Café Philo at AF Bombay
Plato and Aristotle both held that philosophy begins in wonder, by which they meant puzzlement or perplexity. Successive philosophers have come to agree on this definition. Philosophy is skeptical and subjective, questioning the nuances of life, death and everything in between. Thus, philosophical enquiry is in fact an empirical research, necessary not only for comprehension of the world but also for social development.
Café philosophique (“café-philo”) is a grassroots forum for philosophical discussion which was founded by philosopher Marc Sautet (1947–1998) in Paris, France on December 13, 1992. The idea is to bring people together in a friendly public forum where they can discuss ideas in the spirit of tolerance and openness. There were about 100 “cafés-philos” operating throughout France and some 150 cafés-philos internationally at the time of Sautet’s death in 1998.
In an attempt to encourage such an environment, Alliance Française de Bombay organized its very own Café Philo at the AF Bombay Library. Individuals of all age groups came together to discuss the meaning of philosophy and more. Questions, contradictions, interjections and debate, the first session of Café Philo allowed people to broaden their horizons and appreciate others people’s opinions. This session took place on April 30 in the presence of the French philosophy teacher François Courcelle who also happens to be the founder of the association Philodyssée in Gujarat.
Still in its nascent stage, the second session was organised with a different mediator on July 30. These two sessions have been very successful especially because of their democratic nature. While philosophy may cover a vast range of topics, Café Philo lets the subject matter flow as best suited for a productive discussion. To begin with, a topic is selected by the majority amongst all the topics proposed by the group. As the conversation progresses, it can branch out to related fields including science, politics, literature, history and more.
To put it in brief, Cafe Philo is a modest attempt at the Alliance Française de Bombay to encourage the spirit of enquiry and to foster debates and discussions.
Aarushi Rameshchandra (Editorial Intern, AF Magazine India-Nepal)