After a number of years of enjoyable evenings held twice a month to discuss, argue and debate all things philosophical, the idea of discussing how a meeting itself should be carried out came about.
On the whole things were going rather well although there were some disagreements from time to time about what can and can’t be allowed. I saw that a few members left from time to time citing reasons that I felt were really polite ways of saying that they didn’t like the conduct of the meetings.
If you get a bunch of philosophers using their arguing skills to try and decide what form the meetings should take you soon get a heap of acrimony. Some will say that we ought to keep things objective rather than subjective, avoid talking about a particular person’s personal take on an issue. Others see the value in someone’s personal experience. Some like a chairman for the night, others object to it.
To cut a long story short a formula based on taking it in turns is one answer. There are no rules, you can use whatever tactic you like but try and back off if someone appears to be uncomfortable about being questioned about their own personal thoughts.
Each member gets a turn at either formulating a question, or simply setting a topic / theme for the evening. If it is a question, then they and they alone devise the wording and highlight the real issue they are interested in. If they want a chairperson, then so be it. It will be for that evening only. If someone raises a topic and someone else devises the question, then the subject of discussion can be shifted away from what that person is really interested in. Hence why you are given the freedom to pinpoint your area of interest but solely for ‘your’ night.
It is so easy to say “that is not philosophical”, “that is not allowable” or “that has little in the way of argument to support it”. You may just have a vague poorly considered hunch but a good group will draw out your idea rather than shut it down.
Give people their turn and ensure midway through the meeting that the discussion is heading in the right direction, the direction they wanted. Some meetings may not be entirely to your liking but on your go you can show them another way. If others like it, they will adopt it for their night too because of its potency rather than have it forced upon them.
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