Section: Features

Philosophy department brews tea-riffic conversation and fun 

Philosophy department brews tea-riffic conversation and fun 

ALINA GAO AND REINA HE

Every Thursday from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m., Kenyon students come to the second floor of Oden Hall to join Philoso-tea, a weekly get-together hosted by the Philosophy department. Here, they engage in a vast array of thoughtful conversations while enjoying an equally diverse assortment of snacks and tea.

According to Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy Alexandra Bradner, the department set out to create an “academic home outside of class” — a blend that benefits students both socially and academically — where they can discuss with others topics of their choosing through a philosophical lens. 

Before Philoso-tea, there was its precursor — according to Bradner, the Philosophy department used to organize regular lunches where students could decide on a topic and discuss it. This was before the pandemic, when the offices of the Philosophy department’s faculty were scattered across several floors of Ascension Hall. Once the pandemic was over, and the Philosophy department moved to a concentrated space in Oden Hall, Philoso-tea was created as a celebration of a new beginning for the department. “So we’re just thinking that [Philoso-tea] would be a nice way to encourage students to come and find out where the new philosophy department is, and also for the department to think about itself in a unified way, [a] cohesive way,” Bradner said.

Philoso-tea is an open event that welcomes any student on campus. Anyone present at Philoso-tea can approach the circle of participants bustling with chatter that huddles around the treat table, and they will find the circle opening up a space for them to join. Here, they will find themselves along for a ride of shifting topics with various degrees of weightiness.

Some of the discussions are dedicated to what one might consider typical philosophical conversations. For instance, recently, one of the topics on the table was the morality of killing, for which an attendee offered a comparison with the Aztec culture’s sacrifice ritual. Accompanying these more serious conversations are the students’ colloquial yet accurate interpretations of philosophers’ theories (often presented quite humorously). Hegel, Horkheimer and many others were name dropped, punctuated by occasional puns — “He ‘reKant’ it,” a student quipped in last week’s gathering. Disagreement is inevitable, but that’s part of the charm: “I think we’re just enjoying the process of arguing over each other,” said Alina Gao ’26. 

The interests of the participants are also grounded in the academic and political concerns immediate to them. The conversation at Philoso-tea might start with the casual discussions about upcoming papers or events hosted by Philosophy Symposium, or about courses that attendees are taking or interested in taking. From this, the conversation can roam in any direction. It can either go smaller in scale, more into the direction of friendly talk; a discussion about the course Existential Themes in Film, Art and Literature (PHIL 250) can swiftly lead to a debate on the best Sylvester Stallone film. Or the topics can increase in gravity. Discourse concerning academia is frequently on the (tea) table — for example, the “Ungrading” movement that raises questions on how to assess a student’s academic progress without the reliance on traditional grading. Political topics are also staples: “Sometimes we’ll talk about political events that are happening. Sometimes we’ll talk about political events that aren’t happening,” Bradner said. Or a mix of both, such as the accessibility problems at Kenyon. The students particularly enjoy this flexibility compared to more structured discussions in class: “It’s like every time you open the box, there’s a surprise,” Gao said. 

Philoso-tea is also a good opportunity to foster the relationship between Philosophy department faculty and students. On her favorite part of Philoso-tea, Bradner responded, “The most interesting conversations for me when I’m finding out like, do students ever get off campus? What do you like to do in your spare time? How much time do you spend with your activities? Where are you going on your break?” And when asked a similar question, Gao answered: “Making bubble tea together with your professors is really fun.” 

Philoso-tea is hosted every Thursday from 4 to 5 p.m. on the second floor of Oden Hall. 

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