Plato protester returns to Balliol

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The pavement outside the main entrance to Balliol was once again the site for a protest by controversial philosopher Julius Tomin. 

The 72 year old Czech national pushed for an academic debate around his essay ‘Plato’s Phaedrus in Prague and in Oxford’, in which he claims that the Phaedrus was the first dialogue Plato wrote.

Tomin staged a similar protest outside Balliol College last term, which involved him spending the night outside the college.

The philosopher, who is a former fellow of Prague’s Charles University, says his links with Balliol go back to the 1970s, when academics from that college played a key role in organising Oxford visits to his seminars in Prague.

He now argues that academics at Oxford are refusing to acknowledge his controversial theories on Plato.

Tomin hopes to engage with students, telling Cherwell he would like to see them “approach their teachers of classics and philosophy with a simple demand: ‘Let Tomin present his arguments at Oxford. Let’s have a discussion. Subject his arguments to criticism if you still think he is wrong. If he is right, let us begin to rethink Plato, for in that case nothing less will do.’ I am quite sure students would enjoy it and benefit from it.”

The theory that the Phaedrus, which is widely labelled by scholars as a ‘late’ dialogue, was Plato’s first work was debated by Tomin, alongside other academics, at the Faculty of Philosophy in 1982.

He said, “I demonstrated that the arguments on the basis of which the dialogue was ‘proved’ to be late were false. The Lecture room was packed. Professor Ackrill chaired the discussion. My colleagues could not refute my refutations of their alleged proofs, and Professor Ackrill quickly ended the discussion,” he said, his aim being to rekindle the debate.

However, a source at the Faculty of Philosophy disagreed with Tomin’s contention that the University is stifling academic freedom, telling Cherwell, “It’s not that Oxford academics aren’t willing to listen to Dr Tomin – it’s that they’ve heard it already.”

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