Towards the middle of 1995 Dr. David Brooks, a member of the UCT Philosophy Department and then chairperson of the UCT Philosophy Society, forwarded a motion that members should become more closely involved with the running of the Society. This would have the dual purpose of both disburdening the Department from the Society’s day-to-day administration, as well as giving members a bigger say in the topics it wished to have discussed
So it was that in August of that year an election was held during which I was elected the first (and, to date, only) non-faculty chairperson. A monthly newsletter was circulated to members during the ensuing two years of my term as chairperson, and philosophical topics of interest were regularly requested from members for future discussion. These would be directed to the faculty members who would in turn source speakers.
A more streamlined system could be imagined. Non-faculty members, being at a remove from academic philosophy, are less informed of evolving topics in current philosophy. They are also at a remove from the traffic of philosophers who might be visiting Cape Town, making the spontaneous inclusion of a visiting speaker at short notice difficult.
Nonetheless, the system had its merits. A number of memorable lectures in applied philosophy were held, notably Prof. Johan Degenaar’s lecture on Exploring Film Images Creatively, as well as Wilhelm Verwoerd’s political philosophy lecture on Human Scale Development Theory as applied to South African politics of the past and as a tool utilised by the Truth and Reconciliation commission. These lectures, I should think, were given as a result of direct requests by members at meetings.
After two years it was time for me to move on, and the running of the society reverted to the Philosophy Department. Thus ended a most satisfying period during which I interacted broadly with professionals of all spheres with a deep interest, even passion for philosophy. I remember the discussion sessions – some of them heated – rather fondly, and always found them insightful and entertaining.
Dr Alex Pestana has a PhD in Chemistry. He subsequently obtained a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and Economics and then an MPhil in Economics. He was chairman of the Philosophy Society from August 1995 until September 1997. He is currently an investment strategist at Sanlam Investment Management.