Public Philosophy Network

Encouraging and Supporting Publicly Engaged Philosophical Research and Practices

Philosophy Discussion Groups for the General Public


Philosophy Discussion Groups for the General Public

This group may be of interest to those who are engaged in philosophy discussion groups that are open to the general public and conducted in public places. The Cafe Philosophique movement that was inaugurated by the French philosopher Marc Sautet offers one example of such discussion groups, but it is the purpose of this affinity group to consider a variety of different models for discussing philosophy with the general public in public places. This group may also be of interest to those who would like to gain insights into the philosophical concerns and style of the general public as opposed to academic specialists.

Members: 9
Latest Activity: Apr 13, 2015

Discussion Forum

Skype Discussion Groups for the General Public

Started by Ed D'Angelo Apr 13, 2015. 0 Replies

I am currently participating in a philosophy discussion group via Skype. The group began as an in-person meetup group but morphed into a discussion via Skype. Among the advantages of a Skype…Continue

News related to Philosophy Discussion Groups for the General Public

Started by Ed D'Angelo Sep 6, 2013. 0 Replies

The Brooklyn Public Library in Brooklyn, New York is now hosting three philosophy programs for the general public. There are now two…Continue

Sample Discussion Topics for Public Philosophy Groups

Started by Ed D'Angelo. Last reply by Ed D'Angelo Jul 7, 2013. 9 Replies

Here's an example of a topic suggested by a member of my discussion group. A member of the group suggested that we talk about eugenics. He wanted to know if we should genetically design humans to be…Continue

Philosophy in the Public Sphere

Started by Ed D'Angelo Dec 28, 2012. 0 Replies

This New York Times article highlights some of the reasons that serious literature of all kinds, including philosophy, is struggling to survive in the public sphere--in this case, in the public…Continue

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Comment by Ed D'Angelo on August 10, 2012 at 9:32pm

My group meets at a public library in an outer borough neighborhood of New York City. I see public philosophy discussion groups as one way to nurture democracy by providing citizens with an opportunity to practice rational deliberation with each other in public places that are open to anyone, without barriers, including cost. Like many people of a philosophical bent, I believe that democracy depends upon rational public deliberation. Within that broad framework, I try to facilitate the group's own process rather than lead it in my own preconceived direction. So to answer your question, I feel that I'm working towards doing philosophy, not merely appreciating it, though I think the two are related because an appreciation of great works of philosophy helps us to "do" philosophy ourselves. I also don't draw a sharp line between philosophers and non-philosophers because I think it's human nature to reason and reflect on one's experience and on fundamental questions and to try to develop a systematic understanding of the world (of course some people reason and reflect more than others). Based on these principles, I ask members of the group to suggest topics. I select topics that I think will generate interest, that will generate a lively discussion, and that can be approached in a philosophical manner. I distribute brief reading material on the topic that may include secondary material on figures in the history of philosophy or occasional short primary material. Most often the topics that are suggested and chosen are topics having to do with moral/ethical, social, political or economic issues: topics of broad public concern. Religious and existential issues come up, too. All these issues reveal fractures, conflicts and fissures in our society that make it difficult for people to maintain reasoned discussion. Adding to the difficulties is the fact that in spite of our society's democractic ideology and rhetoric, few people have had many opportunities to participate in rational public deliberation and so the discussions can degenerate into shouting matches or personal accusations. What's your experience?

Comment by José Muñiz on August 9, 2012 at 9:36pm

I organize a philosophy reading group for non-philosophers in New York. One question I've been thinking about: are we working towards _doing_ philosophy or _appreciating_ it? Both models have excellent things going for it, but are obviously different in ways that influence our structure and format. 

Comment by Ed D'Angelo on August 5, 2012 at 10:32pm

Marc Sautet was the inspiration behind Dr. Michael Picard's "Cafe Philosophy" in Vancouver, Canada. Philosophy Cafes now exist all over the world. One good example is Simon Fraser University's "Philosopher's Cafe." A slightly different model of public philosophy discussion groups is to be found in the Socrates Cafe movement started (and trademarked!) by Chris Phillips. Yet another model can be found in my own philosophy discussion group that I facilitate in a public library.


Members (9)


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