Washington Philosophy Circle presents:

New York Café Philo Discussion Topics


12/11/98 Must we have faith?

24/11/98 Are we creative?

Are we lost at sea, yet going somewhere?
Should we control?
Can we control?
Are we free?
Do we have a destiny?
Do we have to know where we’re going in order to get there?

22/12/98 Is there a reason for suffering?


7/1/99 Is there value in excess?

The selfishness or unselfishness of sympathy.
Can there be altruism?
Is sympathy possible?
Where does sympathy come from?
The mystery of sympathy

What is self?
How does culture affect our personal identity?
What is the authentic self?
Self and identity.
Will our cloned self be different?
What am I, and is that true?
Do I have an obligation to recognize the other as a self?

How can we overcome alienation? (7)
Do we have free will? (2)
Are we free? (4)
What is the role of philosophy? (5)
What is happiness? (3)
Is happiness the greatest good? (0)
What is the greatest good? (1)
What is authenticity? (3)
Is morality relative or absolute? (4)
What is honesty and authenticity? (1)

4/3/99 What is the source of morality?

Does the end justify the means? (8)
Is the categorical imperative categorical or imperative? (3)
What is the nature of social (personal) obligation? (8)
Does life have a purpose? (3)
Corporate morality vs. personal morality. (6)
Expediency or morality (6)
What is good art? (3)

Are we free? (8)
Must everything have a purpose? (3)
Can society (the community) be held accountable for my actions? (2)
Do I owe anything to the community? (3)
Does the community owe anything to me? (1)
Is anarchy viable? (5)
Is democracy possible? (2)

15/4/99 Can art affect politics and society?

Is the transcendental self possible? (10)
How did Shakespeare influence society? (1)
How do cultural products (mass media) affect society? (6)
How does technology affect society? (7)
Is society good for the individual? (1)
What is the relationship between work and leisure? (8)
Does our perception create our reality? (8)

What is justice? (9)
Who am I? (1)
What is a meaningful dialogue? (6)
Does everything have a meaning? (1)
Does religion matter? (8)
Is there spirit? (7)
How many things are there? (6)
Why are we fascinated by angels? (4)
Can we escape the cycle of violence? (2)
Why is there something rather than nothing? (2)
Are the concepts of by-xerd (illegible) realistic? (1)

Is there a pure form of romantic love? (9)
What are we obligated to do? (3)
What is existence? (1)
Is there evil without a human perception of it? (3)
What is money? (1)
Can we have a conception of the universe without dualism? (6)
What is the value of originality? (6)
Why do we need art? (8)
What is intelligence? (6)
What is evil? (5)
Does evil exist? (8)
What are we obligated to do? (9)
Does evil exist without a human perception of it? (6)
What is shame? (12)
What is the role of the philosopher? (8)
Is man the measure of all things? (2)
Is life absurd? (2)
Can we have a concept of the universe without dualism? (5)
Does objectivity exist? (3)
Am I a computer? (0)
What’s wrong with sex? (8)

10/6/99 Are there masculine and feminine natures?

What are we obligated to do? (9/9)
What are the characteristics of a good debate? (4)
What is philosophy? (0)
What is the philosopher’s role? (9/0)
What is sexual desire? (6)
What is happiness? (9/6)

The loss of distance (8)
Are there transcendental human rights? (10)
How did mysticism help human development? (3)
Is authenticity possible? (10)
Does religion matter? (6)
Let it be the way you said (2)
Can we convince? (14)
What is art? (15)
Can we know? (3)
Is suicide an option? (3)
Is there evil without perception of it? (4)
Are thoughts articulable? (8)

1/9/99 Why is loneliness the scourge of mankind?

Why a café philo? (11)
What is the best method of truth? (7)
Is there another? (2)
Can there be lying without self-deception? (4)
Can there be happiness without ecstasy? (2)
Can there be thought without language? (11)
What is culture? (2)
What is nature? (1)
What is the nature of culture? (0)
What is the nature of scientific thought? (5)
Does language influence thought? (15)
What does it mean to choose? (4)
Is choice possible? (8)
What is leadership? (2)

Can we reach peace without harmony?
Is there life after death?
Did God invent man or did man invent God?
How does surrealism influence thought?
Does philosophy influence actions?
Is there something unknowable in us which affects our behavior?
Is it possible to know ourselves?
What is shame?

Nature or Culture (5)
Predestination vs. free will (4)
What causes an end to civilization? (5)
Are there moral obligations? (2)
How does the pace of life affect the quality of life? (8)
To what extent does money represent merit? (3)
Immortality: Would you choose it? (3)
Does randomness exist? (7)
Can we ever redeem ourselves for the Holocaust as humans? (1)
Is humanity redeemable for evil? (2)
How does mysticism affect our thinking? (7)
How far can we pretend? (7)
Is conflict necessary for dialogue? (6)
Is a café philo better when the topic is picked in advance? (0)
Are there things in themselves? (4)
What is wisdom? (1)

10/11/99 Is there free speech?

Why a café philo? (7)
Mysticism in philosophy (4)
What’s life? (6)
Is the computer an innocent tool? (2)
Can we survive with logic only? (6)
Why read? (3)
Is all research scientific? (1)
How does the irrational become rational? (4)
Does all research further human knowledge? (2)
What is the value of silence? (9)

How free should we be to harm ourselves? (11)
Time (3)
What is place? (5)
Why a café philo? (9)
Are humans rational? (7)
Can we ever compensate for evil? (11)
What is marriage for? (13)
How does education influence society? (6)
Can we avoid talking about bad things? (6)
What is play? (5)
Is sacredness relevant today? (6)
On what basis do we give respect? (11)
The role of architecture (12)

Are we all going to die? (0)
Time and numbers (10)
Why do so many people write books? (8)
What is the meaning of monogamy? (2)
What is the ideal man? (6)
Humor (5)
What is the authentic self? (6)
Different types of love (2)
Can we achieve enlightened governance? (6)
Why is there a millennium fever? (5)
Is the computer an innocent tool? (5)


Why a café philo? (4)
What is a topic? (4)
What about sex is shameful? (7)
Numbers, Part II (3)
To what extent does money represent merit? (5)
What is truth? (5)
Surrealism (11)
Does the surreal become the real? (8)
Do we vote? (3)
Why is there something rather than nothing? (2)
Did the Y2K problem come to pass? (1)
Is conservatism a disease? (7)
Is radicalism a necessity? (8)
The virtues of brainlessness (1)
Is ignorance bliss? (2)

26/1/00 Can we survive without religious beliefs?

10/2/00 Is our knowledge of beauty learned or innate?

How do we get to believe what we believe? (3)
Why go on? (5)
Do I need to understand in order to do? (6)
What is man? (1)
What does it mean to be? (3)
Is the computer an innocent tool? (7)
How inevitable is interpersonal conflict? (4)
Is ignorance bliss? (10)

Do we choose to believe? (7)
Does linguistic relativity exist? (3)
Does cultural relativity exist? (5)
Can we live without scapegoats? (3)
Are mothers more important than fathers? (2)
Does the art belong to the artist or to the culture? (6)
Does the meaning lie in the work of art or in those looking at it? (8)
What is the nature of limits? (4)
Do we need limits? (4)
Is the computer an innocent tool? (7)
What are we attempting to do at a café philo? (11)
Does money have value beyond its original purpose? (1)
Is revisionism necessary in language? (3)

Is there value in perpetuating our species? (6)
In what manner is America a democracy? (5)
What is the project of the second half of life? (9)
Is the computer an innocent tool? (8)
Is innocence computerized? (1)
How do we transcend others' expectations? (6)
Is it possible to use representative language to express something that is not representative? (13)
Is language enough? (1)
Is any knowledge communicable? (7)
Can we communicate? (10)
What is the good life? (5)

Can we obtain certainty? (8)
Is the Computer an Innocent Tool? (4)
Is the Internet a tool of destruction or innovation? (5)
How does sexual recognition and arousal determine what we do? (9)
Is Religion more Important than Philosophy? (10) (9) (9)
The Value of Surface Representation of the Self (10) (7)
How Important is Truth? (1)
What is the Purpose of Institutions? (9)
Why do we Lie? (4)
Is the Computer Leading to the Destruction of Communication? (2)
Can we Listen with Objectivity? (4)
Do we Have an Obligation to Help the less Fortunate? (9)
What is the Source of Creative Energy? (9)
What is Certainty? (10) (9) (8)
Do the less Fortunate Have an Obligation to Help the less Fortunate? (5)

Is the computer an innocent tool? (3)
Can we choose our beliefs? (6)
Is there such a thing as free will? (2)
What is the value of institutions? (2)
What is the purpose of institutions? (4)
What is truth? (7)
Can happiness be morally justified? (6)
Is there virtue in selfishness? (6)
What exactly do we mean when we use the term ‘reason?’ (4)
Does each individual have a destiny? (2)
Is self-centeredness necessarily bad? (3)
Can we ever be satisfied with ourselves? (4)
Can we be in and for ourselves? (4)
Do we know what is best for us? (1)
Can we ever be certain? (6)

Is the computer an innocent tool? (3)
Is technology out of control? (4)
Is there a meaning to life? (2)
What exactly do we mean when we use the word ‘reason’? (4)
What is a lie? (2)
Is communication possible? (6)

Is the computer an innocent tool? (4)
Is the computer destroying us? (5)
Is there a purpose to life? (6)
Why do people in different cultures listen differently? (5)
What is the purpose of institutions? (3)
The importance of privacy (5)
What is charisma? (5)
What is the role of temperament in communication? (5)
What is insanity? (7)
How inevitable are interpersonal conflicts? (4)

Is the Computer an Innocent Tool? (11)
Is there a purpose to life? (2)
Is there is conservative or liberal metaphysic? (6)
What is Reason? (4)
It is in the best interest of the state to lie to its citizens. (1)
Is it in the best interest of the citizen for the state to lie to him/her? (0)
Is it in the best interest of the state for the citizen to lie to it? (0)
How important is privacy? (8)
Is ignorance bliss? (3)

Is zero population growth necessary in an overcrowded world? (3)
Does life have a purpose? (3)
Has “mother nature” gotten too good a rap? (7)
Is marriage a viable institution for the 21st century? (3)
Is environmentalism overrated? (3)
Is privacy a necessary value? (2)
What is the meaning of desire? (8) (7) (7)
Is civilization organic or constructed? (2)
Does pop culture make us stupid? (5)
What does it mean to be religious? (8) (7) (5)
Is history repeated? (3)
What is sexual normalcy? (5)
Does monogamy inhibit human growth? (7)

Can there be a tyranny of reason? (15)
Does monogamy impede personal growth? (16)
What is greed? (1)
How do we define religiosity? (8)
What is the role of women in society? (4)
What is evil? (10)
What constitutes conspiracy? (4)
Whence the urge for self expression? (9)
How can we accept our own mortality? (10)
What is more important, law or morality? (10)
Is civilization organic or constructed? (9)
Must one die before death? (9)
What is to conform? (3)
What is the best simile for truth? (4)
Is gender cultural or biological? (8)
What does it mean to be human? (12)
Is resistance futile? (3)

Can there be a tyranny of reason? (13)
Should the state prohibit smoking? (5)
What is meant by intimacy? (9)
What is moral imagination and what are its limits? (8)
Is civilization organic or constructed? (12)
In involuntary euthanasia moral? (3)
Are we living in a decadent society? (17)
Is society progressing? (10)
Is there such a thing as personal growth or are we determined? (7)
Is there fruitful order to the universe? (13)
Is greed good? (4)
Is capitalism moral? (16)
Does life have a moral purpose? (6)
Is there a point to longevity? (5)
Do we have to know where we’re going in order to get there?

Are there truly great artists? (2)
Is capitalism beneficial to a society or not? (13)
Nature of politics in our society. (4)
What is the purpose of institutions? (3)
Does money have value beyond being a tool of exchange? (4)
When do principles become tyrannical? (14)
Is involuntary euthanasia unethical? (6)
What is the difference between explanation and understanding? (7)
Does money represent merit? (4)
Is globalization ethical? (7)
Is it desirable to have a one-government world? (11)
What is merit? (9)

Do religions help humanity? (5)
Does morality compromise law? (1)
Is common sense equally distributed? (2)
How to distinguish preference from prejudice? ( 6)
Does mid-life crisis have to come in the middle of life? (2)
Which reveals more truth, art or philosophy? (7)
What is the best education? (5)
Does law compromise morality? (4)

Can philosophy be cleansed of politics? (2)
Is common sense equally distributed? (7)
What is wisdom? (10)
Religion or Humanism (5)
What’s wrong with Rock ‘n Roll? (3)
Liberalism or Conservatism (1)
Is a purposeless life worth living? (4)
What is the purpose of life? (5)
Can law ever do justice to moral conflicts? (5)
What is the value of money and of art? (4)
What is the purpose of consciousness? (6)
When is preference prejudice? (9)

What is the overarching search of human beings today? (3)
What is the place of passion in an enlightened life? (2)
What is the nature of humanity? (1)
Are we faithful to our beliefs? (3)
What is time? (8)
What subject matters should taxpayers pay for in public schools? (3)
Death (7)

How do we recover from the presidential election results? (1)
Is there a moral conflict between art and nature? (3)
Death (6) (5)
Friendship (6) (7)
Resistance (1)
What is the difference between philosophy and politics? (2)
Should philosophers become kings or kings philosophers? (3)
Is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved? (4)
Words can’t stop bullets, but, on the other hand, bullets can stop words. (1)
Does it matter how we live our lives? (4)

What are the limits of tolerance? (10)
Art or Nature (3)
Integrity (10)
Death (12)
How do we know if we progress? (7)
Education today (6)

Is there anything new under the sun? (6) (7)
Can we quit striving? (1)
Does a relationship imply possession? (5)
What characteristics does a perfect society have? (3)
What is the perfect life? (3)
Can we experience non-knowledge? (1)
Is there progress? (6) (5)
Is being alive a desideratum? (2)
Has mankind stopped evolving? (3)
Can we live without competition? (4)
Brother, can you spare a dime? (3)


Is there a difference between a liberal and a conservative mind? (8) (7) (7)
Pros and cons of Capitalism. (4)
Can we live without competition? (8) (7) (5)
Can we define meaning? (5)
Do we, as citizens, have a moral obligation to society? (5)
What will bring the new? (3)
Can justice be objective? (6)
How does the law rule? (6)
Do we need the media? (6)
Will the media last forever? (1)

What should be the goal of education in a democratic society? (10)
What is the pursuit of happiness? (8)
The media (1)
What makes a political rule legitimate? (8)
How do you accommodate power and justice? (8)
Why are the poor always with us? (3)
Is poverty necessary? (3)
Is there progress? If so, is it teleological or spontaneously created? (8)
Brother, can you spare a dime? (3)

Brother, can you spare a dime? (4)
Is free market economy the ideal? (5)
Are economists justified in believing humans are rational? (7)
What is the essence of critical thinking? (9)
Should we support voluntary euthanasia? (3)
Is a world court of justice manageable and desirable? (6)

Do we need mystery on our lives? (1)
How deeply are we influenced by the media? (3)
Is progress teleological or haphazard? (2)
What is life? (6)
Is life worth living? (2)
Is it moral to be rational or is it rational to be moral? (2)
Are we really free? (4)
Do are beliefs determine our actions? (0)

Do we need censorship in the arts? (3)
Why hell? (2)
What is consciousness? (6)
How is the brain related to the mind? (3)
Is religion necessary for ethical life? (2)
Why do people try so hard to prove that God does not exist? (5)
What should a proof for God’ existence be like? (3)
Can humans survive without secrets? (4)
What is mystery? (3)
What is the difference between art and pornography? (5)

What is the best idea you’ve ever encountered? (6)
Why is there something rather than nothing? (6)
Do we need to revise our beliefs once in a while? (3)
Can lying be beneficial? (9)
Imagination (10)
Is life worth living? (1)
The importance of daydreaming (6)
Is mystery necessary for a full life? (2)
Can there be multiple realities? (7)
Is there a collective unconscious? (3)
Can there be reality without life? (3)
Can we agree on a social good? (5)
Is there true altruism? (7)
Punishment (4)
Should art be censored? (3)

From where do we get our notion of right and wrong? (3)
Is competition necessary? (2)
What is fear? (2)
Why be moral? (3)
Why is it fashionable to denounce religion? (8)
Do we need censorship? (2)
What is the subconscious? (4)
Is there progress; if so, is it teleological or haphazard? (5)
Why do we need religion at all? (0)
How do we define progress? (4)
Are our beliefs justified? (2)
Is life worth living? (4)

Influence of Media. (7) (0)
Brother, can you spare a dime? (2)
Can consumerism as a value be reversed? (5)
Is evolution a philosophy? (3)
Some sublime moments, but mostly boring. (4)
Is science a religion? (4)
What forces are working against progress? (1)
What is progress? (7) (5)
Should we eradicate fashion? (3)
Is life worth living? (7) (6)
What is the role that education plays in our lives? (3)


05/09/2002 Is there a collective ideal?

19/09/2002 Why humor?

03/10/2002 What is the wellspring of the creative urge?

17/10/2002 The Myth of Freedom

31/10/2002 Why do we sometimes wear masks?

14/11/2002 The Value of Rebelliousness

05/12/2002 What Does it Mean to Understand?

19/12/2002 The Other

02/01/2003 Does the Truth Change with the Times?

Do depressed people have a truer vision of the world? 12
What's important in life? 8
Does Technology improve living? 6
Is there coincidence? 5
What are we entitled to? 4
Does Philosophy assume a love of humanity? 4
How do we decide? 2
What is meant by relative? 2
Does everyone have the right to sing the blues? 2
Do we live as if we held the truth? 2
Does needing something make it so? 0


30/01/2003 Is Change Good?

13/02/2003 How do we know right action?

27/02/2003 The Value of Fantasy

13/03/2003 The Difference Between Passion and Obsession

27/03/2003 What is Femminine? What is Masculine?

10/04/2003 Are We fighting a Just War in Iraq?

24/04/2003 What Is the Difference Between Religion and Philosophy?

08/05/2003 What is Meaning?

22/05/2003 Ambiguity

05/06/2003 The Unexamined Life Is not Worth Living

19/06/2003 What is the Function of Art?

03/07/2003 Can We Change?

Do we have choice? 7
What is Holy? 6
Does History Repeat Itself? 3
Are The Division of The Species Arbitrary? 3
Do We Now Have an American Empire? 3
Where Should We Go From Here? 3
Is There Meaning Outside of Language? 3
Is Nature the Best Teacher? 2

2003 - 2004

July 31, 2003: Are Manners an Asset in Society?

August 21, 2003: How One's View of Truth Affects How One Deals With a Heart Attack?

August 28, 2003: Can We Have Civilization Without Justice?

Sept. 11, 2003: What is Love? How does it relate to Romance and Sex?

Sept. 25, 2003: What is the most important idea you have encountered?

Oct. 09, 2003: What is Good, and what is Evil?

Oct. 23, 2003: Do the Wise Laugh?

Nov. 06, 2003: Which is Primary: Individual or Society?

Nov. 20, 2003: Is Nationalism Necessary in a Globalized World?

Dec. 04, 2003: The Observer, the Observed, the Observation

Dec. 18, 2003: Who Am I?

Feb. 12, 2004: Is Faith Desirable?

March 11, 2004: Powerful People and Control Issues

March 25, 2004: What is the Good Across All Contexts?

April 8, 2004: Is a Person Simply the Sum of His/Her Relationships?

April 22, 2004: How Important Is Purpose in Our Lives?

May 6, 2004: What Is the Value of Religion?

May 20, 2004: Know Thyself: A Progress Report

June 3, 2004: Is There a Fact/Value Distinction?

June 17, 2004: What is Play?

July 1, 2004: Has Material Progress Increased our Happiness?

July 15, 2004: To What Extent Are We Constrained by Historical Circumstances?

Note: Topics chosen are boldfaced. Numbers indicate number of votes per topic.

Note: List needs to be updated to May 2005.

Bernard Roy & Café Philo

To see proposed topics, go to Café Philo Reference Materials: Café Topics

See also New York Café Philo Summaries, 2003-2004 Season

Washington Philosophy Circle
(inaugurated 28 April 2005)

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