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Community Philosophy

Community Philosophy – creating opportunities to develop thinking communities, deepen understanding, take thoughtful action.

Community Philosophy is a growing movement in which voluntary groups in civil society engage with philosophical thinking and action. It is currently practiced by groups of older people through Age UK, through Philosophy in Pubs, the youth and community sectors, and housing associations. Community Philosophy is providing spaces, resources and expertise that enable local people to join, form and sustain self-determining, democratic thinking communities. These groups have already helped many individuals and communities develop their thinking skills and dispositions, deepen their own thinking and that of others, and explore thinking as a practical tool for engagement in community and cultural life. Community Philosophy brings people together, gives them a chance to access practical, transformational philosophy, develop a thoughtful, purposeful voice, and take pleasure in these purposeful, collaborative activities.

Community Philosophy Aims:

  • To support the practice of Community Philosophy through developing self-determining and self-sustaining democratic communities of philosophical enquiry and action
  • To help individuals and communities develop philosophical enquiry as a practical tool for engagement and action in community and cultural life
  • To promote the creative, collaborative and caring aspects of philosophical enquiry, whilst developing critical, independent and reflective thinking
  • To make philosophy an accessible, purposeful and pleasurable means to the promotion of personal and community well-being

Community Philosophy and P4C

Community Philosophy takes the approach of Community of Enquiry, most commonly used in school-based Philosophy for Children (P4C), and applies it to a world outside formal institutions, namely, in civil society. As in P4C, a stimulus is chosen to assist in the generation of questions and a discussion takes place with the aim of exploring the ideas and concepts that emerge. Alternatively, topics may be chosen in advance, based on the issues that community workers have gleaned through everyday dialogue with local people or those that have emerged through previous Communities of Enquiry. This can help engage some community members (particularly those who are busy, such as parents) who may need a strong sense of what the theme of a meeting will be before they commit to attending. Topics might include anti-social behaviour, inter-generational relationships, environmental sustainability or others associated with a variety of policy agendas.

Community Engagement

Housing and regeneration officers, community and youth workers, and the staff of environmental organisations are among a growing number of professionals who speak of the value of Community Philosophy. Users of Community Philosophy know that people think better, and differently, when they think with others; they favour deliberation rather than consultation. Inclusion is paramount. People of all ages and backgrounds are considered part of the community rather than detached from it. Diversity is seen as a vital stimulus. Inter-generational and inter-group dialogue creates the possibility of real community cohesion and real empowerment: where communities participate fully in decision-making processes. In this sense, Community Philosophy aims to advance a new paradigm in political engagement.

Philosophy for Action

Community Philosophy challenges critics who say philosophy is ‘all talk and no action’. Indeed, it celebrates talking and thinking as forms of action, and ‘looking before you leap’. Community Philosophy goes a step further by taking respect to a new level: the things participants say are both listened to and subject to further questions: ‘what might this mean in practice; what might we do?’ Hence, the process necessarily involves enquiry into the possibility of social and community action, and is supportive of this action if it is chosen.

Training & Development

The Esmee Fairbairn Foundation funded a two-year training and research project in the North West of England that began in 2012. The project enabled approximately a hundred Community Philosophy groups running across the North West.  Steve Bramall, chair of SAPERE’s Community Philosophy Advisory Group, said: ‘It’s not just about getting philosophy within the reach of people who wouldn’t otherwise access it. It’s about philosophy enabling people in their own localities to join together in democratic, thinking communities. That’s why all these different groups have come together and have worked so hard on this. We’re united by seeing philosophy not as a subject to learn, but as action, a way for people to engage and change things for the better.

Contacts  Steve Bramall and Graeme Tiffany


UK Community Philosophy Network on Facebook
Undercurrent Philosophis compiling a list of UK Community Philosophy groups.
Contour Housing Community Philosophy Project   Watch Film from Contour Housing
Age UK Film
Joseph Rowntree Foundation's New Earswick Community Philosophy Project