It dawned upon the Membership Committee that New Orleans just may not be into conventional academic philosophy, but that there were a number of unsung philosophers out there that needed to be discovered. It's like the new veins of literature and music that get found, and ultimately lionized. But how to tap this unreported resource? Well, reading the Letters to the Editor for The Times-Picyaune or Gambit did not seem to provide any culprits.
So they decided to try a different tack: Hold an Open Meeting for all interested in philosophy, where anyone could come up to the mike and give a short presentation. As a special inducement, they got a NEA grant to fund the meeting, using a sizeable amount of the funds to provide catering for the hungry philosophers who were likely to show up.
And to ensure that it would have street cred for philosophy, they got the Lucky Dog Guy to cater the event. Yes, this Bourbon Street homespun philosopher dispensed hot dogs to hungry members of the audience.
So the meeting started slowly, with some piddle about deconstructionism and utilitarianism. The usual suspects from UNO, Tulane, and Loyola made their appearances, as did one from LSU; they strutted and fretted their fifteen minutes on the stage, and then things got weird.
Now weird is normal in the French Quarter. Even if the locals were not up to it, some tourists could rise to the occasion, as much as the N.O.P.D. guidelines allow. Still, things kept on a philosophical level.
Crazy Chester gave his take on Utilitarianism: "Whoa! That Jeremy Bentham must have been one cold dude, with that Auto-Icon. Did he figure that people wanted to see his stuffed self fifty years after? And Utilitarianism has some cool notions: maximizing happiness and minimizing suffering. Still, he was ahead of his time, being for women's rights and against slavery. But animal rights? Do the pigeons in Jackson Square have a right to poop on weddings at the Basilica?"
The Lewd Dude did a short one: "Maximizing happiness means inexpensive drinks, public nudity, and no foul if you take a nap in Pirate's Alley." Some members argued that happiness involved more than that, perhaps beignets and coffee, or an oyster po-boy for lunch. Apparently, there was a loyal following of Epicurus locally that our not-so-innocent Hoosier tapped into. They recommended Pere Antoine's Alley instead.
Random Ralph presented a spirited discourse on why "Bet I can tell where you got your shoes" is not a street scam, but a discourse on the ultimate essence of reality. Several of the academic philosophers felt vindicated afterwards, as they had been taken in by that routine in the past.
Megan, the bikini barista,* gave a short discourse on the relative superiority of using Pet milk instead of whole milk or skim milk in lattés. Some native Orleanians were pleased that she was still old school despite her minimalist costume.
Next, a long-term Saints fan gave testimony that the works of Marcus Aurelius helped him through the long drought of Saints failures. He admitted that longneck Dixies helped as well.
An errant Baptist minister and a Jesuit priest had a mini-debate on the merits and demerits of scrupulosity. The Jesuit was the one who argued against scrupulosity. That figured; they had been accused of being without scrupules. (Not the same thing: scrupulosity is sort of religious OCD.)
It was time for Suzette, the Existential Stripper to have her moment. While she was initially wearing her dressing room robe, it became open during her discourse and perhaps detracted from her two major syllogisms on 'Zen and the Art of Pole Dancing.' She apologized, and said that she had to be present in between sets, and that she was due back on the catwalk at 10:30 PM so she wore her costume underneath.
There was a lingering suspicion that this was a business ploy; still there was an interest in Zen from an existential perspective.
In general, the Philosophical Society thought that the event went quite well, and planned future open mike meetings on a bimonthly basis. New Orleans will become a major league philosophy city yet!
*There are such wonders as bikini coffee stands and drive-in daiquiri stands. Plus, if you want to walk around on the streets with your beer, ask for a go-cup.
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