Philosophy articles

Philosophy group articles

Group report

This year has been influenced by the ever present topic of Brexit. We have tried to avoid it as much as possible, but inevitably we keep brushing up against it. Our format has remained the same, we decide amongst ourselves what topics to look at, and then a ‘volunteer’ is found to lead off the discussion with a short written introduction. Our membership has changed slightly however. We have lost one of our founder members who felt the advancing years now made attending too difficult.

She was always a thoughtful and lively member and is much missed. Another has had to give up owing to ill health, and two others now have other commitments which prevent their attendance. The result has been a rather more manageable group size.

Our topics this year have touched on issues such as ‘free speech’, ‘free will’ and ‘human rights and human responsibilities’. As can be seen, all these can be related to the Brexit discussion, but they are also pertinent to the theme of individual liberty and its limits. We also had a session on the ‘philosophy of war’, in particular the idea of a ‘just war’ and the concept of ‘rules of war’ (are there any?).

After over ten years of meeting and one hundred and twenty meetings, we are beginning to find new topics which have wide popularity more difficult to find. Most of us have now explored those topics about which we have some knowledge and interest. In an attempt to broaden out from social and political and economic aspects, we are next due to start looking at ‘Philosophy and Art’. We had hoped to start looking at this after March 29th, but it seems we haven’t finished with Europe as a focus of interest. So, I urge all our group members to have a good think and come up with suggestions for new topics to carry the group forward for the next ten years.

Mike Silvester.

This is an article published in the Summer 2019 edition of the Hayling Island U3A newsletter

Group report

This is an article published in the Spring 2018 edition of the Hayling Island U3A newsletter....

The philosophy group this year has grown bigger (not that the individuals in the group have grown bigger, but the number of individuals in the group has grown bigger).  This gives some indication of what discussing philosophical issues does to the brain!!

Our main problem now is how to develop with increased numbers. We have a waiting list (a short one) but it is simply impossible to cram anyone else into our sitting room. We already operate on the basis that not everyone attends every meeting. Ideally the group should now split in two, but that requires another group leader and another venue. The task of group leader is not onerous. The group membership is self-motivated and the sessions more or less run themselves, and all the leader has to do is oversee an orderly discussion and make the coffee! Oh, and also try to remember what topics have been discussed and what are to be discussed.

This year we have been somewhat influenced by the President Trump phenomenon. Consequently we have considered topics such as ‘What is Truth?’ and Fake News (which has a very long historical pedigree).  Some of our newer members have suggested we consider really fundamental questions such as ‘Why is there anything at all rather than nothing?’ but so far we haven’t tackled this subject. Perhaps, with the death of Professor Hawking, we might venture into these questions next year.

The group has been going now for about ten years, so we have covered over 100 topics. Given the average group member’s memory ability, we could probably revisit some of these topics in the future. Our newer members could bring fresh perspectives to discussions.

The group is clearly a friendship group as well as a study group, but the only way we can accommodate those members on the waiting list, and open up the group to new members is if we can start a second group. I do hope someone will come forward  with an offer to start a new group.

Mike Silvester

Group report

This is an article published in the Spring 2017 edition of the Hayling Island U3A newsletter...

During 2016 we have been somewhat distracted by world events (Brexit and the election of Donald Trump). Being a naturally very lively group, it has been quite a challenge to stick to philosophy rather than give voice to opinions on what has caused these events. Our meetings are always a couple of discussion sessions, separated by coffee and cake, and since we all have the idea of following lines of thought suggested by group members rather than following a fixed course of enquiry, we often find ourselves trying to understand current issues through 'philosophical' enquiry. In practice this just means members suggest ideas which they think might throw light on the subject.

However we proceed, the result seems to be regularly attended meetings our numbers can just about fit into our sitting room, and if someone wants to try us out we seem to be able to squeeze them in. Besides Brexit and Trump, this year we have looked at Utilitarianism (the theory that things should be valued for their usefulness), The Rational Individual (do people always act entirely rationally?), and the idea of Freedom. We have tried to find out the effects of immigration (good or bad), and considered what elements are needed to call a movement a religion as opposed to a cult or ideology.

This year, I suspect events will suggest more topics about which we will have ideas to express, but our next meeting is going to be around the changing positions of women in our society and in others. Heroically this is going to be started off by a man, should be fun! Who would think philosophy could be fun? Only on Hayling!

Mike Silvester