What we're about

We are a group that discusses questions in the Philosophical way of examining the question for built-in assumptions. We meet to learn from each other's perspectives.

We are part of a worldwide movement, called Public Philosophy, to bring philosophical discussion out of academia and to the general public. Socrates Café is part of this same movement.

Upcoming events (5+)

Deep Dive on Logic and Reasoning

Wegmans Food Pharmacy - Delicatessen

This is a 3rd format we are conducting, as our 3rd meet of the month. Deep dives break the paradigm of "no prior reading" of public philosophy -- we will expect at least prior reading of the questions, and some prior thought about the answers from our participants. Format for this meetup: we will have a general subject area. Each participant ATTEMPT to bring a constrained argument or question that falls into the subject they would like to discuss the possible answers to, with a short discussion as framing thinking. Each attendee should have read the other questions, and come with at least some preparation to discuss them. Not all members have brought questions, and this has been OK. If you are interested in this format, but do not have a question for one of our meets, that is OK, come anyway. We have had two or three questions per meet so far, three may be a practical limit. I propose discussing questions in the order submitted, and let the group decide on when to move on to the next one. If we do not complete discussion of a question collection, we can carry the undiscussed ones over to the next meetup. As we are meeting at Wegmans, I will set a 10 person limit.-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------PS -- Wegman's has made an exception to their "no meetings" rule for us. They ask us to be non-disruptive, and for most of us to purchase food or drink. If someone asks, we have been given permission to meet by Ayana Douglas.

The Problem of Evil, and other Optimization tests of God hypotheses

Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, Building 1 Cafeteria

Optimization Tests of God. There is an approach to religion – an empirical approach – which I hope will lead to an interesting discussion. This approach involves treating God as a hypothesis, spelling out details of the hypothesis, and deriving consequences, then looking at our universe to see if those consequences hold, or not. This principle is what is applied in the problem of evil question about God. It is also applied to a series of other “problem” questions – such as the problem of non-optimization for life, the problem of many faiths, the problem of unclear message, etc, which constitute one of the criticism paths against religions. A variant of this reasoning approach is also behind a lot of the evidence claims FOR a God, such as the Fine Tuning Argument, the Beauty of our World/Universe, and the complexity of life. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- **Do our members agree or disagree that God can or should be treated as a hypothesis? Is this a useful or interesting way to approach thinking about religious questions? **--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is not a new approach to religion. Epicurus spelled out the Problem of Evil 2 millennia ago, and I will quote him so we have a refresher on the Problem of Evil: Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? There is a hidden assumption in Epicurus’s thinking – that one can assume that someone with an intention to accomplish an outcome, and the ability to achieve that outcome, WILL accomplish that outcome. It is an assumption of reasonableness and agency. Trying to answer the Problem of Evil, and other non-optimizations, has gotten a lot of attention from theologians, and one of the most common replies is to question reasonableness – why can’t God just think differently from us? While WE generally (only generally, because we do sometimes do self-destructive behavior) will be agents and achieve our goals we know to be achievable – why presume a very different being such as God will have this feature? ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ **What do our members think of this response? IF this response is valid, does it undercut all evidences FOR a God? Does it even undercut the concept of God – if we cannot assume actions reflect intention, how can we infer meaning from words (scripture, for example), or even the inference to a Godly mind (other minds hypothesis is based off of inferring a mind from observing apparently intentional action). Would this also bring into question even attributing ANY character to God? **-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Another category of response is to question whether optimization is an appropriate expectation. After all, if one is enjoying a lazy doze in the sunshine on a beautiful day, but there is a MORE beautiful spot 100 feet away, we would not be considered irrational or perverse if we did not get up and move to the more beautiful spot. This response is basically arguing that if the world has beauty and goodness in it, we can treat that as evidence FOR God, and the lack of perfectly optimized beauty or goodness is not evidence against. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ **What do folks think of this answer? Does its plausibility depend on how far from optimum one is? For instance, would it be more or less credible if all humans were healthy, but were slightly asymmetrical and some has minor unsightly birthmarks, vs. if 50% of humans died of an extremely painful and debilitating, and incurable genetic ailment? **

Open Subject

Wegmans Food Pharmacy - Delicatessen

We run open subjects for our second meetup of the month. Subject description: Members will pick a topic of interest We all look forward to a respectful dialog! PS -- Wegman's has made an exception to their "no meetings" rule for us. They ask us to be non-disruptive, and for most of us to purchase food or drink. If someone asks, we have been given permission to meet by Ayana Douglas.

Deep Dive on Artificial Intelligence

Wegmans Food Pharmacy - Delicatessen

This is a 3rd format we are conducting, as our 3rd meet of the month. Deep dives break the paradigm of "no prior reading" of public philosophy -- we will expect at least prior reading of the questions, and some prior thought about the answers from our participants. Format for this meetup: we will have a general subject area. Each participant ATTEMPT to bring a constrained argument or question that falls into the subject they would like to discuss the possible answers to, with a short discussion as framing thinking. Each attendee should have read the other questions, and come with at least some preparation to discuss them. Not all members have brought questions, and this has been OK. If you are interested in this format, but do not have a question for one of our meets, that is OK, come anyway. We have had two or three questions per meet so far, three may be a practical limit. I propose discussing questions in the order submitted, and let the group decide on when to move on to the next one. If we do not complete discussion of a question collection, we can carry the undiscussed ones over to the next meetup. As we are meeting at Wegmans, I will set a 10 person limit.-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------PS -- Wegman's has made an exception to their "no meetings" rule for us. They ask us to be non-disruptive, and for most of us to purchase food or drink. If someone asks, we have been given permission to meet by Ayana Douglas.

Past events (108)

Open Subject

Wegmans Food Pharmacy - Delicatessen

Photos (13)