Geek Philosophy is our name for the holistic, Socratic method that our trained facilitators use to guide all of our book discussions. This series of short posts will present the ideas and techniques of Geek Philosophy, including how our discussions can help us to live thoughtful, examined lives. For an overview of the technique, take a look at this post on the blog for our young adult chapter, Grey Havens YA.
The first rule of Geek Philosophy is this:
Statements are propositions. Propositions are questions. Questions are more important to us than answers.
All of the discussions hosted by Grey Havens Group take the form of dialogues. “Dialogue” literally means through (dia) talking (logue). Our goal is for each participant to arrive at something new–an understanding or perspective–through talking but we have no wish to dictate the form that something will take. Through talking and listening in community, everyone gets something out of our discussions that is for them alone.
Geek Philosophy is not didactic. The role of the facilitator is to suspend personal judgement in order to make room for questions. Facilitators participate in the discussion along with everyone else but do their best to identify when they are stating an opinion and give everyone equal authority to do the same. We believe that it is not possible to instruct people in creative and critical thinking but we can model and encourage these kinds of thinking.
We believe that everyone has a philosophy of life, even if they are not always able to articulate it. This philosophy can shine through the statements we make in response to literature and popular culture. By reading these statements as propositions then helping each other to turn those propositions into questions, we reveal how much richness there is to explore in our own minds and hearts. It also encourages flexibility, rather than rigidity, in thinking. A willingness to question our assumptions and beliefs and even change them allows us to spend our lives creating a bigger, more nuanced picture of the universe.
Here is a broad example of teasing the inherent questions out of a statement. This one will be particularly familiar to Star Trek fans.
Statement/Proposition: Vulcans are logical.
Questions: Are Vulcans logical? Are all Vulcans logical all the time? How do they achieve logic? Why do they value it? What is the evidence from the text?
What does it mean to be logical? What is logic? How does logic work? How does it compare to/work with emotions, aesthetic sense, intuition, etc? What does it mean to be reasonable/ rational? What would the world be like if we were all always logical? Is it possible to be completely logical all the time?
You can see that just one aspect of a story can generate many questions and hours of discussion. It is okay and even desirable if some of these questions seem unanswerable. It is not the job of the Geek Philosophy facilitator to teach participants what to think, but to join with them in the process of thinking. That process is never-ending and full of endless rewards!
In our next post, we will examine why we take our time with the texts we discuss. Live long and prosper. #BoldlyThink.