What: Philosophy Discussion Group
When: 1st Saturday of each month, from 2pm – 5pm
(3 hours, including a break)
Where: Justin & Tammy's house in Richardson [*BYOD&S]
How: Readings discussed in-depth amongst the group. No tests, no lecture… we help teach each other in a spirit of learning.
We will usually be reading from a book one will have to purchase, but sometimes there will be articles provided online.
Meeting Topic & Reading List
People have kindly agreed to work through a book manuscript Pragmatic Conceptual Analysis by our own Justin Fisher, along with other readings that provide background and alternative points of view. This book involves issues in philosophy of mind and language about how we can discover the meanings of various words and concepts, as well as issues in "meta-philosophy" involving the methodologies that philosophers might use to uncover the meanings of philosophical concepts like knowledge, freedom, or meaning itself. Justin welcomes ideas about how the manuscript could be improved to be more clear, more readable, or more correct.
Since we'll be talking so much about concepts, it makes sense to start out by looking at what some philosophers and cognitive psychologists have to say about the nature of concepts, our topic for this month.
Note: Afterwards, many of us will walk to the nearby Madras Pavillion Indian restaurant for dinner that will be paid for largely or entirely (depending on our numbers) by a generous gift certificate Phil Club people gave Tammy and Justin in thanks for offering their house as venue -- what better use for such a gift certificate than to take a bunch of friendly philosophically minded people out to dinner?
(1) Fisher - Preface and Sections[masked] -- we'll leave the rest of chapter 1 for next time. (available here -- log in as philclub, password is the name of the street we'll be meeting on, single word, all lowercase)
(2) Margolis & Laurence SEP article on concepts (available here)
(3) Ruth Millikan - On Clear and Confused Ideas - Chapter 1 (available here, same login and password as above)
10 minute introduction to the material
Depending on attendence, we may split into smaller groups (4 - 8 people)
2 part group discussion of readings with a 10 minute break in between
Reconvene into large group to share highlights of small group discussions
Readings are not neccessarily required, but we ask that you please stay on topic during the discussion.
We are teaching each other in a "spirit of learning": we should be humble (we do not know everything), eager to learn, and willing to challenge each other while being kind and considerate.
There will be people of various backgrounds in philosophy — you do not need to be an expert in philosophy to be in the group (e.g. I'm not; Justin is). If a topic is new to you, here are some good resources, if you are interested:
- Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- The Oxford Companion to Philosophy
[*BYOD&S] "Bring Your Own Drink & Snack". You might get thirsty or hungry — feel free to bring whatever (non-alcoholic) drinks and snacks you'd like (preferably something shareable with the group).
— A note to those with cat-related allergies: Justin and Tammy have cats — one of whom will be rather happy to mingle with all the nice people who came to see him....
>^. . ^<
In a post on Common Sense Atheism, "How to Do Philosophy Better", Luke Muehlhauser summarizes an essay by Paul Graham. In that essay, Graham proposes the following:
Here's an intriguing possibility. Perhaps we should do what Aristotle meant to do, instead of what he did. The goal he announces in the Metaphysics seems one worth pursuing: to discover the most general truths. That sounds good. But instead of trying to discover them because they're useless, let's try to discover them because they're useful.
— Paul Graham, "How to Do Philosophy"
Given a lot of our common values, I think we can study philosophy in a way that helps us, that is useful to us, rather than as something that is considerably esoteric or futile.