Monday, 23 March 2015 20:00

1. Thinking and acting in context

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One of the particularities of philosophical practice is that we, as philosophers, do not apply linear thinking, but rather matrix thinking. This means that depending on which step we take at a given moment, the whole scenario might shift to a different stage.


Today at our philosophical café, the issue for reflection and discussion was: “Present-Day Philosophy.” For this purpose, we, the moderators, had prepared in advance several quotes of still alive contemporary philosophers who were more or less known.

After reading aloud these quotes, which everybody also had on a piece of paper, the reactions were mixed. Some participants came up with interesting insights, others made;an effort to contribute something meaningful to the discussion, while many participants started protesting because they wanted to talk about their preferred 20th century philosopher. A discussion began about what “present-day” means in the context of philosophy.

In order to move forward in such a scenario, one needs to apply matrix thinking. There are many questions to take into consideration: Why did these unsatisfied enthusiasts come to the meeting in the first place – what did they expect from the philosophical café? How far are we willing to go to include their particular concerns in our discussion of “present-day philosophy”? How will this discussion be kept philosophical? What is the goal of a philosophical café session?

Matrix thinking goes in the following way: Let’s say I decide to permit only contributions on present-day philosophy, or on the issue of what present-day philosophy means. This decision (or any other decision, such as permitting only contributions on present-day philosophy, or letting everybody express themselves freely with whatever comes to their mind) leads to a reaction inside each participant. The scenario changes. Some are happy that clear rules are established, others feel that these rules are not clear enough, others feel that the moderator is authoritarian, and still others do not want to participate anymore because their expectations are not being fulfilled.

This means that during the session, each comment does not only add a new idea to a matrix of expressed ideas, but also a new constellation of inner thoughts and emotions inside each participant. And this context of matrixes and constellations should be considered when thinking how to move forward.

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Carmen Zavala

I am  a philosophical practitioner with a PhD in Philosophy by the National University of San Marcos . Since 1998 I co-organize a philosophical café in Lima every Saturday evening. I also organize philosophical workshops, retreats, and individual counseling sessions. Together with Ran Lahav I adminstrate the Agora Webpage  since 2014. My personal website is