Philosophy lunches with students

I’m so excited! Today, I just got the final version of the poster for the philosophy lunches I will be doing with my students, and I think the Media Center at the university did a really god job with the design. It’s finally happening!

I actually came up with the idea for these “philosophy lunches” about half a year ago, but it was the middle of the semester so I decided it would be better to wait for the new academic year. In the mean time, I thought a lot about the format (they were not “lunches” in the beginning), about the texts we would read (Japanese? Western? modern? premodern?), about the topics we would discuss, about how to initiate and moderate the discussions,  etc. etc. etc.

My idea was to create a forum where students can talk freely about philosophy, without feeling the pressure of being in a class or having to take an exam. I decided to do these lunches for several reasons:

1). I am not only a researcher, but also a teacher. An educator. And as such, I feel it is my duty to mentor and guide students, to educate them, to provide them with opportunities to reflect on things and to think about the world around them.

2). What is the mission of a research center, after all? Doing research is, of course, an essential part, but disseminating the results of that research is probably equally important. And I think we also need to talk about our research in various venues and situations and to all kinds of people, not only to highly specialized audiences at academic conferences. 

3). Right now, there is no philosophy course at my university, either in Japanese or in English. In other words, students simply don’t have the chance to read and reflect on philosophical texts, and I think this has to change. One step at a time.

4). The (selfish?) personal need to keep in touch with the field. The courses I teach at the moment have almost nothing to do with philosophy. I hope they are as useful to my students as they are challenging to me, but I must confess that having to teach – for several years now – something that is not my specialty has left some bruises on my self-confidence. I sometimes feel like I have a split personality, a researcher ego and a teacher ego that almost never overlap.

I have no idea if these “philosophy lunches” will work. Will students come? Will they stay? Will they find them useful? Will the topics and texts be relevant? Will I have the skills to lead the discussions in such a way that they are both inclusive and informative?

One thing I know is that right now I am enthusiastic about this. As one philosopher once said, the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, and I’m excited about this first step.

If you have any suggestions / advice about these lunches, please don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments.

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