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Philosophy Under the Olives
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Discourse, debates & exchange in the spirit of a "free and public enquiry"... among the olives

The Encounter at the Parmenideum
We have to emphasis that what visitors do during the stay at the Parmenideum is entirely a matter of free will . If you find the talks, discussions and debates a little too lively and exhilarating and have an urgent need for something despairing and profound, then you are free to wander the olive groves until sufficiently depressed. You will in fact be given your very own olive tree to sit and contemplate beneath and perhaps take a nap should you find the need.

During the encounter, there will be two or three resident contributors with professional experience in the fields of philosophy and science, all of whom will talk on topics that bear significantly on this wonderful question.

Everyone is allowed to enjoy themselves, but anyone caught actually being happy about life will immediately be given an irresolvable problem and told to solve it. The talks and discussions may sometimes be given in various locations, perhaps on a veranda or maybe at the archeological site of Elea itself.

At times lunch will be held during discussions, or discussions during lunch, whichever seems more appropriate, and the evenings can be your own or you can be part of whatever is taking place at the Parmenideum. Usually, there will be an evening meal, followed by perhaps a live music musical concert (for which there are several excellent local folk, jazz and classical groups). If any among you are musicians, please bring your instruments with you!

One other aspect to the encounter will be the obvious opportunity to indulge in any other issue in philosophy and science, and you will be free to propose any topic as open for discussion. If you are a student, academic or writer you may find this opportunity for exchange invaluable.

More on weeks at the Parmenideum
Some of the Delights

The Philosophic Encounter

"You will be given your very own olive tree to sit and contemplate beneath and perhaps fall asleep under if you find yourself thinking too hard."

The encounter will ask the question that has kept everyone busy ever since Parmenides first asked it, or something like it.

Why is there something rather than nothing?

(It has sometimes been known as Leibniz's Primordial Existential Question or PEQ).

The Question
If you have an interesting idea about this question that the rest of us haven't thought of, you are invited to give an account of it during the week at the Parmenideum.

Most everyone finds this question interesting, even if fleetingly, yet probably few get a chance to idly let alone profoundly consider it in the company of other interested people. The question, a close relative of rather more plaintive pleas such as "what's it all about?" or "what's the purpose of my life?!" is notoriously resistant to an answer outside dogmatic belief, so most people tend either to ignore it or plump for the dogma.

Apart from being a poor use of our faculties, such attitudes are also quite perilous. On the one hand dogmatic thinkers (if that isn't too cruel an oxymoron) lead us to systems of belief that very often cause people to end up at each others' throats (my god says ...therefore, I'm going to...). Yet, on the other hand, even scientists and philosophers find it very difficult to avoid either ignoring the question or going down an infinite garden path filled with an infinite regress of question begging. Both attitudes are unsatisfactory.

There is no better place to examine Parmenides' question than in the very location where it was first articulated, in the very land in which this great philosopher once lived.

More on why the question is so important.

Resident Contributors

Roberto Baldini (University of Parma, Italy)
Languages: Italian, English
Roberto Baldini holds a degree in Philosophy from the University of Parma. His graduation thesis was on the poem of Parmenides. He now undertakes independent research on the subject of ancient Greek philosophy, particularly pre-socratic, with especial interest in the influences of these on the psychology and history of the development of religious thought.

Prof. Lars Aagaard-Mogensen (Philosophy, Aarhus University, Denmark. Retired)
Languages: Danish, English, Italian
Since 2003 Professor Aagaard-Mogensen has made his home with his wife at Elea. Writer and author of articles and several books on philosophy of aesthetics. Publications include: Art and Culture (NJ, USA 1976), On Tolerance (Grenå, DK 1976), Æstetisk kultur (Copenhagen 1978), Contemporary Aesthetics (Lund, Sweden 1980), Text, Literature and Aesthetics (Amsterdam, NL 1986), The Idea of the Museum (NY, USA 1988), Real Art (Gent, Belgium 1994), as well as 125 articles in various international journals. He is fluent in English and has a life long interest in art and music. He is also president of
Elea Artists' Club. He will be speaking about Parmenides' poem and philosophy, and pre-Socratic philosophy of the ancient world in general.

Schedule for the days of encounter, activities and delights

Visitors can arrive earlier or leave later than scheduled to further enjoy their visit to Italy.

Visits and tours
We will also be making visits to the Greek settlement at Elea/Velia and the magnificent Dorian temples at Paestum. There are also many other delights in the Cilento both natural and archeological that it may be possible to visit.

Topics of Discussion
The following areas of discussion will be relevant to the encounter. Everyone is encouraged to contribute and present their ideas. Formal papers can also be submitted and time will be allotted to those wishing to give talks.

  • Philosophy and cosmogony of the ancients (pre-Socratics) including Thales, Pythagoras and Heraclitus.
  • Parmenides' poem On Nature, his question and his philosophy.
  • Zeno of Elea
  • The Atomists, Democritus and Lucretius, and their resolution of the conflicting philosophies of Parmenides and Heraclitus.
  • Modern Cosmology as an approach to answering/understanding Parmenides. Big Bang, quantum physics in relation to "uncertainty", vacuum energy etc, and the relevance of these to the emergence of "something from nothing"
  • The possibility that something has "always" existed.

The Challenges
Prize for the best reading of parmenides' Poem out loud in Greek or English
Prize for the best answer to the question "Why does something exist rather than nothing".

Other activities
Visitors can can take advantage of excursions by ferry boat or train to Amalfi, Sorrento, Naples or Capri or continue to explore the Cilento or simply enjoy the local beaches. Those wishing to continue debates and discussions when everyone else is doing something normal will of course be dealt with sympathetically and may do so at any location of their choice (transport may be provided and packed lunch can be organised).



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