Plato famously observed that “philosophy begins with wonder.” Etienne Gilson, in the 20th century, wrote, “Philosophy in its exact sense does not mean a body of doctrine, but a love of wisdom.” These are among many enduring phrases of encouragement in appreciation of reflection and thought. In the spirit of Socrates’ saying that “the unobserved life is not worth living,” many philosophical community discussion groups have formed around this country and throughout the world. Philosophy groups are no longer confined to university campuses.
Here at the Library, we launched Philosophy Forum last August, which is held on the 2nd Wednesdays of the month, in the Portland Room (2nd floor of the downtown library, Monument Square), from 6:30pm-8pm. All ages are welcome, and there are no reading assignments required- nor any prior experience necessary in a philosophy group.
Very much in the spirit of a “Socrates Cafe,” or an informal campus group (I was part of the philosophy Symposium at UMass-Boston, as a graduate student), our gatherings are essentially collaborative discussions, sharing our ideas based upon a central topic open-ended enough to invite the insights of all present! Rather than being a debating society that seeks consensus, our purpose is to inspire Socratic exploration through the discussion of the evening’s question. Thus far, our topics have included such questions as: * How do you discover and define meaning in your life?
* Do each of us have a responsibility to contribute to society?
* What are the best ways to measure or evaluate a society’s well-being?
* What determines our convictions?
* How much of the action in our lives’ paths do we really choose?
* What causes our cultural self-centeredness?
* How can we explain society’s general fascination with “the dark side?”
* What is the significance of discomfort, and what we deem to be “unproductive?”
* Why philosophize? Why ask “why?”
* What is perseverance, and why do we persevere?
* How does life exist without desire? What is significance?
* How essential are shared values to a society?
* What are our responsibilities as private citizens?
These community conversations have been very enjoyable for the entire group. As moderator I’ve been reminded of how much groups like these added to my education, and how grateful I am to host this at my place of work!
We hope you’ll join us for these monthly gatherings. See you soon!
Portland library users, we have heard your request for a non-fiction book club and are responding with True Story: A Non-Fiction Book Club. We will meet on the third Thursday of each month in meeting room 3 at the main branch from 12:00-1:00 (bring your lunch!). We will meet to discuss nonfiction of all sorts. Books about science, travel and exploration, food, health, relationships, memoir, business, civility, culture, math, society, history, poetry…the sky’s the limit! True Story will be facilitated by PPL Reference Staff.
Reading A Walk in the Woods on our own library adventure.
Our first book will be A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, by Bill Bryson. The Appalachian Trail stretches from Georgia to Maine and covers some of the most breathtaking terrain in America–majestic mountains, silent forests, sparking lakes. Many people have traveled this stretch of wonder but Bill Bryson is surely the most entertaining guide you’ll find. He has also done his research and provides great background information, introducing us to the history and ecology of the trail (as well as a couple of bears!). Already a classic, A Walk in the Woods will make you long for a great adventure of your own.
Two of us here at the library read this book while on our own adventure in Guatemala to visit and work in a library. It was an great read with many laugh out loud moments. This line from the book really summarizes our adventure:
“Life takes on a neat simplicity, too. Time ceases to have any meaning. When it is dark, you go to bed, and when it is light again you get up, and everything in between is just in between. It’s quite wonderful, really.”
Unfortunately all of our copies are checked out but there are still many available copies through MaineCat. Hope to see you next Thursday at noon!
Readers are encouraged to call the Readers’ Advisory desk (871-1700 x705), email (email@example.com) or come into the library to reserve copies of the books. If you have trouble finding the book in the Portland library system, please contact us and we can locate a book through MaineCat.