Kantian dinners seek to engage community in vital conversation
Debate without dogmatism.
Respect and enjoyment.
Civility and sociability.
These are the goals of the Kantian Dinner Party Initiative, a new project which aims to provide a forum where members of diverse communities can engage with timely topics in a respectful and democratic fashion.
The dinners, which will be conducted according to rules laid out by 18th-century philosopher Immanuel Kant, will include a maximum of nine guests, including a presiding host who ensures an open, inclusive and flowing conversation. Guests are asked to conduct themselves in a manner that ensures that "mutual respect and benevolence always shine forth." And, in an effort to engender trust, guests are also asked not to repeat anything shared during the dinner party.
The project, which was funded by a grant from the Wisconsin Humanities Council, is coordinated by Marquette University graduate student Anthony Lanz, alumnus Charles Dobbs and Dr. Ryan Patrick Hanley, Mellon Distinguished Professor of Political Science.
At its best, the a Kantian dinner party aims to encourage guests to entertain perspectives that are often very different from their own, as well as to realize that it is possible to disagree with the ideas of another and yet still enjoy their company.
There is also hope for lasting impact on participants by enabling them to forge new relationships and encouraging them to hold future dinners themselves.
"During this incredibly polarized time, one often hears the complaint that no one is talking to each other and no one is listening," says Lanz by email. "We hope to contribute to alleviating some of this polarization by creating a citizen based forum that people can debate and discuss, instead of keeping it at the political elite level."
Six dinners have been scheduled throughout October and November. Each will be held at either Cafe Benelux, 346 N. Broadway, or Story Hill BKC, 5100 W. Bluemound Rd., both of which have donated the meals for attendees. During the dinner, guests can choose dishes from a preset menu provided by the restaurant.
Kantian Dinners are free of charge. However, since seating is limited, participants must apply online in advance to participate in the dinners. The deadline to apply is Oct. 3.
Dates for the dinners are as follows.
Tuesday, Oct. 11: Story Hill BKC
Wednesday, Oct. 19: Cafe Benelux
Thursday Oct. 27: Story Hill BKC
Tuesday, Nov. 1: Cafe Benelux
Wednesday, Nov.: Cafe Benelux
Thursday, Nov. 17: Cafe Benelux
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