History of The Phil

The University Philosophical Society, or The Phil as it’s better known, was founded in the 1683, with William Petty as the first President of the society. It was initially set up as a paper-reading society for the“discourse of philosophy, mathematics, and other polite literature”, however, in more recent years there has been a slight shift and debating is now among the main activities associated with The Phil. The history of The Phil has not always been plain sailing. Although it is now in its 332nd Session, in 1731 The Phil was excluded from Trinity after its members shot the provost. After 112 years The Phil was allowed back onto campus and that is when the society, which has now 10,000 members, became what it is today. The Phil was also the first student society to admit women and that came through a merger of the Elizabethan Society and The Phil in 1981. Since then The Phil has always strove to ensure that there is equality and diversity within the society. More can be read about The Elizabethan Society its history, and its current position in the Elizabethan Society section on this website.

The Phil has its home in the Graduates Memorial Building (The GMB) in Trinity College. This is where the weekly debates, paper-readings, fund-raisers and social events, which are open to all members, take place. It also offers members a place to relax, hang-out, and play pool or study. It is here that the council hold their weekly meetings in the council room and where the chamber, in which many of the Honorary Patrons of the society have addressed the members, is situated.

The Phil holds a weekly chamber debate every Thursday for all its members. These debates explore a range of topics from; questioning The Right to Offend, to Hailing Beyoncé. Often guests will be asked to come and speak in chamber debates or sometimes to chair the debate itself. Following each debate the members in the audience will fill out Oratory Returns and the scores on these Returns go towards awarding medals to exceptional speakers at the end of the session.

Every year, a few select individuals are named Honorary Patrons of the Society. These Hon. Pats come from varying walks of life and are considered to have made a significant contribution to their given field. The Phil is proud and delighted to host its Honorary Patrons in Dublin while they address the Society on the achievements that have led them to be recognised with the award. A full list of Hon. Pats can be found elsewhere on this website or alternatively on The Phil Wikipedia page. Some of the most recent Patrons of the society include; Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, Joe Biden, Nicola Sturgeon, Brian Cox, and Amy Poehler.

The Phil continues to have an active role in competitive debating, with student representatives attending contests around the world. The Society’s regular in-house debating workshops and oratory training helps improve the confidence of novice speakers, and our highly-regarded ‘Phil Speaks Initiative’ provides secondary school pupils across Ireland, with the opportunity to develop public speaking skills.

With alumni including John B. Yeats, Oscar Wilde,and Bram Stoker ( whose name can still be found on the wall of the GMB Conversation Room) the Society has a long and unique history, and strives to develop and expand whilst respecting its historic student roots.