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Socrates Cafe discusses, ‘Who is a prisoner?’
The first Socrates Cafe of the semester took place on Wednesday, Feb. 22 in the Carl Hansen Student Center piazza. The discussion was facilitated by Quinnipiac law professor Linda Meyer on the topic, “Who is a prisoner?”
The event was sponsored by SOPHIA (Students of Philosophical Hypothesis in Academia), the philosophy club on campus and the departments of philosophy and political science. During the discussion, students and faculty touched upon the issues of law, criminal justice and incarceration.
It is the purpose of the facilitator to keep the conversation going, according to professor of philosophy Anat Biletzki.
Meyer was approached by associate professor of philosophy Thornton Lockwood to facilitate the topic of “Who is a prisoner?”
“(Lockwood) knew of my interest in criminal law and asked me if I wanted to do this topic, and I thought it was really fun, I liked it,” Meyer said. “The students were just so wonderfully engaged, and thoughtful and the discussion was really fun and interesting, and people shared some really interesting experiences, so I loved it.”
Edward Kavanagh, professor of biomedical sciences was involved in starting the Socrates Cafe system at Quinnipiac.
“There’s a book called ‘Socrates Cafe’ (by Christopher Phillips), and he recommended that… people, not just students, people should get together and talk about a philosophical question.,” Kavanagh said.
In his book, Phillips suggests that the idea is to go back to Socrates’ idea that the best way to get people thinking is not to give them information, it’s to ask them questions and not to arrive at a preset conclusion.
After attending the discussion on Wednesday night, senior philosophy major Charlotte Morley believes that there is more than one way to describe a prisoner.
“A prisoner is someone who has been physically put into a facility or a prison, but I also think that a prisoner can be someone that’s imprisoned in their own body and in their own mind,” Morley said.
When it comes to the prison problem in the United States, Morley thinks that the incarceration rate is really disappointing.
“I think that we’re relying so much on being able to put someone in a physical place for a certain amount of time, as opposed to actually thinking about the situation and thinking about how we want to respond to the situation.”
After joining the discussion, freshman psychology major Jennifer Maldonado learned that one should not be superficial when it comes to a word like “prisoner.”
“I think you hear that and you automatically have an idea in your head, but with life there’s so many different layers that I think I shouldn’t jump to a conclusion so quickly,” Maldonado said. “I should look at the facts and see others ideas and thoughts and try and decipher that first before jumping.”
One of the main things we as citizens need to learn before dealing with a criminal is how to properly educate ourselves, according to Morley.
“I think that the justice system is taught one way and one way only when learning about criminals when there are so many different criminals in the world and in the United States,” Morley said. “It takes effort, and it takes attitude. Those are things that are so important because those are the things that are going to change our system.”