blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Dabbling in philosophy

There must be several little groups like ours around the city that deliberately meet to talk about profundities. We recently heard of a small group of retired men who do so while taking a morning walk. There are larger groups around, too.

We are a bunch of friends (Drew, Letitia, Nicola, Maha, Andrew, John, Chris and I) who have decided to meet somewhere congenial once a month or so, on a Friday evening, to talk in a semi-structured way about philosophical ideas. Nicola and Drew came up with the idea back in March and we first met as a group at the end of April, when our starting point for discussion was an extract from the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, most of us having browsed through the Meditations beforehand.

Nicola's proposal for our series of meetings was that
... no previous knowledge of the text, the philosopher, or of philosophy should be required. What would be required, though, are a willingness to read the text, to speak a bit about our understanding of the text (or lack of understanding), to ask questions, and, especially to listen to what others ask and have to say. We would be meeting not to share what we know, but to share our questions, what we don’t know.
Our subsequent meetings have followed a similar approach and a similar pattern. We take turns. One of us chooses something to discuss and announces this by email well in advance (so that we can all do some reading and preparatory thinking), then he or she leads the discussion at the meeting; the rest of us join in with any thoughts we want to contribute, or we ask questions, or, if we prefer, we simply pay attention. Of course a lot of thoughts are generated spontaneously during the discussion. I find it makes for such a stimulating couple of hours that I have great difficulty getting to sleep on those nights!

So far, the other topics we have come up with have been:
  • Philosophical paradoxes (Chris leading), discussed at the end of May.
  • 'The Value of Philosophy' from the title of the last chapter of Bertrand Russel's book "The Problems of Philosophy" (Drew's suggestion), discussed in September.
  • Plato's / Socrates' allegory of the cave (my suggestion), discussed in October.

Next it will be Andrew's turn, and for a change we have no homework to do, because he is keeping us guessing about the philosophical purpose of his chosen subject. However, he has told us this much:
The topic for discussion this time will be "A Mysterious Machine". A machine will be described and the results of its simple operation analysed in detail to reveal that the World is a very strange place.
Andrew is a physicist.

The young man behind the coffee bar in Sandy Hill where we met last time, who happened to be studying philosophy at university, couldn't help overhearing our discussion of Plato's cave, took me aside at the end to ask, "Are you all teachers, by any chance?" --- an astute question.

I admitted that was so, because at one time or another, come to think of it, we have indeed all been (or still are) teachers of one sort or another.

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