The VPSC is designed to foster as much active and productive philosophical discussion as possible, both in the scheduled sessions and during the informal conference activities. Because it is a pre-read conference, sessions will not begin with a presentation by the author. Instead, each commenter will speak briefly (seven minutes). Then the author will have a brief period to reply to the comments (seven minutes). The remainder of each session—99 minutes—is for discussion with the conference participants at large.

Many participants will want to contribute at each session, so we ask everyone to make their contributions as succinct as possible. (It’s a pre-read conference—consider writing your question down in advance!) We want to ensure that many different voices and perspectives are heard.

Here are guiding principles of the VSPC discussion policy:

  • we want to have great philosophical discussions.

  • we want everyone to have an equal opportunity to participate.

  • we want to stay on schedule.

Here is the policy we use to help realise those aims. At the beginning of the conference, all participants will receive five question tokens. These are tokens one spends to have a turn asking a question. When you use your token, you hand it to the chair, and you no longer have that token to use at the VSPC. This is a way of enforcing the common-sense norm that people who haven’t asked as many questions in previous sessions should have the first opportunity to ask questions later.

There are two kinds of question tokens: ordinary tokens, and big tokens. At the conference start you’ll get three ordinary tokens, and two big tokens. Big tokens take precedence over ordinary tokens. Using a big token should pretty much be a guarantee that you’ll get to ask your question during a session.

During the discussion time, if people want to ask a question, they raise their hand, holding the token they wish to spend. The chair will call on people, choosing first among any big tokens, then, if none are up, among ordinary tokens. If no one is attempting to spend a token, then people may ask questions simply by raising their hands. (Unlike tokens, you do not have to turn in your hand if you use it to ask a question.)

When you are called on, ask your question. The VSPC has a strict "one question per question" policy. Make an effort to ask your question as succinctly as you can. Very brief follow-ups are permitted, but long back-and-forth exchanges should happen outside of the session. Chairs are asked to cut off exchanges that are going on too long.

Online Questions

We also have a secondary way to ask questions, in addition to the more conventional strategy of getting called on by the chair.

You can input a question anonymously online via a system called Slido. (The event code will be announced to VSPC participants.) There, anyone logged in can see the list of questions, and upvote questions they are interested in. If a question has a lot of upvotes, the chair, at their discretion, may, instead of calling on someone else, ask the question from the online system.

The idea is that if a question has a lot of upvotes, that means that many participants are interested in having it asked. Having your question asked via the online system does not cost a token. It is understood as having come from the participants at large. No follow-ups are permitted.

All online questions should be anonymous. (There is a field where you can put your name. Please do NOT do so.) If you want to get personal credit and recognition for your awesome question, ask it with a token.