Society spotlight: the Metaphysical Society

Metafizz auditor Louis Roberts talks about both the academic and social sides of the philosophy-oriented society

It feels that public discourse is increasingly comprised of entrenched opinions where people speak without listening and come to conclusions that are never challenged or revised. It can become exhausting when the slightest show of doubts in your own beliefs are interpreted as a show of unambiguous weakness. Even among debating societies, it can feel that whether you agree or disagree with the motion given, when speaking you must not leave any room for nuance. It was therefore refreshing to speak to the Metaphysical Society’s auditor, Louis Roberts, about how they promote philosophy and critical thinking through a range of events spanning from academic lectures to Halloween karaoke.

Roberts remarks that “the bones of the society” are their frequent talks from lecturers in Trinity and further afield, who speak on a variety of philosophical topics. Most recently, Dr Joseph Cohen, an assistant professor from UCD, gave a lecture on the history of anti-Judaism through a philosophical lens. Roberts said that the talk “fascinated the society audience” and shone light on a too often neglected topic. Earlier in the semester, Dr Vasilis Politis spoke on how Plato’s philosophy diverges from more contemporary philosophical reasoning. These talks act as a springboard for further discussion among members.

“There is more to the society, however, than lectures and pontification.”

There is more to the society, however, than lectures and pontification. The variety of social events are also a source of pride for the society. They aim to bring together both the merriment of the Dublin nightlife with the undertone of philosophical musings and further learning. Mostly notable in this endeavour was their collaboration with DU Players, which saw the Players building “transformed into a space of learning and deeper exploration,” with everything from juggling to astrology to sign language brought together for the evening. This gave them a chance, Roberts explained, to “project a slightly less serious image” of themselves. Though it was a collaboration, it did carry the same mysterious, unsettling air that most of their events seem to have. Their Halloween Party, titled Acousmatic Seance, for example, has an event description that certainly captures the eerie atmosphere of Halloween.

“you may want to keep an eye out for the opening of submissions for their literary non-fiction magazine, Black Book”

For potential new members, Roberts was eager to point out that the Metafizz “try to distance ourselves from what people might fear a philosophy society might be, and some of the (typically male) toxicity”. If you are more partial to the social side of society life, they offer weekly film screenings on a Friday. These films range tend towards art house, with showings including like likes of Rosemary’s Baby, Threads, and Videodrome. As Roberts himself puts it: “there’s something to be said (by someone else) for the philosophical value of just watching an odd-ish movie every Friday.” On top of that, they host fairly regular coffee hours in House 6, where you can chat with members or even just enjoy their library of philosophy books. If you are more interested in the academic aspects of philosophy, you may want to keep an eye out for the opening of submissions for their literary non-fiction magazine, Black Book, which is to be published next term. Or if it is a blend of the social and intellectual you are looking for, they often have book club meetings with a lively discussion on a smattering of topics and literature.

At this stage, having heard so much about them, you may be still wondering whether or not Metafizz is the right society for you. On that note, I will leave you with Roberts’ take on the mission of the society: “Constitutionally speaking, the Metafizz exists to promote the study of mental and moral science in the University of Dublin. However, that’s an old document that doesn’t quite open right in Word: ‘The file appears to be corrupt.’ Given this essential corruption, and pretty dishonest name (surely only angels could have a truly metaphysical society), I think it’s safest to say that the Metafizz simply wants to be itself – a place for philosophy, but not just any, nor just any kind of place. I rather think the society looks for thinking and speaking kindred to its own ambiguous position, a venue for what ideas interest our guests themselves, and a venture in vindicating the value of philosophy, theory and whatever else the society likes, to the student body at large.”

Robert Gibbons

Robert Gibbons is the current Societies Editor for Trinity News.