What we're about

***NOTICE: History of Philosophy Book Club meetings are on hold until the coronavirus crisis has passed. We will reschedule our sessions on Judith Butler and Slavoj Zizkek at that time, and will make announcement about the new dates then, as well as release an updated calendar for the rest of 2020. Please take care of yourself and others during this emergency, and please follow the recommendations of responsible public authorities about safe and effective treatments, social distancing, avoiding large gatherings. Best wishes, and we'll see you all again soon, when the crisis has passed.***

UPDATE: 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 will result in an automatic rejection. This has unfortunately been happening more frequently. Thanks 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 2020 schedule, please click here (http://bit.ly/2Byr7v7).

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.

Past events (113)

Luce Irigaray, Speculum of the Other Woman

West End Neighborhood Library

Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection

West End Neighborhood Library

Lacan: A Beginner's Guide

West End Neighborhood Library

Herbert Marcuse, Eros and Civilization

West End Neighborhood Library

Photos (23)