Philosophical Cafes: communication and dissemination of critical thinking


Dark, complex, distant, elevated, inaccessible, elitist, sober and even useless. These are some of the terms with which philosophy is usually related. However, for some years now, we can find free dialogue spaces, in which the philosophical exercise of rational and critical thinking is carried out by individuals from the most diverse sources.

In 1992 Marc Sautet directed one of the first philosophical cafes in Cafè des Phares in Paris. But apart from this little information about the beginning of this activity, we are going to focus on its operation and characteristics. A beginning that recovers and adapts a well-known tool of philosophy: dialogue.

A Philosophical Café (P.C.) is mainly composed of a group of participants, and a philosopher who plays the role of conductor/moderator. An important point is that the philosopher is neither the spokesman nor the protagonist of the session. In a P.C is not made to reach great truths or solve specific problems. The philosopher introduces a topic and problematizes its content making the attendees participants. From there, its role is to problematize and guide the course of the dialogue/debate, not to a determined conclusion, but to a reflection exercise of the participants.

The topics that can be discussed at these sessions are extremely varied. The soul, shame, politics, science, climate change, religion, taxes, money, death, language… And the list could be much longer. For this reason and for its deeply reflective character, is why a P.C is a great tool for the dissemination of what society, without knowing, is thirsty: critical thinking.

The general objective of this dynamic is to create a space of respectful and enriching dialogue in which communication flows, and the attendees have at least different inquisitiveness or points of view after the P.C.

It is a dynamic and different tool for both communication and dissemination. This way a communicator, aware of the responsibilities to society, can learn from a P.C the importance of philosophical activity and critical thinking. Moving from being a neutral and innocuous informant to a communicator who invites to reflect and opens new paths in the social conscience.

So now you know, if you see in your city a group of people coming out of a library, a big room in a mall or a university, etc., knitting their brows, looking absent but attentive, with more questions on the lips than affirmations, maybe you found a Philosophical Café. Find out, maybe next time you want to attend!

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