a gathering for thinkers

april 15th–18th, 2020

buy tickets
Know thyself.

— From the Temple of Apollo at Delphi

The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be lit.

— Plutarch

Savannah Symposium

a cultural-intellectual festival

Three intense days of grappling with big questions while reading one of the greatest texts ever written. Lectures by leading intellectuals and discussion groups led by great teachers. Encounters with Bach, Plato, Shakespeare. Conviviality and conversation lasting late into the night. All in one of the most beautiful cities of the continent amidst the sublime southern spring.

Expect a multi-sensory and wildly unconfined three days — with philosophers, psychologists, musicians, theologians, artists, comedians, publishers, thespians, entrepreneurs, and political defectors — in an environment absolutely committed to freedom of thought, to listening intently to each other, and to discovering the truth about the most important things.

read more

a total experience

Reading

  • The only ideas conference with required reading. Our intellectual and artistic explorations will be anchored by Plato’s Symposium — we’ll send you a copy after you register — which offers one of the most profound reflections ever written on the meaning of human life and love.

Listening

  • 16 hours of lectures and panel discussions with remarkable thinkers who will expand on topics pertaining to self-knowledge, freedom, and the power of the imagination. These talks will take place in a bright, naturally-lit industrial space that dates back to the 19th century.

Thinking

  • During the afternoons we’ll break into small group seminars in beautiful locations around the city for discussions led by inspired professors from around the world. Develop your ideas, listen to others, and make new friends in a free-spirited and welcoming intellectual community.

Music and Theatre

  • Not just thinking about beauty, but experiencing it. We’ve selected music and drama to specifically bring this text and thinking to life: with a concert by one of Europe’s most talented and versatile young musicians, and a new production of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale.

Dining and Gala

  • We will nourish your body as well as your mind with two lunches and three dinners prepared with fresh ingredients by a celebrated local chef — culminating with a final night indoor-outdoor Gala at the historic Telfair Square and Academy, the oldest museum in the South.

A Full Experience

  • Having immersed yourself in a timeless work of literature, been illuminated by lectures and lively discussions, and encountered sublime beauty in music and theatre, you will leave intellectually enlivened, with a better understanding of the truths at the heart of human life.

Speakers

Iain McGilchrist

A  thinker of dazzling variety who spans both humanistic and scientific domains, McGilchrist is best known for reinvigorating interest in the divided brain. He argues that this division, which pits analysis of the particular against that of the whole, has shaped Western culture and critically underlies our present crisis.

Yeonmi Park

Ms Park escaped from hell and human trafficking to become a bold and articulate whistle-blower on the horrors of North Korea and its quest to repress freedom, human dignity, and even love. Her passionate firsthand account of resistance to authoritarian cruelty offers both a powerful vision of human resilience and an acute analysis of the perversions of power.

Jordan Peterson

A towering public intellectual whose ideas have reached hundreds of millions, Peterson has shown equal agility analyzing contemporary culture as he has in interpreting the Bible through his honed psychological lens. In his refreshing analysis of Western tradition through new conceptions of the mind, Peterson brings to the Symposium a thoughtful mediation between the old and the new.

Claire Lehmann

The founder and editor of the fearless online journal Quillette, Lehmann is at the forefront of the defense of free inquiry. In addition to sustaining a leading online publication through grass-roots means, Lehmann speaks and publishes on the ethical boundaries of scientific research and the importance of intellectual diversity.

Douglas Hedley

A professor of philosophy and religion at the University of Cambridge, Hedley works on conceptions of imagination, beauty, violence, and the sublime. He argues for imaginative labor as central to human endeavor, helping us to make sense of the natural order, mediate our relationship with the divine, and furnish our understanding of the self.

Eli Diamond

An inspired lecturer and a brilliant scholar of Ancient Greek philosophy, Diamond will guide our daily excursions into the fulcrum text of our event: Plato’s Symposium. His clear and penetrating explication and ability to make connections between antiquity and present exemplify two central tenets of the Savannah Symposium.

Coleman Hughes

Articulate, measured, and philosophically sophisticated, with a penchant for the jazz trombone and a deep interest in the best thinkers of history, Hughes is an emerging force of his generation. His writings, interviews, and speeches display a wholesome openness for debate and a principled movement away from the noise and nearer toward the fundamental truths within our grasp.

Anthony Malcolm Daniels

Author, social critic, physician — Daniels (aka Theodore Dalrymple) began as a psychiatrist for the poor and imprisoned. As a skeptic of infantilizing theories of selfhood he emphasizes the need for personal agency in the difficult process of self-liberation. His criticism of contemporary culture is often harsh, but it is rooted in a positive vision: of art and architecture, of literature, of civic life, and ultimately of how to live, in the fullest sense, autonomously.

Music

Francesco Tristano

Equally inspired by Buxtehude and house beats, Francesco Tristano (Sony Classical) is a world-class musician in a league of his own. He can play Bach like Gould, Jazz like Jarrett, or pack a nightclub with his improvised electronics and piano fusion. A product of German classical tradition, Juilliard, and European house music, he has the rarest of musical gifts: an ability to open worlds both old and new. Expect a musical journey of both spellbinding rhythmicality and ethereal beauty. Watch Tristano here.

shakespeare

The Winter's Tale

Is reconciliation possible – or are we condemned to inevitable cycles of bitterness, fragmentation, and revenge? One of the greatest playwright's greatest works, The Winter's Tale is a story of redemption: about love as forgiveness. In a production created just for our Symposium, Asheville's Scott Keel and his players will bring this masterful and moving story to life.

Coleman Hughes on Transcending Victimhood
Claire Lehmann on the Necessity of Free Speech
Yeonmi Park on Her Journey from Oppression to Freedom
Theodore Dalrymple on the Art of Living
Iain McGilchrist on Neuroscience and the Humanities
Douglas Hedley on Imagination and Beauty
Stephen Blackwood on Thought and Life
Eli Diamond on Plato's Symposium

savannah

Sunny, subtropical Savannah is one of the most beautiful cities of the continent. It has a remarkably preserved downtown district whose architectural wonders and antebellum Southern style date back to the early eighteenth century. Its distinct Spanish moss and live oak trees drape across cobblestone roads, offering shade and scenery for pedestrians strolling past its magnificent squares, ambling down lively River Street, or resting in the shadow of the neo-Gothic Cathedral of St John the Baptist.

Few cities are more captivating than Savannah in the spring. Amidst the breathtaking urban and natural beauty, you'll find cafés, museums, nightlife, and historical monuments around each corner — an ideal setting for a symposium centered around beauty, conviviality, and the inheritance of the past.

More About Savannah

APRIL

2020

buy tickets