Organizational highlight: the new club encourages the discussion of ideas | Culture


Philosophy’s Dr. Leo Yan started a Philosophy Discussion Group that meets every Thursday at 6:45 p.m. in Leonard Hall 219.

Dr. Yan started the discussion group when students in his classes this semester and last expressed interest in having a time when students could come together and contemplate philosophical questions.

“Everyone thinks about questions like the right or wrong thing to do in different situations or whether you have a moral obligation to save someone who is in danger or donate to charity, and so we have already these points of view and they are philosophical points of view”, Yan mentioned.

Some students shared that Dr. Yan’s group is attractive because it lacks the formalities and responsibilities of other clubs.

Anyone can come whenever they want and there is no commitment. Joining social organizations can seem daunting to some, but participants said her laid-back style took away some of that anxiety.

“Opening it up to everyone, even if they’ve never taken a philosophy course, is good, because we want to be accessible, we want it to be available for people to engage and talk about. these philosophical questions, because I think most people are interested in this, even if they haven’t taken a philosophy course, let alone majored in philosophy,” Yan said.

Most current attendees are philosophy or sociology students, but Yan aims to attract as many students as possible from diverse backgrounds to campus.

“I first came because I was curious, then I will continue to come because I like talking to people, collecting their thoughts, introducing new thoughts and learning, said Sasha Shulman (senior, philosophy).

“Dr. Yan is fabulous, he’s just great in general and an overall cool person. It certainly helps that he leads the philosophy group because there’s more structure and his presence makes it more of a club. Dr. Yan is someone I can learn from, who makes me feel respected. I get new knowledge and the right knowledge,” Shulman said.

Dr. Yan originally entered Boston University to become a doctor, but found he lacked the passion required to take the heavy-duty courses like organic chemistry required. In first year, he took a course in humanities and discovered his interest in philosophy.

He then spent several years at the University of Missouri before eventually going to Brown University for his doctorate. He graduated in 2019, then ended up landing a teaching job here just before the pandemic hit.

“I got really interested in ethics, especially different topics in ethics and this area called value theory was my focus, [not just] our beliefs about what we think is the right solution to a problem, but having a broader understanding of the problem itself is something that I find really appealing,” Yan said.

Yan finds the discussion with his students rewarding.

“I really like talking to the students and attending these groups in a more relaxed and free session. The different ideas, questions and reflections of students are what I find really interesting as a teacher, hearing what students think about these arguments,” Yan said.

Alexander Giffen heard about the group during an announcement in his Philosophy of Mind class with Dr. Rives and was eager to discuss complex philosophical ideas.

“I’m not one to complain about small talk, but I find it surprisingly easy to spend too much time without genuine, thoughtful conversation and the exchange of ideas. It’s nice to have some time each week to have a few. The atmosphere of the meetings has been friendly and relaxed, and I have enjoyed them so far. I expect me to keep playing,” said Giffen (senior, philosophy).

“People have different points of view, which allows for the communication of ideas and rational discussion, debate and disagreement. Philosophy helps us understand how we can disagree with each other, but be able to understand each other and where we each come from, and I think that ability to do that is really valuable,” Yan said.


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