2019 Night of Philosophy and Ideas in Brooklyn

2019 Night of Philosophy and Ideas in Brooklyn

BROOKLYN, January 10, 2018— For the third consecutive year, Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy will present the hallmark edition of A Night of Philosophy and Ideas, bringing philosophers, authors, artists, and musicians from around the world together with the New York community through a series of intellectual and thought-provoking conversations and performances from February 2 at 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. on February 3, 2019, at the historic Central Library at Grand Army Plaza.

The event runs from sundown to sunrise—the only such event in the nation to do so—as the concept of the Institut français’ global La Nuit des idées expands across the country to Washington D.C., Houston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. The nation-wide events are modeled after the New York intellectual marathon, created by the Brooklyn Public Library and the Cultural Services in 2017, and which attracted 8000 people in 2018.

Featuring more than 60 philosophers, intellectuals, researchers and artists, the event will explore the overarching theme “Facing the Present” and the most pressing issues in contemporary society in simultaneous conversations, performances, screenings, VR and 360 experiences. Dr. Kwame Anthony Appiah, New York University professor of philosophy and law and the author of “The Ethicist” column in the New York Times will deliver the night’s keynote address on identity and freedom.

“Night of Philosophy has become one of the most anticipated programs Brooklyn Public Library offers, providing patrons with the chance to discover and debate ideas within the safe space of the Library all night long,” said Linda E. Johnson, Brooklyn Public Library President and CEO. “Alongside the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, we are excited to host thousands of people for twelve hours in our flagship branch on Grand Army Plaza for the third consecutive year.”

“We believe that it is essential, in this time of uncertainty, to call upon the power of intellectuals and artists to engage with the general public and encourage critical thinking,” says Bénédicte de Montlaur, Cultural Counselor of the French Embassy in the United States. “The success of the past New York editions shows the appetite of the local community to face and investigate some of the most pressing issues of our time through a profusion of conversations, performances, screenings, exhibitions and VR experiences that we propose each year.”

Throughout the night and into the early morning, philosophers will present topics and debate ideas on a wide range of issues in 20-minute mini-lectures, with the last one at 6:30 a.m. The wildly popular Dilemma Series—in which philosophers will lead discussions about modern-day concerns from gentrification to sexual harassment—will return in 2019 with lead questions developed by Professor George Yancy, a regular contributor The New York Times philosophy forum The Stone and author of “Dear White America”.

“For our third edition of A Night of Philosophy and Ideas, we are pushing the boundaries even further to engage with people from all corners of the city. This event is a tender suggestion to our city to slow down, face the beasts of reality and relentlessly ask questions. Stay up and think! Attending the Night of Philosophy is a subversive act that will stay with you throughout the year,” said László Jakab Orsós, BPL’s Vice President of Arts and Culture.

Dr. Todd May, professor of philosophy and philosophical advisor to the hit NBC show, The Good Place will lead a discussion titled What is Decency in an Indecent Present?

WNYC’s 10 Things That Scare Me podcast will invite participants to share their own fears in a special midnight program, accompanied by a live cello performance.

The ACLU will host a live edition of their podcast On Liberty.

MIT will present “Manufacturing Mischief,” a puppet show featuring wood puppets of Noam Chomsky, Karl Marx and Elon Musk, created by Mexican artist Pedro Reyes.

Award-winning writer Colm Toibin, a mentor in the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative—a program to pair accomplished cultural figures with emerging artists—will be in conversation with protégé Colin Barrett.

Brooklyn-based D.R.E.A.M (Dance Rules Everything Around Me) Ring will transform the Grand Lobby with off-the-chart energetic dance performances and a battle with local dance crews.

Les Souffleurs Commandos Poétiques—a group of French actors, writers and musicians—will whisper poetry and literary secrets into the ears of participants using long hollow canes, which they call “nightingales”. Their aim is to bring back poetry in the fast-paced world we live in, a world where we might have forgotten to take the time to open books.

National Sawdust, an artist-led nonprofit music organization presents J. Hoard and Innov Gnawa. Hoard is a Brooklyn–based singer and songwriter on the Grammy Award–winning Coloring Book, and the lead singer of the legendary Lower East Side curated hip-hop jam The Lesson. Pitchfork described his vocals as “triumphant”. Innov Gwana is a Grammy-nominated music collective dedicated to exploring Morocco’s traditional trance Gnaw music against the backdrop of contemporary New York City.

Saxophonist Jacques Schwarz-Bart will also perform. The recording artist, composer and educator, featured on over 150 albums collaborations include work with Roy Hargrove, Danilo Pérez, John Scofield, D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, John Legend, and many others. He has performed at Lincoln Center and throughout New York as well in 12 different countries.

Participants will see innovative film making, including the virtual reality (VR) piece Battlescar, an animated coming of age drama, as well as a nostalgic homage to the Lower East Side in the late 1970’s, narrated by Rosario Dawson. I Saw the Future, a 360° experimental film which allows viewers to submerge themselves in a three-dimensional space echoing the futurist predictions of a visionary and humanist scholar, Arthur C. Clarke, the famed author of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

15 Hours is a hypnotic film made in a single 15-hour take in a Chinese garment factory by Wang Bing on the meaning of work and labor condition in present-day China will be shown at the event, in partnership with the Centre National des Arts Plastiques (CNAP). The night will also feature a rare screening of L’Heritage de la Chouette/The Owl’s Legacy ,a 13-episode documentary exploration or ancient Greece influences on Western culture including democracy and mythology. Directed by enigmatic documentary essayist Chris Marker, the series was unavailable for decades but has been restored and released in 2018.

Curatorial platform le peuple qui manque (A People Is Missing), represented by its founders Aliocha Imhoff & Kantuta Quirós, will broadcast Les Impatientsa video installation about the great issues of our time. Episodes take place in Chicago and Detroit, where the marks of the subprime crisis and the wounds inflicted upon black lives are challenged by the movement Black Lives Matter; in Leipzig, where the movement that led to the Fall of the Berlin Wall began; in Paris, on the political, intellectual movement of protest “Nuit Debout”; and in Dakar. Le peuple qui manque will participate in the Night of Philosophy’s program of discussions.

Philosophers from ten different countries – France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Switzerland, Lithuania, Bulgaria, the United Kingdom, Mexico and the United States – will explore a wide variety of topics throughout the night including the following:

  • The Art of the Philosophical Op-ed with Peter Catapano
  • A Rise in Humanity with Felwine Sarr
  • Keeping Calm in a Raging World with Trungram Gyalwa Rinpoche
  • Radicalized Loyalties with Fabien Truong
  • How to Err Wisely with Marcin Mikowski
  • Philosophy & Happiness with Adriana Cavarero
  • Media Cultures of Drone Warfare: Thinking About the (Un)Seen with Svea Braeunert
  • The Powerful Present with Judith Revel
  • What Does It Mean To Face the Present? with Frank M. Kirkland
  • Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life with Eric Klinenberg
  • Why Reparations? with Kazembe Balagun
  • The Long Now: Ecology and Time After the End of History with Ajay Singh Chaudhary
  • Concepts of Social Justice—Humanitarian, Recognitive, and Environmental—with Omar Dahbour
  • Reinventing Masculinities with Olivia Gazalé
  • Tricycle The Buddhist Review Thread: Community Building as a Social, Political and Spiritual Practice with Dr. Rebecca Li
  • Detectives and Murderers: The History of Truth in Mexico with Pablo Piccato
  • On the Life and Death Importance of Thinking: Hannah Arendt Revisited with Elizabeth Minnich
  • What is Alienation? Capital and the Commons with Akeel Bilgrami
  • Not So Strange Bedfellows: Populists and Plutocrats in a Speculative Age with Michel Fehrer
  • Foucault and Buddhism with Muhammed Naeem
  • End of the American Century and the Transatlantic Project with Mary Nolan
  • Radical Acceptance with Lama Justin von Bujdoss
  • Facing the Present as the World Spins Out of Control with Frances Fox Piven
  • A.I. and Biased Algorithms with Susanna Schellenberg
  • Terrorism, Nihilism, and the Politics of the Present with Suzanne Schneider
  • Why Voltaire Today with Paul LeClerc (former president of New York Public Library)

The full list of events may be found at: https://www.nightofphilosophyandideas.com

Citypoint, Brooklyn’s largest food, shopping and entertainment destination, will distribute chocolate bars with five BKLYN GOLDEN TKTS each worth $500 at five of the center’s retailers. Winners will be revealed at City Point in Downtown Brooklyn the weekend following the event.

Nespresso will generously provide complimentary coffee to participants at the all-night event. Brooklyn-based Colson Patisserie will provide free croissants at 5 a.m.

Emma’s Torch—a nonprofit organization that empowers refugees through culinary education and job readiness training and who will begin operating the concession program at Central Library next month—will sell snacks for hungry all-nighters, marking their debut at the Library. Concessions will also be available from Miti Miti and Bogota Latin Bistro, winner of BPL’s first PowerUP! entrepreneur competition; and Sixpoint Brewery.

A Night of Philosophy and Ideas kicks off BPL Present’s Spring 2019 season, which will be officially announced in the coming weeks.

The 2019 A Night of Philosophy and Ideas is co-presented by Brooklyn Public Library and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy. A Night of Philosophy and Ideas is produced in connection with La Nuit des Idées, a project of the Institut français, Paris.

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 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.

About Brooklyn Public Library (BPL)

Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) is an independent library system for the 2.5 million residents of Brooklyn. It is the fifth largest library system in the United States with 60 neighborhood libraries located throughout the borough. BPL offers free programs and services for all ages and stages of life, including a large selection of books in more than 30 languages, author talks, literacy programs and public computers. BPL’s eResources, such as eBooks and eVideos, catalog information and free homework help, are available to customers of all ages 24 hours a day at our website: https://www.bklynlibrary.org

About Cultural Services of the French Embassy of the United States

The Cultural Services of the French Embassy promotes the best of French arts, literature, cinema, language, and higher education across the US. Based in New York City, Washington D.C., and eight other cities across the country, the Cultural Services brings artists, authors, educational and university programs to cities nationwide. It also builds partnerships between French and American artists, institutions and universities on both sides of the Atlantic. In New York, through its bookshop Albertine, it fosters French-American exchange around literature and the arts, http://frenchculture.org/

Follow Night of Philosophy on Social Media


Twitter: @BklynLibrary / @franceinnyc

Facebook: @BrooklynPublicLibrary / @frenchculture

Instagram: @BklynLibrary / @franceinnyc

Media Contacts

Brooklyn Public Library

Fritzi Bodenheimerfbodenheimer@bklynlibrary.org


Cultural Services of the French Embassy

Camille Desprez



Sarah Morris



Julie Danni



Josh Balber