Philosophy in cafes and forests

One of the especially delightful aspects of studying in a small program at the Catholic University of Lublin is the opportunity to combine philosophy classes with taking excursions to Polish villages.

One of my professors, Father Piotr, recently moved to a house in the forest near Kazimierz-Dolny. Occasionally my classmates and I (currently including: two Nigerian priests, a Spanish priest, a Maltese student on Erasmus, an American, and me), take a bus to the quaint, historic, and artistic town to have our philosophy classes over hot chocolate in a cafe.

“Repose, leisure, peace, belong among the elements of happiness. If we have not escaped from harried rush, from mad pursuit, from unrest, from the necessity of care, we are not happy.” Josef Pieper

We are studying Augustine’s On the Free Choice of the Will. Each of us prepared 20 minutes presentations on such topics as: the Manichean heresy; the differentiated understanding of sin in the New Testament with observations of the distinctions between “sin” in the gospels and St. Paul’s letters; and will, desire, longing, and loves in Augustine’s Confessions as this pertains to On the Free Will.

“The really human thing is to see the stars above the roof, to preserve our apprehension of the universality of things in the midst of the habits of daily life, and to see ‘the world’ above and beyond our immediate environment.” – Josef Pieper

After a few hours in the cafe, we moved to Fr. Piotr’s house in the forest, fifteen minutes away from Kazimierz. When we go, we bring the wine and he cooks the meal. Fr. Piotr puts wood in the fire while we browse his library of Polish, English, and German books.After dinner, two students made a presentation on Book VI of Plato’s Republic. Then we had dessert and coffee before taking the train back to Lublin.


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