The “second Enlightenment” took a step forward at the Nerve Centre on Wednesday, as a dozen Liverpool philosophers got together to discuss life, the universe, and everything.
The session was much more free-wheeling than a typical Philosophy In Pubs enquiry, which zeroes in on a particular subject that is then dissected over a couple of hours and a couple of pints. But this was clearly the intention of facilitator Rob Lewis, who led us through an intriguing maze of topics with a light touch, introducing newcomers to the world of PIPs.
The concept is simple enough: “to allow people a space to express and discuss their ideas and thoughts, and to learn from each other in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere”. But the possibilities opened up by such a set-up seem endless, and the opportunity is precious precisely because it seems so rare in early twenty-first century society. But why is this? Well, I have my ideas, but maybe there’s an enquiry in it…
The afternoon began when Rob read from a prepared document, explaining what PIPs is, and why he believes it is important. The meeting then broke up into smaller groups for more intimate chats, before each small gathering reported back to the assembled philosophers.
Such was the variety of ideas thrown up, it took us until twenty minutes before the end to decide what to have an enquiry about. Of course, by then it was too late, but that didn’t really seem to matter. Discussions about the need for and the usefulness of philosophy, the nature of democracy, and “selling-out” all briefly flowered. By far the youngest philosopher – who was on a summer break from primary school – even suggested questions that kept Descartes preoccupied for several years!
At the end, it was clear that everybody had enjoyed themselves, exercising the parts of the brain that most pastimes don’t reach. And yet – fun though it is – the PIPs experience is about so much more than having an interesting debate. It is about self-improvement – individual and collective. It’s about developing a critical perspective. It’s about arming yourself with philosophical tools to take on the “battle of life”. And as was repeatedly mentioned at the introductory session, it is needed more in these times of economic and social crisis than it ever was before.
Philosophy In Pubs will be holding several more enquiries at the Nerve Centre, and they frequently hold others in venues around the city and beyond. See the Nerve and Philosophy In Pubs websites for details.