Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

Bootstrapping a Philosophy Circle

I don't recall if I've written about this before; this might be a restatement. Anyway, if I were to advise someone on starting a philosophy circle if they've never been to one, this is the kind of introduction I'd suggest they give to their first members. It's of course better to actually go to a few meetings of one before starting a circle of one's own, but that's not always possible (groups might not exist or might not have slots free; groups tend to be best with 4-5 regulars and possibly 2-3 people rotating in in any given meeting).

Hi,Welcome to our philosophy circle. We've invited you to join us because we think your ideas and the way you converse about them would make an interesting addition to our circle. This isn't because we agree with them; we typically want to keep a fairly diverse set of views and backgrounds in the group, but we think you'd contribute well to the group.

We expect most meetings to either begin with a topic/proposal that a member will put forth to the group or with enough shooting the breeze about what we've been thinking about since the last meeting to find such a topic/proposal. After (or perhaps during, if/where appropriate), we expect honest evaluations, and that often entails people giving the proposal a hard time. We might later consider the ties of the idea to other things we've been considering, consider alternatives, and the like. You'll need to be both thick-skinned enough to take criticism and bold enough to offer it if this is going to work, so be prepared.

We don't require everyone be knowledgable about every topic, just willing to listen and be thoughtful. Critical thinking, an eye for inconsistency, and appreciation for nuance are worth a lot more than a single well-developed philosophy. We try not to call out people for simply being ignorant of a large body of (accepted?) philosophy on a tpoic; instead if there's a standard answer to a question we'll simply provide it. We strongly value keeping the volume and heat of the conversation low, even for topics we care a lot about. Also, while we expect that some topics in philosophy come down to differing values, we'd rather find value differences and respectfully talk about them rather than condemn each other. If you can't do that you don't belong here.

We're an eclectic bunch, and most of us are people who have taken many strong stances over our lives, and then rescinded those stances and taken different ones. We remember what it was like to only see the world through one lens, but we're beyond that and we're fine with differences at least for the purposes of discussion.

To the degree that things ever do get heated, we remember to keep it about the ideas and not the people. We are at the very least suspicious of each other's positions and we won't ever let things pass as a personal favour. We also expect to be at least friendly outside of the discussions; we expect to be rivals in philosophy but sociable otherwise. We don't expect to often convince each other of anything, but the sparring that happens in our group will provide material and topics for all of our individual growth in our own styles.

That understood, welcome to the group and enjoy the friendly rivalry.

Tags: philosophy

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