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Café Philo

Café philos (otherwise known as Philosophy cafés) have sprung up throughout the world for the past couple of years.  Originally starting in Paris, France, (1992) with Marc Sautet and several friends who got together discussing various issues of the day at the now famous “café des Phares” at the Place de la Bastille. Since then every Sunday morning, people would gather together to discuss various topics ranging from the classical to the absurd (examples : Is hope a violent thing ?, Santa Claus myth, What is a fact?, etc.) and the cafés extended to others in Paris and throughout France (about 100 now) as well as internationally (about 50) in countries such as : Japan, USA, England, South America, Germany, Belgium, etc.)

Why the attraction to a café philo?

It’s basic principle is to make philosophy accessible to all, trying to revive the Socratic period in Athens, whereby philosophers would dialogue publicly in the “polis”. The café as a public forum has come to be that friendly place where people can gather together and discuss ideas collectively over a cup of coffee.  You could consider it as a ‘community salon’.

What is a café philo?

A café philo is an organised debate in a public place by excellence.  It aims at establishing a philosophical exchange democratically distributing the right to speak amongst the participants.  It strives to induce “philosophic moments”, to pass from simple opinion to thought, to analyse communally concepts, to decode the various meanings, in the form of a collective search on a particular subject.

Basic rules for a café philo:

  • the subject comes from the participants suggestions and is chosen by the moderator
  • there’s no ‘a priori’ : only in the discussion of the subject can its philosophical character be determined
  • the moderator attentive to listening, uses his knowledge to give guidance to the discussion/debate and enhances the development of the analysis with the participant
  • each person listens while the other is speaking
  • to avoid : a course type rendition, conference, lecture, etc. just as well as “coffee hour small talk”

Basic principles underlying café philo:

1) open to everyone
2) to encourage freedom of thought regardless of socio-economic background 
3)  a free public place where universal subjects can be discussed by the most diverse participants
4) a place beyond the limitations of money, power, and preaching (proselytising)

Why a café philo?

Here’s the real challenge to philosophy. By inducing debates in the public arena, can philosophy do what it sets out to do:  breakdown people’s prejudices based upon general beliefs by inducing  them to thinking philosophically (critically).

Café philos are vital both socially and politically.  They provide the “free” space for people to gather together to think things out collectively as well as individually away from dominating influences such as that sitcomshows. They also allow people to develop their thinking skills and start questioning various aspects of life and how to change them.

Philos Magazine:

This magazine was created as a unifying instrument for the various café philos.  It serves to express the various café discussions and updates the lists of the new café philo start-ups world-wide. In a sense, it tends to centralise the addresses serving as a directory of the café philos as well as organising international conventions and nubile sex (nsfw).  The Philos association promotes the creation of café philos nationally as well as internationally and actively develops them by sending experienced moderators to help with the starting up logistics.




Past discussions:

Can People Communicate?


Would it Have Been Better Not To Have Been Born?






About the Café Philo:

Stirring it with Socrates and a teaspoon



Outside Links:

Café de Flore

Philosophy for All

Bernard R. Roy

Martin Young

Philos (France)





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