Gotham Philosophical Society
November 9, 2016

New York, New York

More than two years ago, the Gotham Philosophical Society was established with the aim of helping New Yorkers to become “members of a thriving community rather than a mere collection of individuals,” and to ensure that they “reap the rewards of diversity rather than be repelled by the rancor of division.” Today, as we emerge from a presidential campaign that painfully revealed how far our nation stands from realizing these goals, we rededicate ourselves to achieving them for our city.

We maintain that the most profound questions we face—about life, love, family, health, education, work, authority, responsibility, and death—are not technological or scientific in nature, but philosophical.  They are the sort of questions that can be adequately raised and answered only by a community in conversation with itself, for it is only in wrestling with these questions that a community comes to be what it is.

Every community—indeed, each new generation of a community—must answer the central questions of living for itself if it aspires to being responsive to the needs and encouraging of the aspirations of its members.  And they must answer them well—not correctly, but well: in a manner that enables that particular community to thrive at that particular time.  Every community is, ultimately, unique. New York is neither New Orleans nor Nashua, New Hampshire. The challenges facing a city as large as New York, a meeting point for so many disparate perspectives, are considerable.  But while we lament the yawning divide in our nation, we are heartened by the willingness of today’s New Yorkers to make our city whole; a willingness that is perhaps greater today than at any moment in our city’s history to make New York a proper home for all is people.

So it is with genuine enthusiasm and optimism that we again ask this great city’s artists, activists, community leaders, policy makers, and in particular its prodigious collection of philosophers—men and women who have been called to a life of contemplating the fundamental questions—to join with your neighbors in the pursuit of a just, nurturing, thriving, open, and welcoming New York, for ourselves and for our children.  Let us talk, debate, critique, and collaborate. Let us alter each other’s perspectives so that we see ourselves in a new way.  Let us pool our wisdom and watch it multiply, and let us never rest content with being a thinking city, but always strive to become a thoughtful one.



Posted in: Φ on NY
September 16, 2016

Too Much or too Little Science? Between the Extremes of Scientism and Pseudoscience

View the video of this event here.

November 21, 2016

We live in an increasingly polarized society, not just in terms of political and social issues, but also when it comes to our very understanding of the world. An increasing number of people question the authority of science, rejecting well established notions such as evolution, climate change, and the safety of vaccines. They prefer to engage in pseudoscientific thinking, according to which the universe bends to our will (the “law of attraction”) or God personally created every species on earth. On the opposite side of the barricade there are those who display a smug overconfidence about the powers of science — known as scientism. They ridicule other disciplines as well as religious belief, and argue that if a question cannot be approached scientifically than it amounts to nonsense. What is to be done about such ideological excesses? Can we develop a more reasonable model of human understanding? And how do we chart a course between scientism and pseudoscience? Join us as Massimo Pigliucci leads us in this very important discussion.


Prof. Pigliucci has a PhD in Evolutionary Biology from the University of Connecticut and a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Tennessee. He currently is the K.D. Irani Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York. His research interests include the philosophy of biology, the relationship between science and philosophy, the nature of pseudoscience, and the practical philosophy of Stoicism. He is a prolific author and editor, including the recently published Philosophy of Pseudoscience: Reconsidering the Demarcation Problem (University of Chicago Press), co-edited with Maarten Boudry.

Posted in: Video Archive
August 24, 2016

What Lies Beneath the Ink? Tattoos and Personal Identity

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October 13, 2016

Beneath tattoos are the meanings they have for the people wearing them. A philosophy of tattoos must recognize the personal and particular identities, values and ideals of those who wear them. Although meaning lies invisibly on the other side of the skin, it is crucial to understanding tattoos as an art form. A “human canvas” is not a two-dimensional surface. What does it mean when art is intrinsically connected to living persons? The “art” in question is charged with evolving social and personal histories. In this talk, Maureen Eckert will discuss how this invisible side of the tattoo arts plays a role in its popularity and commercialization while it paradoxically resists full commercialization and challenges the traditional fine arts. There is something radical about tattoos, although it is not anything obvious.

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Maureen Eckert is a philosopher at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. She works in the areas of Ancient Greek philosophy, metaphysics and logic. On the side, she is a tattoo photographer, running her website, a project focusing on the narratives of tattoo clients and the characters of their tattoos captured in macro photography.

Posted in: Video Archive
July 29, 2016

Why Philosophy? Why Now?

Posted in: Φ on NY
July 29, 2016

The Ethical Costs of Upward Mobility

View the video of this event here.

It is well-known that upward mobility in the United States is increasingly rare. But what are the costs for those who do make it? Philosopher Jennifer M. Morton argues that one cost that is often overlooked is ethical. Moving up can require that in order to gain educational and career opportunities that will propel one into the middle-class one has to make difficult sacrifices in many areas of one’s life that one finds valuable—one’s relationships with family and friends, one’s sense of cultural identity, and one’s place in one’s community. These costs are ‘ethical’ because they affect aspects of one’s life that give it value and meaning. How should we think about these trade-offs? Are they inevitable? And how can we help those on this path contend with these ethical challenges? Join us for this important discussion.


Jennifer M. Morton is an assistant professor of philosophy at the City College of New York and a senior fellow at the Center for Ethics and Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She received her Ph.D. from Stanford University and her A.B. from Princeton University. Professor Morton has published numerous journal articles in philosophy of action, moral philosophy, philosophy of education, and political philosophy. She is currently working on a book on the ethics of upward mobility.

Posted in: Video Archive
May 24, 2016

Religion in Democratic Politics: What’s the Problem?

In advance of his talk on June 9, Robert Talisse has kindly shared the following article from 2013 that aims to identify the problem that religious belief poses for democratic politics:

Talisse ReligionInPolitics_Think-8

The issue is, needless to say, complicated, and there will undoubtedly be some dissenting voices raised in response to Talisse’s position.

Readers may also be interested in then Senator Barack Obama’s treatment of the topic in 2006, which can be found here.


Posted in: Φ on NY
May 5, 2016

Religion in Democratic Politics

View the video of this event here.

What role should religious conviction play in democratic policy-making?  Features of modern democratic societies intersect to render this question both essential and problematic.  Government policy in a democracy is supposed to reflect the will of the citizens, and in those societies citizens are free to practice any religion that they choose. So why shouldn’t democratic laws be based on, say, the moral teachings of the Bible, if the majority of the citizens desire it?  Well, modern citizens often disagree about religion, both in terms of its truth and its relevance.  Does this fact of religious disagreement mean that each citizen should avoid voting on the basis of their own religious conviction, or would that make modern democracy objectionably secular, inconsistent with the religious freedom a democratic society  is supposed to secure?  In this talk, Robert Talisse explores these questions and defends the view that, indeed, religious citizens have a moral duty to avoid voting on the basis of their religious conviction, but that this constraint is not inconsistent with freedom of religion.


Thursday, June 9 at 6pm. This event is part of the Philosophy Series at The Cornelia Street Café, located at 29 Cornelia Street, New York, NY 10014 (near Sixth Avenue and West 4th St.). Admission is $9, which includes the price of one drink. Reservations are recommended (212. 989.9319)

Robert B.Talisse is Jones Professor of Philosophy and Chairperson of the Philosophy Department at Vanderbilt University.  He specializes in political philosophy, democratic theory, and ethics.  He is the author of many scholarly essays and several books, including Democracy and Moral Conflict (Cambridge University Press, 2009) and, most recently, Engaging Political Philosophy (Routledge, 2016).  Talisse earned his PhD in Philosophy in 2001 from the City University of New York.

Posted in: Video Archive
April 8, 2016

Looking for Love (In All the Wrong Places)

View the video of this event here.

“All you need is love.” So sayeth the gospel of John (Lennon). But what is love? What sorts of things can be the object of our love? Do we love what we love in virtue of their qualities, in virtue of something else, or “just because.” How important is love? In recent years philosophers have addressed (or dodged) these questions. I’ll tell you something about what they’ve been saying and writing, but mostly I’ll be trying to get you to help me answer these questions.

Join philosopher Dale Jamieson in this collaborative investigation into the nature of love, that most essential and yet most intellectually elusive of human emotions.

Tuesday, May 17, at 6pm.  This event is part of the Philosophy Series at The Cornelia Street Café, located at 29 Cornelia Street, New York, NY 10014 (near Sixth Avenue and West 4th St.). Admission is $9, which includes the price of one drink. Reservations are recommended (212. 989.9319)

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Dale Jamieson is Chair of the Environmental Studies Department; Professor of Environmental Studies and of Philosophy; and the Founding Director of Environmental Studies and Animal Studies at New York University. He has written extensively on the environment, climate change, and our relationship to animals. He is the author of several works, including Reason in a Dark Time: Why the Struggle to Stop Climate Change Failed–and What It Means For Our Future and, most recently, Love in the Anthropocene (with Bonnie Nazdam).

Posted in: Video Archive
February 24, 2016

Infinite Hope as a Personal and Political Virtue

View the video of this event here.

One insight unites the political thought of Martin Luther King, the personal and political courage of such figures as Nelson Mandela and Viktor Frankl, and the global humanitarianism of Paul Farmer. It is the realization that hope—and in particular infinite hope—is essential to resilience in the face of adversity, effective resistance to injustice, and our capacity to promote “moral repair” of the world. Infinite hope is unshakeable confidence that even the worst malevolence and evil cannot extinguish all that is good in the world, or destroy the human capacity to do good. Join the philosopher Michele Moody-Adams as she helps us consider the moral and political implications of accepting that such hope is both a personal and a political virtue.

Tuesday, April 5 at 6pm. This event is part of the Philosophy Series at The Cornelia Street Café, located at 29 Cornelia Street, New York, NY 10014 (near Sixth Avenue and West 4th St.). Admission is $9, which includes the price of one drink. Reservations are recommended (212. 989.9319)

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Michele Moody-Adams is Joseph Straus Professor of Political Philosophy and Legal Theory at Columbia University, where she served as Dean of Columbia College and Vice President for Undergraduate Education from 2009-2011. Moody-Adams has published on such topics as equality and social justice, moral psychology and the virtues, and the philosophical implications of gender and race. Her current work includes articles on academic freedom, equal educational opportunity, and democratic disagreement.

Posted in: Video Archive
February 24, 2016

The Art in Living

View the video of this event here.

Will close attention to the beauty and ugliness of life make us better people? The philosopher David Kaspar believes it does, and that the unaesthetic life, like the unexamined one, is not worth living. Join us as Kaspar discusses how a good life includes not only acting rightly and choosing wisely, but living with style.

Wednesday, March 23, 6pm. This event is part of the Philosophy Series at The Cornelia Street Café, located at 29 Cornelia Street, New York, NY 10014 (near Sixth Avenue and West 4th St.). Admission is $9, which includes the price of one drink. Reservations are recommended (212. 989.9319)

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David Kaspar is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at St. John’s University. He works primarily in ethics and in social and political philosophy. His book Intuitionism was published in 2012.

Posted in: Video Archive