The Group Leader is Michael Dean
The Philosophy Group meets on a Thursday from 10:30-12:00 every other week (the odd numbered weeks in your diary) in the Lounge at Bold Street Methodist Mission.
Unlike many other subjects philosophy is not a body of facts and theories to be learned, it is an activity – something you do, and you can’t really do it just by learning facts about what other philosophers have said, although they’re usually very interesting & great guides on how to do it. It’s about thinking, thinking clearly and thinking for yourself – you don’t just take anyone’s word for something without examining the reasoning behind their conclusions. It’s not a matter of whether I like what they say – we all have a tendency to read only what we agree with, we much prefer to have our prejudices stroked rather than poked. Do you, for instance read a paper that agrees with your world-view? Probably, it’s much nicer doing that than reading the contrary view isn’t it? – but that doesn’t mean it’s right though does it? I might believe in fairies and read the Fairyland Times, which gives me all the news & gossip about the goings-on in Fairyland and which comfortingly tends to confirm my beliefs.
When we philosophise we typically apply reason and logic to subjects we think we already know and commit to following the argument wherever it may lead us. It seems easy but it isn’t, and can be quite challenging when it impinges on our “comfort zones” eg views based on assumptions we have lived with all our life!
Each year the Group looks at a wide range of subjects - we start off with a draft list of subjects of interest, but we don’t have an agenda, still less a syllabus. In that way we’re free to follow the arguments as we wish, and if that means we need more time then we can devote more sessions to it. This last year we had talks on Christmas, Arne Naess (both by Roger Sparkman), while Tony Clark gave papers on emotions and John Stewart Mill, and Des Appleton spoke on the implications of some recent “odd” election results; we also looked at the early Wittgenstein and some of the more common fallacies (sources of real trouble when you’re trying to use logical reasoning!)
Another area we’ve looked at is the History of Philosophy and last year we covered Pythagoras – not the theorem (which he didn’t invent anyway) but the (very important) philosopher.
The subject list for next year looks very interesting with papers on a wide variety of topics, including two further groups of early philosophers – the Eleatics and the Atomists, Tony Clark has promised papers on a number of subjects including the two freedoms of Isaiah Berlin, the American philosopher Robert Nozick, Stoicism and Vegetarianism; whilst Des Appleton has promised to examine the idea of the “Just War” as in Catholic Social Teaching and Brian Underwood will examine some of the moral issues associated with genetic engineering. Members can also raise eg ethics problems that appear in the news at any time.
Don’t worry if you’ve never done anything like this before – we’re all learning as we go along, the best thing is to just come along to try it.