What we're about

Café Philo is a way of meeting interesting, inquiring people who enjoy talking about life's big issues and conundrums in a convivial atmosphere in the Bristol and Bath area.

We discuss all manner of topics. Some are profound, others are decidedly not. We aim to have one topic per month, we hold events to discuss this topic in a number locations, often with two separate discussions in each venue - we limit numbers to 12 for each discussion (usually less in practice). Each discussion goes in its own direction, depending on the people around the table. A facilitator gently steers the discussion to help keep things moving, interesting and balanced.

Our discussions are non-party-political and free of religious or ideological dogma (most of the time at least). We encourage a healthy mix of the serious and humourous, so you can be guaranteed a lively, stimulating evening.

We're not academics or experts - just ordinary people from a variety of backgrounds who share a common interest in exchanging ideas about things which matter in life and meeting like-minded people.

If you're a heavy-duty philosopher you may find this group a bit lightweight. For anybody else, come along and get stuck into a decent conversation over a coffee or beer.

In addition to our discussions we hold some social events and occasionally arrange to meet for public talks.

Upcoming events (4)

REPEAT: What is "truth"?

Online event

We will be meeting using Zoom. Attendees will see the link on the event page. If there are more than 12 attendees you will be allocated to one of two parallel discussions, each with a facilitator.

What is truth? Many Buddhists will tell you that reality is truth. Is it? What does this mean? Some would say that substituting reality for truth is just replacing one hard-to-define, hard-to-detect concept with another that is more so. Are there things that are true that aren’t part of reality?

Do we even know what reality is? How do we know that what we are perceiving is reality? And, if there is any doubt, can truth have an independent existence away from ‘reality’?

Does truth have any meaning outside its use as an adjective: to distinguish between a true statement and an untrue one? But, how can we be confident that we have ascertained the truth of a statement? Did we have all the information that was necessary to make the assessment? What do we do when all the information isn’t available (in time)? Or, when we don’t know the nature of the information we need?

Are facts necessarily true statements? The phrase ‘Untrue facts’ turns up 32 million Google search findings. High on the list is a Readers’ digest website that purports to offer ‘51 Favorite Facts You’ve Always Believed That Are Actually False’. I learnt that bananas don’t grow on trees. They grow on giant herbs that just happen to look like trees. But ‘if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck…’. In what ways does the language we use complicate and confuse our notions of what is true?

Fake news. Is that even a thing? If it’s fake, it can’t be news. If certain people choose to characterise statements as fake, how are we to know whether they are or not? Many times there is independent evidence one way or another, but too many times there isn’t—or at least not to hand when the allegation is made. Who should arbitrate when statements are contested? Should there be any penalty for people in certain categories (such as politicians, scientists and journalists) who knowingly tell an untruth? If so, what? If not, why not?

What do people mean when they talk about ‘my truth’? Can my truth be at odds with your truth? If so, does that mean truth is relative?

Keats wrote that ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty’. What is the truth that Keats’s Grecian urn expressed to him (and presumably to us)? Can truth be found in ugliness and, if not, why not? Are there truths which art can express, even if they can’t be articulated, or verified, verbally? What might these truths be?

AJ Ayer, a philosopher, wrote that ‘The principles of logic and mathematics are true simply because we never allow them to be anything else’. In general, can we decide which things are true? Can something be true provided it has not actually been disproved, even if it can’t be proved? (Much popular journalism on science would suggest this is true—or believed to be true.) Or is the truth of something only a reality when it can be perceived as such by (some) people? Other than Ayers’ ‘principles of logic and mathematics’, can anything be known to be true?

We will examine these issues in the context of three questions:

1. What do we mean by "truth" and how does it contrast with "reality", "facts", "knowledge" and "beliefs"?
2. How can we determine how likely something is to be "true" in daily life?
3. What things (if any) can we ever know to be true with confidence and correctness?

For those wanting to prepare themselves:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truth gives an overview of philosophical approaches.
Issues about post truth and fake news are discussed here:
https://www.ted.com/talks/charles_sykes_navigating_a_post_truth_world
https://www.ted.com/talks/sumit_pandey_communication_in_the_post_truth_era
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VeXCU8cjIlw

Rule-of-6, Reciprocal, In-Real-Life (IRL), Evening Meals at Home

READ CAREFULLY: This isn't a normal event but a generic "psuedo-event". It gives those who sign up a DIY opportunity to create a set of real events which will not be publicised on Meetup. Please ignore the date/time/location for this event. (Meetup insisted on having something.)

THE PROBLEM:
Many of us are missing our IRL get-togethers. The rule-of-6 allows small get-togethers outdoors (tiers 1 and 2), and indoors (tier 1 only). The few outdoor IRL events I've organised have been popular - but demand outstrips supply, and it is now too cold to sit around outside. People have different comfort levels regarding Covid, over and above the official guidance.

THE GENERAL IDEA:
This pseudo event, and other related ones, give Cafe Philo members opportunities to self-organise to create small scale events they are comfortable with - max 6 people. Organising actual events will be taken in turn between those wishing to participate - hence "reciprocal" in the title.

THE WAY IT WORKS:
1) You should only sign up to this psuedo-event if you are prepared to host 1 or more others to an evening meal in your home, out of the people who have signed up to this psuedo-event. Each of your guests is expected to invite you back in future - see 5 below.
2) The host decides who to invite from those who have signed up to this event, up to a maximum of 6 including the host and any cohabitants. Invitations should be by private message on meetup, not comments on this event!
3) The host agrees the date/time and shares their address with the guests. Hosts should check that the proposed menu will meet any guest's dietary restrictions.
4) Hosts should decide in advance what Covid safety precautions they feel comfortable with, given their home situation. Guests should be informed in advance, so that they know what to expect and agree to the proposed arrangements.
5) IF YOU ACCEPT AN INVITATION AS A GUEST, YOU SHOULD RETURN THE FAVOUR by inviting the host (and possibly others) back to a meal in your home. This should be within 3 months.
6) Government guidelines should be adhered to at all times. If Bristol moves to tier 2 or 3, indoor events will have to be cancelled/postponed.
7) The host's cohabitants, if any, could be invited to join in. Otherwise attendees should all be Cafe Philo members who have signed up to this event.
8) If you live alone you may be concerned about the security of inviting people to your home who you only know through Cafe Philo, possibly only online. Make sure you feel safe by ensuring that at least one guest is someone you trust.
9) The reciprocity requirement allows for a "pay-it-forward" ethos - no money should be offered or accepted. Guests might well want to bring drinks to share, possibly by prior arrangement. Please respect any host preferences such as alcohol-free etc.

STRONG SUGGESTIONS:
1) When considering who to invite, please try to be diverse with age/gender/ethnicity/disability/outlook etc. etc.
2) You might want to suggest a topic for guests to discuss - maybe asking them to watch/listen/read something in advance, or to continue one of our previous discussion topics.
3) It is NOT intended to be competitive! If you aren't a good cook, bought pizzas + salad followed by a bought dessert, would be fine! (Subject to guest's dietary needs.) The idea is to get together for interesting social discussions - not to show off cooking skills.
4) You can host as many times as you like, ideally with different mixes of guests. If this idea proves popular I'll keep this as a permanent pseudo-event, regardless of Covid.
5) Worried nobody will invite you? Be proactive and host first - then you are "guaranteed" to get return invitations.

This is an experiment. I've discussed it with a few people, and considered it fairly carefully. However, the guidance above can be updated based on feedback I get from how it works in practice. So please let me know how it goes and how it might be improved.

Rule-of-6, Reciprocal, In-Real-Life (IRL), Drinks and Nibbles at Home

READ CAREFULLY: This isn't a normal event but a generic "psuedo-event". It gives those who sign up a DIY opportunity to create a set of real events which will not be publicised on Meetup. Please ignore the date/time/location for this event. (Meetup insisted on having something.)

THE PROBLEM:
Many of us are missing our IRL get-togethers. The rule-of-6 allows small get-togethers outdoors (tiers 1 and 2), and indoors (tier 1 only). The few outdoor IRL events I've organised have been popular - but demand outstrips supply, and it is now too cold to sit around outside. People have different comfort levels regarding Covid, over and above the official guidance.

THE GENERAL IDEA:
This pseudo event, and other related ones, give Cafe Philo members opportunities to self-organise to create small scale events they are comfortable with - max 6 people. Organising actual events will be taken in turn between those wishing to participate - hence "reciprocal" in the title.

THE WAY IT WORKS:
1) You should only sign up to this psuedo-event if you are prepared to host 1 or more others to a drinks and nibbles event in your home, out of the people who have signed up to this psuedo-event. Each of your guests is expected to invite you back in future - see 5 below.
2) The host decides who to invite from those who have signed up to this event, up to a maximum of 6 including the host and any cohabitants. Invitations should be by private message on meetup, not comments on this event!
3) The host agrees the date/time and shares their address with the guests.
4) Hosts should decide in advance what Covid safety precautions they feel comfortable with, given their home situation. Guests should be informed in advance, so that they know what to expect and agree to the proposed arrangements.
5) IF YOU ACCEPT AN INVITATION AS A GUEST, YOU SHOULD RETURN THE FAVOUR by inviting the host (and possibly others) back to a drinks and nibbles event in your home. This should be within 3 months.
6) Government guidelines should be adhered to at all times. If Bristol moves to tier 2 or 3, indoor events will have to be cancelled/postponed.
7) The host's cohabitants, if any, could be invited to join in. Otherwise attendees should all be Cafe Philo members who have signed up to this event.
8) If you live alone you may be concerned about the security of inviting people to your home who you only know through Cafe Philo, possibly only online. Make sure you feel safe by ensuring that at least one guest is someone you trust.
9) Guests might well want to contribute drinks/nibbles to share, possibly by prior arrangement. Please respect any host preferences such as alcohol-free etc.

STRONG SUGGESTIONS:
1) When considering who to invite, please try to be diverse with age/gender/ethnicity/disability/outlook etc. etc.
2) You might want to suggest a topic or theme. Ideas:
a) Conversation menu event like this:
https://www.meetup.com/Cafe-Philo-Bristol-Bath/events/268456351/
b) Video discussion evening like this:
https://www.meetup.com/Cafe-Philo-Bristol-Bath/events/260724936/
c) Social event with a bit of discussion about a programme guests have listened to/watched beforehand.
3) It needn't necessarily be an evening event - afternoon tea and cake or morning coffee and biscuits would work too.
4) You can host as many times as you like, ideally with different mixes of guests. If this idea proves popular I'll keep this as a permanent pseudo-event, regardless of Covid.
5) Worried nobody will invite you? Be proactive and host first - then you are "guaranteed" to get return invitations.

This is an experiment. I've discussed it with a few people, and considered it fairly carefully. However, the guidance above can be updated based on feedback I get from how it works in practice. So please let me know how it goes and how it might be improved.

Rule-of-6, Reciprocal, In-Real-Life (IRL), Walk and Talks

READ CAREFULLY: This isn't a normal event but a generic "psuedo-event". It gives those who sign up a DIY opportunity to create a set of real events which will not be publicised on Meetup. Please ignore the date/time/location for this event. (Meetup insisted on having something.)

THE PROBLEM:
Many of us are missing our IRL get-togethers. The rule-of-6 allows small get-togethers outdoors (tiers 1 and 2), and indoors (tier 1 only). The few outdoor IRL events I've organised have been popular - but demand outstrips supply, and it is now too cold to sit around outside. People have different comfort levels regarding Covid, over and above the official guidance.

THE GENERAL IDEA:
This pseudo event, and other related ones, gives Cafe Philo members opportunities to self-organise to create small scale events they are comfortable with - max 6 people. Organising actual events will be taken in turn between those wishing to participate - hence "reciprocal" in the title.

THE WAY IT WORKS:
1) You should only sign up to this psuedo-event if you are prepared to organise a walk of around 2 hours with 1 more others from those who have signed up to this psuedo-event. Each of your guests is expected to invite you to a walk they organise in future - see 5 below.
2) The host decides who to invite from those who have signed up to this event, up to a maximum of 6. Invitations should be by private message on meetup, not comments on this event!
3) The host agrees the date/time and shares the starting location with the guests. Hosts should be familiar with the route so that they don't need to think hard about navigation. (From my experience, it is too hard to navigate accurately when you are engrossed in conversation!)
4) When planning your route, consider:
- Start location - is it easy to find and park? Access by public transport?
- Availability of toilets en route?
- Safety of road crossings and difficulty of inclines. Make sure you describe it accurately in your invitation. You will need to go at the pace of the slowest walker.
- If you plan to stop at a cafe/pub at some point for refreshments, make sure that everyone is happy with that plan in advance.
5) IF YOU ACCEPT AN INVITATION AS A GUEST, YOU SHOULD RETURN THE FAVOUR by inviting the host (and possibly others) for a walk that you plan and lead. This should be within 3 months.
6) Government guidelines should be adhered to at all times regarding distancing etc. If Bristol moves to tier 3, events will have to be cancelled/postponed.
7) If you are concerned about the security of inviting people you only know through Cafe Philo, possibly only online, then make sure you feel safe by ensuring that at least one guest is someone you trust.

STRONG SUGGESTIONS:
1) When considering who to invite, please try to be diverse in age/gender/ethnicity/outlook etc. etc.
2) You might want to suggest a topic for guests to discuss en route - maybe asking them to watch/listen/read something in advance, or to continue one of our previous discussion topics. It will not be possible for all 6 to take part in the same discussion while walking and maintaining social distance. Conversations will need to be in 2's and 3's.
3) You can host as many walks as you like, ideally with different mixes of guests. If this idea proves popular I'll keep this as a permanent pseudo-event, regardless of Covid.
4) Worried nobody will invite you? Be proactive and host first - then you are "guaranteed" to get return invitations.

This is an experiment. I've discussed it with a few people, and considered it fairly carefully. However, the guidance above can be updated based on feedback I get from how it works in practice. So please let me know how it goes and how it might be improved.

Past events (352)

What is "truth"?

Online event

Photos (140)