International Society For Philosophers

International Society
For Philosophers


How to form a study group

"We had our third meeting and the group to my delight is a constellation. I have a base of 14 people to pull from and from that base enough people are showing up continuously for the group to form a personality.
   "One of the phenomena is happiness. In the third unit the group was able to discuss issues revolving around awareness, will and the soul without having to agree, and without fighting. Those who are materialist and hold that human consciousness is equal the the brain and those who hold that it can exist without a body did not go at each others throats at all. Quite the contrary. Each individual was able to explore their own and the other's opinion and knowledge without orthodoxy. The result was happiness.
    "Everyone I spoke with today after the meeting to get feedback told me they were experiencing the afterglow of fulfillment which is the natural occurrence when a complete communication cycle occurs in which intelligence, and not just information, was exchanged. I am emboldened by the group. This is exceeding my original hopes."
— John Moody 6th August 2015

ISFP members who have also joined Pathways to Philosophy are entitled to start up a Pathways study group. Members of the study group need not initially join the ISFP and Pathways. However, if they decide to continue with the group they should join so as soon as possible.

The six Pathways to Philosophy programs were originally developed in in face-to-face seminars and meetings with evening class and university students. They were designed to facilitate discussion rather than for use merely as text-book materials.

The first of the six fifteen unit Pathways, The Possible World Machine includes dialogues inspired by class meetings that actually took place, and the contrasting personalities of the students involved. So this would make a good choice for your first study program.

A Pathways study group can meet anywhere — in a cafe or bar, in your own home, or even at your place of work in the lunch hour. The only requirement is a space where you will not be disturbed or interrupted, and which is easy to access by all the group members, including those who may be disabled.

Initially, group members will know one another, as friends or work mates, but once the group has got going you can advertise for more members — on notice boards, or local newspapers. Local radio stations are always on the look-out for interesting people to interview. If your sessions are going well, you will have something to talk about!

From experience, we have found that any time from 40 minutes to 4 hours can work, depending on the circumstances. Timings should be regular and predictable. If there is sufficient time, a coffee/ tea break can help the group relax and open up. If you are having a long session at home then a drinks break is a necessity, or throats will start to dry up!

To make full use of the Pathways materials, members should attempt to write essays at regular intervals. After each third unit, there is a selection of six essay questions to choose from. It can help to liven things up if members have the chance to read their essays to the group and get feedback. (Be aware, though, that not everyone likes to have his or her work held up to scrutiny.)

Pathways group leaders and members should always uphold the Pathways teaching philosophy. We value disagreement as much as we value agreement. However strongly you may hold a view, consider the possibility that you might be wrong. Philosophical inquiry is continuous and never-ending — there is no point at which any philosopher or philosophy student 'has it taped'.

The Director of Studies is always glad to receive news from Pathways study group convenors and members. In time, we will be publishing reports from study groups in the Philosophy Pathways electronic journal.

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© Geoffrey Klempner 2002–2017