Finding wisdom at the bottom of a pint glass; In the first of a series of articles celebrating National Beer Week, Mike Chapple looks at the boom in pub philosophy.
THE words of 17th-century French philosopher and mathematician Rene Descartes - Je pense, done je suis - translate simply as: "I think, therefore I am."
If Rene had been born a Liverpudlian, however, he may have said: "I think - and drink - therefore I am."
The Liverpool-based Philosophy in Pubs group, or PIPS, this week celebrates the inauguration of its latest forum at the Halfway House pub on Woolton Road, Childwall.
It is the seventh licensed premises to be added to the group's roster of places where members regularly meet to discuss topics from the nature of happiness to the state of justice and freedom.
"In philosophical discussions everyone can talk about their perspective of life without the narrrowness of talking to yourself all the time, or getting all your information from the television set," explained 59-year-old Paul Doran, from Kirkdale, who co-founded the group four years ago with Rob Lewis.
"What makes holding it in pubs so important is that pubs have always been the focal point of the working community. Philosophy has always been associated with academics and always considered high brow, but it's a lot of fun and alcohol helps a lot. It relaxes you, but three pints is usually enough. It's not good to have too much and get whacked so the others can't understand your point."
Mr Doran used to be a bricklayer, until at 45 he decided to enrol as a mature student on the University of Liverpool's philosophy course.
"I'm a working class man who just decided I wanted to learn something before I died, and its great when you get the tools to be able to disseminate something fruitful to someone else," said the philosophy graduate, who now teaches the socially therapeutic benefits of philosophical discussion in the community.
"For the last four years, we have been creating thinking spaces: places where people can come together in friendly, relaxed surroundings and express their deeper more thoughtful ideas about life's big questions.
"In contrast to the more shallow aspects of pub culture, many people are surprised at just how enjoyable and satisfying this pastime is. It helps develop their natural curiosity and wonder. But it's not a dumbing-down exercise. We intend to maintain and develop philosophic method and principles. All we are doing is removing barriers and making it more available and accessible."
There are now 200 core PIPS members who, besides the Halfway House, meet regularly. Other venues include The Crown, Lime Street; Victoria, Great George Street, Waterloo; The Philharmonic, Hope Street; Keith's Wine Bar, Lark Lane; Woodside Ferry Cafe, Birkenhead; and the Friday Forum, 7, Abercromby Square, University of Liverpool.
As it is believed to be the first of its kind, PIPS has been attracting attention.
This week's meeting at The Crown was attended by a study group from Leicester looking to set up philosophy groups in such places as working men's clubs.
"We've been very impressed by what we've found in Liverpool," said Lezley Finch.
"Philosophical discussion helps massively in raising ordinary people's self-esteem and confidence. It also makes people much more reasonable, which is very good for local communities."
It's lots of fun and alcohol helps a lot
mikechapple @ dailypost.co.uk
A pint and a ponder - philosophy is booming in pubs Picture: EDDIE BARFORD; Wise words with beer