Having Been Human
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Fri Nov 16 14:37:10 2012
Last night's philosophy meetup

Went to a different philosophy meetup last night; not sure what I think. It was clearly too large (a bit over 20 people, maybe even 30?), and the discussion was disappoingly entry-level with no particular rush to get at deeper questions. The topic was selfishness/selflessness. OTOH, there was a lot of unsureness on the topic on the part of everyone there, so I was able to add a lot of structure to the discussion (although some of my points, notably the alloidal-versus-feesimple title I used for the lawyers present as an example of the lessening solidity of institutions and the need to adapt to being much closer to each other in modern places and times, didn't land so well because said lawyers wern't aware of that bit of legal geekery). I felt that I was able to challenge the group, but the group didn't challenge me. Not sure what I think about the moderation style; it seemed to work but left me feeling irritated. There were also a number of vague references to studies in psychology that were never substantiated.

People seemed to generally like me being there, but I probably won't become a regular; it might be something I'll attend rarely if I need to be social and nothing else presents itself.

The "level" critique is complicated, particularly when I compare it to Massimo's group. Massimo wants to keep things close to his particular school of philosophy but seems reasonably well-read on others, plus he's academic in style. I have mixed feelings on that, but there's a lot of clarity of thought in his groups. Last night's group felt very defocused, almost like an alcoholic's anonymous type group (not that I've ever been to one of those, just what I guess it's like). I'd wager that Massimo's group has a lot of people who occasionally read philosophy. Last night's group probably less so. It's not that I think reading philosophy is necessary to do philosophy, but the emphasis on organising one's thoughts carefully, perhaps with the practice of writing a lot, produces more value in the communication than gathering what feels like random people and pressing them to think about the topics. I'd like a philosophy circle to welcome people from other disciplines, but maybe not entirely undisciplined people. Setting the tone for the group might help encourage people to be clear (please don't tell us stories of your life where you forget the point halfway through rather than make a point; we're not looking for testimony here).

The night before I hung out with someone who might become a friend in time, then after that went to TeaL and happened to spot an English translation of 「Das Parfum」sitting in front of the person next to me ; expressed surprise at the translation, then had a conversation on meaning of the book that quickly spanned everything from tax policy to world economic developments to human nature. She has an admirably broad and deep set of interests. Perhaps I'll bump into her again sometime.

Have been ignoring jobhunting for the last few weeks; starting to get back into it. Next week I finally have that rescheduled meeting up with someone I met over a month ago that might lead to work and/or fun projects. Trying to figure out what my other options are that seem halfway decent. Maybe I'll try to push myself to actually start up on the teaching people programming idea.