(October 5, 2015)
Centenary community members create new philosophical discussion group
SHREVEPORT, LA — When Becky Lehr '10 recently returned to Shreveport, she found that she craved the same kind of intellectual stimulation that had defined her college years at Centenary, particularly in philosophy courses she took with Dr. Chris Ciocchetti. The new Shreveport Philosophical Forum, a monthly discussion group open to all interested community members, was the result.
"I wanted a place in Shreveport where people with diverse experiences and opinions could discuss a variety of issues outside of the polarizing effects of social media or activist forums," said Lehr. "Passion for issues is good, but to achieve any sort of progress, we need to practice thinking critically, understanding multiple perspectives, and being comfortable discussing these things among peers and strangers."
Ciocchetti and Lehr created the Philosophical Forum over the summer. The group has gathered to discuss topics ranging from abortion to race to the media. The September meeting tackled the question, "Why have children?," and members will discuss the concept of a good death on October 21 from 6:00-8:00 p.m. in Room 203 of Centenary's Smith Building.
The group collectively chooses discussion topics of general interest that also provide rich material for philosophical inquiry. Chris Ciocchetti facilitates the meetings, leading discussion and posing questions that encourage the participants to clarify their points and push deeper into the issues.
"The Philosophical Forum opens up an important intellectual space in our community specifically because the group's purpose is not activism," said Ciocchetti. "The goal is to understand a specific issue and each other better, not to bring about a change in legislation or attitudes. The participants are drawn together by their "love of wisdom," which is literally what philosophy means."
The Forum meetings have so far included a small but diverse group of participants, including two who drove from Houston to attend the discussion on abortion, and Shreveport City Councilman for District A, Willie Bradford, who participated in the discussion on race. Now that fall classes are back in session at Centenary and across the area, Ciocchetti and Lehr hope that students will also bring their perspectives to the group.
"The biggest surprise so far has been the tangible excitement with which people are responding," said Lehr. "We already have a devoted core group who are seeing growth in themselves by contributing, but I also want to be more accessible to underserved populations. I know I stumbled into an interest in philosophy through luck and curiosity. Plenty of Shreveport has the curiosity and needs a nudge on the luck."
"I believe that Centenary has an obligation as part of its mission to use its time, resources, and expertise to host these ideas," added Ciocchetti.
Shreveport Philosophical Forum meetings are held on the third Wednesday of every month on the Centenary campus, and are free and open to the public. Visit the Philosophical Forum on Facebook for the updated topics and schedules.