Our Story: Making Academia Accessible

1. Why we started Cogito

Our story is a simple one. We grew up loving books and knowledge. If you see a bespectacled kid hunched up and voraciously pouring over a good read in the library, well, that was our childhood.

We struggled with our identities as nerds growing up. We were never part of the cool clique, but that was okay. What was worse, was our lack of time to fully appreciate the subjects we were studying. The education system favored those who performed well at tests and at all subjects. And we did do well in the system. However, we felt shortchanged during lessons. We could not dig deep and ask the important questions. It was a very shallow knowledge bank that we had in our heads.

As we matured, we were fortunate that the pursuit of knowledge never left us. But, looking around, most were disinterested. After years of studying so hard, many throw it all away. And this left an indelible mark on society. We work, but many of us do not really think.

Thus, we heeded the clarion call to start a movement to ponder and think of our own existence daily. To fully know and appreciate this wonderful world that we are in. To not spend our time after work scrolling through Facebook and Instagram feeds, or binging on Netflix.

Cogito ergo sum — I think, therefore I am. Our thoughts shape who we are and how we live. We desire to become polymaths, where learning is the goal of life.

2. The gulf between academia and the layman

In today’s societies, there is an gap between academic ideas and public interests, and this is due to three reasons:

  1. A general lack of interest between the public and academics
  2. The misconception that academic ideas are for academics only, and mere mortals cannot hope to scale the lofty heights of deep knowledge
  3. That academics do not generally feel the need to make their ideas and research accessible to the public.

These reasons have led to an ever-increasing gap between academic research and public knowledge.

However, in a mature and functioning democracy, regular citizens should be educated to a level where they can examine their roles in society and understand the best way forward for the common good.

3. What we hope to achieve through Cogito

We are a group of learners from different disciplines, and we wanted a place where we could discuss ideas from each of our fields and examine it from other perspectives. We want to make theoretical issues accessible to the man-on-the-street, so that we have better ways to think about the world.

The goal of Cogito is for the examination of fundamental questions in nature, science, philosophy, and society. We want to bring ideas that might seem like they’re theoretically dense into the public consciousness, while making them accessible. We want to be a platform that connects intellectuals to the layman, so that researchers can raise awareness for their research, while the public have a platform to discuss these questions.

We aim to have regular meetings, both online and offline, such that we can build a community that can ask questions and discuss solutions. Socratic dialogue is about posing insightful questions to reveal hidden assumptions in our claims about the world and discuss how to resolve them, not necessarily to come to a consensus.

We know you hate deep, theoretical readings. We do too. That’s why we will, as much as possible, use pop culture as launching points for discussions on these topics, supplemented by optional academic readings to give some weight to the discussions. Don’t worry if you don’t understand these topics, it’s fine if you just sit in to learn!

4. Philosophy, science and society, from an Asian perspective

As much as possible, we want to present a uniquely Asian narrative to the information we absorb everyday. We believe Asia has much to offer to the international discourse, but due to the Western-dominated media, these are often overlooked.

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