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Nov 20
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Instrument of Destiny The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine 1047 Amsterdam Avenue at 112th Street New York, NY 10025
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Sofia Avalon Theater 5612 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20015, US
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Watch A Night of Philosophy & Ideas on Livestream

A Night of Philosophy & Ideas, an all-night marathon of philosophical debate, performances, screenings, readings, and music, co-presented by the  Cultural Services of the French Embassy and Brooklyn Public Library, will take place at the Brooklyn Public Library on February 2 at 7pm to February 3 at 7am. The event will feature more than 60 philosophers, intellectuals, researchers and artists, the event explores the overarching theme “Facing the Present” and the most pressing issues our contemporary societies in a profusion of simultaneous conversations, performances, screenings, VR and 360 experiences.

If you can’t make it to Brooklyn, you can join the event via livestream from 7pm to 11:30pm EST, for a live program of lectures, interviews with guest philosophers, performances, and more. 


Livestream Program
7:00pm: Interview with Kwame Anthony Appiah, NOPI Keynote Speaker  
7:10pm: Interview with Benedicte de Montlaur, Cultural Counselor of the French Embassy
7:25pm: Performances in the Grand Lobby including Les Souffleurs and music by Rubin Kodheli
7:30pm: Keynote: Defeating Tribalism, lecture by Kwame Anthony Appiah
7:50pm: Interview with Linda E. Johnson, President and CEO, Brooklyn Public Library
8:00pm: Community Building as a Social, Political, and Spiritual Practice, lecture by Rebecca Li
8:20pm: Interview with Todd May, NOPI Guest Lecturer  
8:30pm: Earth Institute: How do we Talk about Climate Change, lecture by Peter de Menocal
8:50pm: Interview with Michel Feher, NOPI Guest Lecturer 
8:55pm: Performance by Manufacturing Mischief (MM) 
9:00pm : Facing the Present as the World Spins out of Control, lecture by Frances Fox Piven
9:20pm: Interview with John Francis, NOPI Guest Lecturer 
9:25pm: Interview with Felwine Sarr, NOPI Guest Lecturer  
9:30pm: World Urbanization: From Human Selection to Ecological Collapse, lecture by Guillaume Faburel  
10:00pm: Flexin Dance Performance
10:05pm: Traveling with Ghosts: Seeing the Present through Historical Memory, lecture by Elvira Basevich 
10:30pm: Radicalized Loyalties, lecture by Fabien Truong 
10:50pm: Interview with Eric Linus Kaplan, NOPI Guest Lecturer  
11:00pm: Interview with Nicolas Prevelakis, NOPI Guest Lecturer 
11:05pm: Interview with Manon Garcia, NOPI Guest Lecturer  
11:10pm: Interview with Jakab Orsos, Vice President of Arts and Culture, Brooklyn Public Library

Please note, this schedule is subject to change. 


Featured Guests

Kwame Akroma-Ampim Kusi Anthony Appiah​ is a British-born Ghanaian-American philosopher, cultural theorist, and novelist whose interests include political and moral theory, the philosophy of language and mind, and African intellectual history.

Rubin Kodheli (cello) composes music for modern dance, orchestras and chamber ensembles and contributed compositions to the widely acclaimed film Precious (2009). He also writes music for his band Blues in Space. Kodheli has performed with many artists, including Philip Glass, Dave Douglas, Henry Threadgill, Meredith Monk and Tom Harrell, Regina Spektor. Kodheli recently performed a concert with Ms. Anderson and Christian McBride at the Newport Jazz Festival as part of a new series called Improvisations.

Les Souffleurs- Using tenderness as a provocative approach, the Souffleurs whisper poetic secrets into the ears of passers-by, using long hollow canes, they call “nightingales”. The Souffleurs have performed since 2001 in every kind of place, both outdoors and indoors. Their aim is to give access to poetry to people who otherwise might not take the time to open books in the fast pace world we live in. The poetic commandos adapt to the places and situations, and to the present time.

Artists: Axel Petersen, Hélène Lanscotte, Irène Le Goué, Loyce Hebert, Jean Dominique Graziani, Françoise Escobar, Talou Calvet, Loïc Calmejane, Christophe Cuby, Marie Pierre, Eric Benyamine, Vincent Comte, Christophe Bonzom. Coordination: Elvire Beugnot

Dr. Rebecca Li, a Dharma heir in the lineage of Chan Master Sheng Yen, started practicing meditation in 1995. She began her  training with Master Sheng Yen in 1999 to become a Dharma and meditation instructor. Later on, she trained with John Crook and Simon Child to lead intensive retreats and received full Dharma transmission from Simon Child in 2016. She is the founder and guiding teacher of Chan Dharma Community and a sociology professor at The College of New Jersey, where she also serves as faculty director of the Alan Dawley Center for the Study of Social Justice.

Todd May is Class of 1941 Memorial Professor of the Humanities at Clemson University (which he hastens to add has nothing to do with when he became a professor). He is the author of fifteen books of philosophy, including the forthcoming A Decent Life: Morality for the Rest of Us (Chicago University Press). He is also a philosophical consultant to the television show The Good Place.

Judith Revel is a philosophy professor at Paris Nanterre University. A specialist in contemporary French and Italian thought, her work focuses on the way in which philosophy attempted to problematize its historical situation and the possibility of intervening on the present. Her Foucault avec Merleau-Ponty. Ontologie politique, présentisme et histoire was published in 2015. 

Sophie Wahnich is a senior researcher at the CNRS. Specializing in the French Revolution, she challenges the present with questions of the past and has explored the figure of the foreigner (L’impossible citoyen) and the emotions of popular movements (La longue patience du peuple). Wahnich’s In Defense of the Terror was published in 2015.

Frances Fox Piven is an internationally renowned social scientist, scholar, and activist whose commitments to poor and working people, and to the democratic cause have never wavered. Her groundbreaking work with Richard A. Cloward on the functions of social welfare and poor relief (Regulating the Poor, 1971) received front page coverage in the New York Times Book Review and ignited a scholarly debate that reshaped the field of social welfare policy. Subsequent work analyzed the conditions under which the disruptive actions of the poor influenced the foundation of the modern American welfare state (Poor People’s Movements, 1977) and were necessary to the advancement of progressive social policy and political reforms (The Breaking of the American Social Compact, 1997; Challenging Authority, 2008).

Dr. John Francis is a National Geographic Explorer, and environmental educator. A former United Nations Environment Program goodwill ambassador, Dr. Francis speaks on environmental issues internationally. He began his work in 1971, when after witnessing an oil spill in San Francisco Bay he stopped using motorized vehicles and took a vow of silence lasting 17 years. The founder of Planetwalk, an environmental awareness organization, he ended his silence on Earth Day 1990, telling the assembled crowd, “Environment is about how we treat each other.” Francis authored Planetwalker: 17-Years of Silence, 22-Years of Walking, and Ragged Edge of Silence: Finding Peace in a Noisy World, both published by National Geographic Books.

Guillaume Faburel is a professor of urbanism, geography and political science at the University Lyon 2 and at the Institut d’études politiques of Lyon. He has directed research examining our ways of life and political commitments as well as urban planning policies and their social, spatial and ecological effects. He is the author of most recently Les métropoles barbares : Démondialiser la ville, désurbaniser la terre.

Felwine Sarr is a Senegalese scholar and writer. His research focuses on epistemology, economic policies and the history of religious ideas. He has published Dahij105 Rue Carnot, Méditations AfricainesHabiter le MondeIshindenshin and Restituer le patrimoine Africain with Benedicte. His Afrotopia is forthcoming in English in 2019.

Elvira Basevich is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. Her first monograph, W.E.B. Du Bois: The Lost and the Found, is forthcoming with Polity. Her next book project, On Second Slavery: Du Bois’s Theory of Economic Justice, offers a philosophical reconstruction and defense of Du Bois’s critique of racial capitalism in the Americas. Her first poetry book, How to Love the World is written in the tradition of epic poetry.

Manon Garcia is a Harper-Schmidt Fellow in the Society of Fellows and an assistant professor in the Social Sciences Collegiate Division at the University of Chicago. Her primary research is in political, moral, economic, and feminist philosophy. Her first book, On ne naît pas soumise, on le devient, was published in 2018.

Fabien Truong is a French sociologist whose work focuses on the “radicalization” of young Muslim men and underprivileged areas of Western cities and social mobility. Among other works, he has writtenRadicalized Loyalties: Becoming Muslim in the West (Polity Press, June 2018).

Eric Linus Kaplan wrote his thesis on Truth in Madhyamaka and Nietzsche under the direction of Stanley Cavell at Harvard University, received his M.A. in philosophy from Columbia University specializing in the philosophy of science, and a PhD from UC Berkeley under the direction of Hubert Dreyfus writing on Kierkegaard and the Funn. He is a working comedy writer having written for Futurama (the infamous dog episode) The SimpsonsMalcolm in the MiddleZombie CollegeThe Drinky Crow Show and Flight of the Conchords. He is currently a co-executive producer at Young Sheldon and an executive producer at The Big Bang Theory.

Nicolas Prevelakis- Nicolas Prevelakis is a social studies lecturer and Assistant Director of Curricular Development at Harvard's Center for Hellenic Studies. He has PhDs in Philosophy from the University of Paris-Sorbonne and in Sociology from Boston University. His work examines the self in European philosophy and the intersection of nationalism, religion and politics in today’s world.


A Night of Philosophy & Ideas in Brooklyn is produced in connection with La Nuit des idées, a project of the Institut Français, Paris. Events will take place around the world, including five US cities, between January 26 and February 2, 2019.

2019 Night of Philosophy & Ideas is co-presented by Brooklyn Public Library and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy. The program is made possible with major support from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and City Point. Generous support is provided by The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, Penguin Random House, the Institut français, Nespresso, Sixpoint Brewery, the Wythe Hotel, Air France, Hilail Gildin Trust, Humanities New York, Onassis USA, The Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative, FACE Foundation, and event partners National Sawdust and The New York Times. WNYC is the Official Media Partner of the 2019 BPL Presents Season.

Additional support is provided by the German Center for Research and Innovation, the Consulate General of Switzerland, the Polish Cultural Institute New York, The Earth Institute, the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation and Sofia University, the Istituto Italiano di Cultura, the Lithuanian Cultural Institute, the Mexican Cultural Institute New York, the Université Lyon 2, New York University and Fordham University. In-kind support is provided by Colson Patisserie, Pommery, Albertine, Bogota Latin Bistro, Miti Miti, Emma’s Torch and EVEN Hotel Brooklyn. Visual identity created by La Rêveuse.


Since 2015, the Cultural Services of the French Embassy has co-produced intellectual marathons in the U.S. The first Los Angeles edition took place in 2017. This kind of intellectual marathon is now being expanded around the country, taking different shapes and names depending on regional partners and local expectations. The events will take place in five U.S. cities: Houston (Jan. 26 at Rice University’s Moody Center for the Arts); Washington D.C. (Jan. 31 at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden); Los Angeles (Feb. 1 at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County); San Francisco (Feb. 2 at the San Francisco Public Library); and New York (Feb. 2 at the Brooklyn Public Library). All events are co-produced by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, the Institut Français, Paris, and local partners.