Philosophy Fridays with Camus, Kierkegaard, and Kant

The School of Athens— Meeting every Friday, the Philosophy Club provides a forum for students to discuss philosophical texts and ideas. "It's a place like no other," said junior Lucia Geng. Photographed by Michelle Yang
The School of Athens— Meeting every Friday, the Philosophy Club provides a forum for students to discuss philosophical texts and ideas. “It’s a place like no other,” said junior Lucia Geng.

Photographed by Michelle Yang

By Michelle Yang

It all started with two juniors, an AP Chemistry class, and the chance occurrence of an Übermensch joke. From there, an advisor was found, a meeting with the principal was held, and within a few weeks, a club was born.
The Philosophy Club, founded by juniors Lucia Geng and Joshua Lee, was created to serve as a forum in which students could gather to discuss philosophical subjects, ranging anywhere from ethics to epistemology. Geng first had the idea to create a Philosophy Club last year with now alumnus Rachel An, but the idea never took flight. This year, however, with Lee, the two were able to create the club within the first two months of school. An Übermensch joke by Lee led to a conversation, and from there, Geng realized that the two of them shared an interest in philosophy as well as a drive to learn more about it, “so we [thought] the logical step would be to start a club,” said Geng.
“We realized we could really be doing this through the school system,” Lee added. “It would increase [the] knowledge of many students and really [allow them to] engage in the real world.”
In need of an advisor for the club, Lee, a student of Mrs. Johanne Lynch’s Latin 11 class, eventually approached her about being the advisor of the Philosophy Club. “I asked him what he had in mind,” said Mrs. Lynch, “and when he explained it to me, I knew it was the perfect thing for me.”
Junior Bradley Sheen, friends with both Geng and Lee and also interested in philosophy, joined them soon after. Because he liked the idea of the club, he started to produce promotional media for them of his own volition. As the official media specialist now, he “controls the output of what the school sees and…tr[ies] to make the image of the Philosophy Club more pertainable to other people.” Sheen emphasized the importance of videos in promoting philosophy to students: “Philosophy is really abstract and it has a lot of reading…I thought videos would be a really cool way for people to see how philosophy works [and] to broaden [the Philosophy Club’s] audience.” One of his goals for the club is to make simple, student-created philosophy pamphlets to be distributed to the student body.
Geng and Lee started the club with the intention “to be as welcoming as possible,” said Geng. In addition, they aim to challenge the idea that philosophy is an esoteric, useless, and boring subject. “Philosophy is the exploration of…the common link that makes us all human,” said Geng.
“We all wonder where we came from, does God exist, what is consciousness, what is the universe. I think these are questions everyone is curious about. They just don’t think about it 24/7.” Lee added, “Philosophy makes you even more human…and really changes your simple outlook on life.”
The Philosophy Club’s first meeting took place on Oct. 16. Despite being a Friday, around 34 students showed up, filling all the seats in room 401 and even forcing a few people to sit on the radiator.
Club meetings are primarily discussion-based and student-led. According to Mrs. Lynch, the students, particularly the two co-presidents, take on the bulk of the work. “[The students] have everything prepared. They lead the other students really well,” said Mrs. Lynch. “I’m amazed actually. They know so much. How is it students at this age know all of this? Logic, metaphysics, epistemology…I’m really in awe at them.” Short readings are provided beforehand or during the meeting so that students can partake in intelligent conversation. During the discussion, a few of the more experienced and knowledgeable club members serve as “moderators” to keep order and facilitate discourse. The topic of discussion varies per week and is largely decided by the members of the club.
A long-term goal of the Philosophy Club is for students, through readings and discussions, to cultivate their own ideas, write them down, and present them to the club. Additionally, there are hopes to form a team for Ethics Bowl, a competition in which students must debate ethical questions, or “cases,” posed by the moderators. However, the club is still new and a work-in-progress, mainly focusing on improving their weekly meetings and attracting more people. “I know philosophy is really confusing sometimes…but if you look at it as a whole, and you look at the ideas…you can see [that philosophy] is really applicable not only to how we live, but also to how we can live, and what we can do to make our lives better,” said Sheen.
Geng added, “I’m excited for it to get big.”