Everyone has a way of thinking
PHILOSOPHY’S just a bunch of academics in wood-panelled studies, sipping claret as they discuss how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.
That’s the cliched image of philosophy, anyway, but the 200 or so people on the mailing list of Swindon Philosophy Society have other ideas – plenty of them.
Philsophy, they say, is not dry and remote but something that surrounds us every moment of our lives. We believe what we believe because of philosophy – our society, economy, attitudes to others and even the neighbourhoods we live in are all shaped by it.
“Philosophy is an academic subject,” said the society’s honorary president, Chris Eddy.
“But it’s something people who are not academics often speak of having. They talk about their philosophy of life and the way they think about things.
“It’s something that any thinking person will tend to find themselves involved in.”
As a retired New College lecturer who lives in Old Town, Chris counts as an academic, although he taught engineering as well as philosophy. Society members, split roughly 70/30 between men and women, come from a variety of backgrounds.
Chairman Gerry Merrison, also based in Old Town, is a retired IT project manager in his fifties.
He said: “If I’m listening to a talk or preparing one, the question that’s always in the back of my mind is ‘What relevance has this got for me?’ “I’m not that interested in highly abstract concepts such as Plato’s theory of forms, and I guess that goes for most Swindonians, so we try to find speakers who can talk on subjects that everyone can relate to.”
The society meets on Fridays in term time from 7.40pm at the Friends’ Meeting House on Eastcott Hill. The usual format is an hour’s talk followed by a discussion, which invariably continues in a nearby pub. Meetings usually attract 20 to 30 people. All are welcome.
Gerry said: “Speakers at the society include professors, MPs, bishops, lawyers, scientists, poets and ‘ordinary’ folk who are interested in the life of the mind.
“Topics have included consciousness, climate change, happiness, poetry, artificial intelligence, politics, prison policy, atheism and belief, conspiracy theories, euthanasia and death.”
The society was founded 50 years ago at a time when there were many such organisations across the country. Of the survivors, Swindon’s is among the healthiest.
Member Neil Howard, 45, an engineer from Aldbourne, said: “Our remit is quite broad. Often topics are about things such as religion, but there are also things like the environment and feminism.”
The society has also joined forces with the Cake and Ale cafe bar in Old Town for evenings of philosophy, food and drink. The schedule can be found on the website gerry779.wordpress.com.
Members are keen to stress that the society welcomes anybody with an interest. Nobody need fear being looked down upon because their bookshelf doesn’t groan with well-thumbed volumes of Plato and Socrates.
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