What we're about

***ANNOUNCEMENT: We are happy to announce that the History of Philosophy Book Club began meeting again in 2021 virtually. Although we won’t be able to discuss philosophy face-to-face, which we REALLY enjoy doing, when we paused the group in March 2020 we didn’t realize the covid crisis would last so long. We’re looking forward to starting the new year online, and you can find the schedule for 2021 here (https://bit.ly/3d3noJc). It includes the thinkers Slasvoj Zizek, Derek Parfit, and Martha Nussbaum, and topics include non-violent resistance and black feminism. We’ll spend the year wrapping up our exploration of contemporary philosophy, and in 2022 we’ll circle back to the ancient world and begin our study of the history of philosophy from the start once again.

We will be holding meetings on Zoom at our traditional time on the third Saturday of every month, from 1-2:30. If you’d like to attend, please RSVP to the session as normal. A few days before the meeting, confirmed attendees will receive a Zoom link through Meetup’s messaging system. To facilitate discussion, participants will be asked to mute their audio during sessions and, when they’d like to speak, to use Zoom’s hand-raising function and wait to be called on.

We’re looking forward to seeing you soon. Stay safe and stay healthy!***

NOTICE: If you would like to join the History of Philosophy Book Club, we're happy to have you! Please do take a few moments to give thoughtful answers to our registration questions, however -- expertise in philosophy is not required, but we'd like to know about you and your interests in philosophy! As our registration form notes, one-word or excessively brief answers to the questions, as well as snarky or scornful replies, will result in an automatic rejection. This has unfortunately been happening more frequently. Thank you for your consideration.


Did you take a philosophy class in high school or college and wish you had taken more? Do you read philosophy texts independently but have no one to discuss them with? Then this group is for you.

Somewhat of a hybrid, it is a combination study group and book club. The backgrounds of our members vary: some have never taken a philosophy course and are essentially self-taught; others have doctorates in the field. We read authors considered "canonical." Although the majority of writers have been European and American, we have read and are open to texts from other cultures. Representative philosophers have included Plato, Averroes, Confucius, Descartes, Spinoza, Kant, Sartre, Arendt, Rawls, Foucault, and Butler. Most of the time we read a single book by a single author, but if their output has been substantial we will consider an anthology. At times we engage with debates between prominent philosophers, such as the Searle-Derrida debate about meaning and interpretation, and we sometimes discuss a topic, such as theories of metaphor, or a school of philosophy such as pragmatism.

We started the group in 2010 with the classical period and finished in 2013 with twentieth century writers. In 2014 we returned to the classical period and are repeating the chronology, adding new writers who were missed the first time around (to see the past reading schedule, from 2010 forward, click here (http://bit.ly/32wpOch). We are currently reading 20th century philosophers. For the 2021 schedule, please click here (https://bit.ly/3qcV9wU).

Meetings are currently held at the West End Library in DC, located 2301 L St NW, Washington, DC 20037,

on the third Saturday of each month, from 1:00-3:00 PM. The Foggy Bottom-GWU metro station is nearby.

Tips in Preparing for Meetings

After you have finished the reading, ask yourself: (1) What are the philosopher’s principal ideas? (2) What arguments are used to support them, and are they strong or weak? (3) Who were the author’s major influences, and whom in turn did he/she influence? (4) What was the historical context in which the author wrote, and did this affect what was said? (5) Are the author’s works still relevant today and, if so, how?

To help in answering these questions, attendees are encouraged to consult the secondary resources posted in each announcement. Wikipedia, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy are especially useful.

Rules of Conduct at Meetings

Avoid monopolizing the conversation. If you've been speaking for several minutes, and sense others want to get in, relinquish the floor.

Stay on topic.

Challenging arguments and disputing facts are fine; personal attacks are not.

If you have not read at least 50% of the recommended selections, consider skipping the meeting to allow other interested people to attend.

Those who violate the rules of conduct repeatedly will be dropped from the group at the discretion of the organizers.


To remain viable, groups depend on regular attendance. Toward this end, we ask that you only RSVP "Yes" if you know that you are likely to attend. If it turns out that you cannot make it to the meeting, we ask that you cancel your RSVP as soon as possible so that others on the waiting list can take your place.

Although everyone is welcome to use our resources, our targeted audience, and membership, is now restricted to people who live in the Maryland, DC, and Virginia area. Those who joined before November 2016 have been grandfathered in.

Upcoming events (1)

Gilles Deleuze

Online event

Gilles Deleuze, a French philosopher writing in the mid- 20th century, played a significant role in postmodern and poststructuralist thought. He offered what he characterized as a new form of empiricism with a focus on sensing, externality, and relationships. Throughout his work, he builds off of Spinoza’s concept of a plane of immanence, everything consisting of one substance. This position leads him to focus on relationships, movement, rhizomes, connections, encounters, flexibility, change, the social, and gatherings, in contrast to forms, ideals, truth/Truth, the individual, and permanence. He variously borrows from, builds upon, and responds to many philosophers throughout his work including Freud, Spinoza, Nietzsche, Kant, Leibniz, Hegel, Kline, Plato, and many more, making his thought both complex and engaging to a variety of audiences.

While Deleuze engaged in many philosophical and academic endeavors independently, he also collaborated with Felix Guattari, a student of Lacan who went on to part ways with Lacan and work with Deleuze to offer an alternative to Lacanian psychoanalysis in two of their later, more well-known texts, Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus, which comprise the Capitalism and Schizophrenia series. In these works, Deleuze and Guattari treat different philosophical topics as plateaus or rhizomes – rather than laying out a philosophical position or discussion in a traditionally linearly organized way, or what they describe as a “root book,” they examine multiple gatherings of concepts or rhizomatic connections within and between thought. As a result, their work lends itself to more flexible reading approaches, which we will take advantage of for this month’s reading. Rather than reading one complete volume through, we will be discussing several key pieces and sections from the two Capitalism and Schizophrenia volumes in addition to two pieces Deleuze wrote independently (listed below). There are also a number of resources online that can provide helpful background and context to both Deleuze and Guattari. Stanford’s Encyclopedia of Philosophy (https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/deleuze/#DifRep) can provide valuable background information, and for those who enjoy podcasts, Philosophize This! has a series on Deleuze (https://www.philosophizethis.org/search?q=deleuze) that may prove to be a helpful accompaniment to the reading.

The Logic of Sense - available at https://bit.ly/3FVyKM6
• The Simulacrum and Ancient Philosophy (p. [masked])

Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia - available at https://bit.ly/3vmc5Ea
Print copies can be purchased at Amazon (amzn.to/3G3AtPV0), Abe Books (https://bit.ly/3DKyiyz), and other retailers
• Desiring Production (p. 1-8)
• The Whole and Its Parts (p. 42-50)
• Psychoanalysis and Capitalism (p. [masked])

A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia - available at https://bit.ly/3aPIjhj
Print copies can be purchased at Discover Books (https://bit.ly/2Xhkhc0), Abe Books (https://bit.ly/3lOvScg), and other retailers
• Introduction: Rhizome (p. 3-25)
• November 28, 1947: How Do You Make Yourself a Body Without
Organs? (p. [masked])
• 1933: Micropolitics and Segmentarity (p. [masked])
• 1227: Treatise on Nomadology (p. [masked])

Difference and Repetition - available at Amazon (https://amzn.to/3DKyAp9), Abe Books (https://bit.ly/3BRFbOa), and other retailers
• Chapter III: The Image of Thought (p. [masked])

I have also (non-exhaustively) listed some of the key broad themes or topics that may of interest to discuss to start to get the wheels turning:
• Deleuze’s metaphysics
• Immanence
• Monism
• Subject - object
• Belief and desire
• The body
• Approach to logic and rationality
• Approach to art
• Implications for social structures and power dynamics
• Language and linguistics, signs and signals
• View of, approach to, and alternative to psychoanalysis
• Simulation and simulacra
• Deleuze in conversation with Zizek
• Knowing and learning

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