I previously posted about one of my trips to Chorlton to engage the locals in debate at the Manchester Armchair Philosophers group.The group is set up for people to discuss topical (or not) matters, and while many people do have a lot of knowledge about formal philosophy, the idea is that anyone can attend, and just discuss the topic from their own viewpoint. I always learn something here, and go away with something new to consider.

Sometimes there’s a tendency to always come to the same conclusion, because many of the people who attend come from one area and have similar backgrounds, but topics like this really open up the conversation because it’s something relatively unpolitical and it draws a lot on individual experiences. We’re similar, but we’re not all the same.

So a little expansion on the question.  Here is how it was introduced to the group:

“Do we Know What Knowing is?
 What is a fact?

Socrates said “ipse se nihil scire id unum sciat”, “I know one thing: that I know nothing”.  Was this esoteric false modesty, or an insightful articulation of the human condition?

When we say we ‘know’ something are we merely expressing the strength with which we hold something to be true, or is there more to it than that?  Can we ever truly ‘know’ anything?  If there are limits to what we ‘know’, how does this affect our justification for acting on our beliefs?”

The discussion was really interesting, and we could easily have gone on past our allotted one hour.  One of the attendees wrote up our team’s findings, which you can read here on Bubblews.

An aside: I had an interesting chat with the organiser of tonight’s debate downstairs in the main bar.  This is one of the highlights of the philosophy group: after the more organised discussions, we head downstairs to chat even more.  Sometimes we continue to discuss the topic, sometimes we’ll talk about something completely different.  But it’s always interesting.  Anyway, our conversation was about my Ph.D research topic.  And through a series of random connections we came up with an idea for a new avenue of research that I could explore.  This reminds me of advice that the Associate Dean gave us during the introductory lecture for new students: that we shouldn’t only speak to people just in our research group.  We should speak to students from all over the University, because great ideas can come from unlikely connections.  Collaboration is encouraged – maybe we could solve more of the world’s problems if only we’d talk to each other.


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