all the parts . . . fitted together with such proportion and connection that nothing could be added, diminished, or altered, but for the worse.”

Figure 2. Harmony means “fitting together,” and the world itself, and living creatures, consist of whole/part relationships. Harmony gives rise to beauty.

MN: What is your view on the meaning of life?

DF: I think the meaning of life is not a theory or a concept, but an experience, when our lives feel meaningful. And people’s lives feel meaningful when they sense a deep connection to a reality that goes beyond our limited selves. This could be your family or other people. It could be society. It could be found in the act of helping others. It could be nature. It could be the universe as a whole. For religious people, it could be God or the spiritual dimension of reality. Or it could be all of these things.

To feel meaning, we need to feel a connection to a larger reality that goes beyond our limited selves, because if we are isolated, we don’t feel meaning—we feel loneliness. This sense of meaning depends on a kind of harmony, too. As Seneca said, “Friendship creates between us a partnership in all things. . . . You must live for another if you would live for yourself.”

MN: Tell us about philosophy as an art of living, as explained in your most recent book, titled Breakfast with Seneca: A Stoic Guide to the Art of Living.

DF: I started reading Seneca about twelve years ago and developed a little ritual of reading one of his letters every morning at breakfast. That’s where the title of the book came from.

The idea of philosophy as an art of living goes back to Socrates, and Seneca is very much part of this tradition. Today, philosophy has become hyper-specialized, very intellectual, and very detached from everyday life. Seneca, on the other hand, focuses on the practical side of philosophy, or how philosophy can help us deal with the important issues of day-to-day life: how to overcome negative emotions like worry, anxiety, and anger; how to develop a better personal character; how to deal with setbacks and adversity; how to understand yourself and live with authenticity; and many other topics.

Seneca was not only a philosopher, but he was a kind of proto-psychologist who wrote about things that didn’t even have names until fifty years ago, so he was very far ahead of his time. He also believed in the power of friendship and person-to-person relationships, to help us become better people and to make progress in life and philosophy. You can see how important this was to Seneca, because every one of his philosophical writings was addressed to a person—either to a friend or a family member.

MN: What does classic thought and practice regarding politics, such as Plato’s Republic, provide to us as far as solutions to the challenges the world faces today?

DF: One of the goals of Plato’s Republic was to define the nature of justice, which exists both within us and in society. In the Republic, Plato discusses the other cardinal virtues: wisdom, courage, and moderation. These four virtues were essential to the Stoics, too. If we could really understand these four virtues and put them into practice, I’m sure that we’d be living in a better world. Plato’s goal in starting the Academy was the same goal of the Renaissance humanists. They both wanted to create more virtuous leaders to improve society.

MN: You have also previously written, “In the ancient world, Stoic ideas about human equality and fellowship contributed to the early Christian idea of the universal brotherhood of humanity.” Tell us about this universal brotherhood of humanity and the extent to which something like it is feasible.

DF: The Stoics believed that all human beings possess the faculty of reason or logos. The idea that we are rational creatures is even reflected in the term homo sapiens. Because of this spark of reason we all possess, we are born equal to one another, and we are brothers and sisters of one another. This means that we are all members of a cosmopolis or “world community.”

Of course, if you believe that other human beings are your brothers or sisters, you will treat them well, with love and respect. This is closely related to the Latin word humanitas, which simultaneously means humanity, kindness, benevolence, civilization, and learning.

Can this be applied in the real world? Of course it can. But we need to identify as human beings first, before we identify with any other kind of group, tribe, or nationality. Before we start thinking about differences, we need to first understand that we are part of a common humanity that unites us with others.

MN: A few years ago you organized a symposium about the future of education and the humanities in Athens, and you visited the site of Plato’s Academy. What was it like to walk in Plato’s footsteps and to contemplate and discuss ideas in such a setting?

DF: It was fantastic to finally get there because a long time ago, in 1996, I was hired by the Ross School to write a history of Plato’s Academy and the other schools that developed from it. This is something that most philosophers never even think about: Why did Plato set up the Academy and what actually went on there? If you really want to understand Plato, I think those questions are essential.

One reason I became so interested in Plato’s Academy is because it was so ignored. The other reason is that I’m very interested in the philosophy of education, and I’ve always been very dissatisfied with the kind of educational system we have today. So I wanted to go back to the very beginning of education in the Western world and to understand what Plato was trying to accomplish by establishing his school. Maybe, I thought, we could learn something valuable from it to improve education today.

MN: From what I understand, you, as well as other Stoics and philosophers, including Donald Robertson (who we had the opportunity to speak with last year), are involved in the recently launched Plato’s Academy Centre project. What is this about and what inspired this project?

DF: It’s actually something of a miracle, but the Academus Park in Athens, where Plato founded his school, has survived for well over 2,000 years. It’s surrounded by a neighborhood, but it’s a historical miracle that it’s still a park, and no one built houses over it in the course of 230 centuries.

I had long dreamt about offering a workshop in Athens on the ancient philosophical schools there, starting with Plato’s Academy. But then Donald Robertson moved to Athens, and he came up with this great idea of creating a conference center near the site of Plato’s Academy, which made the possibility of doing things there much more feasible.

Figure 3. The shady pathways in the Academy Park, which still exist today, were described as being “famous” by writers two-thousand years ago.

The goal of the Plato’s Academy Centre is not to reestablish Plato’s Academy. Of course, we’d need a Plato for that. The idea is to create a small conference center next to the Park Academus, which will host events relating to ancient philosophy. There are also plans to create a center there on Socratic questioning and dialogue, which was the main educational method used at Plato’s Academy. In addition to putting Plato’s Academy “back on the map”, as they say, people associated with the project want to preserve the park and its archaeological sites and improve the economy of the surrounding neighborhood in Athens.

OL: Do you think we can use these ideas from ancient philosophy to help solve the conflicts in our highly polarized world today?

DF: Yes, absolutely. There’s no denying that people are different in many ways, which the ancient philosophers recognized: we are a mixture of sameness and difference. But at the deepest level, we are all human beings, with the same human needs. We all want to have good lives and live in a world where justice and fairness is superior to corruption.

In the thought of the Pythagoreans, Plato, and the Stoics, there was an incredible emphasis on the idea of unity as a cosmic principle—and also on the kinds of things that bind us together in unity, as human beings, like the idea of the cosmopolis. So we should always think about our common humanity first and try to engage in dialogue with people who think differently—not necessarily to change their minds, but for the sake of mutual understanding.

Unfortunately, I think that a lot of social and political polarization today is driven by the news media, and social media, because that kind of polarization is very profitable, even if it is extremely harmful. The people who encourage that kind of polarization often appeal to the worst aspects of human nature, so I want to do the opposite and explore our common humanity. I’m convinced that overcoming polarization and realizing the ideal of human unity and equality—human brotherhood—is one of the most urgent social tasks of our time. As Seneca said, “Remove fellowship and you will tear apart the unity of the human race on which our life depends.”

For Further Reading

Photo credits: Photos in the article copyright by David Fideler. All rights reserved. Photo of the Erechtheum from Depositphotos.

Scott Waltman: Revising the Framework of Socratic Questioning

Scott Waltmann

Dr. Scott Waltman, PsyD, ABPP, is a clinician, international trainer, and practice-based researcher. His interests include evidence-based psychotherapy practice, training, and implementation in systems that provide care to underserved populations. He is certified as a qualified Cognitive Therapist and Trainer/Consultant by the Academy of Cognitive & Behavioral Therapies. He also is board certified in Behavioral and Cognitive Psychology from the American Board of Professional Psychology. He is a board member for the International Association of Cognitive Psychotherapy.

More recently, Dr. Waltman, worked as a CBT trainer for one of Dr. Aaron Beck’s CBT implementation teams in the Philadelphia public mental health system. He is the first author of the book Socratic Questioning for Therapists and Counselors: Learn How to Think and Intervene like a Cognitive Behavior Therapist. Clinically, Dr. Waltman strives to flexibly and compassionately apply cognitive and behavioral interventions to help people overcome the barriers in their lives, to facilitate building meaningful lives that are guided by passion and values.

How did you become interested in philosophy?

I first became interested in this area when I read the first edition of Donald Robertson’s The Philosophy of Cognitive-Behavioural Therapies. I had always leaned toward the thinking of Albert Ellis in regard to cognitive therapy and learning more about the Stoic philosophy lit a fire within me. I went on to become a trainer for therapists who were learning Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT).

As a CBT trainer I found that clinicians had a hard time learning to use good Socratic dialogue strategies. They had a strong tendency to focus on telling people what to think instead of teaching them how to think. This is something we demonstrated empirically, which caused us to rethink how we taught the skill and we created a revised framework teaching Socratic questioning skills to therapists and counselors. Our book Socratic Questioning for Therapists and Counselors: Learn How to Think and Intervene Like a Cognitive Behavior Therapist is currently being translated into several different languages and has been really well received. Therapists around the world are excited about learning how to apply principles of Stoicism to their clinical practice!

What’s the most important concept or idea that you teach people? 

The most important concept that I teach people is known as “Collaborative Empiricism” or “Collaborative Curiosity”. This is the idea is that it is the job of the therapist to collaboratively work with the client to help them mentally take a step back, identify what they are thinking, how that is affecting them, and then to jointly evaluate the situation in more accurate and balanced terms. Therapists often want a list of questions to challenge or disprove the target thought, but our goal is joint curiosity instead of being adversarial.

The most important piece of practical advice from my work is to first focus on trying to see if from their point of view instead of trying to show them why you think they’re wrong.

What do you think is the most important piece of practical advice that we can derive from your work?

The most important piece of practical advice from my work is to first focus on trying to see if from their point of view instead of trying to show them why you think they’re wrong. If people believe you’re in earnest trying to see it how they see it, they’ll be more willing to explore their blind spots.

Do you have a favorite quote that you use?

“Men are disturbed not by things, but by their opinions about those things.”

Epictetus, The Enchiridion, 5

What advice would you give someone who wanted to learn more about what you do?

The best way to learn is experientially and with the help of a good guide. Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations and Donald Robertson’s How to Think Like a Roman Emperor is the foundation to build on. For clinicians who are looking to improve their use of the Socratic Method, I would encourage you to check out our book Socratic Questioning for Therapists and Counselors: Learn How to Think and Intervene Like a Cognitive Behavior Therapist.

Suppose you were able to give a talk or workshop at the original location of Plato’s Academy, in Athens. 

I would jump at that. I have loved watching the process of the Academy be re-established and that way I could get my copy of Verissimus autographed!

Darren Kelsey: Storytelling and Collective Psychology

Darren Kelsey is Reader in Media and Collective Psychology at Newcastle University’s School of Arts and Cultures. Darren’s teaching, research and publications have focused on storytelling, psychology and mythology in media, politics and popular culture. Darren currently lives in County Durham with his wife and daughter.

Darren’s forthcoming book, Storytelling and Collective Psychology: Ancient Wisdom, Modern Life and the Work of Derren Brown, is available for pre-order and will be published in the Spring.

How did you become interested in this area?

Serendipitously! Back in 2018, I was receiving Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for anxiety. CBT hadn’t really clicked for me straight away and I was still adapting to this unfamiliar world of counselling and therapy, which I had never been open to in the past. 

It was then by chance that I stumbled across the magician and psychological illusionist, Derren Brown talking about Stoicism and ancient philosophy on a couple of podcasts. The connections Brown drew between CBT and Stoicism really intrigued me. So I read Brown’s book, Happy

After learning more about Stoicism and understanding how it formed the foundations of CBT, Happy became a recurring talking point with my therapist. I found countless similarities between my thought patterns and Brown’s examples of the stories we tell ourselves and how deeply our stories affect us.

Brown’s work nudged me into a reading marathon on Stoic philosophy: I had soon read the works of Marcus Aurelius, Seneca and Epictetus followed by more recent Stoic endorsements from the likes of Massimo Pigliucci, Donald Robertson, William Irvine and Ryan Holiday. Reflecting on this experience, I wrote a book about Stoicism and Derren Brown in relation to storytelling and collective psychology – showing how Brown’s writing and other performances offer us personal and societal wisdom for modern life and wellbeing.

“Street philosophy” is for everyone – it should help us live well and be taught beyond the corridors of academia.

Darren Kelsey

What’s the most important concept or idea that you teach people?

Drawing on what Socrates established prior to the Stoics, I share the principle that “street philosophy” is for everyone – it should help us live well and be taught beyond the corridors of academia. In terms of Stoicism, my teaching shows how philosophy can help us tell better stories for our collective psychology. 

For example, the Stoics teach us to focus on the things that are within our control rather than worrying about what’s beyond our control – seemingly simple, but tricky in practice – give it a try! They also teach us that events themselves do not disturb us, but rather our perception of those events and how we interpret them. 

These things all relate back to the stories we tell ourselves in order to make sense of the noise and confusion of daily life. Derren Brown describes the “infinite data source” that we are constantly bombarded by, and the only way to make sense of anything is through neatly packaged and well edited stories. 

Those stories can cause us problems. The habits we form in our storytelling are where the Stoics critically intervene and make us rethink the narrative. This is one reason why ancient Stoicism bridges gaps between psychology and philosophy – because storytelling is a fundamental part of what makes us human.

Hence, I see the Stoics as ancient mentors who can help us to become better storytellers about our own lives and the lives of others. 

Rather than allowing media and political stories to divide us, we need to find ways of telling stories that foster a sense of collective ownership of our future – and one that enables human flourishing. 

Darren Kelsey

What do you think is the most important piece of practical advice that we can derive from your work?

To be more sceptical about our stories – as people and societies. So often our personal crises and social conflicts are due to broken stories. 

So much of my own anxiety was due to the fact that I was a terrible storyteller. I could pick apart the stories of others – in media, politics, work and play – but seldom would I stop to question my own stories that were making me so unhappy. Many of those inner stories about myself and my place in the world were unconsciously ruling my life in unhealthy ways. 

Sure, my stories were often based on past experiences that formed my identity and perceptions of the world around me. But they weren’t the only stories that were possible, and my stories about what might happen in the future were nearly always wrong. I realised that my fears made me more uncomfortable than fate itself. In a real crisis I could fix things, but in a future crisis that I was creating in my mind, I was causing myself unnecessary discomfort. 

There are also collective lessons to learn from the Stoics here. If we live in a society that constantly teaches us to be fearful of other social groups, then we live in a state of high alert that encourages tribalism. Instead, through our reason and virtue, the Stoics encourage us to rise above our tribal tendencies and approach other people as if every human belonged to an ideal city, which they called the cosmopolis

Rather than allowing media and political stories to divide us, we need to find ways of telling stories that foster a sense of collective ownership of our future – and one that enables human flourishing. 

Do you have a favorite quote that you use?

No, I don’t. The Stoics are so full of wisdom in many different ways. But there are a couple of standout quotes from Marcus Aurelius, which I think encourage kindness, tolerance and compassion in current times – especially when so many people might be struggling to reach out and ask for help:

Don’t be ashamed of needing help. You have a duty to fulfil just like a soldier on the wall of battle. So what if you are injured and can’t climb up without another soldier’s help?

Marcus Aurelius

Reaching out for help doesn’t make us weak, it makes us stronger, and it’s our duty to support each other. As the courageous Helen Keller once said, “Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light”.  It takes courage to help and be helped.

Be tolerant with others and strict with yourself.

Marcus Aurelius

This is so important. You never know what someone else’s story might be or what baggage they are carrying. It is likely that the things that irritate you in others are characteristics you quietly resent in yourself. 

It is better for everyone if we put more work into fixing our own faults and flaws than criticising them in other people. Easier said than done, I know. But well worth aspiring to. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is darren2.jpg

What advice would you give someone who wanted to learn more about what you do?

Firstly, take advantage of modern Stoicism. We live in our own digital Athenian marketplace where some of the wisest minds mix among us on podcasts, YouTube, blogs and social media. Engage with this material and listen to conversations about the role of ancient philosophy in modern life, and discover what’s possible for the future. It’s exciting.

Secondly, of course, read the Stoics and enjoy those original texts and translations. Try applying Stoic toolkits in your daily life to learn more about the challenges of seemingly simple virtues that can be harder to stick to than you expect. Learn more about yourself in order to learn about how the philosophy speaks to you. 

Thirdly, a shameless plug: my forthcoming book shows how we can analyse personal and societal stories to understand more about collective psychology in ways that are practical, applicable and evidently beneficial in daily life. Readers will learn how ancient philosophy can be combined with modern psychology to analyse stories and the role of celebrity mentors that we look to for wisdom in modern life. 

Suppose you were able to give a talk or workshop at the original location of Plato’s Academy, in Athens.

I would be so excited that I would be anything but Stoic. It would be a great opportunity to explore positive aspects of popular culture and show how the wisdom of ancient philosophy is more accessible and applicable to modern life and future societies than ever before. 

Click here for more works from Darren Kelsey, including published articles.

Darren’s previous books on media and mythology can be found here: 

Diane Kalen-Sukra: Save Your City

Diane Kalen-Sukra is the founder of Kalen Academy, an interactive online school for civic leaders and engaged citizens, which she launched after retiring as a city manager. She is also an acclaimed author, speaker and coach. Diane’s most popular book “Save Your City: How Toxic Culture Kills Community & What To Do About It”  takes readers on a successful journey from Bullyville to Sustainaville, which includes a visit to classical antiquity, calling for a renaissance of civic values and civic education as vital to fostering the type of culture that can sustain us, our democracy and our planet.

How did you first become interested in philosophy?

In university, I switched out of commerce to pursue studies in political philosophy. While there is renewed interest today in business ethics and the social and environmental responsibilities of business leaders and corporations, it was not in vogue then. Political philosophy asked the right questions. Questions which great minds have turned their attention to for thousands of years, like: What is the best way to organize society so that it brings about human flourishing? How can we decide what is right, just and good? What frameworks exist to discern whether an action or decision is ethical? Why is there so
much inequality and injustice in the world?

This interest in and conviction regarding the importance of philosophy only deepened as I entered the world of work and politics. It was striking to me that in a modern democracy, it wasn’t just citizens that seemed to be suffering from collective amnesia about basic duties, rights and responsibilities of citizens. Political leaders and high-ranking public servants, too often, have inherited political institutions and processes for which there is, at best, a lack of appreciation for the fragility and preciousness of our democracy and gravity of our responsibilities.

In these times of polarization and anemic levels of empathy, the civic values-based philosophy of the Ancient Greeks, which also champions shared dialogue are an excellent prescription for arriving at shared understanding and social unity, cornerstones of healthy community building.

Diane Kalen-Sukra

In these times of polarization and anemic levels of empathy, the civic values-based philosophy of the Ancient Greeks, which also champions shared dialogue are an excellent prescription for arriving at shared understanding and social unity, cornerstones of healthy community building.

The good news is that a renaissance of philosophy in civic leadership and in the public square is already underway in our cities and in City Halls. You can get an encouraging glimpse of it in my piece, The Rise of the Philosopher-CAO, published by Public Sector Digest.

Save Your City

What’s the most important concept that you teach people?

Love is the greatest civic virtue.

Kalen Academy courses are centered on this idea. Registration is open for the next upcoming course starting in April 2022: “Fostering Compassionate City Culture: A Guide to Human Flourishing”. This course is being hosted by the global Charter for Compassion and is open to civic leaders and engaged citizens.

My book Save Your City: How Toxic Culture Kills Community & What To Do About It charts a way forward to the love-based cultures of compassion that lead to human flourishing. The citizen’s edition has a green cover.

Are you a city leader? There is an exclusive edition of this book, Save Your City, published by Municipal World that includes a workbook for Councils, Boards and city staff to work through, available here. This edition has the blue cover.

Without a good spirit, as Aristotle calls it, that seeks the well-being of all, democracy will fail.

Diane Kalen-Sukra

What do you think is the most important piece of practical advice that we can derive from your work?

Champion civic education that cultivates the heart and mind.

So much of the toxicity we experience in the public square and our lives today, begins in the heart.

What we call toxicity can be defined as unjust behaviours towards our neighbours and citizens. The great Athenian lawmaker Solon reminds us that an injustice to one, is an injustice to all. Injustice tears at the social fabric.

The ideal society is a just society.

Like every system before it and every system after it, without justice, democracy will fail. Without active, engaged and informed citizens, it will fail. Without a good spirit, as Aristotle calls it, that seeks the well-being of all, democracy will fail.

As much as we like to say, every vote counts, a much richer understanding of what creates and maintains thriving democracies is every heart counts.

Plato would have agreed with this. He believed “the city is what it is, because the people are what they are”. It was the citizens of Athens, after all, that executed his mentor Socrates. Civic academies should help make us better people.

Do you have a favorite quote that you use?

I love this cautionary quote from the introduction to Aristotle’s Politics:

The society that loses its grip on the past is in danger, for it produces men who know nothing but the present, and who are not aware that life had been, and could be, different from what it is. Such men bear tyranny easily; for they have nothing with which to compare it.


Considering these consequences, the study of philosophy and history are imperatives, not luxuries.

What advice would you give someone who wanted to learn more about what you do?

Join me on LinkedIn.

Sign up for Kalen Academy’s e-newsletter “Ancient Wisdom for Modern City Builders.”

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Suppose you were able to give a talk or workshop at the original location of Plato’s Academy, in Athens.

I would be deeply honoured to host a discussion of modern philosophers and governance experts at Plato’s Academy on the new forms of city governance that are emerging around the world, from administrative centres in master-planned communities by developers like Disney, to control and command centres in some Smart Cities. Isn’t that what Plato would do if he saw all these new forms of city government emerging? Which modern city governance structure can best lead to human flourishing and why?

Gregory B. Sadler: Don’t Cheat Yourself

Dr. Gregory B. Sadler is the author of Reason Fulfilled by Revelation: The 1930s Christian Philosophy Debates in France and the president of ReasonIO, a company dedicated to helping others put philosophy into practice. He takes resources from complex and often difficult philosophical texts and thinkers and makes them applicable to everyday life– transforming ancient philosophy intro useful tools for reflection, decision-making, and action.  

His main areas of study are the History of Philosophy, Ethics and Moral Theory, Critical Thinking, Philosophical Counseling, and Existentialism. He also teaches at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, is the co-editor of Stoicism Today Selected Writings Volume 3, and has created over 1,500 videos on philosophy in his popular YouTube channel.

How did you become interested in this area?

There’s a complicated answer to that one!

It didn’t happen all at once, and there were different areas and aspects of philosophy that I got interested in along the way. The shortest answer would be, I suppose, that since childhood I’ve found asking the questions about why very captivating. I discovered later that philosophy was a field where – at least in theory, and in some of its representatives – asking that question, and working out answers wasn’t discouraged.  Then again, there’s more than one kind of why, isn’t there? We can ask not just “Why is this matter the way it is?”, but also “Why should it be that way?”, and a number of other related questions.

The first book of philosophy I read was Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus. My uncle had a copy, and since I was interested in Greek mythology, I asked him if I could have it. I maybe understood a tenth of what was in it back then! At the Catholic high school I went to, I actually had a philosophy class, and it was pretty awful! The instructor basically taught from a textbook, expected us to memorize the answers he liked (even for essay questions), and there wasn’t any real discussion. 

By contrast, I lucked out when we got a last-minute substitute for our Sacraments class, a little monkish guy who was very much into St. Augustine. He reasoned that in order for us to understand Augustine, we’d need to learn a good bit about Plato, Aristotle, ancient cosmology, attempts to resolve the problem of evil, and a host of other topics. The other students didn’t like the class because it was him giving us some ideas and then a lot of open discussion. But I loved it.

When I was in the Army, I remember buying a few books that had to do with philosophy at the PX (post exchange – a kind of shop on base), and I gleaned some ideas from them.  After I got out, worked a while, and then decided to go to college, my mother’s old boyfriend gave me a bit of advice: “Declare a major right away, so that you get in with the professors and other students in a department”. And that’s what I did.

Without knowing much about it, I decided on a philosophy major, and just kept on taking classes, reading works in the discipline, and getting into conversations with people. And by a kind of inertia, perhaps reinforced by an affinity with some of the key authors, ideas, texts, and approaches of philosophy, I just kept on going.

Now I’m more than 30 years past that decision to major in philosophy, and I can say I’m pretty happy with the way my life, my work, my studies, and my relationships have gone because of it.

What’s the most important concept or idea that you teach people?

Well, that’s a very interesting one!

I was tempted at first to say that there isn’t any one single “most important” concept or idea for me, since I draw upon a lot of them from a number of different sources and traditions. Even just with Stoicism, I’m often the person saying to others: “Hold on there with those claims that X is the absolutely most central idea. Stoicism is a complicated network of ideas, practices, insights and so on, like Seneca himself tells us.” Being the eclectic that I am, there are even more ideas or concepts packed away in the proverbial philosophical toolbox. And yet. . . there is a very powerful practice and a capacity that I do see philosophy as particularly strong in. And that is making needed distinctions well, at the right time, in the right manner

It’s not as if philosophy has the market cornered on making good distinctions. (And there are plenty of people in the philosophy field who don’t do this well) However, it does seem to me that when one studies and practices philosophy in productive ways, one does get better at making distinctions that wind up being helpful; in the course of trying to figure something out, or even in the middle of seemingly intractable arguments. 

I do this all the time when I’m working with my clients on their personal or organizational problems, explaining something to confused students, working through things in committee or board meetings, or even just figuring out what a tricky passage from a philosophical text actually means. There’s definitely a set of skills involved in knowing when to point out that a term is being used by different people in different ways, or to say “if you look at it this way, then you’re right, but if you look at it this way, you’re off-base”.  There’s nothing magical about this, but it is pretty remarkable how very intelligent people from all sorts of disciplines and walks of life get mixed up and into conflicts by not recognizing when a distinction can be helpful.

So is there an idea or concept that corresponds to this skill, capacity, or practice?  Maybe it would be the notion that things are often more complicated than we realize, and that we’d do well to make good distinctions when we’re working through things?  These would be distinctions that aren’t just quibbling or unnecessary classification, but which really get to the heart of the matter, and divide things along lines that make sense.  Now, do I teach people this concept?  Well, yes and no, to introduce a distinction. . .

You put the two of these together – rationality and will – and you’re at the core of what human being is, and not just in the abstract, but in ways that we can relate to throughout our day-to-day practical life.

Gregory B. Sadler

What do you think is the most important piece of practical advice that we can derive from your work?

That’s also a really tough one to answer! 

I suppose that since a significant part of my work is oriented around the problems and processes of integrating our emotions, our rationality, the habits we make and break, and our capacity to choose, there is an insight that I find myself pointing out over and over again. It turns out to be illuminating in a variety of frameworks, ranging all the way from discussions with fellow researchers at academic conferences to very practically-focused group discussions or client work.  You could express it in a very simple way like this: Working on yourself through practical philosophy involves deliberately using the parts of yourself we traditionally call your rationality and your will upon themselves to make them progressively less and less screwed up.

Unpacking that formula or catch-phrase into something a bit more meaningful requires saying a lot more, just a bit of which I’ll do here.  If you spend much time reading in ancient and medieval philosophy, and you’re really paying attention to what’s being worked out in those texts by those thinkers, one of the things that will jump out at you is how central our intellectual or rational capacity is for distinctively human beings, as opposed to the more general kind of thing we are, animal being. You’ll also find the progressive articulation of something that eventually comes to be identified as the will, which you can think of as the faculty of choice, though “choosing” is just one of its activities and functions. You can call this prohairesis, as Epictetus did, you can call it voluntas as Augustine did, or whatever else you like.  You put the two of these together – rationality and will – and you’re at the core of what human being is, and not just in the abstract, but in ways that we can relate to throughout our day-to-day practical life.

Another key insight of the ancients and medieval – and there’s many (perhaps complementary) ways to think about this – is that our rational faculties and our wills are not only parts of ourselves that have to develop themselves over time. By the time we start paying close attention to them, they’re usually messed up in one way or another – if we’re lucky! More often, they’re messed up, they have mis-developed, in more ways than we actually realize when we start looking at them. And this is where practical philosophy comes in and can help us out quite a bit. We need models of what it would look like to screw up less with respect to our rationality and will. The “sages” that some schools of ancient philosophy talk about provide some such models, but we can actually find others closer to where we are in those philosophers themselves who openly tell us that they aren’t sages. If we’re paying attention, we can also find myriad useful insights, distinctions, concepts, practices and the like in those philosophical works.

Rationality and will are not just higher parts of ourselves, in ancient and medieval thought. They are parts of ourself that extend and apply to, even govern you could say, other aspects and dimensions of ourselves, our relations to others, our engagements in the rest of the world.  Realizing that can be quite liberating or inspiring, but there’s another insight that is even more so. Rationality and will are reflexive, that is, they don’t just apply to everything else, but also to themselves. Again, this is something that Epictetus is crystal clear about. The rational faculty is one that governs itself. The prohairesis, which is what he says we are, determines itself. Even when other things do determine it, that is because prohairesis in some way allowed, chose, or gave in to that.

Put all these things together, and notice what you get as a result. We realize we’re messed up in complicated ways, and practical philosophy can help us extricate ourselves from that mire. How so? In a lot of ways, one of which is to show us that there are higher parts of ourself that can “run the show”, so to speak. But those parts are themselves all messed up as well. Yep, that’s true. But we’re lucky that they can also work on themselves, fix or replace the bits that are broken, improve and strengthen the parts that are running more or less right. And that’s us working upon ourselves through doing practical philosophy.

…a person doesn’t have to be the paragon of virtue in order to be on the whole good, to impress that goodness upon others, and to provide a kind of needed orientation or example.

Gregory B. Sadler

Do you have a favorite quote that you use?

I guess I do, but it doesn’t come from philosophy as far as I know.  It’s actually something that my gym teacher and track coach used to say to us when I was in high school. It’s a very simple phrase: Don’t cheat yourself!

I think that phrase probably wouldn’t have made the impact it did upon me if the guy who said it, Chuck Bova, wasn’t, upon retrospect, a pretty virtuous person.  I won’t make the claim that he was an exemplary individual in every respect – how would I know that, after all? But coach Bova was certainly a pretty good guy, as I got to observe in classes, practices, conversations, and other interactions.  And as Cicero and Seneca tell us – this is something I think is really important – a person doesn’t have to be the paragon of virtue in order to be on the whole good, to impress that goodness (in however confused a way) upon others, and to provide a kind of needed orientation or example.  I didn’t have the words for it at the time, but looking back, I saw Bova display and act on those virtues that have long been recognized as the cardinal ones – wisdom, temperance, courage, and justice.

“Don’t cheat yourself” was the mantra he would say to us when he could tell we were tempted to do precisely that, when we were flagging.  It might be when we were lifting weights, running laps, doing sprints, running hills, or anything else. And he meant exactly what he said. It wasn’t about us as his students or athletes. He didn’t take our performance, good or bad, as reflecting upon him, because he knew he was already doing his part. He genuinely cared about us as people, and wanted us to put in the work required to develop ourselves. So not cheating ourselves was something he wanted for each of us. 

I’ll just say two more things about Bova here…

The first was that not every student was gifted athletically at that age, and I saw him tailor his expectations of each person in his class to what they could realistically achieve at that point. A level of effort that might count as “cheating myself” for me might be more than enough for one of my classmates. That was an exercise of prudence on his part. The second is that what he was teaching us – what really stuck with me at least – was how to persevere. For some of us, perhaps it was even more basic – that we could persevere.  As ancient virtue ethicists recognize, this is something absolutely central to personal development.  For the Stoics, it is a key aspect of courage. For Aristotelians, it is an analogue of self-control.  This lesson of perseverance, and that quote – or better put, maxim – “Don’t cheat yourself”- is applicable to pretty much every aspect of our lives, careers, relationships, and education.

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What advice would you give someone who wanted to learn more about what you do?

I’m pretty easy to find on the internet. If you search on “Gregory Sadler,” a lot of entries will pop up.  The top listings will generally be my social media profiles, my YouTube channel and videos, my Sadler’s Lectures podcast, my writings in various blogs (especially Medium), and interviews with other people and platforms (like this one here!).  I’ve been on YouTube for over a decade now, and have produced well over 2,000 videos on all sorts of topics, mostly within the field of philosophy broadly speaking, but also a good bit in religious studies and literature.

I have my own business, ReasonIO, whose motto is “putting philosophy into practice”.  I offer a number of services to individual and business clients, including tutorials, academic coaching, consulting, and philosophical counseling (my certification for the latter is through the American Philosophical Practitioners Association.)  Another one of the services I provide (and particularly enjoy) is public speaking, providing talks and workshops for academic institutions, businesses, professional organizations, libraries, religious organization, and even restaurants.

Over the last two decades, I have taught at a number of colleges, universities, and academic startups, so you’ll find quite a few references to those when you search for me.  In recent years, I’ve been paring back on that, so I can focus more on my work in public and practical philosophy. The one academic institution I still routinely teach for is Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, and you can find my faculty webpage here.  As an academic, I have engaged in research and scholarship, culminating at this point in one book, Reason Fulfilled by Revelation: The 1930s Christian Philosophy Debates in France, and dozens of academic articles, book chapters, and encyclopedia entries.

In 2016, I joined the Modern Stoicism team as editor of Stoicism Today, where we publish weekly pieces of interest to the modern Stoic community.  Last year, I also co-edited Stoicism Today Selected Writings Volume 3, a book bringing together some of the best essays from Stoicism Today in recent years.

Suppose you were able to give a talk or workshop at the original location of Plato’s Academy, in Athens. 

I’d feel grateful and honored to be asked, excited to travel to an original home of philosophy, and happy to share useful ideas with attendees!  One of the great things about philosophy is that it can be studied and practiced anywhere in the world, with relatively few material requirements. And in the age of the internet you can access resources, participate in workshops, listen to lectures, and connect with people all over the globe. And yet. . .  there’s something about being in a place that has a history, isn’t there?

What precisely I’d talk about, I don’t know off the top of my head. There are so many topics that I’ve covered in the talks and workshops I’ve given just in the last decade, and I’ve got so many different research projects going right now. I suppose I’d see what the Plato’s Academy people thought might be most appealing to their students and attendees.

I will say, to bring this to a close, that giving talks in-person is something that I have missed during these last two years marked by the covid-19 pandemic.  Last month, I was invited back to one of the local libraries I partner with, to give a face-to-face, though masked up talk in the Philosophers In The Midst of History series, this one specifically on the Middle Platonist Plutarch.  I really enjoyed getting to engage with the audience in the same room, rather than over Zoom!  So, here’s hoping we’ll have a lot more of that, both at Plato’s Academy, and everywhere else, in the coming years.

Edward H. Spence: Performing Philosophy

Dr. Edward H. Spence is the founder and director of the Philosophy Plays project, now in its 25th year, whose aim is the communication of public philosophy through dramatic performance and audience participation and discussion. He’s also an Honorary Research Associate in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Sydney and Adjunct Senior Lecturer at Charles Sturt University, Australia as well as the Senior Research Fellow at the 4TU.Centre for Ethics and Technology in the Netherlands.

Dr. Spence has co-authored numerous academic titles such as Digital Era and Media Corruption in the Age of Information and is the author of Stoic Philosophy and the Control Problem of AI Technology: Caught in the Web.

How did you become interested in Philosophy?

My first interest in philosophy arose as a student at the American Academy in
Larnaca, Cyprus, where my father was serving as an officer in the British army (Cyprus was was under British jurisdiction at the time). Opposite the School was the statue of Zeno of Citium, the founder of Stoic Philosophy born in Larnaca – which in ancient times was a Hellenic City known as Citium.

Zeno established the first School of Stoic philosophy in Athens after he got shipwrecked there when delivering merchandise for the family business, and decided to stay and study philosophy. He later set up his own school of philosophy that became known as Stoic derived from the word stoa, which in Greek means “porch” from where he conducted his teaching.

Inspired by Zeno, I used to spend my summer holidays in the Municipal Library of Larnaca (I was 14 years of age at the time) where I spent my time reading philosophy and taking notes. Apart from Zeno, the other philosopher that inspired me (and still does to this day) was Plato and his Socratic dialogues. German poet Goethe had an impact on me, more specifically his long poem Dr Faustus.

Stoic Philosophy and the Control Problem of AI Technology

It was much later, after spending many years working as a chartered accountant in London, that I came to Australia in 1981 with my wife Kaye. That’s when I made the wise decision to devote my life to the formal study of philosophy. In 1985, I began my philosophical education in the Department of Traditional and Modern Philosophy at the University of Sydney in 1985. I chose U of S by a propitious coincidence. As the Irish might say, “God was talking to me anonymously” when my Greek-Cypriot friend Zeno, who I met in London, advised me that I could study philosophy under Professor David Armstrong at Sydney U. He was internationally famous at the time for his pioneering work in the philosophy of mind published in his book, A Materialist Theory of the Mind. The rest as you might say was not history but philosophy, and specifically Epistemology (Honours, First Class) and Moral philosophy (PhD).

Currently, my research interests are in Stoic philosophy and the ethics of emerging technologies, such as AI, as reflected in my new book, Stoic Philosophy and the Control Problem of AI Technology: Caught in the Web.

As AI technologies have become “a way of life” for us (by choice or involuntarily) it is therefore of crucial importance to examine and evaluate those technologies more critically and philosophically through the lens of Stoic and Socratic philosophy.

Dr. Edward H. Spence
“Plato’s Symposium” (Anselm Feuerbach)

What’s the most important concept or idea that you teach people?

Inspired from the beginning by Zeno’s Stoic philosophy and Plato’s Socratic philosophy, the most important idea I teach is that philosophy must be perceived as a way of life, lived virtuously through courage, moderation, justice and practical wisdom-known as the cardinal virtues-for the attainment of eudaimonia (self-fulfillment, happiness or wellbeing). Symposium: The Dialogues of Plato (which inspired the Philosophy Plays project), on the topic of love, expresses in practice this idea.

I founded Philosophy Plays in 1997 as a form of philosophy portrayed through dramatic performance in taverns, theatres, arts festivals, and vineyards for the general public. This year, stage plays Smart Machine and Wise Guys, that I wrote for the Greek Festival of Sydney 2022, express some of the ideas in my new book, Stoic Philosophy and the Control Problem of AI Technology.

My book …Caught in the Web speaks to the important and crucial technological era in which we now live, given the influence and impact of AI technologies on most aspects of our lives. As AI technologies have become “a way of life” for us (by choice or involuntarily) it is therefore of crucial importance to examine and evaluate those technologies more critically and philosophically through the lens of Stoic and Socratic philosophy.

What do you think is the most important piece of practical advice that we can derive from your work?

Be curious about ideas and seek and critically examine their truth (epistemically). Also, be kind to others and yourself, do good to others as much as you can and where you can (ethically). Think and act as a cosmopolitan (like Diogenes) and, as the Stoic, recommend for the common good, considering others as if they were your own kin and friends (eudaimonically). Most importantly, though, seek wisdom as the most important concept and apply it to your life – making it a daily practice.

Do you have a favorite quote that you use?

That’s a difficult question to answer but if I had to choose, other than “I know one thing, that I know nothing” (Socrates), it is from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 on love. I have used more often than I can recall, on wedding cards especially. It’s quite amazing how one can express so much in just 14 lines:

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand’ring bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me prov’d,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.

William Shakespeare

What advice would you give someone who wanted to learn more about what you do?

I can be contacted through LinkedIn, at my University of Sydney profile and CV as well as on Research Gate and Academia. I am currently working on revising and upgrading my website that will become available later this year.

Suppose you were able to give a talk or workshop at the original location of Plato’s Academy.

I would be delighted and honoured to stand in the place that I have always considered to be the “secular sacred”. I’d imagine the divine Diotima from Mantinea teaching me as she taught and Socrates in Plato’s Symposium talking about what true love is; love of the beautiful and the good. Perhaps even if the opportunity arose, I would love to have a philosophy play performed on the topic of Plato’s notion of love.