Tell us about the philosophy programs that you run. Who participates and what are the workshops like?
In early 2013, we started a Philosophy for Elders program in Croatia, which was an experiment in doing philosophy with people who had no background in philosophy whatsoever. Our idea was to include elders in a program which could help them better express their views and ideas about the world, which would include them in social activity, since they didn’t have many activities in this rural area. Participants were farmers, retired designers, policemen, teachers, journalists and they were getting along really well. We did workshops on argumentation, conceptualisation, connections between philosophy and traveling, and painting. We did a workshop on zen philosophy and also a philosophical cafe.
Nowadays, at the Croatian Society for Philosophical Practice, we are doing philosophical cafes and philosophical walks, together with individual philosophical counselling, mostly with young people, while we are trying to start new programs for elders as well. We have also been invited in high schools to give workshops to train both kids and teachers, and we are trying to expand our work with private companies.
What inspired you to start these programs?
I was mainly inspired by other philosophical practitioners who practiced different methods by which they helped their communities. I believe that philosophers should engage in many different practices and combine new approaches with different groups. Of course, some people and practices can influence our work, but I think that we should develop our ideas further and constantly work on something new. Instead of writing about what Plato, Hegel, Wittgenstein wrote, we should really be original as they were and create our own ideas.
Fortunately, there are many different approaches now in which we can engage and this gives new opportunities for young philosophers. For instance, some don’t see themselves working in academia. They can create own companies and new jobs, and this is what is so great about philosophical practice.
What has been the reaction to them? What kind of positive changes have you seen in the community?
So far, we mostly have positive reactions to what we do. We have had a lot of support from organisations we work with and also the media follows our work. We are trying to present our work in the best possible way, but always just as it is. Our experience has shown that it takes time for people to recognize what we are doing – but once they do, it is exactly this story of positive change that matters.
In Croatia, philosophy is a dirty word and if you want to insult someone by saying that he/she talks too much gibberish, you call them a philosopher. This is what we are trying to change – to change the public view of philosophy as something bad, into a love for wisdom, which it truly is. This is what our participants often tell us after a workshop – that this philosophy thing isn’t such a bad idea after all, that it is really useful and that they liked it very much. Of course, we don’t expect everyone to like it, but those who do like it, are always eager to philosophize more.
What is on your wish list for the future? What would you like to see happen with your programs over the next five years?
I really do have many wishes for the future of philosophical practice, not just in Croatia, but also globally. I do hope we will be able to promote and do more of philosophical walks and individual dialogues. I also want to introduce these programs to areas where nobody has done it. We are constantly meeting new people from around the world and I would like to see more cooperation within our philosophical community. Also, at more local level, I hope we will be able to impact the lives of everyday people and change them for the better, since this is something philosophy has always done for people – philosophizing makes us wiser, and I think that is the goal we all should strive for.
Zoran Kojcic is a philosopher and author. He teaches ethics and literature and he is founding president of Croatian Society for Philosophical Practice. He gives individual philosophical counselling and walks, organizes philosophical cafes and workshops for schools and organisations. Zoran has published papers on philosophical practice and participated in several international conferences. He participated in many philosophical projects, such as Philosophy Summer School (Croatia; 2012, 2013), Art of Democracy, Scientific Incubator and others, and also currently works as PR for the Philo-Practice Agora Project.