Planning And Execution of A Local Group

  • Most of the writing I have done on this topic so far is here: http://www.epicureanfriends.co…/meetings_and_conventions That link contains links to the Sydney meetup page, which is probably the first place to look for ideas. For ease of reference below is what it says as of 1/8/18. I will work to update that page as we make progress in discussing the topic here.

    Epicurean Meetings and Conventions


    New: Meetup Handouts

    In most parts of the world, there are at present very few opportunities for regular people who are interested in Epicurus to get together to meet each other in person. This is a major problem, as Epicurus emphasized the both the value of friendship and the value of students studying philosophy together with like-minded friends..


    A significant part of the problem is that there are few mechanisms to help people find their way to Epicurean philosophy on their own. The odds are stacked against regular people doing so in large numbers, in part because the academic world, with help from misguided fans of “stoicism,” “hedonism,” “humanism,” and related “-isms,” has labeled Epicurus as a philosophy for losers, misfits, loners, and recluses.

    Important steps have been taken in recent years toward freeing Epicurean from the cage of the university classrooms. As a first step toward personal engagement, we now have available to us a Facebook group led by people who share a genuine and primary interest in Epicurus. At the Epicurean Philosophy Facebook Group, learning about Epicurus is the true focus, and not just a front or a come-on to some other philosophical agenda. However Facebook is only a part of real life, and many of us who communicate there share the goal of attending local meetings and even conventions on a regular basis.



    There are several existing prototypes which provide us a model for future action. In Greece, the friends of Epicurus in Athens and in Thessaloniki meet regularly. Their yearly convention and regular meetings are documented on their web page, and these are excellent resources .


    In Sydney Australia there is an active "Meetup" group which has existed since 2011 and has proven to be very active.. Check that page for a listing of all their prior meetups, including the agenda they followed for each meeting. What better example for those interested in starting their own local meetings?


    Experience indicates that it is readily possible to get together several people in Meetup format who are generally interested in “philosophy.” The trick is to find the determination and perseverance to keep things focused on Epicurus as the theme. There are strong temptations to wander into “atheism” or “humanism” or “stoicism” or even “political activism,” and those distractions must be resisted if the group is to stay focused on Epicurus. There is no membership database of existing Epicureans from which to draw, but it is probable that almost any metropolitan area of any size would support a Sydney-style meetup group if even one or two people act with determination to keep the meetings on track and recognize that attendance will likely remain small for an extended period.


    In addition to using the Sydney Meetup group page as an example for meeting agendas, there are other obvious ways to program a series of meetings. There are several recent books which could be used as a “book club” format to discuss a chapter at each meeting. Haris Dimitriadis' "Epicurus and Pleasant Life" is well organized for that purpose as a balance between introductory theory and practice. Norman DeWitt's "Epicurus and His Philosophy" can be used to structure a series of meetings on Epicurean theory, and Hiram Crespo's "Tending the Epicurean Garden" provides a good way to structure a series of meetings on Epicurean practices.


    Because so few embrace the label of Epicurean on their own, a new generation of Epicureans must be developed who will say with Thomas Jefferson that “I too am an Epicurean.” The critical first step toward enlarging those numbers is content creation. Before we can ask others to join with us in Epicurean meetings, we first have to be able to set out ourselves what it means to be an Epicurean and to study Epicurean philosophy..


    We already have in place some excellent websites to assist leaning about what it means to be Epicurean. For a simplified list of core Epicurean ideas, see Major Characteristics of the Epicurean View of Life and the summary_of_epicurean_philosophy on this website. In addition to the material cited already, Haris has set up EpicurusPhilosophy.com in support of his book, and Hiram has published his SocietyOfEpicurus.com as part of his work. Many additional resources are available at NewEpicurean.com

    Local Meetups do not require anything more than the Sydney Meetup prototype, but the more extensive websites can be used as examples for producing pages dedicated to promoting and coordinating local meetup and wider convention activity. For a current list of activist Epicurean websites from around the world, click here. For a great example of what kind of meeting activity is possible, check out this page detailing the February 2017 Symposium in Athens.

    Let's get started and keep moving forward! If you are interested in setting up a local Meetup group, or working toward a regional convention, please be sure to let us know by posting at the Epicurean Philosophy Facebook Group.

  • Cassius

    Changed the title of the thread from “Planning And Execution of A Local Meetup Group” to “Planning And Execution of A Local Group”.
  • I am about to conclude that using Meetup as a method of setting up a local group is a dead end. I think Hiram reported something similar, and I know that my own efforts have yielded nothing. I also gather that Elayne's success has been limited.


    Possibly the issue is that the type of person who frequents Meetup is just a casual user looking for something superficial (like Stoicism at the deepest). Even if such people attend an initial meeting or two, they are likely to drop away when they find that Epicurean philosophy challenges them in an uncomfortable way.


    In my case I made very clear on my opening Meetup page that the group was not general philosophy, and not Stoicism, and gave details about what it is about. If that scared away people and caused the lack of response, then so be it. Even with that, I got notifications that eight people indicated interest, but I could never get anyone to commit to an organizational first meetup. Probably what's necessary is to go ahead with at least two people (preferably three) at a public restaurant, and then see who is too shy to reply, but actually shows up.


    I suppose Meetup can be one arrow in a quiver to use, but relying on it as a primary tool is probably not a good idea.


    Which means alternate methods need to be developed.

  • There were two people in my Meetup group, out of several who signed up and fewer who actually came, whom I thought might work out... and that would have been ok to start with. Even ONE actual Epicurean in my area would be great, lol! But after we met a few times, it became clear we were not anywhere near to being on the same page, and that they were not willing to spend the time to study on their own between meetings. That wouldn't be so much of an issue if I had a core group to start with, of at least somewhat similar perspectives.

    Given the preponderance of competing philosophies, it may be much harder than I had thought to find people who are open to this philosophy, much less people who already get it.

    One mistake I made was that the group was not set up in a hierarchical manner. This is mainly because I consider myself a self-led person, but I dislike having followers... I prefer other self-led friends. In the past, when I have done public political things, a crowd of almost groupie-like people tried to glom onto me, and it was quite irritating-- they were more interested in some kind of weird hero worship than they were in doing anything substantial themselves. They didn't treat me like a real person but more of a projection. So I did not set things up where I was clearly the leader of the meetup group--- I wanted it to be more lateral than vertical. But that doesn't work well when the others are so unfamiliar with the subject matter.

  • I think what is coming into focus is that in terms of real-life meetings, we're almost going to have to find a way to do some shotgun style advertising to draw as many people as we can into what may almost be a lecture-like environment, and hope that maybe 5% or some very small number will have enough interest to come out.


    I am thinking that Meetup is so heavily oriented to a "lonely-hearts club" type person (and I am not criticizing that) that the people we will find there will be even less motivated - maybe substantially less motivated - than facebook.


    It might take targeting a very large community (like Atlanta in my general area) and then using meetup maybe for logistics but plan to find a way to solicit interest from local philosophy departments / schools / colleges and even looking for local facebook groups (if they exist). In other words looking for a wider variety of places to advertise so that we aren't just relying only on Meetup.

    When I was younger meeting notices for such things used to be placed in Libraries and other gathering spots but I am not sure that works anymore.

  • Facebook, Google and Bing ads allow for targeting people who search for a specific word online in a specific location (for instance, all the people 30 miles away from Chicago who search for the word "Epicurean"). This would be focused enough to attract likely candidates.


    But since we lack visibility, I believe that true, sincere Epicureans should be writing more content also for outside outlets who are friendly, like my articles for The Humanist magazine, for infidels.org, Ateístas de Puerto Rico, etc. all of which have slowly expanded the presence of Epicureans online. If we have more English-speaking intellectuals engaged in the public sphere showing people how much moral guidance Epicurean teachings can furnish to modern problems, people will start seeing us as part of the national conversations.


    This is a somewhat passive model of recruitment still. In antiquity, the Garden placed statues (if we are to believe "The Sculpted Word") in key places to attract converts. We have to figure out contemporary alternatives to that. Meme publication only attracts superficial sympathy initially, with few guarantees. A proliferation of Epicurean articles may attract people with more substance. Becoming columnists and contributors in sites like Patheos and others might be one way to do it. If we have at least 2-3 bloggers of this sort with a sustained presence for a few years, this may change the paradigm and have many more looking into Epicureanism. I think Elayne might be the perfect candidate for this because she needs to start building a platform for when she is ready to publish her book.

    "Please always remember my doctrines!" - Epicurus' last words