What kind of person goes to a philosophy festival?
“Teleological explanation in classical mechanics” and “political ecology and the conceptual production of technosciences”, who cares? The participants of a philosophy festival, of course! These two titles are precisely those given to workshops presented as part of Philopolis, a philosophy festival organized at the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQÀM) from February 24 to 26. Curious to know who these proponents of deep thinking are, Metro went there for a ride.
First, when you arrive there, you notice a good number of students of philosophy and other fields. They discuss together in the corridors ideas of all kinds, from the schizoanalysis of Deleuze to the deconstruction of Derrida, through a questioning of the ontology of religion in the work Dune. This last subject was also the one at the center of the presentation of the exhibitor Andrew Ankersen who was present at the event.
It is precisely through a series of exhibitor presentations followed by question and discussion periods in the corridors, waiting for the next presentation, that the festival unfolds.
The festival is organized by philosophy students from the four major Montreal universities, namely UQÀM, Université de Montréal (UdeM), Concordia and McGill, which explains their large attendance. Some of them were even exhibitors. This is particularly the case of Jacob Courchesne, a bachelor's student in philosophy at UdeM, who presented a presentation on the relationship between logic and the divine among the philosophers Rosenzweig and Wittgenstein.
Photo: Guillaume Ledoux/Metro
Among those who attended his presentation was Nathan, also a student, who testified to the value of the event by saying that it “helps spread ideas that would not necessarily be spread. It also allows you to just have a good time with people interested in philosophy and to re-establish links between the different branches”. Indeed, through question periods and open discussions, Philopolis makes philosophy more accessible than it is when it is found in complex and pointed collections.
…and senior citizens?
In addition to students, there are also people of all ages and all walks of life who simply have an attraction for philosophy. Surprisingly, among these non-students, what we find disproportionately are “senior citizens”, as one of the organizers testifies.
Of these, there are a Mr. Boiko and his son. The two, American tourists, stumbled across the event, but stayed to attend several conferences because they “like to learn about all things and think things through.”
Photo: Guillaume Ledoux/Metro
A couple who also matches the profile reveals the reason for their presence. The presence of Madame is a bit initiatory. “I haven't fully started my exploration of philosophy yet, but it's important for understanding many things in life, like our way of thinking and our unconscious biases,” she tells us.
For Monsieur, “it means taking a step back to question social phenomena and then trying to understand the basics. Where they come from and where we can go. (…) It is fundamental”.
Leaving the event, enthusiastic about the presence of scholars in Philopolis, like Socrates by the divine in Le Phèdre, we can't help but philosophize a little in our turn. What could explain the overrepresentation of these elderly citizens in Philopolis? Could it be because it is above all retirees, no longer subject to the productivity expectations of our society, who can enjoy the idleness necessary to develop an interest in “thinking for thinking's sake” pronounced enough to participate in a such event? Would people from more diverse backgrounds be inclined to develop their reason and intellectual creativity through philosophy in a non-Labour society? We will stop there because if we have learned anything, it is that good philosophers generate more questions than answers.