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Philosopher RSO thinks big as membership grows

A registered student organization is growing both in membership and in mind.

The Student Philosophers RSO provides students with a learning-friendly, open community in which they can participate in philosophical discussions without fear of getting a grade.

Faculty adviser Joshua Smith said joining the RSO lets students avoid the stresses of the classroom and join other like-minded students to discuss a shared interest in philosophy.

“The current group has been keen on philosophical topics,” Smith said. “They try to get the group involved in doing more than just chatting.”

Blanket topics are chosen each month. A different subtopic is covered each week. The philosophy of religion is being covered this month.

Meetings take place at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays in Anspach Hall Room 314. Meetings begin with a brief PowerPoint discussion from the group's president, Caro sophomore Jonah Branding. If a faculty member is not scheduled to speak, then the introductory presentation leads to a discussion question.

“The purpose is to gain philosophical insight and I think from the meetings you really learn how to defend your beliefs,” said Bloomfield Hills sophomore Francesca Ferrara.

Last year, discussions were dominated by a few members who knew the topics well, Ferrara said. She and others were labeled as observers instead of participants. Since then, she said the club has improved a lot.

With Branding as president this year, weekly emails are sent summarizing what will be discussed. Links to YouTube videos are included to provide topic insights prior to meetings. Ferrara said participation has increased because of that change.

The Student Philosophers have seen an upswing in meeting attendance as well. Branding said the club started out with a few people last semester. The RSO now has an email list of about 17 students with roughly six-to-10 students regularly attending meetings.

“I think this semester, we’ve seen a big turnaround and people are starting to realize that this is something that’s really interesting and something cool to talk about,” Branding said.

Ferrara said joining the Student Philosophers has helped her get out of her comfort zone.

“You get to learn the backbone of why people have their opinions and that’s more interesting and helps me understand people better even if I don’t agree with them,” Ferrara said. “Everyone’s goal is to help each other become more educated and more thoughtful about what they say.”

On Feb. 17, the group attended the Michigan Undergraduate Philosophy Conference at the University of Michigan - Flint, where Branding presented his paper entitled “Private Language and Mental Causation."

Branding said he enjoys the unique points of view his group offers.

“I think that it’s certainly made me a lot better about thinking things through and looking at all sides of an argument before making a judgment,” he said.