What is the Philodemic Society?
The Philodemic Society is Georgetown University's premier on-campus debating organization. We hold weekly debates in which the Society's members and non-members discuss a wide variety of issues. Click here to learn more about the history of the Philodemic Society. The officers and members of the Philodemic Society are always willing to answer any questions you may have, so please feel free to ask us in person or by e-mail.
The weekly debates occur every Thursday night on campus at 8:00 pm during the school year in the Philodemic Room, 208 Healy Hall. If you enter through main entrance of Healy Hall right in front of Healy Gates, you'll find the Philodemic Room on the second floor next to the President's Office. The Philodemic Room has our name "Philodemic Society" written on the door, and you will see portraits of the alumni of our Society on its walls. Occasionally, if the Philodemic Room is unavailable, the debate may be held in the Constitution Room, Healy 106.
Like the British House of Commons, attendees of the debate sit on a side of the room depending on their position on the resolution. You will find rows of chairs which face each other the left and right sides of the room. If you support the resolution, sit on the left side of the room (to your left if you face the President's chair at the front of the room). If you would like to negate, sit on the right side. If you change your mind, you can always move from your seat. Front row seats closest to the center aisle are generally reserved for members.
Date, times and locations of our debates will be posted on this website, in flyers around campus and in a weekly e-mail sent by the Membership Secretary.
No, the Philodemic Society does not presently engage in intercollegiate debate, but we have held the special Winchester Cup debate with the Jefferson Society of the University of Virginia.
Before the early 1970s, the Society engaged in intercollegiate debate as well as on-campus debate. When the on campus debate dissolved around the late 1960s or early 1970s, the intercollegiate debate lived on in various forms and evolved into another student organization called the Philodemic Society. They are a small group that competes in about 8 to 10 National Debate Tournaments each year. The Philodemic Society office in the Office of Student Programs is for this group, not ours. We are not affiliated with them in any way.
In 1989, a group of interested alumni and undergraduates restarted the Philodemic Society, focusing on the on-campus debate portion. This is who we are today and where we find our immediate roots. We have attempted to continue to grow in accordance with our traditions, especially in on campus debate and the pursuit of Eloquence in Defense of Liberty.
After the keynoters have given their opening remarks, the President will read the rules of the debate and open the floor for speeches. If you wish to speak, raise your hand. Non-members are always encouraged to give floor speeches, but the President will select speakers based on their seniority (the date they were inducted into the Society). Generally, there are more opportunities for non-members and less senior members to speak at the beginning of debates and during the fall semester. However, the Vice President of the Society traditionally has speaking privileges over all other members. Chancellors (former Presidents), alumni and other officers generally are also given speaking privileges. The President has discretion to pass over individuals who are dressed inappropriately, do not behave becomingly in the Philodemic Room or have unpaid dues owed to the Society.
Proper attire for weekly debates is "Western Business Attire." For men, this means a minimum of a sports jacket or blazer, a shirt and tie, dress pants, and dress shoes. If you do not have a jacket, a shirt and tie is permissible. A jacket without a tie does not qualify. Sneakers are also not appropriate. For women, this generally means a skirt or pants suit, although similar attire is fine. If you are dressed inappropriately, the President may pass over you in favor of someone properly attired, regardless of your seniority.
Anyone may propose a topic to be debated. Topic can be submitted at business meetings, at debates, through our topic submission form, our topic discussion system or via e-mail. Nearly anything can be chosen as a topic, though topics are almost always based on serious issues. Topics general fit under the following categories: philosophical, historical, current events, policy, theological, and Georgetown related. However, "fun" topics are occasionally chosen. Debate topics are chosen at business meetings, in a method determined by the President where the Society votes. Debate topics will be announced on this website, in flyers around campus and in a weekly e-mail sent by the Membership Secretary.
Once topics and dates have been chosen, keynotes for each debate are offered to the membership in attendance at the business meeting. If more than one member wants to debate a specific side of a topic, the member with the highest seniority gets the keynote. However, the Society selects keynoters differently for the special debates: Hamilton, Merrick and the Winchester Cup. Keynoters will be announced on this website, in flyers around campus and in a weekly e-mail sent by the Membership Secretary. Once you are a member, it is important to attend the business meetings in order to obtain a keynote.
The Philodemic brown pins feature our Society's seal and motto, "Eloquentiam Libertati Devinctam" ("Eloquence in Defense of Liberty"). You will see many members wear them on their lapel. If you are a member, you may purchase a Philodemic pin for only $5.00. This money goes directly into the Philodemic Society's Treasury. If you are not a member, getting a pin is yet another reason for you to join! The Philodemic Society also sells gray t-shirts which feature the Philodemic seal. To purchase a pin or t-shirt, contact our Treasurer.
To become a member, an interested Georgetown undergraduate must attend and give three floor speeches in one semester, or four speeches over two semesters. The individual is then invited to give a keynote address at a debate. Additionally, each individual is assigned a mentor to familiarize him or her with the traditions of the Philodemic Society and assist in preparation of the induction keynote. After giving a keynote speech at a Philodemic debate, the lady or gentleman is inducted into the Society.
Membership is open to all undergraduate students of Georgetown University. The Philodemic Society does not engage in discriminatory membership policies. No demeaning or becoming actions are inflicted upon anyone before, during or after the induction process. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact the Membership Secretary.
No. Sorry, you have no input into which side of the debate you are assigned to or the topic chosen for your induction debate. The side of a particular topic that you will debate in your induction usually depends on which side the opposing keynoter would like to have (since he or she is more senior). Sometimes this will force inductees to debate positions they disagree with. However, as a member of the Philodemic Society, any member should be able to take any side of an issue and argue it skillfully and successfully.
The list is maintained by the Membership Secretary. Each time a non-member speaks from the floor of the Philodemic Society, the Membership Secretary writes down the individual's name, as well as the date of the debate. When you have given three speeches, your name goes on a list of people who are waiting for an induction debate. For more information about the list, contact the Membership Secretary.
At every business meeting, the Membership Secretary reports the names of those members on the list. Induction dates are then assigned when available. In general, people are chosen from the list sequentially, ie. people who get on the list first are given induction dates first. However, the Society reserves its right to use discretion and use debate attendance as a factor for who is selected to be inducted. For example, if someone comes to three debates, gives three speeches, but never comes to any debates after that, preference may be given to someone else who gave their speeches later, but showed dedication to the society by attending and speaking at nearly every debate.
At business meetings, each inductee is assigned a mentor who will offer assistance and advice in preparation for the inductee. The inductee meets with the mentor to review his or her keynote and learn about the traditions of the Society. If you would like to find out who your mentor is or would like to request a certain member of the Society to mentor you, contact the Membership Secretary.
The Merrick Debate is the most prestigious event of the Philodemic year. Alumni, friends and family are welcomed to join the Society for the Merrick Debate in April. The Merrick judges - who are usually leaders in the fields of law, politics, journalism or education - award the Merrick Medal to the best keynoter of the debate. To decide who keynotes the Merrick Debate, members vote for the best speaker of each debate of spring semester. The top five receive "Merrick Points." The top debater gets 5 points, runner-up 4 points, 3rd place 3 points, 4th place 2 points and 5th place 1 point. The four debaters with the most points become the keynoters for the Merrick debate. Click here for more information about the Merrick Debate.
The Hamilton Homecoming Debate is the alumni debate that is held near Georgetown's Homecoming Weekend each year in late September or early October. The undergraduates welcome back past members of the Society to chair, keynote and give floor speeches. At the conclusion of the debate, the alumni award the Hamilton Medal to a member of the undergraduate Philodemic Society who gives the best floor speech. Click here for more information about the Hamilton Debate.
The Winchester Debate is a special debate between the University of Virginia's Jefferson Literary and Debating Society and Georgetown University's Philodemic Society. Both schools commonly keynote one side of the debate (rules of the debate are determined by where it takes place, either at UVA or Georgetown), and a judge determines which side most skillfully argued their points.
These "Frequently Asked Questions" were compiled by John Molluzzo (COL '02).