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Clifton

Organizer

Location:

Evanston, IL

Organizer since:

January 1, 2015

Do you have any suggestions for discussion questions?

Is there such a thing as free will? If so, how can we define it? If not, how would we ever know? (Are we predetermined to believe we have free will? Does unfalsifiability render any discussion about free will absurd?) Furthermore, what does it mean to be a conscious, self-aware human being?

What do you hope to get from this meetup?

Mainly good conversation, but I hope in particular to meet someone who is as interested as I am in determining, as far as possible, what it's like to experience life as another person. I've started another group called The Communication Club that's more explicitly directed towards this question.

What are your thoughts on the nature of free will?

I believe that the concept of free will is a product of our inability to comprehend the complexity involved in our own decision making processes. By the time we're even aware of the choice to be made, most of the factors involved have already been subconsciously taken into account, and we may end up confusing our dawning awareness of the choice already made with one we made ourselves on the spot. But it seems useless to me to decide that free will absolutely doesn't exist; after all, if it were true, doesn't it mean that many of us are simply predestined to believe in it?

When you disagree with someone, are you more interested in convincing them that they are wrong, or in understanding their point of view?

Trick question—they aren't mutually exclusive! I think it's essential to understand someone's point of view in order to sway it, but most often what will happen (given the best case scenario of ideal communication) is that both sides will recognize the truth lies somewhere between the two positions, or somewhere else entirely. As human beings of extremely limited capacity, we are almost certainly always wrong, all the time. It's no excuse for inaction (and I'm not even sure if it's possible to abstain from having a point of view entirely), so we might as well start with the assumption that our ideas are all inaccurate in some way and moving forward is just a matter of continually figuring out how wrong we are.

Do you think it's always possible for people who disagree to come to a mutual understanding? If not, why not?

I would like to believe that this is always possible, but I recognize that in many, if not most situations, people are too invested in their ideas to see past them far enough to consider the opposing view, and the difficulties in overcoming that barrier are significant if not insurmountable. Usually, the time and energy necessary to establish the level of communication needed is simply not available. I hope that this group will attract those who recognize the value in understanding other points of view, and who are eager to put forth the required effort. I think this is essential to getting past the poisonous and all-too-common notion that our ideas and our identities are intrinsically linked, and that an attack on one is equivalent to an attack on the other. (Although this becomes pretty complex if one considers that our identities themselves are merely ideas!)

Introduction

I am interested in intense, detailed conversation with people who aren't afraid of a good argument, but who don't make snap judgments about opposing views and are open-minded enough to admit the possibility that they are wrong.


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