Last night I attended a Philosophy In Pubs (PIP) event at The Palmeira Pub on Cromwell Road in Hove.
I’d heard about this from a friend and thought I’d wander up there for a Sunday evening pint and a discussion. The back room was full with about 8 groups of people around tables and budding philosophers had started to overflow into the main bar. I got myself a pint and sat down beside another guy and we perused the single sheet of blurb provided.
The idea is simple enough. You just meet in a pub and talk about philosophy. The organisers have thought up a theme and written some notes along with some famous quotations to get everyone started. There is no quiz and no inter table competition. You just sit and chat. Fan-bloody-tastic! A perfect repost to pubs which drown out conversation with loud music.
The theme of the evening was “Are we responsible for our own behaviour?” and the paper held various quotes. The one that struck me was by some bloke named Marcus Aurelius. It seems that Mr. Aurelius said: “Whatever the universal nature assigns to any man at any time is for the good of that man at that time.”
I think that one of the reason that I like to discuss philosophy is that I can often see all sides of an argument but Mr. Aurelius seemed, to me, to be TALKING BOLLOCKS and I said so. This was used to kick off the discussion.
A statement like this immediately raises the question of who determines what is good for each person and we hit upon Anders Breivik, a Norwegian who killed 77 people in a bombing and a shooting rampage last July. Were Mr. Breivik‘s actions for the good of the people who were shot? It seems unlikely. However, one fellow drinker was, perhaps, more even handed than me and suggested that if one believed in an afterlife then Mr. Aurelius’ view was at least possible.
We went on to consider the reasons for imprisonment of criminals such as protecting society, reform and deterrence and wondered whether, if it were possible to treat a criminal in someway where one was 100% certain that he would not reoffend, would it then be acceptable to let him go free? Even if the treatment consisted of taking a single pill? One man made the point that convicted murders are extremely unlikely to reoffend as most murders are within families and this gave me the idea that perhaps our judicial system should be staffed by murderers.
Our table eventually had six people, each with a different temperament and different political ideas which made for an interesting evening. One young man took a line of being provocative and repeatedly declaring that he was an automata without any responsibility whatsoever. At one time a woman became excited by the discussion of killings and spoke of animals and how they did not kill in this way because they had a sense of responsibility. To me this was a ludicrous statement but after some discussion I realised it had been a very useful contribution as it led us to the idea that perhaps a sense of responsibility was a characteristic which differentiated humans from animals.
One other incite I gained from the evening was a greater understanding of what we mean by responsibility and specifically that to have a sense of responsibility one must be responsible FOR something and TO someone and after some meanderings this led me to the idea that responsibility is really no more than an inherent propensity to make decisions which are in line with societies expectations.
All of this washed down with beer and not infrequent tangental foraging into becoming better acquainted and outright gossip.
A little web research led me to a PIP web site listing numerous venues around the UK where events such as these are held along with some history where a guy maned Rob Lewis claims to have set up the first PIP event in August 2001 at The Brewery Pub in Liverpool. Mr. Lewis has done us all a huge favour and invented an event which is the social equivalen of this blog.
The next Palmeira PIP event is Sunday 10th June and the topic for discussion is to be “Is it possible to be free?”