Practical Philosophy is neither an academic study, a history of philosophies, nor even a comparative study of philosophers. Rather, it is a process by which philosophical principles are tested in the light of experience, so that the value of these principles can be truly known and incorporated into one’s experience of living.
Study of this kind yields real answers to questions concerning life and its purpose, and helps people to:
- increase awareness;
- become more grounded and confident;
- overcome the limiting effects of negative emotions;
- be more productive and, at the same time, free of stress.
Drawn from the great philosophical teachings of the East and West, both past and present, the principles presented in the courses offered by the School of Philosophy have helped many people to enjoy a deeper understanding of themselves, their world and humankind.
Courses are run on a term-by-term basis, each term lasting for 12 weeks (10 weeks for the Introductory Course). Courses begin in January, May and September each year.
Each term, the School of Philosophy offers an Introductory Course that lasts for 10 weeks. Students who complete this course are welcome to complete subsequent courses in the following terms. This enables students to pursue the study of Philosophy for as long as they like.
Each course consists of one session per week for 12 weeks (or 10 weeks for the Introductory Course), each session lasting between 2 ¼ and 2 ½ hours with a break for refreshments.
A central tenet in the School of Philosophy—derived from the philosopher Plato—is that “an unexamined life is not worth living”. It is the nature of human beings to form thoughts, opinions and beliefs, and these set the pattern for our lives. In reality, many of the thought patterns that get established in the mind serve to limit our potential and constrain our freedom. Philosophy seeks to hold these attitudes, beliefs, and assumptions up to examination, testing them in the light of the wisdom of the ages.
The courses offered by the School of Philosophy draw on many different traditions, such as the teachings of Platonism, Christianity, Buddhism, Sufism, Zen, Vedanta and Ubuntu—to name but a few. Often the great poets are referenced as well, from Valmiki and Homer to the likes of Shakespeare, Dickinson and Eliot.
There is a strong flavour of Advaita Vedanta in the School’s course, not because of an ideological leaning in this direction, but because this tradition arguably provides the most potent and insightful tools for examining one’s life and one’s relationship to the universe.
For more information about the influences on the School’s courses, see the About section of this site.
In the first session of the Introductory Course, a very simple practice is given to enable students to begin to connect with a deeper peace within themselves and also observe more clearly the state of their own mind and emotions.
For those who decide to continue their study beyond the Introductory Course, the practice of meditation is offered in later terms.
Many other subjects are offered by the School, though most are currently available only to students enrolled in a philosophy course.
For more details about our courses, please visit our page dedicated to Other Courses.