Almost everyone has an experience of fantasizing about their campus life, and the most stereotypical illusion would be the image of strolling across the campus under a lucid sky with thick volumes of Plato under their arms. Nevertheless, it is not long before students undergo bitter disenchantment as they struggle to keep up school credits and improve employment qualifications. To those who have put aside the idea of studying philosophy as romantic reveries of the past, Philia Sophia Village awaits to realize their forgotten pipedreams.
Philia Sophia Village, which means a village for the love of wisdom, is the only official academic association at Korea University (KU) that studies philosophy. The club originally belonged to an integrated organization which included the academy of political economy also known as “The Wheel” (Suraebakwi), and the association of Korean modern history. However, in 1980, the club separated from the initial group and reorganized itself as an association that refused to maintain distinguishing political characters and focused instead on the study of pure learning. The club is currently located in room 206 of the Student Union Building, and has 25 members in total who major in various fields ranging from English Language and Literature to Art and Design.
The main activities which are held on a regular basis consist of seminars and general assemblies. As for the seminars, the students voluntarily gather once a week to discuss the philosophy of renowned sophists. The topics are generally based on the personal interests of the members, which enables them to absorb a wide spectrum of knowledge that transcends time and space, including Socrates, Confucius, and even Michael Sandel. At present, the students are learning about Chuang-tzu’s view on language, whether words can fully express Tao, a similar abstract concept to Socrates’ Idea, which means the elemental, ontological being. These intellectual products are reorganized in the general assembly held once a month, and later published at the end of the year into an essay book entitled Chul-in, meaning enlightened people in Korean.
Of course, just by glimpsing through the contents of the following activities, one might assume that the members of Philia Sophia Village are either romantic, contemplative scholars at best, or impractical reality-escapists at worst. Nonetheless, it would be a rash decision to characterize the club as a group of unsociable geeks. Just like any other ordinary school clubs, Philia Sophia Village also puts the value of friendship before academic accomplishments. Through group tours and an annual event called The Night of Chul-in, the alumni and undergraduates frequently gather to boost a sense of solidarity. Their intimate bonds ultimately create a restful atmosphere during the seminars as well, where members not only discuss about ideology, but also freely relate the contents to their daily lives and seek advice regarding love relationships or employment problems.
▲ Kim Hyun Jae explains about how philosophy changed his course of thinking. Photographed by Suh Jaehee
To those who still feel hesitant about knocking on the door of room 206, Kim Hyun Jae (’12, Department of Food and Resource Economics), the current president of the club, speaks of his own experience of how philosophy changed his course of thinking. “In the last class, Chuang-tzu’s philosophy of naturalism made me become acutely aware of socially artificial values, such as forcing children to become doctors or judges while discarding their true capabilities,” said Kim. He continued, “Philosophy does not show ‘how’ to earn more money or how to get better grades, but it makes us question ‘why’ they are so important.”
Indeed, in modern capitalist society where the quantity of financial merits defines one’s happiness, philosophy acts as a mirror to help people reflect on the quality of their lives. Rather than unsuspectingly pursuing the social definition of happiness, student are given time to self-examine past walks of life, whether they are truly satisfied in their major or in other extracurricular activities. When asked if he had found the purpose of his life, Kim smiled and answered that he was still in process of searching. “Philosophy doesn’t give definite answers but only acts as a moral compass that shakes our beliefs that were taken for granted,” explained Kim. “What’s important is the fact that we begin to question our self, because a complete breakdown of life means gaining a new, genuine perspective.”
▲ The members of Philia Sophia Village holding a seminar about the philosophy ofChuang-tzu. Photographed by Suh Jaehee.
Philia Sophia Village is presently endeavoring to reach out and actively communicate with other fellow students through Facebook, Youtube, and club expositions in order to remove preconceptions about philosophy and to share novel perspectives toward life and the world. To those who have genuine love for wisdom, to those who are not sure about the decisions that they have made, or even to those who need a comforting friend who can provide wise advice, the door to room 206 is always open.
Period of Recruitment: any semester
Requirements for Joining Philia Sophia Village: students who can commit themselves for more than two semesters are all welcome (yet note that all activities are carried out in Korean)