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What we’re about

You may sometimes wonder about fundamental things. Philosophers incline to it non-stop. At their best, they make trouble in the world of ideas. They open worm cans. Bring your can openers!

We have explored — or will (or will again) — age-old topics like God's existence, the nature of people and things, truth, justice, knowledge, free will, determinism, fatalism, birth, death, the right way to live or die... as well as theories in the major divisions of philosophical thought such as logic, metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and aesthetics. Exploring these core areas can help with understanding what is at stake in the more concrete topics we also address, which include controversies around abortion, infanticide, capital punishment, suicide (physician-assisted and otherwise), economic and social equality, criminality, genetic engineering, neuroscience, artificial intelligence, technology, over-population, war, terrorism, racism, sexism, feminism, transhumanism, antinatalism, speciesism, sexuality, human "rights," animal rights, the "rights" of (or to) anything whatsoever!,... as well as important issues in medical ethics, political philosophy, environmental ethics, bioethics, philosophy of law, of art, of literature, of religion, of science and its methods; and the nature, history, and methods of philosophy itself... not to exclude philosophical topics as yet uninvented.

In fact, "inventing topics" is a side effect of asking hard questions, which inevitably lead to still harder questions. Often enough, "new" topics are not really "new" but old, even ancient, unsettled concerns resurfacing. And it is those unsettled issues that are the real philosophical problems. As one philosopher once said, "If it has a solution, it was probably just science anyway." Any important subject whose fundamental ideas invite critical examination is ripe for our can opener... eventually we may work our way up to the really big can: the point of it all! (But don't expect pat answers­­ — we don't do self-help.)

This club is open to serious approaches to philosophy — analytic, "Continental," and otherwise. Philosophy in the Anglo-American world (for better or worse) is still dominated by some form of conceptual analysis. What characterizes the analytic approach to philosophy is attention to clarity and as much rigor as we can muster in our concepts and arguments — while, hopefully, keeping one foot in reality. (It's not "clear" that "reality" has anything to do with "clarity" or "rigor.") We ply "belief systems" with questions framed against such values. But you may know better! Philosophical traditions, no less than individual philosophical views, are error prone. Any "philosophy" worthy of the name should be comfortable with this.

We will try to stay focused on the topics under discussion, realizing that this is difficult. If one thing doesn't connect with another, it can't be that important. We draw on the insights of some of the brightest thinkers we know, both living and dead. Celebrated authority is no guarantee of being right. In fact, we already know at least half of the great philosophical thinkers must be wrong because the other half disagrees with them. But which half? (Even to assume only half are wrong is being more than a little optimistic. Why would any of them be right?)

Though we range widely in the topics we cover, we try not to let anything go in our discussion. The point is to rise above the level of BS that too often passes in informal discussions for philosophy. Beyond a certain respect for clarity and rigor, we do not have an axe to grind. You may bring your own axe, we may sharpen it for you... or we may grind it to a stump. We mostly open worm cans, remember? You decide what to do with the worms!

Skepticism and disagreement are to be expected, even encouraged. We should try to make the best case we can for our side and attend to what others say. We should expect that expressions of conviction may be forceful and that’s fine, as long as they are respectful of others and rational, which, in the context of a philosophy club, means to attempt to offer reasons to believe — reasons that are thought out and not themselves more controversial than the claims they are meant to support. These are aspirations, of course, not actual descriptions of what happens in even earnest philosophical discussions. We should nevertheless try...

A word about etiquette, again: philosophy, by its nature, is contentious. Expect disagreement and treat each other respectfully. Failure to do so may be cause for removal.

See writeups for past meetups and archived writeups for perspective on the topics we have and may cover. Check out recorded sessions. See also Philosophical Resources Online.

The group is international and mostly online. Formal membership is not required to attend and participate. Contact us for the video link if you just want to try it without membership. Our meetings and resources are free and open to the public. Auditing is perfectly fine.

Finally, if you know something about a topic and would like us to address it or you would like to present and host it yourself, let us know. You don't have to be an expert. We will work with you. So long as we can make out a philosophical angle — it addresses fundamental questions about an important subject, we would love to explore it.

Contact us with any questions.

— Victor Muñoz, organizer

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