Idlers of the Enlightenment, a Symposium

Three of the most enlightened brains of the modern age, Tom Hodgkinson, John Mitchinson and Mark Vernon, are sitting on the small stage in the beautiful Hendricks Carnival of Knowledge and we are all sipping our delightful complimentary gin and tonic. This is civilised education. If school had been like this, I am sure I would have paid more attention.

Hodgkinson is the Headmaster of the Idler Academy in West London, which specialises in lectures and events surrounding the lost studies of philosophy, husbandry and merriment. Mitchinson is the head of research on QI and co-writer of all the QI books. Vernon is an Idler Academy regular, a writer and an ex-priest with an expansive knowledge of philosophy, ethics and the bigger question of God and religion.

The lecture covers Jeremy Bentham, Immanuel Kant, Samuel Johnson and William Blake amongst others. The overarching theme juxtaposes our assumption that the period of the enlightenment was created through hard work yet the pursuit of laziness was highly valued by the great philosophers. Although each speaker is highly entertaining and an expert in their field, they try to cover too much in the time available. At times we dart around between subjects and touch on topics that deserve to be dealt with in more depth. I definitely wanted to know more about Immanuel Kant but Vernon, as the quieter of the three speakers, was often overshadowed, particularly by Hodgkinson’s enthusiasm for a subject clearly close to his heart; laziness. But if this is a symposium designed to whet the audience’s appetite in the search for further knowledge then it achieves its goal.

The Hendrick’s Carnival of Knowledge has been designed beautifully, the cocktails are delightful and the staff all dressed in immaculate Victoriana. It’s a stunning addition to the Fringe and I hope that next year it chooses to come for the whole month.

This lecture was certainly quite interesting and the gin and tonic was one of the best I have ever tasted. According to the certificate I received on the way out I am now a graduate of the carnival of knowledge and I must celebrate my achievement in the finest possible style; I will therefore choose to sit in their delightful garden, read further on philosophy and sip a second G&T. Laziness, after all, as I have just learnt is next to godliness.

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The Blurb

‘Idlers of the Enlightenment’: A Symposium with Idler editor Tom Hodgkinson, QI’s Director of Information John Mitchinson, and writer Mark Vernon. Learn about the lesser-known works and hitherto concealed philosophy of ‘idlerism’ as espoused by philosophers and writers such as Rousseau and Dr Johnson – diminishing any preconceptions of the 18th century as one of hard work.

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