What is “Campfire Philosophy”?

There have been times over the past two year’s where someone joining a Campfire Philosophy event has become frustrated with what is happening not matching their expectations. As all the events are free to attend, and there is no fee associated with being a member of the MeetUp group, the informality and fluidity of format is a feature – not a bug – of what happens in the created spaces.

I asked ChatGPT “what is philosophy?”

Image by DeepAI’s Cyberpunk Image Generator

One of the things that I always enjoyed about campfire conversations was the lack of “gatekeeping” – the fire shares its light and warmth for all that are beside it, creating a space for those of us drawn to conversation. That conversation often wanders, can delve from the deep and serious to frivolous and fun, then wend it’s way back again. It always seemed to me that it was a way of considering ourselves, of trying to make sense of life and our experiences – informal philosophy, if you will.

The world is sitting at what feels like several potential precipices – one of those is the way in which “natural language” AI has become so accessible. These systems are coded by humans and then fed data – our data. Data about us, data we create, data about that data. There have been people working on this technology for many years, and I find it interesting to see what the systems we build, with the intention of being those systems being self-organising on some level, say about us from the data we share with them.

Philosophy has never been more important, and it has always been important, as we grapple with what “self-ordering information systems”, “artificial intelligence” means for our societies and ourselves. Those conversations need to happen in academia, but they also need to happen around kitchen tables and in the places where we spend time with the people that matter to us. These conversations are the ones that shape the nature of our society and ultimately determine how a self-driving car prioritizes when faced with an unavoidable collision situation.

I asked ChatGPT “what is philosophy?”
I think it did a pretty good job at creating an accessible answer (see below) but I also think that “finding the data” or an answer to a question is just the first step in understanding what it means – and that having conversations is great way to explore meaning. Making the journey (those sometimes meandering conversations) maybe more important than the destination (an event topic, in the case of Campfire Philosophy), depending on the day, the participants, and what is happening in the world.

ChatGPT’s answer to “what is philosophy?”

Philosophy is a branch of study concerned with the fundamental nature of reality, existence, knowledge, ethics, and other related topics. It involves the exploration of various ideas, concepts, and theories about the nature of the world and our place in it.

Philosophy can be divided into many subfields, such as metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, logic, and aesthetics, among others. These subfields deal with different aspects of reality, ranging from the most abstract and theoretical questions to the most practical and concrete ones.

Philosophers use various methods to explore these questions, such as argumentation, critical thinking, and analysis of language and concepts. The aim of philosophy is to provide a coherent and comprehensive understanding of the world, and to help us make sense of our experiences, values, and beliefs.

ChatGPT May 12 Version

If you are looking for something that is very structured and instructional, there are lots of other groups on MeetUp and the Internet is full of such offerings – for those open to having a topic to return to, but seeking the companionship and conversational freedom of a campfire conversation – maybe we’ll see you around the campfire sometime.


Published by Korin

Pronunciation: [K oh R ih N]

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