Philosophy Discussion Series


Mondays 6.30–8 pm

August 15 – September 19

Blue Room, St Mark’s Church Hall

250 George St, Fitzroy

What are we doing here?  A series of discussions about the challenges of living in the modern world.

In this six part discussion series we seek to foster a dialogue that brings together aspects of eastern and western philosophy. The objective is to develop a 21st Century philosophy that is informed by both the ancients and modern philosophy; one that is respectful of, yet freed from traditional constraints.

The Programme

Possible topics

  1. Authenticity
  2. Imagination and Creativity
  3. Autonomy
  4. Instituting-institutions
  5. Ambivalence about science / scientific “evidence”
  6. Non-attachment; wu-wei; action and non-action

We hear a lot about being “true to ourselves” or being “authentic” – but what does that actually mean? One implication is that there is some inner core or essence that is the “real” you, and your task is to cut through all of the chatter of social expectations and peer-pressure in order to make space for the real you to come out. Keeping it real, they say, and listening to your own inner-wisdom is what it takes to be “true to yourself”.

While this is a very popular and compelling narrative in modern society, it is only a story of expressive individualism; part of a story that set us up against and in competition with one another. To be sure, we actually do live in a society that pressures us to compete with one another, to distinguish ourselves from one another, to separate and differentiate.

But what if that’s not innate? What if your “inner wisdom” is not innate but is instead the internalization of things that you have learned?

Everything you think you know originated elsewhere. You do not have a core self, no essential self, no true essence. You are an expression of the myriad things that you have learned and experienced throughout your life. From this perspective, being “true” to your “self” takes on rather different connotations.

In this series, we’ll start by unpacking those claims and then work towards developing a better sense of who we really are, and what we can do to live a full life.

The list of topics above is provisional. I can see us progressing through these themes – but I’m also open to allowing the discussion to go in different directions if that’s where the opening sessions lead us.

There is no required reading, no homework and no assessment. There is no prior knowledge required either. All that is required is for you to come prepared to engage openly, critically and generously with ideas that might conflict with your beliefs. You need to be prepared to think differently, and to share your thoughts.

About the host

The discussions will be presented and facilitated by Dr Karl Smith, who started practicing yoga about the time that he commenced formal studies in western philosophy. For more than 20 years he has drawn on these two rather different traditions in his efforts to respond to the challenges of life in the modern world.

Like many modern yogis, Karl first turned to yoga in a quest for ancient insights that might help to explain, or correct, many of the things that are unsatisfactory about the world today. The authoritarian and disciplinarian tendencies of ancient traditions encountered along the way, however, lead to a deeper understanding of the riches and opportunities of the modern world.

These discussions will not seek resolutions to life’s great questions. Instead, we will interrogate fundamental questions such as “Who am I?” “Who are we? and “How are we to live?” and explore some of the different ways that philosophers have attempted to answer them.

The series consists of 6 x 90 minute seminars, held weekly in the Blue Room at St Mark’s Church Hall, 250 George St, Fitzroy, on Monday evenings, 6.30–8 pm.

Cost: $ 120.00 full, $95 concession

$ 25.00 / $ 20.00 per session for drop-ins

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