Philosophers’ Café


Having recently participated in a lively philosophers’ café I started thinking about the history of these informal gatherings which are aimed at a broad public for the discussion of social issues, moral problems, epistemology and the like. I suppose in some way they are a spinoff from Old Socrates who walked around Athens engaging citizens in philosophical discussions.

I have been involved since my SFU days when, with Dale Beyerstein, I participated in a few on the mainland. And then we had several over the years at VIU. [ Here, or here] In BC it looks like SFU is the mother of the cafés:

SFU’s Philosophers’ Café is a series of informal public discussions in the heart of our communities. Since 1998, this award-winning program has engaged the interests of scholars, seniors, students, philosophers, and non-philosophers through stimulating dialogue and the passionate exchange of ideas.

All cafés are free to attend. No registration is required.

A search on Google yields this: an article from “The Globe and Mail“, a link to SFU, and a piece in Wikipedia:

Café philosophique (“cafe-philo”) is a grassroots forum for philosophical discussion, founded by philosopher Marc Sautet in Paris, France, on December 13, 1992.

Here in Nanaimo we also have a long (fairly long) history of using these cafés to engage our community. Go here to learn more about current, future and past events.

And they are FUN.

2 thoughts on “Philosophers’ Café

  1. One of the gentlemen at the recent café raised an interesting question about certainty: If I am certain about something then it must be true, right? Well, maybe. But be careful I wonder if certainty isn’t the culprit in this sort of goofiness. Certainty is demonic. When people are CERTAIN they are beyond reason. Whenever I think of certainty I think of the example I once used in a public lecture, “There were thousands of Catholic parents who were certain that their children were safe with their priest.”

    Certainty is a measure of strength of belief and not a measure of evidence for a belief.

    I hope that p;
    I think that p;
    I believe that p;
    I am certain that p;

    are all of the same category of statement – they tell us about the speaker’s state of mind and not about a state of affairs.


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