Had not met with my group for a month — got turned away my last two visits. New program administrator + new lobby guard = no one knows what’s going on. When I was there two weeks ago I was told that there were no men in the school for the meeting, that there had been no call out. Found out last night that they *had* been there. They heard that I had come and could not get in, so it was some consolation to know that they knew that I had done my best to hold class. Also explains why when I walked in they clapped with fervor.
A very interesting conversation about the what counts as an original idea, plagiarism, academic dishonesty, ownership of ideas; one of the many times I wish I had a tape recorder to be able to do justice to the exchange of ideas, and particularly smart, biting observations flying around the room. One man remarked that one good thing, not two, about evaluating prison work must be that it is original, both in perspective — a real life version of Plato’s cave — and because of their lack of access to the internet. We talked about the paradoxical nature of philosophical inquiry as both detached from common sense, sometimes deliberately, as in Berkeley and Descartes, and yet at the same time practical. One man passionately defended the view that the perennial pull of philosophical questions about self and meaning and reality and other minds make it more practical than any other sort of inquiry, more easy to engage in in connection to everything else we do. Another argued that of course the fact that we’re asking the same questions could be a sign of its futility.
At the close of the two hours the most philosophically inclined of the group talked about the differences in technique between Berkeley’s dialogues and Plato’s, and how the manner of asking the questions and guiding the inquiry affect the outcome. The person most interested in these questions is going to try his hand at a dialogue between Plato and Berkeley on … not sure what yet, possibly the nature of experience. I am eager to see it.