The Society was first founded in 1897 by William Gay. The Scottish-born Gay was an ardent student of philosophy, an apostle of Australian Federation, and a forceful poet, who spent the last years of his short life in Bendigo. Gay died in 1897, still only in his thirties, but the Society he founded continued for several years thereafter. Newspaper references to the Society can be found up until 1908, but it seems to have lapsed some time before the First World War.
The Society has now been re-instituted (Feb., 2018) by a hitherto informal group of interested people who have been meeting regularly over the past decade to discuss philosophical and related matters, broadly reflective of Gay’s own passions and interests. For some time, the group met at the Bendigo Library and the meetings were simply advertised as “Philosophy in the Library”. Many of the people active in the group were former staff or students at La Trobe University, Bendigo. Historically, the University operated a unique humanities course entitled “Studies in Western Traditions”. But when universities in general began to contract their offerings back to what was more narrowly conceived as “vocational”, and the Bendigo Western traditions course was gradually diminished, former students and staff sought to continue their interests in this general area in a more informal manner.
The original Society, although bearing the title of ‘Philosophical” was, in fact, quite wide-ranging in its interests encompassing arts, literature, poetry, history and religion as well as straight philosophy. Today, we intend to retain this broad approach and include in our area of interest all Traditions, not just the Western Traditions. And so, the final aim of the Society and of this website is to quicken and sustain in the generations to whom it falls to keep alive the liberal arts (philosophy, history, culture and religious ideas), a fuller idea of the very nature, the range and compass of humanity itself; what it has been, in all its genuine diversity and richness; what it might be yet; and even perhaps, what it should be.