The Meaning of Life at B&N

Hello Philosopher Friends,

Once again we had a stimulating book discussion last Wednesday, this time centered on the book, What's It All About?: Philosophy and the Meaning of Life by Julian Baggini. Thank you to those who made it. For those who didn't make it this time, we are sorry we missed you this time but look forward to your participation hopefully again next time.

To continue the discussion on the meaning of life, visit our forum here:

Whats It All About

Our next two book selections are Aristotle for Everybody, by Mortimer Adler for August and Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious, by Timothy D. Wilson for September. The book on Aristotle will give us a chance to learn some more ancient Greek wisdom including Aristotle's prescription of what it means to live "the good life". The book by Wilson, will take us inward on a modern approach to exploring our unconscious behavior. If we want to know ourselves, certainly knowing how to uncover our unconscious side will prove to be a most valuable skill. I am looking forward to the stimulating discussions these two books are sure to inspire in us.

Our next coffee house meeting will be at Shenandoah Joe's on August 13th at 7:00. No reading necessary. Bring suggestions for topics. We will pick one by popular vote. Our next Barnes & Noble meeting will be August 27th. See you there.




May B&N Book Group Meeting

Hello Philosopher Friends,

Thanks for coming to the Barnes & Noble Philosophy Book Group meeting last evening. We had a delightful and wide ranging conversation on various topics covered in Peter Cave's book, Philosophy. In particular, we gravitated toward the topics of morality and political philosophy, touching on utilitarianism, the "veil of ignorance", morality as instinct, the origin or emergence of morality, the concept of memes and the role of culture.

Next month we will be discussing John Searle's book, Minds, Brains, and Science. That meeting will be on June 26th. (Thank you, George, for volunteering to lead that discussion.)

For July we decided on the book:
What's It All About? Philosophy and the Meaning of Life, by Julian Baggini
That meeting will be on July 23rd.

I would like to thank Elizabeth for the articles on emergence which I am working through. If anyone else is interested we can make more copies. I first came across the term, emergence, while reading E.O. Wilson's book entitled Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, which came out way back in 1998. E.O. Wilson is a accomplished biologist best known for his study of insects and insect societies. Well, as I searched online just now to refresh my recollection of what Wilson had to say about emergence, I ran across a wonderful interview which I would like to share. The interview was conducted by none other than Robert Wright, author of another book I highly recommend, The Moral Animal. The topic of the interview was emergence. Here is the link:

Notice, by the way, that Robert Wright has a number of interesting interviews on his website which he as appropriately calls

Speaking of websites, I managed to resurrect our old philosophy website, Citizen Philosopher. Here you can find recordings of many of our past discussions, including videos on What is Love? What is Evil? and Is Free Will an Illusion? (Long time member, John, is featured on two of the videos, while Billie and George, who joined later, share their insights in a number of our audio podcasts. ) For our current purposes, I have added a special section to the forums page dedicated to the Barnes & Noble Philosophy Book Group so we can continue our discussions online there if we are so inclined. (Elizabeth, we could start a thread on the topic of emergence. Shack, I would be glad to explore the philosophical implications of Bell's theorem and the question of how to interpret experiments that purport to show nonlocal causality.) Let me know if you have any difficulties accessing the site.

So it seems, as Peter Cave rightly points out in his Prologue (p. xv), all things do conspire. That is to say, all philosophy is interconnected. In E.O. Wilson's interview on emergence, at one point he says that it is in his connectedness to the rest of nature (as opposed to seeing man as separate from nature) that he finds meaning in his life (around min 49). He also suggests that morality is an innate instinct (around min 59). And so let our own explorations also conspire as we investigate our favorite philosophical questions. I am looking forward to what insights will emerge from our inquiry into the mind, next month, and the meaning of life in July.




New Barnes & Noble Book Group Formed

Hello again.

Seems things have come full circle in a way. We started as a Socrates Cafe group back in 2000 in the Charlottesville Barnes & Noble Bookstore. Since then we have gone through many transformations and iterations (see Socrates Cafe, Tea With Socrates, and Web Site History) including TV shows, podcasts, and meetings in various living rooms and offices of some of the members.

Now, once again we find ourselves back at Barnes & Noble. This time in the form of an official Barnes & Noble Book Group. As prescribed by Barnes & Noble, we choose a philosophically oriented book each month to read and discuss together. The meetings are held every fourth Wednesday of the month at 7:00 at the Charlottesville Barnes & Noble Bookstore in the Barracks Road Shopping Center.

If you live in the Charlottesville area and would like to join us, please do. If you are long distance, perhaps you would like to join us online in the forum section.

I am looking forward to some stimulating conversations.



Live Monthly Dialogues Suspended

Hello My Philosopher Friends,

I have good news, bad news, and good news.

First the good news, (well good for me anyway). As some of you know, I have been moonlighting evenings and weekends as a premed science tutor at the University. Well it seems someone must have said something nice about my tutoring because now I literally have every evening and every weekend totally booked for the foreseeable future. I'm not complaining because I need the income. My other business, IQ Imaging, has suffered recently for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the general economic down-turn nationwide.

So the bad news is that I have decided to suspend our Thinking Out Loud meetings until further notice. I have really enjoyed our philosophical conversations and I will miss them. However, when deciding between philosophy and making a living, I must choose the latter. It's not just about the one evening a month of lost revenues but also the hours I would also lose preparing the podcast after our meetings. It would simply cost me too much.

But the other good news is that the Citizen Philosopher web site has a well functioning forum up and running. Steve Stokes and I broke it in with gusto after our last conversation on "being perfect", with a little help from Jerry Huml as well. I encourage all of you to visit the forum and carry on the conversation. You can add your two cents to an existing conversation or start a new one. (Luke emailed me recently and brought up the question of "the extended mind". If anyone wants to discuss "what is the mind and where is it located", the forum would be a good place to do it.) So I hope you take advantage of the web site to stay in touch with each other and to stimulate each other's philosophical musings.

So ciao for now. Hope to see you online and looking forward to our real-time rendezvous next summer.



Podcast Posted - Human Perfection

Greetings Citizen Philosophers,

The latest Thinking Out Loud podcast, recorded last Wednesday, Sept 3rd, has been released on iTunes. The topic was:

"What would it mean to be perfect?"

Participating were Deborah Martin, Steven Stokes, and Frank Ebbecke in cyberspace and Carole Abel and myself in the Charlottesville public library space. This represents a new milestone for Thinking Out Loud. We had, for the first time, more cyber guests than local participants. I was especially pleased to see the return of Carole Abel and Frank Ebbecke, both veterans of our original philosophy group which formed many years ago. Frank has since moved to San Antonio, Texas, and Carole moved to the country but still works in Charlottesville. Neither of them had graced us with their insights for quite awhile and I am so please to have them back in the fold. Welcome back, Carole and Frank.

For those of you who couldn't make it to the live discussion, you can read the synopsis and listen to the recording here:

As always, your afterthoughts are most welcome. Please make use of the online forums on this web site.

Finally, mark your calendars. The next Thinking Out Loud will be Wednesday, October 1st, at 7:00 pm. We will select a topic at the beginning of the next session as usual. Hope to see/hear you then, if not sooner.



If you have iTunes, you can find us listed in the Apple Music Store directory under Podcasts/Society & Culture/Philosophy, or just do a search in iTunes on Thinking Out Loud People. The direct iTunes link is:

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