Gotham Philosophical Society
October 26, 2017

Beyond the Marketplace Melting Pot: A Return to Meaningful Music Classification

It has been said that there are not different types or categories of music, only good music and bad music. How can we know the difference between good and bad music however? Well, on some accounts, there are indeed different types (‘low’ vs ‘high’ art), some of which are by definition bad, others good. Yet, on other accounts, music is music – there are no essential differences in kind, and it is simply each listener’s favorable or unfavorable reaction to any given song or piece of music that decides its quality. In very broad strokes, these two contrasting orientations represent attitudes common in modernist and postmodernist theories, respectively. In the former, Western classical music was privileged (unjustly, in some respects) above all other kinds. However, the latter orientation, which is currently in fashion, seems to reduce all musical meaning and appraisal to little more than our own mental projections. In this presentation, a third, alternative way to identify musical types is proposed, one that seeks to illuminate meaningful musical distinctions in the natures and functions of three musical kinds (folk, mass, and art music), with some surprising results. A brief piano performance will precede the talk.

Monday, December 11, 2017 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)

Jason Cutmore is a concert pianist, teacher, and the founder and director of the Canadian music festival, Alberta Pianofest. He has performed solo piano and collaborative recitals across much of North America, Europe, and India, and has published articles in peer review journals and trade magazines. Mr Cutmore lives in New York City, and is currently completing a Master’s degree in Philosophy at the CUNY Graduate Center.

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May 23, 2017

The Manhattan Project: A conversation between David Kishik and Zed Adams

Join us Monday, June 5th at 7pm for a conversation between David Kishik, author of The Manhattan Project, and Zed Adams, co-editor of Giving a Damn, at Book Culture on 112th St.

This sharp, witty study of a book never written, a sequel to Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project, is dedicated to New York City, capital of the twentieth century. A sui generis work of experimental scholarship or fictional philosophy, it analyzes an imaginary manuscript composed by a ghost.

Part sprawling literary montage, part fragmentary theory of modernity, part implosive manifesto on the urban revolution, The Manhattan Project offers readers New York as a landscape built of sheer life. It initiates them into a world of secret affinities between photography and graffiti, pragmatism and minimalism, Andy Warhol and Robert Moses, Hannah Arendt and Jane Jacobs, the flâneur and the homeless person, the collector and the hoarder, the glass-covered arcade and the bare, concrete street. These and many other threads can all be spooled back into one realization: for far too long, we have busied ourselves with thinking about ways to change the city; it is about time we let the city change the way we think.

David Kishik is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Emerson College. He is the author of The Manhattan Project: A Theory of a City, which was just released in paperback by Stanford University Press. His previous books are The Power of Life: Agamben and the Coming Politics (Stanford, 2012) and Wittgenstein’s Form of Life (Continuum, 2008). He is also the co-translator of Giorgio Agamben’s Nudities and What Is an Apparatus.

Zed Adams is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the New School for Social Research. He is the author of Genealogy of Color: A Case Study in Historicized Conceptual Analysis (Routledge 2015) and the co-editor of Giving a Damn: Essays in Dialogue with John Haugeland (MIT 2016). He is currently working on a book on sound recording.

This is event is FREE and open to the public.
Event address:
536 W 112th St
New York, NY 10025
Can’t make it? Reserve a signed copy by calling our store today:
The Manhattan Project: A Theory of a City Cover Image
ISBN: 9781503602779
Availability: On Our Shelves Now – Click Title to See Location Inventory.
Published: Stanford University Press – March 14th, 2017
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April 25, 2017

Out of Our Electoral Darkness: Introducing Lottocracy

As Aristotle (roughly) put it: if you want oligarchy, have elections; if you want democracy, use lotteries.  In this talk, philosopher Alex Guerrero brings this idea into the 21st century, arguing that 6 deep pathologies of electoral representative democracy prevent us from having real democracy, that is from having the State work for all of us, rather than just the most powerful of us.  He maintains that these problems with electoral representative democracy run deep, so that even politically unlikely reforms with respect to campaign finance, lobbying, gerrymandering, and so on, would not be enough to make a significant improvement.  In our most recent presidential election, both Sanders supporters and Trump supporters shared this sentiment: our political system is broken, as it works for the wealthiest of Americans, but certainly not for all.  In his talk, Guerrero offers a way forward, through what he calls “lottocratic” government.  In this system, law is made by issue-specific legislatures, rather than generalist legislatures (like Congress), and the members of these issue-specific legislatures are chosen by lottery from the general citizenry.  After introducing these systems of government, he will discuss some relevant historical examples of institutions of this kind, and discuss some of their possible advantages and disadvantages.
Please join us for this thought-provoking and possibly change-inducing discussion. It is the first in a planned series of discussions co-sponsored by the Gotham Philosophical Society and the CUNY Academy for the Humanities and Sciences, titled ‘Rethinking Political Society.’ 
Wednesday, May 10, 2017 at 7:15pm, Room 9206
CUNY Graduate Center, 365 5th Avenue (at 34th Street)
New York, New York 10016
(212) 817-7944

Alexander Guerrero is a philosopher specializing in political, legal, and moral philosophy, and topics in epistemology that relate to those three areas.  He attended Harvard College and graduated summa cum laude with a degree in Philosophy.  He completed his PhD in Philosophy from New York University and his JD from New York University School of Law.  While a law student, he served as Editor-in-Chief of the New York University Law Review.  Alex joined the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania Department of Philosophy in 2012, and has secondary appointments in the University of Pennsylvania Law School and the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy in the Perelman School of Medicine.  His work has appeared in a number of leading philosophical and legal journals, including Philosophy and Public Affairs, Philosophical Studies, Ethics, Legal Theory, Public Affairs Quarterly, Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics, Criminal Law and Philosophy, and Jurisprudence.  He is currently working on a book-length project, The Lottocratic Alternative, in which he introduces the “lottocratic” system of government, and argues that we should use lotteries to choose our political officials, rather than elections.
Posted in: Events, Past Events
April 22, 2017

Society at the Crossroads: A Conversation between Amartya Sen and Akeel Bilgrami

Join us at the Rubin Museum of Art, on Saturday, April 29, 2017 at 6pm!

Society is at a crossroads. The importance of asking questions to understand where we’ve been, why we’re here, and where we’re going, has never felt more pressing.

Philosophical thought sits at the center of this quest for answers. In this talk, co-presented by the Rubin Museum of Art, Professors Amartya Sen (Economics and Philosophy, Harvard) and Akeel Bilgrami (Philosophy, Columbia) will consider the nature of philosophy in the past and present, its relation to the social sciences and humanities, and its role in  public and private life, both material and spiritual.

Gotham Philosophical Society members can redeem $10 tickets using the discount code: GPS10. 

The Rubin Museum of Art
150 West 17th Street
New York, NY 10011
Posted in: Events, Past Events
March 23, 2017

The Power of Dao: A Timeless Guide to Happiness and Harmony

Dao — often translated as “the Way” — is China’s original and invaluable contribution to philosophy. Ineffable yet inexhaustible, Dao is metaphysically profound, empirically sound, and aesthetically renowned. From quantum physics to modern medicine, from fractal geometry to martial arts, from family relations to warring states, Dao’s insights are pervasive and effective. Daoism’s practices rank with those of Buddhism and Stoicism in cultivating peoples’ “best selves.” Dao conduces to individual serenity, social harmony, and political unity. This talk will be based on Lou Marinoff’s book “The Power of Dao,” using its case studies to illustrate some foundational ideas and their applications.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017 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)

Lou Marinoff is Professor of Philosophy and Asian Studies at The City College of New York, and founding president of the American Philosophical Practitioners Association. He has authored internationally best-selling books on philosophy for everyday life. The Power of Tao reflects Lou’s lifelong devotion to Chinese philosophy. In youth he was a student of venerable Sing Ming Li, a grandmaster of Kung Fu and practitioner of  Chinese medicine. In maturity Lou became a cultural advisor to venerable Xi Yongshin, Abbott of Shaolin Temple. As faculty of Horasis and the WEF, he serves global forums. His hobbies include photography, music, and tennis. Dao is his constant guide. For more information visit

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January 6, 2017

Buddhist Meditation, Mental Freedom, and Free Will

It is a generally accepted principle of Buddhist philosophy that it denies the ultimate reality of the self as an autonomously existing entity. Yet the philosopher Rick Repetti, who is also a seasoned practitioner and instructor of meditation and yoga, argues that the Buddhist view of meditation is in fact a method of cultivating mental freedom, and that such cultivation simultaneously increases free will. Join Dr. Repetti as he takes us on a journey into the Buddhist perspective in order to dissolve the apparent tension of free will for selves that do not exist.

Wednesday, February 1 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)

Dr. Repetti is Professor of Philosophy at CUNY Kingsborough, the co-founder and co-leader of the CUNY Contemplatives Network, and a Fellow with the Center for the Contemplative Mind in Society. He has published over a dozen articles, chapters, and books about, Buddhism, meditation, mental freedom, and free will, among other articles in the areas of ethics, philosophy of religion, and contemplative philosophy of education. His most recent book is Buddhist Perspectives on Free Will: Agentless Agency? (London: Routledge, 2016)

Posted in: Events, Past Events
December 3, 2016

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.

Posted in: Events, Past Events
January 14, 2016

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.

Posted in: Events, Past Events
November 24, 2015

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).

Caruso Pic

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.

Posted in: Events, Past Events
March 17, 2015

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.

Posted in: Events, Past Events