Community Issues

Philosophers’ Café begins new community engagement initiative: Book salons

Book salons are an opportunity for Philosophers’ Café participants to explore a different kind of discussion.
September 23, 2013

By Amy Robertson

Philosophers’ Café, our award-winning discussion series, added a new kind of event to its roster in the spring of 2013: book salons.

Michael Filimowicz, an SFU senior lecturer who directs Philosophers’ Café, began the salons as a way to explore a different kind of discussion format and provide other ways for people to learn and interact. He sees them as an extension of the Philosophers’ Café book blog, which began in 2012 and features books and authors from various café discussions.

He hopes the salons will also function as follow-ups to courses in SFU Continuing Studies' Liberal Arts Program.

Salons a new venue for thought and discussion

“The book salons will be a way for people to keep thinking and discussing the book after the course is over—and then others can benefit from the discussion,” he says.

Books featured in the first salons included Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, Politics of Urbanism: Seeing Like a City by Warren Magnusson, Economics of Good and Evil: The Quest for Economic Meaning from Gilgamesh to Wall Street by Tomas Sedlacek, and more.

Alan McNulty, an SFU alumnus and a frequent café participant, attended the first salon, on Tomas Sedlacek’s work on economics, at downtown Vancouver’s The Network Hub.

He says he believes it is a good way to engage the community, and plans to keep being involved.

Luis Sojo, who moderated a book salon on Eduardo Galeano’s Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent, found a number of participants were engaged in the topic. “They want to learn more, and they want to share the experience,” he says.

Moderator: ‘Books focus people on a subject’

Sojo hopes to moderate more salons in the future. “I think it has value because a book will focus people on a subject—maybe more than an open discussion. It gives them time to adjust and come up with questions,” he says.

He enjoys interacting at all of the Philosophers’ Cafés, which he has been moderating for the last year.

“There are lots of quirky, novel and new ways of looking at the same problem. I don’t think we get enough of that day-to-day. We’re losing our ability to discuss—this gives a venue for that.”

Filimowicz agrees.

“Even in this new information age of ubiquitous online presence and always stoking the social networks, it turns out that people crave in-person dialogue and gathering in real places with others,” he says.

“That’s probably actually the most stimulating kind of conversation that’s possible to have—face-to-face with actual people in the same place. The popularity of the cafés parallels research that shows that people have an increasing desire for classic forms of dialogue and debate.”