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. 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

Upcoming events (3)

Hegel Clarified

Link visible for attendees

Hegel was a great and misunderstood philosopher. After reading Hegel for 3100 hours directly, Mark McCormack believes he has a new understanding which has been missed in Hegel scholarship over the last 200 years. He will utilize comparisons with Parmenides, Heraclitus, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Leibniz, Kant, Fichte, Frege, Russell and Wittgenstein in his talk. Questions are welcome after the talk.

Mark has been a philosophy enthusiast for over two decades having read many different sources of wisdom. He discovered Hegel’s deeper insights on his third time of crossing paths. The last engagement inspired him to read the Science Of Logic directly. The rest is history.

Must be a zoo: a rational defense of the concept of heaven

Link visible for attendees

I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created parasitic wasps with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars.
– Charles Darwin

Thanks, Darwin, but this is only an argument against the beneficent part…
– Bianco Luno

Philosopher of religion and David Hume scholar Terence Penelhum was probably a believer but primarily interested in how to understand religious belief from a conceptual perspective, how well the idea held up in the context of other beliefs we have, not whether, strictly, it referred to anything true or real.

Penelhum wrote, if I remember correctly, that he once dreamed he had died and woken up in heaven and was surprised to see that heaven was crawling with animals. Scarcely any people there. It occurred to him that this is what the concept of heaven was all about: to make up to those who suffer innocently, who are created to suffer here without the possibility of ever knowing or understanding why. Since far fewer people are ever in this situation, except those who die very young, that’s why heaven was overrun with animals. If they live long enough, people stand a chance of understanding the reason for their suffering.

This is not a standard Christian understanding of the nature or purpose of heaven, which usually disqualifies animals in so far as they are “soulless,” but, conceptually – on the assumption of a god of the superlative sort, a heaven exclusively for animals and small children makes more sense. If God thinks that a universe with some evil in it is better than one with no evil at all, and, assuming God is just and not capricious, then the evil that exists, exists for a reason. That reason must be that the obstacle the evil poses is necessary for the moral development of beings equipped to cope with it, not merely surmounting it but attaining a higher moral state precisely because of the evil. This refers to us – rational, aware adults. The sentient creatures not in a position to grasp, cope, process, and surmount the evil, including those who never will be in that position because either they are unequipped or were, potentially, but though they might have – did not – survive long enough (e.g., children who die young), these will not benefit from the evil – not ever. That evil necessary for the development of those who, in theory, given enough time and resources, will benefit from it, will never do anything for these hapless ones. Unless some compensation is due these constitutional or accidental non-beneficiaries of evil, their very exposure to existence with evil in it is gratuitous and – from the standpoint of a just God – inexcusable. Therefore, on the assumption a God of the superlative sort exists, God must have a plan to make it up to them. Heaven is made for the haplessly innocent.

Curiously, it follows from this that not only is heaven not owed those who benefit from manageable evil, but it would serve for them no purpose. Those who stand to benefit from creation in all its defectiveness, what would the cessation of all evil do for them? They were either created or evolved to thrive in it. Hence, for these, heaven – an eternity of static bliss – is counterproductive. In heaven, things stop getting better. Only in a place where things are not so great is the notion of moral progress – or any kind of progress – coherent. After all, the imperfect world, just as it is, supplies occasional respites from evil... Either that or we have short memories and forget today the evil we experienced yesterday. Which is why morally salutary evil never goes away. It is demanded by our forgetfulness.

If, for a few, the evil comes to feel like an unmitigated hell, these being conscious, rational, capable beings: they will have the wherewithal (a fair God generously supplied them with it) to reach the sensible conclusion to end their lives and proceed to an oblivion, a reincarnation, the compost pile, or what have you... but it is at least in their power to stop (or pause, in the case of reincarnation) their existence, and to believe what they want about it. God was nice enough to equip us with the requisite reason and imagination to talk ourselves into these beliefs. If we are in hell, and wish to stay there, the decision is up to us to make. If this way out is not endemic, if the will of the majority to persist in the face of evil until overcome by it – i.e., the imperative to survive – generally prevails, then, as Saint Darwin suggested, this has been selected for. God gives us a reason for survival (conscious moral development) and Darwin an understanding of its mechanism.

Ergo, the good news is, if God is halfway reasonable, there is a heaven for those who have, are, or will suffer gratuitously. The bad news is these will not likely be reading this.

Full writeup in progress: https://animal-heaven.henid.com/

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The Philosophy Club - in person

Needs a location

I will be in Seattle, the birthplace of our club, in late September. I am proposing an in-person meeting on Thursday September 29th at 7pm at the Victrola Cafe on 15th AVE E for our Seattle area members.

The meeting will be open-ended. We can talk about past topics, possible future ones, or just chat philosophy. All the old Seattle crew is invited.

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Past events (87)

Photos (207)