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Introducing the Plato’s Academy Centre

Merry Christmas, everyone! I’ve just recorded a Facebook Live video explaining the new Plato’s Academy Centre project.

Watch the Video on Facebook

I’ve also reproduced the full text below for anyone who doesn’t use Facebook, though. Please share and comment online to help us spread the word.

Transcript

Hello my name is Donald Robertson and I’m the president and founder of the Plato’s Academy Centre, which we’re delighted to announce is now registered in Greece as a civil nonprofit association. So let me tell you a little bit about the project… First of all, how did this begin? Well, over a year ago, I was walking in Plato’s Academy Park, in Athens, where Plato’s original school of philosophy was located. Now it’s a large public park near the city centre, containing some ancient ruins, with a small digital museum nearby, a statue of Plato, and a pleasant square with restaurants and coffee shops. The local Athenians walk their dogs in the park, jog and exercise there, and bring their children to play. Once, though, this was the most important centre for philosophy in the world. Plato’s Academy was the first academic instute in European history, from which all modern academies subseqeuently took their name. Plato would walk in this park, lecturing his students. Socrates and other ancient thinkers also came here to exercise their intellects in rational debate.

I was astounded to find, though, that there’s no event space in the park where philosophy can take place today. It should be the location of a world-class international conference centre! I was reminded of Sam Wanamaker, the director, who came to London looking for the original location of Shakespeare’s Globe theatre but found nothing but a battered old sign marking its location. Mr. Wanamaker was a man of vision who spent the rest of his life raising funds to rebuild the Globe theatre. Today it’s one of the most famous tourist attractions in London, and Shakespeare’s plays are performed there once again. I wanted to know if we could do something similar: Could we bring back philosophy to the ruins of the original academy — the birthplace of Western philosophy?

Akadimia Platonos is one of the poorer suburbs of Athens — there are a few derelict buildings, a little bit of graffiti here and there, which could easily be cleaned up. Because it has the potential to be something remarkable. Not long after we started talking about this, the Greek ministry of culture and the mayor of Athens announced that they were signing a joint development plan to landscape the park and build a new archeological museum there. We want to bring visitors and businessmen to Plato’s Academy from around the world, to benefit the local economy and help renewal of the surrounding area. Who wouldn’t want to attend a conference at the original location of Plato’s Academy? And that would mean more business for cafes and hotels, and more jobs for local people. It could help finance improvements to the park itself, and the whole surrounding area, in a sustainable manner. So we felt the time was right to restore Plato’s Academy to its former glory!

Once I began talking about this idea, we were overwhelmed with offers of support, from important institutions in Greece, wealthy investors, and kindred organizations around the world. We set up the first incarnation of our website quickly, and brought together a board of advisors, including some leading academics and authors, as well as representatives of the business community. We joined the Orange Grove incubator program, based in Athens, and incorporated ourselves as a nonprofit organization in Greece. Now we’re announcing our plans for the future. First of all, we’ll be promoting online events celebrating Greek philosophy and literature, and its relevance to modern living — virtual conferences and webinars. Then we’ll be organizing various events at existing venues in Athens, in collaboration with our partners. Finally, our goal is to create a new world-class event space, adjacent to and overlooking Plato’s Academy Park. People will be able to come from all around the world to attend conferences and other events at the original location of Plato’s school of philosophy

Our vision for Plato’s Academy Centre is twofold. On one hand, it’s a physical proposal. We plan to host events at the location in Athens, in a new event space there. Different organizations can hold their meetings and conferences there, enjoy the park, explore the ruins, and experience Athens. We’ll be arranging events such as tours of important historic locations nearby. On the other hand, though, it’s also a virtual concept. We plan to build an online community focused on promoting Greek philosophy and literature in a way that makes it relevant and accessible to a wider audience. In particular, we want to promote the values of civil discourse exemplified by Socrates, in the Platonic dialogues. We will build a new community in which people, worldwide, will learn to discuss the most profound questions in life, replacing the irrational thinking and squabbles we find on social media with civil and rational debate. We’ll be encouraging people to learn more about the Socratic Method, and modern concepts of critical thinking, with original content from leading experts, including many highly-regarded academics and well-known authors.

Plato’s Academy Centre is for everyone! You can learn more on our website, where you’ll see our announcements, and meet our board of directors and team of advisors. We can’t do it without your help, though. If you’re interested, please click on the link below to find out how you can get involved and offer your support. Please also follow our social media accounts, if you want to help us spread the word. Thanks for your time, we look forward to hearing from you in the future.

Regards,

Donald Robertson

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Donald J. Robertson

Donald J. Robertson

Cognitive psychotherapist, author of How to Think Like a Roman Emperor. Check out our new graphic novel “Verissimus”: https://read.macmillan.com/lp/verissimus/