John Faupel asks - Do you prefer questions or answers?
When people ask how you are, I've learnt to my cost never to reply: 'In what respect do you mean?' They usually think you're being facetious and say: 'Oh, just forget I ever asked' or simply change the subject. They may even cross the street when next they see you coming. Actually, it seems surprising that talking about one's feelings, or for that matter about religion or politics, are still taboo subjects. We're on safer grounds conversing about impersonal matters, while trying to avoid upsetting those who may have opinions that differ from our own.
But isn't this kind of social etiquette a serious barrier to communication and hence to real friendship? Surely it ought to be possible to agree to disagree about whatever one thinks or feels without getting upset about it and resorting to games of one-upmanship. With an open mind we might even learn something from the contrary opinion of others. After all, how many have fallen on the battlefields of history because of their unerring loyalty to questionable beliefs? For those who think there is a serious danger in their own thoughts and feelings turning into obsessions, questions are probably more important than answers.
In my quest to find kindred spirits who think this way, I decided to start up a U3A Philosophy group. That was well over a year ago and, surprise, surprise - we're still going strong. About twelve of us have been meeting up regularly, on the second and fourth Wednesdays of every month, in order to question not only the beliefs of others but our own too. Questions, of course, lead to answers but answers in turn lead to more questions. You may see this as a pointless game for the pathologically inquisitive – like a dog chasing its tail – but it's been an enlightening experience and an enjoyable one too. Of course we've had our disagreements but they've never turned into arguments and everyone's personal thoughts and feelings about the subjects we've been discussing have been welcomed with interest. After all, people are invariable more worthwhile than their beliefs.
Some of the topics and questions we've tried to find answers to so far have included: 'What is morality?', 'What is consciousness?', 'Is free will an illusion?', 'A personal summary of Wittgenstein's philosophy', 'Ludwig Boltzmann – physicist and philosopher', 'The mysterious world of memes' and 'What value – belief?'
So, if notes on any of these topics interested you, please let me know (by e-mail )… or perhaps I should never have asked! However, due to demand, together with a lack of space, my original Philosphy Group, is now titled Philosphy 1, and a second Philosophy Group, run by John Dearman, now runs as Philosphy 2, again based in members' homes.
Philosphy 1 meets the second and fourth Wednesday each month at 10.30am in Members homes. Please contact John Faupel before your first attendance on (01872) 561301 or 561628.
This group is open to new members. When we started, it was just a guess how often members would come along, so numbers invited were limited to a dozen. That was, and still is, the most that can really participate ---any more and getting a word in edgeways would become difficult. But it’s now clear that holidays, indisposition, the demands of grandchildren and the like mean that not many more than half of those invited actually make it on a given day. If the nominal membership of the group reaches 20 or so, there is the risk that occasionally nearly all of them will be able to come along. But it will not be a great catastrophe if that does happen.
The April discussion group covered a wide range of topics. Perhaps the most interesting was ”Is it possible to test for citizenship?” Two of the group had tried taking the official test, and failed to pass. They were not too worried. The group will meet again at 10.00 am on Tuesday, 7th May, but will not meet after that until October.
Both groups meet in Falmouth in a member’s home. The philosophy group will continue throughout the summer, at 10am on the third Tuesday. The April topic was authenticity—acting in accord with our true nature(a theme of Existentialism introduced by Peter Marron). But it took place just too late for the Newsletter deadline.
We meet in Falmouth on the third Tuesday at 10.00am. Please contact John Dearman before your first attendance (01326) 318630, if you have not been before and would like to try us out.
Philosophy and Poker:
What’s the connection between these two U3A activities?
Well, after the Christmas Philosophy 2 meeting, the ten members stayed for lunch and six of them stopped on for the afternoon poker. Three of them had never played before… but all wanted to play again! Moral - try out this game; it may be a surprise!
The Philosophy session was light-hearted (so not much change there then). Topics were all seasonal. We decided it’s all right for unbelievers to sing carols, that New Year Resolutions did have a logical point, that it’s fine to let young children believe in Santa, but that Santa’s attitude to Rudolph (before the fog) was questionable. Advice about how to accept unwanted presents gracefully, if not gratefully, was offered.
Modesty forbids that I should say who won the Christmas Poker tournament that afternoon. But I admit to having more than my fair share of luck. Dave Crawford won the January one. Unusually, 5 players put all their remaining chips into the pot shortly after the tea-break. Dave scooped up the lot. Faced with a choice of prizes, he favoured mints over the book “How to Win At Poker”. Reasonably enough.
John Dearman (01326) 318630
Pub Philosophy Group:
We had our inaugural meeting of the new philosophy group on 28th February and agreed to continue to meet at 1.30pm on the 4th Thursday of the month at a Feock pub, to be discussed amongs group participants!
We had our second meeting on 28 March. Again it was a lively affair with a wide-ranging discussion on the question: ‘What makes some people seem innately good and others innately bad?’
John Dearman set us off with some notes that he circulated before the meeting, and examples were given of encountering bad behaviour that could be described as evil. Philosophical questions that were touched on included: free will, the nature of perception, morality (are there any absolute values or are our notions of acceptable behaviour relative, depending on cultural norms at any one time and place?) and can we be truly objective or is our thinking inevitably conditioned and prejudiced?
If studying philosophy helps us to recognise our prejudices, then perhaps we can be more open-minded and less fixed in our opinions. All the members of the group fully participated and seemed to enjoy themselves
If you are looking to join us, phone me for venue details! Our ' topic' on 25th April will be: "Is our jury system outdated?"
Geoff Burgess (01872) 862712