Wednesday, 03 June 2015 20:00

6. The philosopher listens to the participants

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Because of a family gathering, we had to arrive late at our philosophical café several weeks ago. A philosopher friend was left in charge. The issue of that night was "the truth".

When we finally arrived, almost at the end of the session, the participants were talking about God and other religious issues. In my intervention, as one among other participants, I tried to re-direct the discussion to the issue of truth. I connected the concepts of certainty and truth, which had been used indistinctly to refer to the existence of God, and to suggest reflecting on this distinction in itself. Nevertheless my trick failed, and the discussion continued to be about God and Christianity.

Yesterday I delegated the moderation of the café to my partner, also a philosopher. The issue was philosophy in the works of a Peruvian writer. This time, too, participants ended up talking about politics and religion. It reminded me of a colleague in Mexico, who told me that in their philosophical café it is forbidden to talk about these two issues.

In both cases I thought that if I had been in charge, I would have forced the conversation to focus on the initial "philosophical" issue. I would have proposed conceptual distinctions, relations between concepts, concrete examples from personal experience to clarify these ideas, etc. On the other hand, I wondered up to which point what I usually do is always the correct thing to do. If people want to talk about these issues so urgently, then there might be a real need in society to do so. This distortion in the philo-café might be precisely the expression of the sigh of the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions.

And philosophical practice is supposed to listen to others, and enter a dialogue with them, and reflect with the others about their concerns. Even though - or precisely because - these issues are raised over and over again. This is the principle of my colleagues: to let participants speak more freely about what is oppressing their hearts.

And then again, philosophy is so much more.


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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