2nd Thursdays, 14.00 Members' Homes
The group has about a dozen members, of whom seven to nine come to a typical monthly meeting. We meet at the homes of members who can accommodate the group, in a rough cycle, by arrangement amongst ourselves. Most administrative communication is by e-mail.
It is a friendly an informal gathering, where we help each other to understand the chosen text, and debate the philosophical content, putting forward our own views. The discussion is lively, friendly, often funny. We do take the subject seriously, but not pedantically.
Our method of working is to agree on a book, which we all buy and read ahead of meetings. We choose books which are not too expensive (often available second-hand online), which can be worked through in three or four meetings, at most, and which contain content of general appeal to the group. Topics have included studies of famous philosophers (their thinking rather than their life-histories), key philosophical issues, and – recently - a series of broadcast interviews with fifteen famous modern thinkers. The convenor, or a volunteer, often prepares and circulates notes in advance, and launches the discussion in the meeting. But the meeting is wholly interactive in nature - not a presentation. We try to get to grips with some deep issues through the works of professional and/or classical philosophers, working out our own approaches and insights as we go.
So what is philosophy? We borrow a definition from one of our books: “the clarification of concepts, for the purpose of the critical evaluation of beliefs”. And some of the key concepts which have long occupied philosophers are:
the nature of reality (ontology) - What really exists?
the problem of knowledge (epistemology) - What can we really know?
philosophy of science
the mind - consciousness, freedom of the will…
political philosophy - the source of the State’s authority, citizens ‘rights’…
Our recent book list gives a flavour of our interests:
Problems of Political Philosophy, by D.D. Raphael
Talking Philosophy (15 interviews with modern thinkers), by Bryan Magee
A Very Short Introduction to Wittgenstein”, by A. C. Grayling
Mind – A Brief Introduction, by J. Searle
A Very Short Introduction to Hume, by A. J. Ayer
A Very Short Introduction to Descartes, by T. Sorell
Protagoras and Meno, by Plato