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.

One thought 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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