Philosophy Cafés (or Wine Bars, Libraries, Book Stores, etc.) are public or semi-public meet-ups for informal group dialogues on rotating philosophical ideas, issues, or topics, such as truth, friendship, meaning, purpose, justice, faith, beauty, death, race, gender identity, God, equality vs. freedom, etc.
How does this work?
The facilitator advertises the event (local flyers posted to the general public, or emails to a relatively closed group, or some function of both, say, what began open to the general public might whittle down to a committed group over time) and typically posts a topic or, in the case of groups defined by some common interest, may leave it to be decided by the group, ideally before convening. The group convenes at a café (or library, wine and cheese bar, etc.) that is amenable (most such places see a benefit to hosting these), and the facilitator typically initiates the discussion by laying out some tentative ideas associated with the concept, argument, dilemma, or other issue or topic, just to contextualize the issue, and then typically poses questions. The group then simply engages in a philosophical discussion of the issue(s), and the facilitator simply moderates and facilitates the flow of the discussion, periodically making a meta-point about the process, or clarifying a concept, or reorienting the thread if it veers too far astray from the topic.
These discussions are philosophical dialogues engaged in for their own sake, for greater understanding, and/or for social bonding. One could say that because they are purely philosophical they are “good for nothing”, ironically, in the same sense that pure mathematics might be said to be purely theoretical and thus not practical, yet it is equally true that they are “good for everything” insofar as they increase our philosophical wisdom, and that is in some sense good for everything else. In addition, if someone is considering working with a Philosophical Counselor, attending a Philosophy Café facilitated by that Counselor is a cost-free way to sense whether there is any synergy between oneself and that Counselor. In terms of the bare minimum, Philosophy Cafés are meaningful ways to spend one's time. At the other end of the spectrum of possible values for Philosophy Cafes, there is the possibility of cultivating a philosophical friendship, something Aristotle thought was among the highest possible goods in this life.
How long does it take?
This is up to the group, of course, but typically the facilitator would be wise to put a time boundary on it, or else they can go on into the wee hours. A typical Café might be two hours.
Who decides the topic, theme, or focus?
The facilitator might, but once a group becomes stable in its core membership, then it is ideal if the group decides.
Who can benefit from this?
Anyone can benefit from an increase in philosophical wisdom, and in exercising the skills that involve philosophical modes of reasoning, debate, analysis, and the like. Again, anyone interested in experimenting with the idea of consulting a Philosophical Counselor for some individual issue or problem can get a good sense of what a particular Philosophical Counselor is like and whether they sense the likelihood of developing a synergy with that Counselor in private sessions by engaging with that practitioner in his or her role as facilitator of a Philosophy Café.
Can I request a particular location and date for a Philosophy Café?
Yes. If it is within a reasonable distance (in the greater metropolitan NYC/NJ area) and I have the time. Please inquire.