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Thinking man | Image Courtesy of Brooklyn Institute for Social Research
Thinking man | Image Courtesy of Brooklyn Institute for Social Research
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Where To Get Your Philosophical Fix In NYC

Picture of Skye Cleary
Updated: 21 November 2016
There are plenty of places where New Yorkers can slow down to reflect on the meaning of life. Philosophical roots run deep; you just need to know where to look. Below are some of the top places to get a philosophical fix, if you find yourself starting to question infinity, desire, or being and nothingness.
Slaughter & Critchley | © Beowulf Sheehan/BAM
Slaughter & Critchley | © Beowulf Sheehan

Public Philosophy Lectures

Public lectures are some of the most accessible places to learn about what’s on the cutting edge of philosophy. They are spaces where philosophers talk with general audiences. The Brooklyn Public Philosophers hosts a free monthly forum at the Brooklyn Public Library. Past talks include Jennifer Ware on the philosophy of humor and Jason Stanley on democracy. At the Gotham Philosophical Society, Graham Priest recently presented on Buddhism, Marxism, and capitalism. Also watch for philosophy-related events at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music). Simon Critchley moderates the On Truth (and Lies) conversation series and Alain de Botton launched his book The News there.

2 Albertine Books | © John Bartelstone
2 Albertine Books | © John Bartelstone

Bookstore Events

Look out for philosophers launching new books, discussing hot topics, and participating in literary festivals at bookstores. McNally Jackson Books has hosted such philosophers as Alva Noë on creating and consuming art. At the Strand Bookstore, John Perry spoke about procrastination and Frédéric Lenoir discussed his philosophical guide to happiness. Albertine in the Payne Whitney mansion regularly holds philosophical discussions. Last Spring, it turned into a philosophical disco as part of an all-night philosophy marathon curated by Mériam Korichi. In addition to philosophical performances, art, videos, and music, over 60 philosophers gave 20-minute lectures on their research, including Lydia Goehr on the concept of exodus and Tim Maudlin on our bizarre world.

Jefferson Market Library | © Iyad Kheirbek
Jefferson Market Library | © Iyad Kheirbek

Short Courses

Filling the gap between university degrees and ad hoc events, non-profit institutions offer short philosophy courses. The Brooklyn Institute for Social Research runs four-session liberal arts continuing education courses, followed by libations, for $315. Recent classes include A Genealogy of Eros, Becoming Cyborg in America, and Feminist Studies of Technology. The School of Practical Philosophy offers workshops and courses starting at $10, online and in-person, based on a blend of Eastern and Western wisdom. The New York Public Library’s Jefferson Market branch in the West Village occasionally offers free short philosophy courses on Saturday afternoons.

Said Course | Image Courtesy of Brooklyn Institute for Social Research
Said Course | Image Courtesy of Brooklyn Institute for Social Research

Meetups

Meetup.com groups are held wherever a quiet spot can be found, which tends to be off-peak times in public spaces, cafés, restaurants, delis, bars, or in private apartments. There are dozens of groups, including tea and taoism, death cafés, and yoga philosophy. Massimo Pigliucci runs a Dinner and Philosophy meet up. Philosophy-in-Manhattan hosts philosophers talking about topics such as Woody Allen films and artificial intelligence. New York Philosophy’s monthly Meetup attracts a large crowd for happy hour drinks and small group debates. If you’re single, it’s also a good place to mingle. Meetups sometimes charge a nominal fee that includes food or drink. Expect to meet a wide variety of people at these events: philosophy students, professors, journalists, bankers, lawyers, authors, actors, and possibly even welders.

bell hooks + Chirlane McCray: Critical Thinking at The New School
bell hooks + Chirlane McCray: Critical Thinking at The New School

University Colloquia

Universities regularly open their philosophical doors to the public. Audiences are mostly graduate students and professors, so do expect to be intellectually stretched, but don’t despair if you’re unclear about the intricacies of epistemic akrasia after a two-hour presentation on it. New York University recently hosted a free existentialism in culture film and seminar series with Michel Contat. The New School runs free public seminars, such as Patricia Williams on regret and bell hooks in conversation with Cornel West, Gloria Steinem, Laverne Cox, and Samuel R. Delany. The Graduate Center at the City University of New York and Columbia University also host regular philosophy colloquia.