Philosophy articles

Philosophy group articles

Philosophy group report

We have been meeting monthly for nearly fifteen years. In the beginning, we met at Mike Sylvester’s house and in that venue, the group became good friends. When Covid arrived, meetings were held on Zoom, later on when everyone was vaccinated, they were changed to the spacious surroundings of the Royal British Legion near the Hayling Co-Op.

In January 2023, Mike passed the group leadership on to me. I have a tough act to follow, and I am grateful for the guidance he is giving me. We all owe a big debt of gratitude to Mike for his unstinting work for fifteen years.

After my initial stumbles, we now have a way of working where individual members lead a discussion on a subject chosen by the group. Recent meetings have been lively and interesting.

Chris Skerry

Group report

The philosophy group has been meeting now on a monthly basis for nearly fourteen years, but the last couple of years have been quite different. Covid shook us up. Since our format was simply a group of people (who became friends over the years) sitting in our sitting room (where else!), in close proximity with minimal ventilation, we couldn't continue as we were. We had covered many topics. On a rough estimate, 14 years at one meeting a month, subtracting 14 as we break each year for the Christmas/ New Year period, gives us 154 topics.

We decided to move to Zoom meetings, and thanks to Jim Norman's efforts as the Zoom Master, this worked tolerably well while the pandemic was at its height. Unfortunately Jim has had to move away from the Island, and since by now we were all triple vaccinated, we decided to move back to in-person meetings.

However I did not think the close proximity of us all in our sitting room was a good idea, so we now meet, due to the good offices of the Royal British Legion at the RBL. This gives us a large airy room and also has plenty of car parking space.

Covid has caused some changes to our group membership, one or two people didn't get on with Zoom, others had other commitments and decided to leave. This meant the group could open to new members (we had been full for quite a long time). It has been very pleasant to welcome some new faces, and we will see how the group develops as a result. Already one can see a shift (slight) away from political philosophy, and towards more non-material concepts like personal identity. The group started as a political philosophy group, but we decided to broaden or enquiry to include more social and psychological ideas, not to mention some desperate inquiries into modern physics. We even had a session on being 'Woke'.

To conclude, we are still meeting, we sit around and discuss, we select our topics democratically (Putin please note!) we are informal and, we hope, friendly, and we are in the fortunate position of being able to accommodate new members. Anybody who feels at all philosophical, and is prepared to listen to other people's views, is welcome to try us out.

Mike Sylvester

This article appeared in the Spring 2022 newsletter.

Group report

The philosophy group has been meeting during the Covid experience using Zoom, kindly managed by Jim Norman. The group has reduced in number due to issues relating to access to the necessary technology and problems of hearing using Zoom. We hope that those group members who have not been able to join the Zoom group, will rejoin when/if things return to normal. Zoom is definitely preferable to having no meetings at all, but we have found it to be more constraining than face to face meetings (there are particular problems for the group chairman, but everyone experiences the need for patience in order to get a chance to speak). That being said, we have still had some lively meetings, with Covid, and Donald Trump providing us with some obvious topics. Our regular group now comprises about eight people, and that is about the right number for a lively but controlled discussion. Much more than eight and it becomes difficult for people to get a chance to speak. We generally use the method of raising the hand to indicate a wish to speak, but in moments of excitement this discipline tends to break down!

I won't bore everyone with a list of topics we have discussed, but let me just say we are never short of topics or volunteers to start off a particular discussion. I would issue my usual invitation to anyone wanting to join the group to see if we suit you, but under the present circumstances we don't have the capacity for new members. However when things get back to normal we will review the situation and let everyone know.

Mike Silvester.

This is an article published in the Spring 2021 edition of the Hayling Island u3a newsletter

Group report

All through the year, in the background, was Brexit! We kept stating that it wasn’t philosophy, but somehow it kept intruding itself on our discussions. We talked about the rise of ‘populism’ and what it was, and ‘sovereignty’ and such like.

However the group has evolved over the year. We have lost one or two members. We are all getting older, and ill health has taken its toll on some, the most recent and sadly missed being Paul Chapman, on the upside, we have new members who bring a fresh perspective to our discussions.

We have ventured into more scientific topics, such as ‘consciousness’ and ‘reality’, how far can we trust our senses? We still follow the same format: we agree a topic, somebody agrees to start off the discussion, and then pandemonium ensues! (No, we really are very polite and disciplined!) We always break for coffee and cake and a chat, (which I think is half the reason people come) but that is one of the benefits of belonging to this U3A.

I am often surprised by the interest shown by people in the group. When we started, more than ten years ago, I was sure we wouldn’t get many takers and it wouldn’t last. But here we still are, with people still wanting to join. We are even preparing for the return of Derek Dunn after his stints as past Chairman and past President. The problem always seems to be the timing of the group (Wednesday morning, third in the month) but I’m sure any other time would clash with other groups as well.

If anyone is at a loose end on a Wednesday morning and wants to try us out, do get in touch, there may be a short wait, but we can fit in one or two more.

Mike Silvester

This is an article published in the Spring 2020 edition of the Hayling Island U3A newsletter .

Group report

This year has been influenced by the ever present topic of Brexit. We have tried to avoid it as much as possible, but inevitably we keep brushing up against it. Our format has remained the same, we decide amongst ourselves what topics to look at, and then a ‘volunteer’ is found to lead off the discussion with a short written introduction. Our membership has changed slightly however. We have lost one of our founder members who felt the advancing years now made attending too difficult.

She was always a thoughtful and lively member and is much missed. Another has had to give up owing to ill health, and two others now have other commitments which prevent their attendance. The result has been a rather more manageable group size.

Our topics this year have touched on issues such as ‘free speech’, ‘free will’ and ‘human rights and human responsibilities’. As can be seen, all these can be related to the Brexit discussion, but they are also pertinent to the theme of individual liberty and its limits. We also had a session on the ‘philosophy of war’, in particular the idea of a ‘just war’ and the concept of ‘rules of war’ (are there any?).

After over ten years of meeting and one hundred and twenty meetings, we are beginning to find new topics which have wide popularity more difficult to find. Most of us have now explored those topics about which we have some knowledge and interest. In an attempt to broaden out from social and political and economic aspects, we are next due to start looking at ‘Philosophy and Art’. We had hoped to start looking at this after March 29th, but it seems we haven’t finished with Europe as a focus of interest. So, I urge all our group members to have a good think and come up with suggestions for new topics to carry the group forward for the next ten years.

Mike Silvester.

This is an article published in the Summer 2019 edition of the Hayling Island U3A newsletter

Group report

This is an article published in the Spring 2018 edition of the Hayling Island U3A newsletter....

The philosophy group this year has grown bigger (not that the individuals in the group have grown bigger, but the number of individuals in the group has grown bigger). This gives some indication of what discussing philosophical issues does to the brain!!

Our main problem now is how to develop with increased numbers. We have a waiting list (a short one) but it is simply impossible to cram anyone else into our sitting room. We already operate on the basis that not everyone attends every meeting. Ideally the group should now split in two, but that requires another group leader and another venue. The task of group leader is not onerous. The group membership is self-motivated and the sessions more or less run themselves, and all the leader has to do is oversee an orderly discussion and make the coffee! Oh, and also try to remember what topics have been discussed and what are to be discussed.

This year we have been somewhat influenced by the President Trump phenomenon. Consequently we have considered topics such as ‘What is Truth?’ and Fake News (which has a very long historical pedigree). Some of our newer members have suggested we consider really fundamental questions such as ‘Why is there anything at all rather than nothing?’ but so far we haven’t tackled this subject. Perhaps, with the death of Professor Hawking, we might venture into these questions next year.

The group has been going now for about ten years, so we have covered over 100 topics. Given the average group member’s memory ability, we could probably revisit some of these topics in the future. Our newer members could bring fresh perspectives to discussions.

The group is clearly a friendship group as well as a study group, but the only way we can accommodate those members on the waiting list, and open up the group to new members is if we can start a second group. I do hope someone will come forward with an offer to start a new group.

Mike Silvester

Group report

This is an article published in the Spring 2017 edition of the Hayling Island U3A newsletter...

During 2016 we have been somewhat distracted by world events (Brexit and the election of Donald Trump). Being a naturally very lively group, it has been quite a challenge to stick to philosophy rather than give voice to opinions on what has caused these events. Our meetings are always a couple of discussion sessions, separated by coffee and cake, and since we all have the idea of following lines of thought suggested by group members rather than following a fixed course of enquiry, we often find ourselves trying to understand current issues through 'philosophical' enquiry. In practice this just means members suggest ideas which they think might throw light on the subject.

However we proceed, the result seems to be regularly attended meetings our numbers can just about fit into our sitting room, and if someone wants to try us out we seem to be able to squeeze them in. Besides Brexit and Trump, this year we have looked at Utilitarianism (the theory that things should be valued for their usefulness), The Rational Individual (do people always act entirely rationally?), and the idea of Freedom. We have tried to find out the effects of immigration (good or bad), and considered what elements are needed to call a movement a religion as opposed to a cult or ideology.

This year, I suspect events will suggest more topics about which we will have ideas to express, but our next meeting is going to be around the changing positions of women in our society and in others. Heroically this is going to be started off by a man, should be fun! Who would think philosophy could be fun? Only on Hayling!

Mike Silvester