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Philosophy Cafe - Cafe Philosophique Pages

Q: Why this FAQ instead of a simple intro to the group?
A: Many reasons. People who are seriously looking for a group tend to have specific questions. Most what-we-are-about "mission statements" are self-aggrandizing and unrealistic. We live in a world where attention is allocated in tiny slices. It is convenient to be able to update this view of group piecemeal.

Q: If you had to declare a manifesto for this group, what would it be?
A: That philosophy is for everybody. That, while it uses abstraction, its value rests on its concrete utility in everyday life. For example, you don't have to know how to program a computer to benefit from one (though of course you can do more with it if you know how it works).

Q: I'm very busy–what preparation is involved?
A: We do not assign reading, because we are interested in your original thinking. As the theme of each meeting is announced in advance, it would be helpful if you would think of a personal story that grounds the theme realistically. Don't worry about it, though: you may think of one on the spot.

Q: I'm too busy preparing my own treatise on topic X to participate in a group discussion.
A: Everyone has to manage their own priorities, but people do underestimate the value of open interaction with their peers. If you find yourself going over the same questions and answers, then maybe it's time to expose yourself to other perspectives. Try proposing a theme relating to topic X and see what you get for two hours of your time.

Q: What distinguishes this group from other philosophy groups in the area?
A: That it is an impromptu discussion. Rather than building from authoritative literature or prescribed styles of reasoning, we focus on casual–but critical–thinking about our own experiences.

Q: Is this a self-help group? Many of the topics seem psychological.
A: I have to assume that what is meant by "psychological" is topics that deal with feeling, because the profoundly psychological statement "I think, therefore I am" is the most famous philosophical argument ever. We do encourage the consideration of emotion in our reasoning, in line with the trend in current educated discourse. Any conclusions we might reach could give a firmer foundation to self-help practices, in the same way that analytic philosophy helps to ground science.

Q: What are meetings like?
A: We converse in an orderly fashion, with the purpose of learning something new from the clash of opinions. Exactly what kind of "order"? That is a work-in-progress which you help shape. You can read archival accounts of the dynamics (not the content) of previous meetings in the Discussions/Message Board section of our group site.

Q: There are a lot of people signed up for the next meet. Could be chaotic.
A: Because there is no cost, there's no way to prevent the less-committed from signing up and crowding out the more-committed, so we don't put a cap on the sign-up list. Typically, not all the newbies show up. Also, the gradual improvements in our format will make the meetings less linear and therefore more scalable.

Q: I'm looking for a social group.
A: While that is not our explicit goal, bear in mind that the best way to meet like-minded people is to engage in social activities that go beyond small talk, that reveal how your think and behave. We do tend to have a mix of newcomers and familiar faces at each meeting.

Q: How are discussion topics chosen?
A: Currently, the theme is selected by the organizers and a specific question is decided upon by the group cooperatively. If an issue with a philosophical angle is on your mind, send an email to Jeff describing why you're thinking about it...maybe others are having the same experience.

Q: What is "The Last Word"?
A: "Your Last Word" is a Message Board thread where you can finally put down in black and white what you couldn't quite get into words during the meeting. I suspect those who exercise this feature will greatly improve their "elevator pitches" for their favorite ideas.







Table of Contents

Page title Most recent update Last edited by
About Philosophy Cafe - Cafe Philosophique January 21, 2012 12:29 PM Jeff G

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