The Carolina Philosophy Club recognizes the value of differing ideas and invites students to contribute to discourse in a casual, welcoming space revolving around themes that have puzzled experts for centuries.
As a small organization, the club sometimes struggles to promote itself on a large campus, but according to its president Jacob Stewart, the Carolina Philosophy Club welcomes students of all backgrounds.
Stewart is a fourth-year math and psychology student who joined the Carolina Philosophy Club his sophomore year when none of his freshman year involvements seemed to stick. Stewart said that during his first meeting, he met interesting people and felt that the club allowed him the opportunity to express lingering thoughts.
“People were discussing things that I was always thinking about, but I was never in a circle where people would actually talk about it,” Stewart said.
Jacob Stewart's younger sister, Krista Stewart, a second-year biomedical engineering student, serves as the club's treasurer. She heard about the organization through her brother in high school, which led her to join her freshman year at USC.
Unlike her brother, Krista Stewart remembers feeling overwhelmed at her initial meeting. The debate centered on what life meant, which Krista Stewart said made it difficult to participate in the discussion. However, the anticipation of what would come up each week convinced her to stay active.
“I’ve never had a week come up where I didn’t find one of the topics interesting," Krista Stewart said. "Just being able to hear someone else’s perspective, and that opens the floodgates to questions that you might have."
Vice President Emily Heater, a second-year international business and economics student, was already interested in the subject, so she searched for organizations related to philosophy the summer before attending USC. She said her first meeting reminded her of a class Socratic seminar but with interesting topics and passionate participants.
“I really like the type of people that you meet in philosophy club. I think everyone brings really diverse perspectives. It’s a really open-minded group of people, and that’s something that I value,” Heater said.
The organization encourages its members to freely express their ideas through informal and winding discussions.
During the meetings, members arrange their chairs in a circle and choose an area of interest to explore. A basic question on that subject starts their conversation, and the group is encouraged to ask the first contributor follow-up questions to keep the ball rolling.
Previous meetings have included discussions on animal rights, education, sustainability, the "self" and more. Because meetings are less focused on formally exploring philosophy, discourse can go in any direction and be guided by any member. The club's participants are encouraged to contribute their ideas regardless of their levels of expertise.
“It’s more of an emphasis on how you think than what you know,” Heater said.
The organization also gives participants the opportunity to work on articulating ideas, speaking in public and practicing open-mindedness. Heater recommends that people join to develop these skills for future jobs.
"Everybody's looking for people who can critically think," Heater said.
Any students interested in joining Carolina Philosophy Club can find more information on their Garnet Gate page or attend a meeting, which are every Tuesday at 7 p.m. on the second floor of Petigru.