Lies, Damn Lies, and Santa Claus

Some people (to whom we might refer, if solely for the sake of convenience, as ‘Grinches’) beat a somber path from denial of Santa’s being to condemnation of a joyous tradition. Unable to see Santa within the limited horizons of their own pinched perspectives, they conclude that to assert the right jolly old elf’s existence would be but a lie.  Zealous defenders of the creed that (almost all) lying is wrong, they dutifully don the self-imposed shackles of a selective moral rectitude only to haunt our decked halls with mirthless intent. Fortunately, life-affirming children of all ages naturally resist such negativity. Young hearts that swell with anticipation of the imminent arrival of Kris Kringle, Sinter Klaas, or Old St. Nick, know very well that there are many more things between heaven and earth then are dreamt of in the Grinches’ philosophy. But a world that sustains the existence Santa is not without its own ethical imperatives. A society that sanctions the expectations that belief in Santa raises, incurs the obligation to meet them as extensively as possible. Join us as Joseph Biehl suggests that the better course for us would not be to forsake and slander Santa, but rather to become his most trusted and faithful helpers, cheerfully bringing the spirit of the season—the true spirit—to those who need it most.


Thursday, December 22 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 $10, which includes the price of one drink. Reservations are recommended (212. 989.9319)

Joseph Biehl is the Founder and Executive Director of the Gotham Philosophical Society, the mission of which is to bring philosophy into the everyday discourse of the city. Dr. Biehl earned a B.A. in philosophy from St. John’s University in Queens and a Ph.D. from the Graduate School and University Center, CUNY. He is especially interested in the connections between our ideas of truth and belief, belief and choice, and choice and identity, as well as the personal relationships and political conditions that help shape them.

My Existential Valentine

Is Valentine’s Day an opportunity for meaningful celebrations of love, or is it merely a chocolate-covered con? As lovers, should we resist being seduced into spending billions of dollars annually on red roses and teddies (be they bears or lingerie)? Or should we surrender to the superficial satisfactions they represent? Be there as Skye Cleary takes us on an existential look at the hype and the possibilities for authentic loving. And bring someone you love.

Friday, February 12, 2016 at 6pm 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).


Skye Cleary, PhD is a philosopher and author of Existentialism and Romantic Love (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015). She lectures at Columbia University, Barnard College, the City University of New York, and the New York Public Library. Skye is a co-founder of the Manhattan Love Salon, an advisory board member of Strategy of Mind, an associate editor of the American Philosophical Association’s blog, and a certified fellow with the American Philosophical Practitioners Association. Skye has written for The Huffington Post, ABC Radio National, YourTango and others.

Life Unfree: Meaning, Purpose, and Punishment Without Free Will

Free will is an illusion. Who we are and what we do is the result of factors beyond our control. So claim many philosophers and cognitive scientists, armed with empirical data and reasoned arguments. But their conclusion seems intolerable. Without freedom, in what sense are our lives and actions really ours? And if what we do isn’t under our control, how can we be held responsible for our doing it? What sense could we make of the idea of criminal justice? Is a life without free will a life worth living? Philosopher and free will skeptic Gregg D. Caruso thinks it is. Join us as he discusses how we, as individuals and a society, can make sense of life without free will.

Monday, January 11, 2016 at 6pm 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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Gregg D. Caruso is an award winning Associate Professor of Philosophy at SUNY Corning and Co-Director of the Justice Without Retribution Network at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. He is the author of Free Will and Consciousness: A Determinist Account of the Illusion of Free Will (2012), and the editor of Exploring the Illusion of Free Will and Moral Responsibility (ed., 2013), Science and Religion: 5 Questions (ed., 2014), and Neuroexistentialism: Meaning, Morals, and Purpose in the Age of Neuroscience (co-ed. w/Owen Flanagan, forthcoming). He is also the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Science, Religion and Culture.

Who Makes the Rules Around Here? A Workshop for Young Philosophers on the Origins of Morality

As children, we are groomed for society through the introduction of a system of rules, requirements, and directives that we are expected to internalize and then use to regulate our lives. But who says we have to live our lives this way rather than some other way?  God?  Other people?  And why should we listen anyway? Why can’t we each decide for ourselves how to live?  Join us for this philosophical workshop for young thinkers (grades 6-12), as we explore answers to these questions and more.  All you need to bring is your curiosity and your willingness to participate in and follow the discussion where it leads.

There is no required preparation or reading required, but those who want to get a head start on thinking about some of the issues we will discuss can read Plato’s short dialogue Euthyphro

When: Sunday, April 26 at 3pm

Where: Word Up: Community Bookshop – Liberia Comunitaria, 2113 Amsterdam Avenue (at the corner of 165th Street) New York, NY 10032 Tel (347) 688-4456

Cost: This event is free and open to the public, but there is limited space available. Please RSVP below.

How to be an Atheist (and why you should): A conversation with Philip Kitcher

Please join us in conversation with Philip Kitcher as we discuss themes from his new book, Life after Faith.  While atheist writers gleefully cataloguing religion’s intellectual and moral vices have been numerous of late, too few have treated their target with the respect it deserves for successfully providing emotional comfort and social cohesion. Kitcher changes that, acknowledging religion’s virtues even as he constructs a secular humanist alternative to replace it.

Talk with him about this on Monday, February 23, 2015 at 7:00pm at Book Culture, 536 West 112th St., NY, NY  (212) 865-1588

This is event is free.


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