Friday, November 19, 2010

The Philo Café

This semester our advanced LIEP students have a wonderful opportunity to carry our class discussions into the wider forum of a monthly Philo Café, or Philosophy Café. At a Philo Café, people gather to discuss a philosophical question informally over coffee or tea.

The Philo Café at Loyola is facilitated by Dr. David O'Donaghue and co-sponsored by the Loyola Intensive English Program, by Loyola's Philosophy Department, and by the New Orleans Lyceum, a center for participatory adult education of which David is founder and director. As part of his Lyceum offerings, David -- a philosopher, psychologist, and artist -- facilitates Philo Cafés in various coffeehouses of New Orleans. 
“The Philo Café is a way of helping people realize that they’re thinking philosophically about a lot of things without realizing it,” David says. “It brings philosophy out of the academy and makes us aware that we are all philosophers.”

The questions for the Philo Café at Loyola come from the material in the Advanced LIEP Writing & Reading class. LIEP students become familiar with a topic by reading, writing, and talking about it in class; they then discuss that topic with native speakers of English in a Philo Café. These are the questions we have been working with in the Philo Café this semester.
  • OCTOBER—RIGHTS AND EQUALITY. Are there basic rights that all humans possess? If so, what are these rights? From whence do they spring?
  • NOVEMBER—SERVICE. What is service? What motivates us to service? Is there a dark side, or negative aspect, to service?
  • DECEMBER—CONSCIENCE AND CHOICE. What is conscience? What do we do when our conscience says one thing and the law says another?
The Philo Café at Loyola is attended by LIEP students, Loyola’s Philosophy Club members, other interested members of the Loyola community, and interested New Orleanians. For LIEP students, the Philo Café is an opportunity to discuss a familiar topic in a real-life situation with native speakers of English. As David O’Donaghue puts it, “Our challenge is to help the international students go beyond the specific and concrete and to articulate abstract ideas.” For others in the Loyola and New Orleans communities, it is an opportunity to exchange ideas with people from different cultures.

The Philo Café at Loyola is a rich exchange among people of very different ages and backgrounds. Our facilitator, David O'Donaghue, especially enjoys hearing the perspective of Loyola students. “The Loyola students are delightful,” he says. “They give me hope that the world is going to be in good hands with this next generation.”

Our next post will describe our Class Observation Project, where LIEP students spend two days observing Loyola University classes.

Photo Credit: Photos by Wadner Pierre
You can find more of Wadner's work on his photo website at or on his blog at 

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