One of the most striking things
about ancient Athenian life, is the availability of
lectures and talks on Philosophy
even to quite ordinary people.
One particular site in Athens, Aristotle’s Lyceum
gives us the opportunity to visit an ancient university
where not only did specialist students study but we know
that ordinary Athenians were invited along in the afternoons to
listen to the great man Aristotle, the incomparable philosopher
of the mid to late 4th century.
is exactly as it’s described in ancient sources
as a beautiful garden and it has got a colonnade with pillars
that allowed the philosophers to walk as they talked, even in the rain.
And the ancient Greek for that sort of colonnade is the Peripatos.
Which is why it’s called Aristotle’s School of Thought Peripatetic Philosophy.
You can go there today.
It’s an absolutely open free of charge site and
the birdsong, despite all the traffic
in the centre of Athens, is deafening.
And I love to think of Aristotle walking
there with his students in the morning and
with the Athenian public in the afternoon.
Now why did Aristotle set up this Lyceum?
He’d actually been a student at
Plato’s Academy and Aristotle loved it there, he spent 20 whole
years there he was promoted from undergraduate to graduate student and then
But a terrible crisis happened when he was 37.
Plato died, Aristotle was heartbroken
but absolutely could have expected
quite justifiably to be appointed his successor.
He was by far the most brilliant
of Plato’s students and the envious, mediocre
other members of the Academy did not appoint him.
He had to leave Athens for about twelve years.
The minute he could get back to Athens he
did and he opened his own university, he
didn’t try to go back to the academy.
He said I’m going to do one bigger
and better and more important and and teach my philosophy there.
And that’s exactly what he did.
The reason why the Lyceum is it did three things the academy never had.
One was it taught science as well
as what we call Arts and Humanities and Philosophy.
Aristotle was a magnificent natural scientist,
the founder of Zoology so this was a really was a’university’
希腊人称为“大学” 的地方 也是它很重要的第二点
what the Greeks called a Panepistímio, a place for Secondly,
he founded the first great
academic library in world history.
He had an enormous private book collection and then he started supplementing it.
And of course his own graduate students were writing
the equivalent of doctoral theses we’ve got quite a
lot of them things like local histories,
so those were written on papyrus roll and added to the library.
The third reason why it was so important
was it was teaching as well as research.
This was not just a lot of professional philosophers
talking to each other, he taught his basic methods,
He taught them both to undergraduates
also to people who were going to do sort
of more like postgraduate work and go off and
found their own universities in other parts of Greece
and he taught the public.
This is the model for
what university education should look like is the public dissemination of knowledge.