The Santa Monica Philosophy Now Meetup Group Pages

Hi! We are a monthly Philosophy discussion group that has been meeting continuously for over five years. If you love a good, impassioned, yet respectful and reasoned discussion that's free of insults or ad hominum attacks, join us for our monthly Meetup! We discuss and debate all areas of Philosophy (as well as the philosophical aspects of the great issues of the day) for a few hours, then go eat dinner together at a nearby restaurant.

We meet once a month, usually on the 3rd Sunday, and usually at 5:00pm. About a week or two before each meetup, we vote by email on the topic to be discussed. I send out an email with five questions or topics suggested during previous meetings, by email, or a topic discussed in an issue of Philosophy Now or TMP magazine. All who want to vote reply to that email with the name of the topic(s) they would most like to talk about. (Anybody can send in a vote, whether or not they've been to previous meetings.) After a few days, I send a meeting reminder to everyone, letting you know which topic won the vote.

We usually have a specific, OPTIONAL article or two to read on our monthly philosophical topic. I include links to the optional reading(s) in the reminder email. Participants are encouraged, but by no means required, to read the article(s), or to read any other articles or books related to the monthly issue, and to bring these ideas up for discussion.

During the dicscussion, we focus on philosophical ideas that we can bring into the room, and not on specific philosophers, historical periods, or philosophical schools of thought. Thus, when someone mentions a specialized philosophical term, idea or theory, we pause to define or explain it in everyday, educated language so everyone is included in the discussion. Fortunately, nearly all philosophical ideas and terms can be translated into everyday language. We think of our ability to do this as a challenge to our intellects and a measure of how clearly we understand the concepts we are talking about.

In this way, we approach philosophy more as an ongoing conversation than as a fixed body of academic writings. Philosophy is something you don't need an academic background for (though it certainly helps), since everyone already philosophizes-- though it is usually done in an unexamined and unarticulated manner. Philosophical views and arguments are built into our daily speech and social interactions. Many of the big issues that philosophers have talked about, throughout history, are issues that come up in everyday situations we all face.

We attempt to do more than simply air our views and ideas. More importantly, we also say why we think what we think, why it makes sense, what good reasons support our ideas-- so others see how and why our ideas are plausible, useful or informative for everybody else in the room.

One goal is to arrive at better answers to philosophical questions-- not an easy task! Other (more easily achievable) goals include thinking more clearly about the question we're discussing, disabusing ourselves of unarticulated and/or simplistic views and assumptions, and understanding the arguments of others. The primary point is not to win every debate or always be correct or right, but to put your ideas out there so we can learn from and edify each other.

Our choice of topics tend towards Value Theory, the Philosophy of Mind, and sometimes the Philosophy of Science, including such subfields and issues as Ethics, Social Philosophy, Political Philosophy, the Philosophy of Religion/Spirituality, Phenomenology, Medical Ethics, Technology and Philosophy, the relation of science to philosophy and ethics, The Good and the Good Life, questions related to "The Meaning of Life," Rationality, Wisdom, and similar matters. However, we certainly do not limit ourselves to these areas. See the list of topics, below, that we've tackled over the last few years. Incidentally, if you have an issue or question you're dying to talk about, email them to me!

Examples of topics we have discussed include:

When Is War Justified (if ever)? If so, under what conditions? (JUNE 2002).

Why Not Kill Yourself Right Now? Albert Camus believed this to be the most important question in all of Philosophy. (MARCH 2003).

Is it a bad idea, or morally wrong, for humans to turn themselves into something that is no longer merely human, by genetic engineering, fusing bodies/brains with computers, or any other technology that becomes available? Would you want to be something other than (better than?) a natural human being? (DECEMBER 2003).

Are We Contradicting Our Own Values By Protecting American Jobs? Is favoring American workers and jobs over foreign workers/jobs consistent with Liberal Values, especially the values of Egalitarianism, and the Welfare and Utility Principles (that is, "give resources to the needy, thereby giving greater happiness to a greater number of people, rather than giving resources to those who are already wealthier")? (FEBRUARY 2004).

What Is Spirituality? What is a Spiritual Experience? Is being spiritual different from being religious? 'Spiritual' is one of those words that gets used in so many different ways; does it have a core meaning anymore? (MARCH 2004).

Has modern life robbed us of satisfaction, meaning and/or purpose? Or, on balance, has technology, civil liberties, and the other benefits and freedoms of modern society enhanced our lives beyond that of our ancestors? How can we compare life satisfaction or happiness between people in one historical era to another? (JUNE 2004).

What is Faith? Is it always blind? Is irrational to live by faith? And why bother with faith, anyway? (JULY 2004).

What is normality, and what is sanity? Is there such a thing as mental illness? (AUGUST 2004).

Can people be informed, educated or otherwise made competent enough to sustain a democratic form of government? Perhaps the requirements of self-government are more than we can reasonably expect from Americans. Are the citizens of any other country better prepared for this task than we are? (SEPTEMBER 2004).

How much can a thing change before it becomes a different thing? (OCTOBER 2004).

War: when is it justified? (NOVEMBER 2004).

Can the sciences help us to make wise ethical judgments? (DECEMBER 2004).

What does it mean to live a fulfilling or happy life? Can the study of philosophy function as a spiritual practice that provides principles that promote personal flourishing and dignity? What principles have you come up with? (JANUARY 2005).

Do humans have free will? What is free will and autonomy, anyway? (MARCH 2005)

Death: what is the significance of death to us, and does death somehow add meaning to life? Why are we frightened by our knowledge that "I, myself, will die one day-- and perhaps soon?" If, like most people, you believe in an afterlife (and that you will be going to a better place when you die), then why don't you look forward to you own death? (APRIL 2005)

Is it ethically wrong to believe things that are not based on good evidence? Is it irrational, or even unethical, to have beliefs that are not scientifically or rationally supported? Is believing something on faith or on insufficient evidence and argument sometimes or often justified? When? (MAY 2005)

Tolerance: what kind of tolerance, and how much of it, can and should a Democracy encourage and allow? (JUNE 2005)

A Philosophical Counselor and Professor explains what "Philosophy Therapy" and "Socratic Dialogue" is all about. (AUGUST 2005)

A brainstorming session on the nature of Utopia and the kind of Utopia that might be achievable. (SEPTEMBER 2005)

What are the limits of Reason or Rationality? What are the limits of Scientific Knowledge? Why are these limits there? (OCTOBER 2005)

What is Evil? Is "evil" just another word for "wrong" or "immoral," or is there something more to it? Does Evil even exist? (Note: we don't need to assume that evil is some kind of supernatural force; perhaps a mundane, worldly kind of evil exists.) (NOVEMBER 2005)

What is the definition and meaning of "philosophy?" (JANUARY 2006)

What Things Are Intrinsically Good Or Valuable In Themselves? (FEBRUARY 2006)

What is your most Dangerous Idea? (MARCH 2006)

Religion: What Use Or Value, If Any, Does It Have In Your Personal Life? Is It Replaceable? (APRIL 2006)

Why Be Moral? (JUNE 2006)

What makes something funny? What is the nature of humor? (DECEMBER 2006)

What is a Rational Discussion? (FEBRUARY 2007)

What important matter have you recently changed your mind about? (February 2008)

Can one rationally convert to a religion? (MARCH 2008)

What is Art? How do we know it when we see it? (MARCH 2009)

Personal Autonomy, Freedom and identification of "genuine" vs. "non-genuine" desires. (OCTOBER 2009)

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About The Santa Monica Philosophy Now Meetup Group November 13, 2009 7:43 PM Brian

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