Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

You are here

Socrates Café

abby rose's picture

I have been doing a lot of thinking and talking about our time in the Socrates Café, trying to pick apart why I left the conversation so frustrated. During our time, I was aware of the special circumstances of our meeting, a worlds-collide kind of deal that doesn't get to happen every day. We were fortunate enough to have a disparity of opinions and experiences, but I found myself very antsy throughout the evening. I want to appreciate that philsophical discussion where we could talk without looking for an answer and diving deep into thought; but the thing is I don't feel like that is what happened. I just felt like we were talking in circles and not really looking at comments with a true depth. I even felt silenced at times, both self imposed and imposed by others because I could not relate to anything that was being passed back and forth in our circle. It's hard for me to ground myself in a conversation that so intentionally separates itself from reality (i.e., we never talked about power or privilege or any real applications of freedom in our exploration of "what is freedom?"). I couldn't invest myself in the conversation or make it real in any way; this may be my own unfamiliarity with philosophy but it felt like we were speaking to each other without actually speaking to each other. I liken the frustration that I experienced Monday evening to the frustration I feel when I read Emily Dickinson's poetry, which is why I want to pick apart that feeling so much (pick apart because when Anne said the other week that she thinks that BMC students dislike poetry because they fear it and it doesn't have a concrete meaning and no right answer... I took it as a challenge to appreciate poetry in the abstract, especially Dickinson. Similarly, I feel challenged in our philosophical conversation). Dickinson's poems anger me because I don't understand them and I realize that they weren't made for me. Our conversation wasn't made for me and I didn't understand it, either. Not that I can only engage in discussions where I am explicitly welcomed, this is not the case at all, but I felt actually excluded from the conversation. But this is nobody's fault! That's why I perceive my frustration as unfounded in a sense. But it's not at the same time. I know that I can engage meaningfully in conversations where I am not grounded in reality, and where there is no right answer... So why was this space so different for me? I don't know. I don't know. It also makes me question my ability to connect with people who either irritate me or who have starkly different opinions than I do. I noticed myself shut down at times because I was so turned off by some of the things that people say. Which brings me to a disappointment in myself and with my time at Bryn Mawr, because I am always in some kind of impactful discussion it seems - I should be really good at a friendly debate, right? But apparently not! Maybe I'm being too hard on myself, but I wish that I could address someone's contrary point of view without feeling stifled or silenced. But there is no place to practice that in my day to day life. Most of the people around me agree to a certain extent. Perhaps that's where the usefulness of detaching philosophy from reality comes in, so we don't judge ideas based on others' personal experiences. And yet, those personal experiences come through in philosophical conversation in very clear ways because you can't separate yourself from your privilege or your perspective, ever. Even when attempting to speak "objectively." The separation from reality just makes it harder to call people out on their biased points of view, or their ignorance. But maybe I just need to respond to those people/moments in an equally detached manner that still gets the point across? I don't know! I am still frustrated by this! I so sincerely want to have meaningful debate, but not like that. I think I may be acting close minded and selfish.