“Philosophers in antiquity, in order to practice philosophy, lived in more or less close proximity to a community of other philosophers, or at least they received their rules of life from a philosophical tradition. Their task was thereby made easier, even if actually living according to such rules of life demanded strenuous effort. Today there are no more schools, and the “philosopher” is alone. How shall he find his way?”1
“Don’t be wise alone”2 – Sophocles.
The contemporary philosophy department is not equivalent to the ancient philosophical school. The former is an office, the latter was a community. What happens at the first is a job; what happened at the second was a way of life.
Academy Reborn is an attempt to organically develop a philosophical academy in the spirit of antiquity, as described in Philosophy Reborn and the (upcoming) fourth part of the “What is Philosophy?” series, with a philosophical fight club and agoge as described in Dare to be wise.
The Functions of the Academy
The Academy has three functions. First, to offer a philosophical fight club and agoge for members of the public daring to be wise. Second, to develop technologies that permit a scalable and interactive autodialectical encyclopedia with various data inputs, one being from the data generated by philosophical fights. Finally, to conduct research on three issues of universal concern, that correspond to the three initiatives of the vision of Idealism in Practice:
1. Regenerating Freedom or how we can use modern technology to achieve freedom from the basic needs with the minimum amount of unwanted human labor in a way that doesn’t harm the environment, depend on the government, or require the servitude of others.
2. Philosophy Reborn or how to use our freedom; understanding the world and what we should be doing in it.
3. Filiki Eteria or figuring out the optimal socio-political configurations for accommodating what we choose to do with our freedom.
Theory, Practice and the Common Good
Apart from theoretical research the Academy will frequently attempt, depending on the level of funding and staff, to implement its theories to get empirical feedback as to their feasibility.
At the end of every year, the academy will publish for free the results of its research and experiments for the common good, soliciting constructive feedback from the public, and allowing anyone to implement its discoveries without fees or restrictions.
Humble Beginnings and Noble Ends
If you’re interested in participating in the philosophical fight club and agoge or in shared research for the three initiatives please contact me here.
If Apple started in a garage I don’t see why the academy can’t start in my apartment by the sea (gallery here). Plato’s Academy and Aristotle’s Lyceum started only with a few friends philosophizing together. This will also be my chosen beginning. Call it an academic Minimum Viable Product.
If we grow, we will move to a larger more central establishment. The ideal location being this neighborhood in Thiseio (I’ve also added a marker for the ideal building in the map provided), next to Pnyx, the ancient site the Athenians debated and voted, now a public space. This will allow us to continue the ancient tradition of doing philosophy in a public space near our headquarters. Perhaps, if the funding and land is provided, and taking all the necessary measures to avoid the reproduction of a kitschy caricature, we can even use historical scholarship to build the architectural infrastructure of an ancient gymnasium, not as a curiosity for tourists, but as a public place that remains faithful to the spirit of exercising the body and the mind for the pursuit of arete.
Fees & Funding
The academy, sharing the moral dispositions of ancient philosophers, will follow tradition and charge no fees.
Patreon will serve as the first source of funding. As we grow, we may attempt to solicit funds from an appropriate European Union program or set up an endowment with the help of big donors. Hopefully, we will also achieve a measure of autarky by implementing the results of Regenerating Freedom.
Patrons receive no privileges over and above the ones they share with the public other than acknowledgement for their patronage.
Members, Visitors, Remote Contributors and the Public
A key feature of ancient philosophical schools was the importance of friendship. Apart from an elective affinity that cannot be created by force of will but has to somehow already be there, it is important, just as it was in the ancient philosophical schools, that members demonstrate a love for wisdom and “a fundamental agreement in the choice of problems rather than solutions to be espoused.”3
Visitors and remote contributors need not demonstrate an elective affinity to members; basic decency, a love for wisdom and agreement in the choice of problems, rather than the solutions, will suffice.
Though the academy would regularly invite members of the public to participate in sessions of philosophical agoge and audit philosophical activities in public spaces, it is under no obligation to do so. Its activity is strictly voluntary, the frequency and extent of the interactions with the public left upon the sole discretion of its members.
Facilities and Resources
The facilities and resources of the academy at the time of writing include:
– Extensive library of over 1,000 volumes
– High definition projector and additional equipment for audio-visual recording
– An apartment with stunning views of the Aegean Sea, located 20 minutes from the Athens airport, in an old hotel complex, literally 1 minute walking distance from the sea, complete with a pool (operational in the summer months only), basketball half-court, exercise equipment, boxing bag, dumbbells and weights. The two bedroom apartment has a spare bedroom for members/visitors. The living room has two couches that turn into beds as well.