A Night of Philosophy and Ideas Draws Thousands

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A Night of Philosophy and Ideas took place in New York on January 28th. This festive event organized by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy and the Brooklyn Public Library gathered more than 7,000 people, from 7pm to 7am!


Plato taught us more than two thousand years ago that dialogue is essential for philosophical thought. On January 28th, the Cultural Services of the French Embassy and the Brooklyn Public Library brought this lesson to life by co-presenting a festive, twelve-hour intellectual marathon at the Library and fostering a dialogue of ideas that celebrated and explored critical thought. After a successful first edition hosted by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in 2015, this second edition of A Night of Philosophy and Ideas gathered more than 7,000 people - curious night owls and thinkers of all stripes - for a 12-hour reflective and convivial experience extending until 7am the following morning. A Night of Philosophy was created to bring communities together to think and debate the issues that most impact our lives and society. This year’s edition offered all New Yorkers a rare, much-needed opportunity to take a step back from their fast-paced daily lives and consider the fundamental issues of our humanity.

Such needs were felt everywhere, and this year, for the first time, there were thirty Night of Ideas events organized simultaneously around the world. A Night of Philosophy and Ideas was produced in connection with La Nuit des idées, a worldwide event that took place in over 30 cities, including Los Angeles, on January 26, 2017, organized by the Institut français, Paris. Since 2010, Night of Philosophy ‘happenings’ have taken place in cities around the world, including Paris, Helsinki, London, Tokyo, Berlin, and Tel Aviv. In New York City, a Night of Philosophy was produced by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in April 2015.

Hannah Arendt, a German philosopher who lived in France and then the United States, once said that “plurality” is a necessary condition for any community. Arendt believed that multiple voices and diverse viewpoints are necessary for all of intellectual endeavors. These are precisely the values that the Cultural Services of the French Embassy and Brooklyn Public Library had in mind. Exchange between the artists, intellectuals and the public––and in a more abstract sense, exchange across borders––were at the very heart of this event, which united 72 diverse participants, from dancers to actors, philosophers and musicians. Cameroonian philosopher Achille Mbembe welcomed the audience at 7pm with a reflection about the future of democracy, the Trisha Brown Company performed in the Library’s Grand Lobby several times throughout the night, Simon Critchley led a philosophical yoga session, and visitors immersed themselves in the Notes on Blindness virtual reality project.

Lectures and talks took place throughout the Brooklyn Public Library over the course of the inspiring night, while music was played—and dancing erupted––until the wee hours of the morning.

More photos of the event here.

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