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Dinner & Philosophy Message Board › Anyone up for smaller discussion groups?

Anyone up for smaller discussion groups?

A former member
Post #: 77
Actually it seems like we have the best of both worlds now: for those who prefer maximum diversity and socializing, there's still the large groups like usual (with facilitators adept at keeping discussions on track); and for those who appreciate more in-depth conversation where each person has the time to speak with the other participants and the hosting philosopher at greater length, there's now the smaller groups. Event fees aside, this is democracy in action. We were *asked* to provide our input. We spoke. Massimo listened. Now there's more choice than we had before, and more opportunity for those to attend.

Big crowds can be fun. But, all other things being equal (and admittedly they rarely are: much depends on who comes and what kind of mood we're all in), the more modest number of attendees at a particular event will yield the greater quality philosophy discussion. That's one key reason why people pay more to attend schools with smaller class sizes, where the ratio of students-to-teacher provides for personalized, rather than mass, instruction and interaction. (A point in favor of charging a higher cost for these smaller events here, I reluctantly admit.) There's a limited time to talk at one of these things, regardless of how good the leader is. That's been the experience of many of us here on Meetup. To each their own, though.
Dyutiman D.
user 2964657
New York, NY
Post #: 72
in response to Randall: the question you are raising (in a much better way than xeno) is similar to the ones raided by Michael Sandel in "What Money Can't Buy", specifically where he gives the example of Shakespeare in the Park. My solution is the following. Announce a meetup and allow only a waiting list for one week (doesn't necessarily have to be exactly one week), i.e. at the beginning no one is confirmed. At the end of the week randomly select 15 (or whatever number) from those who have signed up and also create an ordered waiting list for the remainder. If someone cancels, then the person at the top of the waiting list gets upgraded. If someone doesn't cancel and doesn't show up then they get a warning and on a second no-show get expelled from the group for lack of consideration toward others. This system would be fair, but would require some technological upgrades to the meetup site.

Any system which limits attendance will value some aspect or the other. The current system values those who are alert and continuously on the lookout for announcements and this in no way increases the chances of higher discussion quality. Neither does imposing a fee; however, having multiple alternatives like the usual 15 people free meetup, or 6 people fee meetup or Pat's alternative meetups provide a large array of selection without reducing the choice that anyone had before.
Elaine
user 2552379
New York, NY
Post #: 335
I'd be interested, as long as we have a convenient location (ie near subway stations or streets frequented by cabs).
Massimo
mpigliucci
Group Organizer
New York, NY
Post #: 24
I find this discussion interesting, perhaps interesting enough to devote a future meetup event to it! Honestly, when I began considering the idea of charging a fee for my time I struggled with this very entrenched idea within the academy that academics are supposed to be doing things for free, for the good of society.

Well we do, but not all the time. What, exactly, is the moral wrong in charging for a professional's time? Or the moral duty to always do it for free? I like a lot what Michael Sandel has to say about ethics and markets, and I agree that there are things that ought (morally) never to be for sale (my daughter comes to mind...). But I'm pretty sure even Sandel draws a hefty salary from Harvard and profits from his speaking engagements (he also does events for free). And why not?

Years ago I remember some of my colleagues being positively outraged when they found out that Richard Dawkins was asking $10,000 for a single public lecture, plus first class travel and accommodation. But, again, why not? He also does events for free, but it would never occur to anyone to be outraged by a CEO or a baseball player who charged equal or higher amounts of money for his appearances.
William C.
IDBC
New York, NY
Post #: 36
I find this discussion interesting, perhaps interesting enough to devote a future meetup event to it! Honestly, when I began considering the idea of charging a fee for my time I struggled with this very entrenched idea within the academy that academics are supposed to be doing things for free, for the good of society.

Well we do, but not all the time. What, exactly, is the moral wrong in charging for a professional's time? Or the moral duty to always do it for free? I like a lot what Michael Sandel has to say about ethics and markets, and I agree that there are things that ought (morally) never to be for sale (my daughter comes to mind...). But I'm pretty sure even Sandel draws a hefty salary from Harvard and profits from his speaking engagements (he also does events for free). And why not?

Years ago I remember some of my colleagues being positively outraged when they found out that Richard Dawkins was asking $10,000 for a single public lecture, plus first class travel and accommodation. But, again, why not? He also does events for free, but it would never occur to anyone to be outraged by a CEO or a baseball player who charged equal or higher amounts of money for his appearances.

I disagree that it would "never occur to anyone to be outraged by A CEO or a baseball player who charged equal or higher amounts of money for their appearances.

It wouldn't occur to a lassez faire capitialist, but I think it is safe to say that one or two people on the left are outraged.

If Dawkins or even you can charge $10,000 or even $100,000 dollars for a lecture appearance and people are willing to pay that is free market enterprise.

In a perhaps overly broad sense everybody who works for a living "selling themselves".
A former member
Post #: 1
ah yes, thank you Randall for grabbing me (and more importantly my ideas) out of the smaller 'ask the philosopher' space and letting us in on this, previously unknown to me, discussion board. first, let me stretch my mind a bit and get more comfortable here before I arrive at some further conclusions...
A former member
Post #: 7
To Dyu,
in regarding Randall’s question of how a topic not set in advance is essentially a random conversation and that it is one thing to ask others to cover meetup costs, and another to make a business out of it; and further how he highlights the distinctions between the differing points of view (or paradigms ) at play and which direction this meetup would hope to go, you say his was ‘MUCH BETTER THAN’ mine. your own understanding may play favorites as it likes, but phrased in such a way as you put it, derogatorily, merely shows that you missed the fact of mine being an observation of a seemingly contradictory motivation in the idea of a professional philosopher charging for the service and subsequent administration he was said to provide and Randall’s taking that observation and turning it into a through and through question for others to deliberate on.
If you did want to put my question next to his, it would seem very silly to call one better than the other considering they do not as so much relate. my question at the time had nothing to do with Randall’s current ones (which i will soon take up in MUCH BETTER fashion, now that it will be my main focus!) at the time, however, i was seriously asking (though sarcastically it was taken) to be treated as someone’s dog in being allowed into paid meetups because as far as money goes i make as much as any nyc canine makes; a good few companions, enough food to get me to the next day, and enough water so that my throat does not dry should i need to bark at some passer-by. Anyway, as i have said, i am in no competition with anybody for better or worse, so put my ideas to the test if you must; but as for discrediting me i have already reduced to nothing what little could ever be taken
A former member
Post #: 2
I only recently joined the group and had yet to attend a meeting - and I won't be, as this move to paid dinners with the organizer makes the group seem a bit too much like a cult of personality around him. Maybe that's what the others are looking for, and maybe the organizer is happy to promote that impression, so best of luck. I'll be leaving the group and I wouldn't be surprised if other newcomers were similarly creeped out. FYI.
A former member
Post #: 8
I only recently joined the group and had yet to attend a meeting - and I won't be, as this move to paid dinners with the organizer makes the group seem a bit too much like a cult of personality around him. Maybe that's what the others are looking for, and maybe the organizer is happy to promote that impression, so best of luck. I'll be leaving the group and I wouldn't be surprised if other newcomers were similarly creeped out. FYI.

this comment is a bit pre-mature though realistically your fears may turn out to be completely valid after the ongoing investigation comes closer to its logical conclusions. as for your concerns of this being a cult of personality around Massimo, and that others are obliged to foster or be impressed at all by that aspect of his 'professional' philosophizing, i can assure you we have the best/most dedicated of the community looking into it on all sides (dyu, randall, pat, will & others). AND in his defense, Massimo is too part of that community involved in coming to these clearer understandings. to that extent, where you might be satisfied to write him off with such harshness in your words; every man deserves the chance to explain himself, allow for further elucidation of his motives/goals, and then if there is still disagreement, he is always allowed some time to change for the better or at least toward areas where there is more agreement. certainly he would be no better off with not one of us members around him, so that his personality is also a reflection of us other group members and ours reflected back on him. as it goes we are philosophers, OR practicing to be better philosophers, and there is simply not enough inspired-to-be-enlightened individuals in our small city of new york to cast out any of us so quickly, less so haphazardly! be on your way then, faceless-nameless
A former member
Post #: 78
Just what happens when the dollar is introduced into a human situation where one typically doesn't expect to find it? There've been some suggestive studies in psychology and experimental philosophy regarding the paradigm shift that seems to occur. For instance, when a frustrated daycare switched to charging a financial penalty to parents who were late picking their kids up after work, the tardiness actually increased, which was the opposite of the desired effect of the plan. After interviewing many of the parents involved and really thinking about the issue in depth, it was determined that what happened across the board in people's approach to the situation must have been the switch from being a moral actor ("I'm a parent of a child at this school, with the responsibility to follow the rules and not be an undue burden on the other members of my group") to being an economic actor ("I'll pay the fee, so I can be as late as I want as many times as I want; that's in black-and-white now; it's expected; it's legal; and if I've got the cash I have the right to be a jerk").

As it pertains to Meetup fees, the introduction of a cost over-and-above the baseline couple of bucks which organizers sometimes ask (often in the form of an unrequired donation in order to help cover the monthly charge that Meetup.com foists upon them, but occasionally because the organizer is renting the space in which to host the event, and needs help to mitigate that) does muddy the waters of perception for me regarding what's actually going on here. Am I supporting someone's entrepreneurial enterprise? (That's not prima facie a bad thing. But it is different than what I'm used to out of a conversation over drinks with strangers.) Even beyond what could be designated as a political objection to charging non-trivial fees to participate in a philosophy group (some of us here are hippies at heart, while others are dyed-in-the-wool libertarians; and never the twain shall meet), I think there's a valid conceptual objection to having to pay to provide others for my own time and with my own thoughts in a group discussion. If this *were* an actual lecture, let alone a seminar, conducted by Massimo (who is a well-respected, credentialed philosopher), then *of course* the cost would be worth it. Again, I get more out of philosophy than watching someone chew tobacco and hit baseballs. Yet our top athletes are millionaires; our best thinkers rarely so. Massimo deserves far more than what we pay our university professors. But this is not a classroom. It is a social networking portal, where those who share a common interest can meet in person, make friends, share thoughts, have dinner together and, not to be too romantic about it, but add to the community good. Many of the members of this particular group, not just the organizer, are extremely knowledgeable in philosophy (some have written books in their area of specialty; others have devoted a lifetime of study to the pursuit of wisdom), and most seem to come prepared to these discussions. So it does seem odd for one person to make a profit, even if it's just a modest one, from what is essentially a group activity, where the value comes from the interaction between all involved.

That said, I do see multiple sides to the issue. And, Massimo, if you decide to hold an event on this very issue, I would even be willing to pay the twenty dollars to attend. (That would be almost performance art or political satire anyway, so well worth it.)
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