PHILOSOPHERS aren’t just found in ancient Greece, they hold meetings in Machynlleth.

Since the turn of the millennium, there has been a new interest in philosophy with retreats and festivals and conventions being organised around the world.

During the last few years, Philosophy in Pub groups, have sprouted around the country, many in the North West of England in and around Liverpool.

The Machynlleth group is part of this growing interest but independent of the main group and have been meeting for the last three years.

Rob Campbell, who organises the debates, said: “It all started in Liverpool in about 2001 and there are groups around the country.

“What we’re doing is based on conceptual analysis,

“We pick a question and then discuss it.

“These can be: are there any moral absolutes? Is it right to kill under any circumstances? Does God exist? Do we have free will?

“We’re an informal group usually we have 10 or so people and sometimes we go up to about 18. We have people coming here from as far as Dolgellau and Harlech.

“Eight to 10 people is probably the best number to have for a discussion.”

This month, the group was discussing “What is free speech and is there such a thing?”

Our reporter Elgan Hearn, was there and took part in the lively discussion.

With Rob chairing the debate, the discussion started with the old saying: “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”

This may have been true in the past, but many now living in the digital age are bullied online and the group concluded, that words do hurt.

While the perception of free speech is a cornerstone of society in reality, the law comes in to force.

Someone who is airing their opinions could fall foul of many laws such as defamation, and racial hatred or incitement laws could all see people and have seen people end up in court.

Not just for what they say, but what they write and even post online.

As one group member said: “... freedom of speech is limited, so it’s not free. You could stand in the middle of Machynlleth and state your views, but if people are disturbed by your opinions, the police would step in.”

At times the discussion went off topic.

Politicians and pollsters have been caught out in recent years with shock election results, such as Donald Trump and Brexit.

Could this be, because huge swathes of the electorate are deciding not to voice their real opinions for fear that they are not seen as politically correct?

At the end of the session one member concluded: “We’re all airing our views publicly, where are the recording devices?

“We’re not expecting the Spanish Inquisition to run in and take us away for what we’ve said.”

So we do enjoy freedom of speech in this country... up to a point?

Elgan said: “It was a hugely stimulating and enjoyable discussion, but I must remember if I go again to put my hand up to talk.

“It’s a group rule that I was unaware of!”

n The group meets every second Thursday of the month at The Skinners Arms in Machynlleth, for more information visit their Pub Philosophy page on Facebook or email