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Finding Meaning in Life: Socrates Café members debate some heady topics Thursday

THE DAILY LEADER / JUSTIN VICORY / The introductory gathering of the Brookhaven Socrates Café Thursday evening led to discussion over philosophical concepts and ideas such as free will, equality and determinism.

THE DAILY LEADER / JUSTIN VICORY / The introductory gathering of the Brookhaven Socrates Café Thursday evening led to discussion over philosophical concepts and ideas such as free will, equality and determinism.

“I think, therefore I am.” This familiar quotation from philosopher René Descartes is the essential foundation of the Brookhaven Socrates Café members, who gathered in the Vernon Room of the Lincoln County Public Library for their initial meeting Thursday night to try to answer some of life’s most perplexing questions.

Socrates Café meetings are gatherings around the world where people from different backgrounds get together and exchange thoughtful ideas and experiences while embracing the Socratic method: a series of inquiries that is meant to sharpen the mind and enable participants to more nearly arrive at the truth.

Café organizer Eric Kaplan has been involved with the Socrates clubs in Biloxi and elsewhere, and was recently motivated to get a club started in Brookhaven.

“This is a very informal group of individuals interested in asking uncomfortable questions you can’t ask at church or in certain situations,” said Kaplan. “The discussions are meant to shake people lose of complacent beliefs and attitudes and to reconsider ideas taken for granted.”

Close to 20 people showed up to Thursday’s kickoff meeting, representing a diverse group of age, gender, experience and opinion.

At the meeting, Kaplan collected philosophy-related questions from each group participant, read them aloud and held a vote to determine which topics to discuss.

Eric Kaplan organized and mediated the introductory session of the philosophy group. Kaplan intends to have similar discussion meetings twice a month. The club's name stems from the Socratic method of asking questions in the quest to get to the fundamental truth of a matter, or a more enlightened idea of it. The method encourages participants to seek a better understanding of concepts through thoughtful dialogue, rather than mere memorization. Socrates, whose method of teaching and inquiry is one that is used throughout Western civilization, was a Greek philosopher.

Eric Kaplan organized and mediated the introductory session of the philosophy group. Kaplan intends to have similar discussion meetings twice a month. The club’s name stems from the Socratic method of asking questions in the quest to get to the fundamental truth of a matter, or a more enlightened idea of it. The method encourages participants to seek a better understanding of concepts through thoughtful dialogue, rather than mere memorization. Socrates, whose method of teaching and inquiry is one that is used throughout Western civilization, was a Greek philosopher.

Kaplan then acted as the moderator, and at times, re-introduced the discussion topic when it strayed off course, and encouraged consideration of other related ideas.

The fundamental notions of free will, freedom, equality and choice were chosen as key topics, and a discussion of their meanings was tossed around the room from group participant to participant.

True to the method’s origins, many of the questions asked by Kaplan led to a quick succession of further questions for the group to ponder. At other times, participants held onto their perspective viewpoints as the discussion switched topics.

Copiah-Lincoln Community College instructors Brett Shufelt and Kevin McKone were among the individuals at the discussion group, and became key participants in the group’s pursuit of understanding. A number of Co-Lin students were also at the meeting, as were other interested community members.

A symbolic roll of duct tape did not have to be used on anyone either, as no particular person dominated the discussion. A majority of the participants had something to say at the discussion, good news for Kaplan and the club’s future.

Kaplan intends to hold another café discussion group at the library on Thursday, March 13, at 6 p.m.