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Meghan Sullivan: Making Plans and Better Arguments

Meghan Sullivan is the Wilsey Family Collegiate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame and serves as Director of the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study. Her latest book on virtue ethics with Paul Blaschko, The Good Life Method, is now available nationwide.

Sullivan’s research tends to focus on philosophical problems concerning time, modality, rational planning, value theory, and religious belief (and sometimes all five at once).   She has published work in many leading philosophy journals, including Nous, Ethics and Philosophical Studies. Her first book — Time Biases —develops a theory of diachronic rationality, personal identity and reason-based planning. 

She is now writing a monograph on the role love plays in grounding moral, political and religious reasoning.  It is tentatively entitled Agapism: Moral Responsibility and Our Inner Lives. And with Paul Blaschko, she has just finished a book on virtue ethics based on the God and the Good Life project.

How did you become interested in philosophy?

I arrived at college (the University of Virginia) confident I wanted to be a lawyer and I would major in politics.  I loved debate – which I had done in high school.  Like all freshmen, I had a hard time getting all of my first-choice classes that first semester.  My advisor put me into an introductory philosophy course called Issues of Life and Death.  I *loved* it. The assignments asked us to try to make clear, persuasive and logical arguments for big practical questions about the beginning and end of life. 

The goal was to find the most rational view to hold, not just to reproduce what other people thought about the view.  I discovered that I loved working on the assignments for that course – I would want to work on those projects even if they weren’t being graded.  I started taking more classes and declared a second major, thinking this would just be a hobby while I worked on all of my politics requirements.  But by my third year, I knew I wanted to get much more serious about this kind of research.  Twenty years later, I find I still work on a lot of philosophical questions that gripped my imagination when I was eighteen.

And we could design better arguments, and our moral, political, religious and philosophical lives will be better for putting in the work.  

Meghan Sullivan


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

A lot of folks assume that there really aren’t better or worse ways to reason about philosophical questions – you just need to pick a camp and learn how to defend it.  I work a lot with students to help them see there are often incomplete or badly designed arguments for moral, political, religious, or otherwise philosophical conclusions.  And we could design better arguments, and our moral, political, religious and philosophical lives will be better for putting in the work.  One of my strengths as a teacher is finding philosophical debates in the wild (in major newspapers, in modern life puzzles) and then teasing out all of the old philosophical questions in the fresh example.

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

One topic I work a lot on concerns time and rational planning.  We oftentimes let our emotions narrow the time horizons of what we are willing to care about – we get anxious about the near future and have a hard time imaginatively or rationally engaging with the more distant future.  But we can give ourselves philosophical reasons that can help us manage and understand these biases, developing plans with longer time horizons and building our capacity to resist temporary disruption.  We do this with thought experiments and by learning to tell longer stories about how our lives are unfolding.  We’ll have better lives if we build up this skill.

Do you have a favorite quote that you use?

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 in the Apology

Philosophy is meant to help us live better lives – it ought to matter to us.  And this takes a bit of work to keep our eye on the questions that really matter to our lives.  

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

You could start by reading The Good Life Method, a recent book I wrote (with my colleague Paul Blaschko) about how philosophers work and how philosophy can change how you live your life.  It’s a great place to start learning about philosophy as a way of life.  You might also check out a Youtube channel related to our project– Philife.  Or the website for one of my big classes: godandgoodlife.nd.edu.

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

Plato understood – perhaps more than any modern philosopher – how hard it can be to pursue a philosophical life while also honoring democratic commitments.  Plato despaired about whether we could pull it off, especially once he saw how Socrates was dealt with by Athens.  It would be incredible to be back in the Academy now in 2022 and reflecting on whether we have made any progress in developing democracy or philosophical methods in the past two millennia.  I’d love to host a dialogue on whether philosophy can thrive in modern democracies.

Angie Hobbs: A Wonder and Love of Philosophy

Prof. Angie Hobbs FRSA is Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield, a position created for her. Her chief interests are in ancient philosophy and literature, and ethics and political theory from classical thought to the present, and she has published widely in these areas, including Plato and the Hero. Her most recent publication for the general public is Plato’s Republic: a Ladybird Expert Book. She contributes regularly to radio and TV programmes and other media around the world, including many appearances on In Our Time on BBC Radio 4 and programmes on ancient Greek philosophy for Cosmote History. She has spoken at the Athens Democracy Forum, the World Economic Forum at Davos, the Houses of Parliament in London, and the Scottish Parliament. She was a judge of the Man Booker International Prize 2019 and was on the World Economic Forum Global Future Council 2018-9 for Values, Ethics and Innovation.

How did you become interested in philosophy? 

I initially felt very torn between philosophy and literature.  I had always loved all forms of literature – poetry, drama, novels, short stories – and in my teens I also started to become fascinated by many of the big philosophical questions (studying Lucretius De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things) in VIth Form in particular got me interested in free will and determinism).  So, when I went to Cambridge University when I was 19 to read Classics I was, as I say, initially very undecided about what I wanted to concentrate on.  But then I discovered Plato’s Symposium – a glorious, vibrant, witty and profoundly moving dialogue about the nature of erotic love – and I realised I did not have to choose!  Plato is a great artist as well as a great philosopher, and in studying him I could satisfy both my passions.  But it wasn’t just Plato with whom I fell in love – I quickly became intrigued by all the ancient Greek and Roman philosophers: the Presocratics, such as Heraclitus, Parmenides and Zeno; Aristotle; the Epicureans, Stoics and Cynics; Cicero, Seneca and Epictetus; the wild and wonderful world of the Neoplatonists such as Plotinus and their Renaissance inheritors, such as Ficino … For me, ancient philosophy is quite simply the gift that keeps on giving!

[Eudaimonia} can offer us a secure framework for what it might mean for an individual or community to flourish, even in those situations where feeling happy – let alone feeling pleasure – is neither possible nor even appropriate. 

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

I find the ancient Greek concept of eudaimonia hugely important and helpful.  It is perhaps best translated as ‘flourishing’ (literally it means ‘protected by a beneficent guardian spirit’) and is more objective than our concepts of happiness or pleasure: it is about the actualization, the fulfilment, of all our various faculties – intellectual, imaginative, emotional and physical.  It can offer us a secure framework for what it might mean for an individual or community to flourish, even in those situations where feeling happy – let alone feeling pleasure – is neither possible nor even appropriate.  In challenging conditions, an ethical approach based on eudaimonia encourages us to ask: ‘How can I nevertheless best actualize my faculties in ways which further both my good and the good of the community, as far as circumstances allow?’

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

Although I find a number of features of Stoic philosophy troubling – such as the belief that everything has in fact been providentially arranged for the best if we could only see the bigger picture – I do still find much of Stoic ethics very useful and sustaining, particularly in times of radical uncertainty, such as during a pandemic.  I have found especially valuable the mental exercises which encourage

a) focusing on the few things that you can control (such as your response to events and to the behaviour of others); 

b) paying attention to the present and enjoying those aspects of it that you can enjoy, and not wasting time and energy fearing the future or regretting the past.

Do you have a favorite quote that you use?

‘Philosophy begins in wonder’ (Plato Theaetetus 155d).

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

My website angiehobbs.com is kept up-to-date with my publications, TV and radio programmes, podcasts, webinars, talks and so on (it also contains contact details).  I also advertise forthcoming events and post links to past ones on Twitter @drangiehobbs  

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

I would find it absolutely thrilling and deeply moving to give a talk or workshop at the original location of Plato’s Academy.  One of the main reasons Plato chose to write in dialogue form is because he wanted thoughtful philosophical conversation and vigorous debate to continue throughout the generations.  Plato lives!

Brad Inwood: Good History, Good Philosophy

I try to get my students, and my readers, to focus on two contrasts. The first is the sharp difference between the evidence at our disposal and what we then go on to do with that evidence, how we handle it.

Brad Inwood is a professor at Yale University, a specialist in ancient philosophy with particular emphasis on Stoicism and the Presocratics. His major works include academic books such as Ethics and Human Action in Early Stoicism, The Poem of Empedocles, Reading Seneca: Stoic Philosophy at Rome, Seneca: Selected Philosophical Letters, and Ethics After Aristotle.

How did you become interested in this area?

By serendipity, I stumbled into a course on the philosophy of science during my freshman year at Brock University, in Ontario. The combination of historical perspective, then so prominent in the philosophy of science, and epistemological critique captivated me. So even when I became a Classics major, I made sure to take an introduction to ancient philosophy – I was hooked! My main interest philosophically has always been in explanation, which helped me find Aristotle as my first enthusiasm in the field. Stoicism came later, by an even stranger set of accidents. I have a deep appreciation for how much luck has contributed to my interests and development.

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

I try to get my students, and my readers, to focus on two contrasts. The first is the sharp difference between the evidence at our disposal and what we then go on to do with that evidence, how we handle it. The second is the distinction between explanatory theories and the arguments we use to test them, to confirm or refute them. I think both of these contrasts are essential to doing good history and to doing good philosophy. I hope I manage to teach this to people; I certainly try.

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

There is so much practical advice that we can get from ancient philosophy, and it’s hard to choose. I guess the most important is clearly expressed in ancient Stoicism, though many of the ancients adhered to it: “follow nature”, or as Chrysippus put it, “live according to one’s experience of what happens by nature”. I take this to mean that we should live according to a critical, rational understanding of how the world works and should try not to let our emotions get in the way of doing so.

Do you have a favorite quote that you use?

Again, there is an embarrassment of riches. I currently favour a gem from Epictetus: “For wherever it locates the “I” and “mine”, that’s where the human animal necessarily inclines.” But for years it was Seneca: “We go where reason, not truth, has led us.”

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

Time for a commercial plug: read my short little book, Stoicism: a Very Short Introduction (OUP 2018). That’s the quickest way into “what I do”. What I “do” is, in my own view, a combination of research and teaching, and that introductory book is meant to be a fusion of those two activities.

Cicero reminds us that the Academy was not just Plato’s school, but provided a stimulus to the development of Hellenistic philosophy… It would be hard not to be overwhelmed by those historical memories, just as Cicero was so many centuries ago.

Brad Inwood

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

I guess I would feel something of the awe expressed so wonderfully by Cicero when he wrote about visiting the site of Plato’s Academy. Here is what he put into the mouth of Piso at the beginning of book 5 of the De Finibus:

I am reminded of Plato, whom we learn was the first to make a habit of debating here. Not only do these gardens remind me of him, but they seem to put the man himself before my eyes. Speusippus debated here, and so did Xenocrates and his student Polemo – in fact, that is the very seat he once sat in over there.

Cicero’s response to this effusion is to think of his own intellectual hero, the sceptical Academic Carneades:

…although everywhere in Athens the very places provide reminders of so many great men, still, what moves me right now is that alcove over there. Not long ago it was occupied by Carneades – I imagine that I am seeing him now, for I know his image well. I think that the very seat he sat in is bereft of his great intellect and laments the loss of his powerful voice.

Cicero reminds us that the Academy was not just Plato’s school, but provided a stimulus to the development of Hellenistic philosophy, especially the critical epistemology of the Academic sceptics who in so many ways were true heirs of both Socrates and Plato. It would be hard not to be overwhelmed by those historical memories, just as Cicero was so many centuries ago.

Karen Duffy: Resiliency and a Stoic “Backbone”

Karen Duffy is a NYT bestselling author, television personality, and actress. Her memoir of her personal accounts on coping with chronic pain, Backbone: Living with Chronic Pain Without Turning Into One, is funny and profoundly inspiring. She passes on Stoic lessons from both living with a life-threatening disease and being a mother in her highly-anticipated upcoming release, Wise Up: Irreverent Enlightenment from a Mother Who’s Been Through It.

The qualities that the study of philosophy offers are profound; it creates a framework, a backbone of character. If you drift off course, it is a compass to navigate you back to your path to meaning.

How did you become interested in philosophy? 

I became interested in studying philosophy as a teenager. My brother and I are Irish twins (we were born within 13 months of each other). My brother is a polymath. Jim was always reading philosophy books and passing them on. When I read Meditations, Marcus Aurelius’ words reverberated through me like a cherry bomb in a cymbal factory. His work ignited my passion and my daily devotion to reading the Stoics. I’ve been at it for over 3 decades.

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

When I was in my early 30’s, I was diagnosed with an inoperable brain lesion. I live with chronic pain, a condition called “Complex regional pain syndrome”. My career as an actress, which was really starting to take off, was derailed. It was like I had built an airplane by hand, and just when I was going to take it off on the runway, I had to take it back into the hanger. I became uninsurable as an actor, as I cannot pass a pre-filming physical. I understood that we can’t control what happens, we can only control how we respond, the dichotomy of Control. I am a Recreational Therapist, a grief counselor at the 9/11 family assistance center and am a certified hospice chaplain in the Buddhist tradition. I am a patient advocate and I often share the life of Epictetus with my community. He wrote about living with pain, and his image often includes his crutch. He was beaten so savagely, his leg was broken and he lived in chronic pain. I love the words from Marcus Aurelius, “Look well into yourself, there is a source of strength which will always spring up if you will look”.

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

Philosophy is for everyone. It’s not just eggheads in black turtlenecks smoking Gauloises to the filter arguing over The Discourses. The wisdom of the Stoics reads as if the ink is still wet, yet it was written twenty-four centuries ago. Stoicism is enduring. The art of living in our modern age can be enhanced by reading the classics. The qualities that the study of philosophy offers are profound; it creates a framework, a backbone of character. If you drift off course, it is a compass to navigate you back to your path to meaning. The wisdom you need to follow your own way is readily available. As Epictetus said, it’s all up to you and your way of thinking.

Do you have a favorite quote that you use?

It is endlessly fascinating that our alphabet only has 26 measly letters. Yet when you line them up, you can create a sentence that will set off an explosion in your mind. Epictetus wrote that “Beautiful choices make a beautiful life.” Just 6 words, and it is the quote that illuminated the work of the Stoics.

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

I have a long, interesting career. I was a model/actress, MTV VJ, drugstore perfume pitchwoman and winner of the “Ernest Borgnine Look-a-Like” contest. I’m on People Magazine’s “Worst Dressed List” in the head-to-toe horror category. I am most proud of my work as a writer, mentor and patient advocate. I produce documentaries and coming in 2022, a huge Hollywood movie staring Russell Crow, Zac Ephron and Bill Murray. It is titled The World’s Greatest Beer Run.

News: Plato’s Academy Centre in 2022

The future is bright for the Plato’s Academy Centre as we look ahead to 2022. We’re happy to announce that we will begin operating officially from January as a civil non-profit association (AMKE), registered in Greece.

We’re delighted to thank and welcome our board of advisors: Prof. Christopher Gill, Prof. Katerina Ierodiakonou, Dr. John Sellars, Mick Mulroy, Tim Bartlett, Justin Stead, Pantelis Panos, Robin Waterfield, and David Fideler. Special thanks also to Tim LeBon, Mia Funk, Eugenia Manolidou, Kathryn Koromilas, Karen Duffy, Artemis Miropoulos, Massimo Pigliucci, Tom Butler-Bowdon for their interviews on the website. If you’re an author or academic who writes about Greek philosophy or literature, and interested in getting involved with our project, you’re welcome to get in touch.

We’d also like to thank the Orange Grove incubator program, an initiative of the Embassy of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, based in Athens. I’m well underway in the program and their support has been tremendous.

In collaboration with the Aurelius Foundation and YPO, Plato’s Academy Centre is organizing a series of events in Athens for September 2022, including at Akadimia Platonos.

Our first-ever virtual event is slated for Summer/Autumn 2022 – details to be announced shortly. Look out for some of your favourite authors from the field of philosophy and classics, though.

Watch this space as we revamp our website for Phase 2 of its development and look out for more announcements as they develop!

You can now follow us on social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Show your support by tweeting @platoacademycen in your posts!

Kasey Pierce
Communications Director

Tim LeBon: Exercising Philosophical Development

“…we each have the ability to think about how to live well, and that philosophy – and psychology – provide tools to help us do this.”

How did you become interested in this area?

I studied philosophy as part of a PPE degree at Oxford, and it was a real eye-opener. The idea that we could think about how to be happy and lead good, worthwhile lives was life-changing. It started a wonderful journey from learning about the philosophy and psychology of well-being to teaching it and writing about it, a journey I am still enjoying.

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

That we each have the ability to think about how to live well, and that philosophy – and psychology – provide tools to help us do this. Also, that we shouldn’t be overwhelmed or intimidated by philosophy – it’s a practical tool for everyone. I combine philosophy (especially Stoicism) with CBT and psychology, and so see how it can be helpful in my everyday work with clients.

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

Devote at least as much time to your philosophical development (in the broadest sense) and mental health as to your physical health. If you spend 30 mins exercising your body, invest at least 30 mins in developing your practical wisdom. Read a practical philosophy or psychology book. Get into the habit of daily philosophical exercises such as the Stoic early morning rehearsal of how you should spend your day and an evening review of how it went. The idea behind my new book, 365 Ways to Be More Stoic, is that “little and often” is a great way to go!

Do you have a favorite quote that you use?

The unexamined life is not worth living.

Socrates

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

I would suggest reading one of my books. Wise Therapy is about how philosophy can help to therapists and it contains a lot of my philosophical thinking, aimed at the general reader. Achieve Your Potential with Positive Psychology provides a practical introduction to the science of well-being, drawing on philosophical ideas as well as psychology. My new book, 365 Ways to Be More Stoic, (edited by Kasey Pierce) is due to be published by James Murray in late 2022. It will provide a daily injection of Stoic wisdom – I hope it’s going to help many people start each day in a really positive way.

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

I’d be very excited by the prospect. Talk about standing on the shoulders of giants!

Mia Funk: The Creative Process

How would you introduce yourself and the work that you do to our readers? 

I’m an artist, writer, podcast host, and the founder of The Creative Process and One Planet Podcast. The Creative Process is a podcast, international educational initiative, and traveling exhibition. One Planet Podcast focuses on the environment and the kind of world we’re leaving for future generations. What’s important for me is to create experiences that ignite imaginative inquiry and help the next generation to find their vision. As an artist, I never made a decision based on making money. I did what made me happy. The arts and humanities have always been my passion and nourished me throughout my whole life. They are the glue that holds society together.

How did you become a creative educator and come to launch The Creative Process?

After years of helping to launch cultural initiatives, founding magazines, and making arts documentaries alongside my painting and storytelling, I decided to found The Creative Process in 2016. It was launched at the Sorbonne, Panthéon-1 in Paris. While the Panthéon is a memorial to national heroes, The Creative Process celebrates living artists and creative thinkers from around the world who have made important contributions to society. It is designed to be a record of our time and through the collaboration of students and faculty, and the insights shared, we aim to inspire this and future generations on their creative journeys.

The Creative Process was born out of a desire to celebrate progressive intellectual and artistic practices that inspire human resilience and unlock potential in young people, encouraging their empathic imagination and an open mindset. We have promoted the humanities through art, literature, poetry, music, dance, film, podcasts, exhibitions, and conversations with well-known artists, writers, and creative thinkers. Through storytelling, we’ve celebrated culture, history, civic engagement, and shown the important legacy of the arts and humanities, how they provide spiritual and intellectual nourishment and enrich our lives. At a time when universities are increasingly prioritizing STEM, we say that both the humanities and sciences are essential elements of a well-rounded education and promote happier, more engaged global citizens.

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

We need to live a life larger than ourselves. Nurture your mind with nature and good company.

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

It is important to remain curious. Learning is a lifelong process and everyone has the capacity for creativity.

Do you have a favorite quote that you use?

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution,” that people attribute to Albert Einstein. That’s really to say that knowledge is important, but what is of greater importance is what you do with that knowledge for that is really what you have contributed to society and our understanding of the world.

Working on this project, I am often reminded of what Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote:

When you want to build a ship, do not begin by gathering wood, cutting boards, and distributing work, but rather awaken within men the desire to long for the vast and endless sea.

And these really touch on the three pillars of our project, imagination, knowledge, and respect for the beauty and wonder of the natural world.

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

To learn more about our projects, visit www.creativeprocess.info, oneplanetpodcast.org, listen to The Creative Process and One Planet Podcast on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. There are many ways you can get involved in podcasts, exhibitions, or other initiatives. We’ve even had projects right here in Athens and conducted interviews with many museum directors, archeologists, artists, philosophers, and others.

Suppose you were able to give a talk or workshop at the original location of Plato’s Academy in Athens. How would you feel about that and what topics would you cover? 

Giving a talk or workshop at the location of Plato’s Academy in Athens would be a dream for me. I am in awe of Plato’s contribution to culture and learning, as well as Greece’s enormous cultural legacy, which I only grew to admire more through conversations with many artists and intellectuals in Athens. For my workshop or talk, I would like to draw on my experience as a creative educator, artist, and podcast host to discuss the importance of creativity and ways for unlocking our artistic voices.

Citing the many conversations with immensely talented and accomplished artists I’ve been honored to have, I would conduct open conversations that allow participants to understand that they are part of the process in order to help them realize their creative capacity. In honor of the important setting and the many Greek contributors to The Creative Process, from the directors of the Acropolis Museum, National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST), Benaki Museums, Onassis Cultural Centre, founding director of Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre, and other museums, to the choreographer for the Olympic Games, writers, musicians, philosophers, and many others have shared so much about their creative process and the importance of knowing history with us. My workshop would begin and end with Plato, whose teachings are the foundation of our Western culture. We may never fully know the extent of Plato’s influence on culture, but it is interesting to explore his impact on contemporary philosophers and the pursuit of this knowledge is perhaps the most important part of the journey.

Mia Funk is an artist, writer, podcast host, and founder of The Creative Process and One Planet Podcast. Her painting, writing, and films can be seen on www.miafunk.com.

Visit www.creativeprocess.info. Listen to The Creative Process and One Planet Podcast on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. Follow us on @thecreative_process, @miafunkart, Facebook to see opportunities to share your creative work or to get involved.

Announcing: Plato’s Academy Centre

How would you like to attend an event at the original location of Plato’s Academy?

We’re delighted to officially announce the launch of the Plato’s Academy Centre project.  Plato’s Academy Centre is a nonprofit organization, creating an international conference centre at the original location of Plato’s Academy, in Athens, Greece. We are also creating an online community for exploring the applications of Greek classical literature and philosophy to modern living. 

[Plato’s Academy is] an inspiring and atmospheric place to visit. It would be wonderful to be able to meet with people and talk about ancient philosophy there, an iconic location in the history of Western thought.

Dr. John Sellars, author of Lessons in Stoicism

What we’ve been doing

  • We recently joined the Orange Grove incubator program, based in Athens, who will be supporting our startup phase
  • Our core team has been formed, and a board of advisors has been established, which includes academics, authors, and experts
  • The legal process of incorporating as a Civil Non-Profit Association (AMKE), will be completed by 1st Jan 2022
  • We have been meeting stakeholders, including government ministers and other NGO’s
  • We are now looking at properties adjacent to Plato’s Academy Park, for the new conference centre
  • We’ve secured initial startup funding for the project, and have started implementing our communications and social media strategy
  • Our website has been published, and social media accounts created, featuring interviews and other original content 
  • We’ve started collaborating other organizations in order to organize physical and virtual events in 2022

Giving a talk or workshop at the location of Plato’s Academy in Athens would be a dream for me. I am in awe of Plato’s contribution to culture and learning…

Mia Funk, artist and founder of The Creative Process exhibition and podcast

What’s next? 

We are organizing physical and virtual events for 2022, which will be announced shortly. You can find more information about the project on our website platosacademy.org.  From now on, we’ll be posting news and articles regularly there, and keeping you informed via our social media accounts.  You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube

How you can help

If you want to support the project, you can subscribe to our Patreon page.  Please also feel free to contact us if you’re interested in volunteering or offering your support in other ways.

You can also subscribe to our newsletter, to receive regular updates about our progress.

Thank you for your support, 

Kasey Pierce 

Communications Director

Eugenia Manolidou: Ancient Greek: Past, Present & Future

Eugenia Manolidou

Eugenia Manolidou is a musician, composer and conductor of symphonic music. Since 2017 she has been directing Elliniki Agogi, a school specialising in Ancient Greek, History and Philosophy. Her passion for the Classics began when she left Athens at the age of 19 to study composition at the Juilliard School. Amazed by the depth and richness of the Greek Civilisation she decided to learn Ancient Greek in order to understand the original texts. Her compositions and performances, including a concert given for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, were entirely based on the Greek civilisation.

Eugenia is the Director and Program Coordinator of Elliniki Agogi. Where they apply the Living Language method. Since 1994, they have been teaching the Ancient Greek language to children from the ages of 3 to 16 years old. They also teach adults who wish to broaden and advance their knowledge of Ancient Greek, history and philosophy. Eugenia’s role, as the Director and Program Coordinator of the school, is to continuously research, develop and evaluate the curricula, as well as, introduce and create new approaches to learning Ancient Greek. She does her best to ensure the learning programme remains interesting, compelling, engaging and fun for both children and adults.

How did you become interested in this area?

Once I realized the plethora of benefits derived from learning the Ancient Greek language, for all ages, it propelled me to research and develop new methods and techniques to improve the educational model by effectively connecting learning, communication and experience. These methods allow students to approach their distant past by integrating knowledge and experience, in and outside of the classroom. Offering so much knowledge in such a fun and gratifying way is what attracted me the most to this area.

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

The most important concept we try to communicate and demonstrate to our students is that Ancient Greek is not a “dead” language. As Greeks, most of our everyday vocabulary comes directly from the ancient Greek language. We use phrases, quotes, jokes, in Ancient Greek, even as kids. By naming the language “dead” automatically separates what comes natural to us, as a continuation of the ancient form of our language. As a result, when students start studying Ancient Greek in high school they feel they are studying something “dead” and therefore, useless. At Elliniki Agogi, we try to bring our students in contact with the wealth of Ancient Greek thought and culture, showing the temporal continuity and enhancing it morally and spiritually.

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

Many people still question why they should learn Ancient Greek and what the practical use may be. Of course we can speak about the beauty of reading the original texts of Greek drama or philosophy or the wealth of vocabulary building and improved grammar comprehension. The most important practical reason to learn Greek is to improve the knowledge of all the other Western languages, as a significant amount of words are derived from both Greek and Latin.

Many scientific words are Greek and many abstract meanings come from this very rich language. I believe it is worth trying to learn, even a few words, anyway! There are words of Greek origin like “disaster” (dysastron) that don’t sound greek at all, and yet they come from Greek. The hardest part is for someone to decide to learn Greek; once the decision is made and the first few lessons begin, a whole new irresistible world full of ideas and noble concepts opens up!

Do you have a favorite quote that you use?

There are many quotes that I use in my everyday life. My most favourite quote of mine is by Chilon of Sparta: ΜΗΔΕΝ ΑΓΑΝ – “Nothing in excess”. Moderation as a principle of life and at the same time, a key part of personal development.

Another favourite of mine, which is used a lot to encourage our young students, is the wise counsel found in rapsody Z in the Iliad: Αἰὲν ἀριστεύειν καὶ ὑπείροχον ἔμμεναι ἄλλων, μηδὲ γένος πατέρων αἰσχυνέμεν – “Ever to excel, to do better than others and to bring glory to your forebears”. For me, this is the foundation of excellence, to try your best, without harming others, thus avoiding disgracing ones ancestors.

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

I would advise and encourage them to come and attend our classes and lectures, or register online. Elliniki Agogi is an educational institution open to everyone who wishes to investigate the Greek civilisation by either studying the ancient greek language, or by listening to lectures on philosophy or drama which ultimately founded the roots of Western thought.

It’s considered a sacred place amongst the Greeks. It is the first “University” of the Western world where the foundations of Western Science and Philosophy were laid two-and-a half millennia ago.

Eugenia Manolidou

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

Just the thought of it gives me the chills! I study Plato’s philosophy. In fact, at Elliniki Agogi, we recently concluded the whole Platonic Corpus after two years of weekly lectures, and I would be so grateful to watch scholars talk in this amazing place.

It’s considered a sacred place amongst the Greeks. It is the first “University” of the Western world where the foundations of Western Science and Philosophy were laid two-and-a half millennia ago. If I were given the opportunity, I would present on the relevance of music in Ancient Greece and the importance of melody, rhythm and harmony in today’s world.

Elliniki Agogi’s children’s tribute to Thermopylae and Salamis in Ancient Greek with English captions.