A free public lecture series, Great Thinkers, by Professor Edith Hall

A free public lecture series, Great Thinkers, by Professor Edith Hall, starting with Plato on 26th November, 1pm-2pm (or watch later). Like all Gresham lectures this year this one’s being held online and you can register using an email to get a reminder just before the lecture starts via the webpage. 

Professor Hall’s a superb lecturer – I can’t recommend her lectures too highly!

Great Thinkers: Professor Edith Hall

Professor Edith Hall will look at the great thinkers of the classical world from Plato and Aristotle to the Cynics, Stoics and Epicureans. Their schools of thought had an impact far beyond their own lifetimes and continue to be influential in the present day


Professor Edith Hall

Thursday 26 Nov 2020, 1pm-2pm, online (or watch later)


Plato the Athenian was the philosopher who founded the Academy and whose brilliant writings are the foundation texts of the entire western philosophical tradition.

A student of Socrates, his dialogues use the Socratic method of question-and-answer to probe some of the most important questions humans have ever asked about our situation. What is true knowledge? How do we distinguish it from falsehood or mere opinion? Is the human soul immortal, and if so, what happens after death? How can we best organise a community and who should govern it? Should the arts be censored in the name of community wellbeing? What is the nature of true goodness, and how can a philosopher pursue the goal of achieving it?

This talk focuses on Plato’s masterpiece, the Republic, but also considers the importance of the dialogues which are set during the very last days of Socrates.


Professor Edith Hall

Thursday 4 March 2021, 1pm-2pm online (or watch later)


Plato’s most brilliant student and perhaps the most significant intellectual in world history, Aristotle of Stageira built on the doctrines he had studied at the Academy but also radically disagreed with them. 

The founder of Athens’ second great university, the Lyceum, did not believe there was any perfect, ideal world that transcended human ability to see, touch, smell and hear it, and proposed that all philosophy begin from with material reality of being a human animal in a complex natural world. 

Aristotle contributed to many disciplines—scientific subjects as well as ‘Humanities’, but his core philosophical beliefs are laid down in his Nicomachean Ethics, Politics and Rhetoric, which are analysed in this lecture, as well as the major works of the next generation of practitioners of what became known as ‘Peripatetic’ philosophy.

Cynics, Stoics and Epicureans

Professor Edith Hall

Thurs 24 May 2021 1pm-2pm online (or watch later); if things improve this one may also be open to a live audience at Barnard’s Inn Hall!


Several different schools of philosophy emerged at the same time and shortly after the famous traditions of Platonism and Aristotelianism in ancient Greece. The most significant, which have had a lasting impact on philosophy since antiquity, were Cynicism, Stoicism and Epicureanism, each of which offered a moral programme advocating the best way to live and a more abstract physical, scientific model of the workings of the universe.

This lecture traces the main intellectual strands in each, focussing on the differences between them. The great thinkers whose works will be considered in detail are the fragments of Diogenes and of Zeno, the founders of Cynicism and Stoicism respectively, and Lucretius, the author of the great Epicurean poem of the 1st century BCE, On the Nature of Things.