The Liverpool Pub Philosophers

Who we are

The PIP’s are a group of like-minded people searching for philosophical stimulation in a relaxed atmosphere (i.e. pubs, bistros, coffee shops, bookstores & community centres). Currently the venues are in the Liverpool area and are run on a weekly basis although similar groups are starting in cafes in London.

Everyone has Philosophical thoughts and as a group we would like to hear yours – whoever you are, wherever you’re from and whatever they may be!

The enquiries are relaxed with groups large enough to enjoy a number of diverse opinions, yet small enough to allow each person time to put their views across. As a contributor you can schedule your own subjects for enquiry and debate. Alternatively, just turn up and listen to the thoughts of others.

Respect for others and their opinions are a fundamental requirement of the group as it encourages people to put forward their views without fear of ridicule or intimidation.

No academic or philosophical background is necessary, only a passion for enquiry. Just turn up and enjoy.

The Benefits

Thinking philosophically generally means thinking carefully and rationally. It means thinking, as much as one can, freely and independently – you could say it’s the opposite of a herd mentality. Most importantly, it means thinking with an open and fair mind. Philosophy helps you think for yourself – to see the difference between good thinking and bad. The general mode of thinking is mostly unimaginative and sloppy. It aims at impressing people. It hates to admit it might be wrong. Philosophical thinking is sharp, creative, and careful. It aims at finding out the truth rather than winning arguments.

The Challenges

Philosophy is challenging stuff. That is, it enquires into the most awkward and troublesome questions human beings can think about. Philosophy, in that sense, is fearless and daring. Philosophical thinkers, now, and in the past, have needed a certain amount of intellectual courage to practice it. However, people in general, are natural philosophers. Every time we wonder about things, about our lives, about the universe, we are thinking philosophically. It is out of that natural wonder and curiosity that philosophical questions arise. The challenge is to search for answers to those questions, but more importantly, in understanding the meaning of those questions.

Inspired Beginnings

The history of the PIPs is rather brief and is inspired by an appreciation of the role of wonder in our life, coupled with a desire to bring about good community (social) interaction for all through shared understandings, which are wide, deep and rich. Philosophy seems well placed to bring such ideals about, because it explores ideas, beliefs and values using a critical and creative thinking method, in order to gain clarity and refinement of thought. In turn, this approach can lead to a refinement in our motivation, in our being and daily living. However, if an individual or a community is to achieve such a state of existence, then it is not enough just to understand the idea of such a life, one has to practice such a life, this means adopting philosophical habits as a way of being. It is this appreciation that motivates the PIPs as a community project, seeking to engage the community by offering opportunities, training, support and guidance for those who wish to gain philosophical enlightenment.

Setting Up

After attending a number of courses in the basics of philosophy, reading quite extensively in the subject and then training as a facilitator of philosophical enquiry a point was reached, about August 2001, when I (Rob Lewis) asked myself a question – Now what should I do with this growing philosophical awareness, with this life? I spoke with a couple of friends of mine, Paul Doran and Mike Naidoo, Both of whom share an interest in philosophy and the desire to emancipate consciousness from false ideas, beliefs and values through developing a consciousness which functions through greater critical and creative modes of thought. We decided to work together to bring about a shift in the role of philosophy, moving it away from the socially disjointed role it has, as commonplace amongst an academic elite and closer to the grass roots of community. I like the idea of philosophy as a kind of feed and weed for the community as lawn, feeding the roots to bring strong healthy growth, a flourishing if you like, and weeding out all that restricts or impoverishes that growth. So, Paul, Mike and myself gave this idea some thought and put together some leaflets and posters, contacted the media and set up the first PIP group using The Community of Philosophical Enquiry model as advocated by SAPERE.

First Session

Our first enquiry session was held in The Brewery Pub, Berry Street, Liverpool Town Centre, UK. Mark the manager was very supportive of the idea from its first suggestion and this pub was selected because it has a bit of a history as community spirited venue. Mark has always been open to creative developments springing from the community, with the pub offering comedy, poetry, live music and themed candle lit evenings as the norm. Our first Monday session was both frightening and exciting, we were trying something that was new to us and in that sense, we were all novices, some more than others, Mike and Paul had done some teaching before, although, not in this type of environment. Six people turned up for that session and after a slightly anxious introduction we settled into an enquiry into what we thought philosophy is, whilst trying to practice in an emotionally and intellectually sensitive way. By the end of that session everyone seemed to be on a high, it had worked out well and people stayed behind for a social drink or two as new friendships were formed, whilst old ones were developed further and strengthened.

Continuing To Grow

Following that first session, the group grew to an average of seventeen core members and about ten or twelve others who drifted in and out depending on what was happening in their lives. I think we were then and are now, fortunate to have regular media coverage from The Liverpool Echo and Radio Merseyside, notably, Paddy Shennan and Roger Phillips respectively, this has certainly helped to raise awareness and swell our numbers. A year on from our first philosophical enquiry in The Brewery pub saw two new enquiry groups emerge, one in The Bear and Staff pub, Gateacre Brow, Gateacre Village, Liverpool and the other in Croxteth Communiversity, Altcross Road, Croxteth, Liverpool. In addition, with much support coming from core members, we ran our first conference in Oct. 2002, ‘A Voice in The Factory of Education’ initiated to encourage educators and community protagonists to reflect upon the value for all people but especially children, in having guidance and opportunities to explore and discover as an approach to learning. This placed within a framework, which emphasised the role philosophical enquiry could play as a vital educational component, one that is currently missing from state education and other socio-cultural practices. Following on from that conference, six weeks of enquiry sessions were run at Croxteth Comp. with the lower sixth as well as fourteen teachers and community workers later attending a SAPERE Level 1 course, in The Facilitation of Philosophical Enquiry.

Where Are We Now?

Our status now is one of further emerging developments, the PIPs group has set up five soon to be six philosophical enquiry groups, with a core membership reaching sixty plus. Recently, we formed a committee, which is in the process of finalising a constitution, defining our ethos practice and structure, in order to organise our activities and developments in a strategic manner that is more refined and effective. Our plans currently aim towards drawing on the PIP members to form future committees and to help set our policies and strategies in light of our original beginnings. At present, these being: To continue to offer training, support and guidance for PIP members and the wider community. To continue to interact and share ideas with, individuals, other community groups and the media, thereby, raising awareness of the value to be found in our ethos and practices. And to work towards the establishing of a centre of philosophy, dedicated to co-ordinating the activities mentioned above and any future projects or developments of connected interest and value.

We have had some visiting scientists and philosophers to our enquiry sessions in the last twelve months and all feedback has been positive thus far. This October 2003 nine people from our group visiteed Dr. F. David Peat (scientist, philosopher, playwright and author) for a week, at the medieval hilltop village of Pari, Tuscany, Italy. David, with help, has set up a Centre for New Learning, which seems to share similar principles to our own group. Which tend to develop habits shared by but not exclusive to scientists, philosophers and aesthetes, namely considering the many perspectives and the bridging of ideas and disciplines to gain a fuller account, of and from the world? In this way, new discoveries are made through connections that increase the width, depth and complexity of our understanding. Furthermore, the PIPs group is extending the social dimension of our meetings and some of our gatherings are aimed at visits to galleries, museums, parks, gardens and rivers and/or music, theatre and movie events, etc.

For additional information write to the founder, Rob Lewis, at FappyHealing@aol.com