Philosophy tackles the big issues: who we are, what the world is like, and how we ought to treat one another. If you’ve ever wondered about the answers to these questions, you’re already doing philosophy! A new group run by philosophers will help you think through these questions yourself in a friendly, accessible environment.
The Stuart Low Trust, an Islington-based mental health charity, has for several years included philosophy talks in their programme of weekly Friday Evening Events. These free events provide an inclusive welcome for around 200 people each month and offer a variety of presentations and workshops, including self-esteem, health and wellbeing, music and comedy gigs and talks from such well- known psychologists as Dorothy Rowe, plus a healthy bite to eat and the opportunity to socialise.
The Stuart Low Trust was so struck by their Friday group’s interest in philosophy that they have conjured up a crew of philoso- phers prepared to come to London to run two hour sessions in philosophy every Sunday evening.
The sessions, which take place at a venue in Archway, N19, kick off with a main speaker introducing the topic under discussion. It may be based on a particular philosopher (like Plato), or on a general idea, like the nature of a person. After a brief general talk, everyone splits up into small groups of five or six people to discuss a question. Examples include: “What is goodness?”; “Are animals moral?”; “Am I my body, or my mind (or both)?”; “What is happiness?” The groups reform as one and discuss the ideas they came up with. They are led by a questioning and probing main speaker, who takes the ideas a step or two further, until the tea break, when everyone gets a chance to relax and, of course, discuss philosophy. The second hour brings a second question and a final discussion, when the speaker may aim to wrap up an idea only to find that the participants have a lot more questions to ask!
“Doing philosophy here makes me happy” one participant said, “even though I am not in a comfort zone. Pushing the boundaries is what makes it exciting.” Everyone is learn- ing how to reflect on their own thoughts and enjoy the differences in opinions. As one person put it: “These discussions are good for both the head and the heart!”
What is the effect of philosophy for people with mental health issues? Just what it is for us all: an exciting opportunity to think freely, reflecting on the deepest questions we can ask about the human condition.
For more information have a look at the Stuart Low Trust webpage: www.slt.org.uk.