Plato’s Trinity

Since quitting UM (in disgust and indignation), I have been restructuring my life around Plato’s famous trinity. I don’t mean the trinity of truth, beauty and goodness (because of course I have been doing that); I mean the trinity of philosophy, sport and music. As Plato says, each of these three needs the others in order that the soul should not sicken by going too far in one direction (hence music, for example, corrects the excessive roughness that comes from exclusive attention to sport). The intellect, the body and the emotions are served, respectively, by Plato’s trinity. For me, philosophy goes on, one way or another; but I have had more time for sport and music since I stopped teaching and other professional activities. Tennis, trampoline and archery have occupied my athletic hours; drums and guitar take up my musical time. I sense a Platonic harmony in these three types of activity, just as if each compensates for the deficiencies inherent in the others. It is an experiment in living: test to see if Plato’s theory of the happy life works. I have had these three aspects to my life for many years, but now I am explicitly focusing on balancing and deepening the three elements of the divine trinity. So far, I like it.


I recently installed a full size competition-level trampoline in my garden, having left trampolining some forty-seven years ago. I used to be a keen trampolinist back in my gymnast/pole vaulter/diver days. It’s gradually coming back, though the fear factor is more pronounced these days. Everyone agrees that trampolining is fun (though strenuous) but what is the metaphysics of trampolining? As I happily bounce, I ponder this question–the bouncing philosopher. It has something to do with using gravity to defeat gravity: being both subject to gravity and free from it. And that is human life: bound freedom, spirit-in-matter. You come down, inexorably, but you go right up again, with a quick flex of the legs. Danger and possible death shadow your every bounce. You keep rebounding from an unstoppable downward force–up to heaven and then dragged down to earth again. Then there are the aerials, in which you twist and turn in the air–the weightless moments, the miraculous landings. But most of all it is the exhilarated dread: yes, you soar, but you might bounce off the edge at any time. You become very aware of the fragility of your neck. But you keep on bouncing anyway. What’s a neck in the larger scheme of things?

E.J. Lowe

I was saddened to hear of the death of Jonathan Lowe. He was an excellent philosopher, with a strong independent mind, and very productive. Also a very likable and decent man. When I last saw him in Miami a couple of years ago, he reminded me that he had sat behind me during our B.Phil exams in 1974, though we were not friends at the time. He had come to Oxford from Cambridge after studying history; I had come from Manchester after studying psychology–so we both had a lot of catching up to do. He also was born in 1950, a fortnight after me (on March 24), and had spent his boyhood in Kent, like me (he Dover, me Gillingham). In addition, he spent most of his career in Durham, where I was born. I wish I’d had the opportunity to know him better, but our careers were spent in different places. Anyway, his work lives on.