Is there a cafe philo near you?

by New Philosopher on April 30, 2013

Following in the footsteps of Marc Sautet’s café philosophique – which was set up in 1992 and is widely credited with bringing philosophy back to the general public – is an English language version run by American expat Michael Muszlak. His monthly meetup at the iconic Café de Flore in Paris’s upmarket 6th arrondissement draws an eclectic group of young and old, professional and amateur, each on a quest – be it for answers, questions or just a good cup of coffee and an argument.

A long-time resident in Paris, Muszlak initially set up the Café Philo around the corner from his Latin Quarter apartment as an addition to his bilingual supper club “TeaTime is TalkTime”.

Five years on it boasts more than 1,000 members and can lay claim to being one of the largest of its kind in the world. In true democratic style topics are proferred by the participants, then put to a vote. This time around “Technological advancements – positive or negative for humans?” beat out “Does class exist?”; previous sessions have covered free will, beauty, the limits of human knowledge, what is a conscience, the rights of the individual and metaphysics.

At the end of an evening of lively discussion, wine and coffee with a group of amateur intellectuals, it’s easy to see why café philos are such a hit around the world. England has its own version in the form of Pub Philosophy, replacing wine with beer but holding on to the rest, meanwhile Australia has various options including Sydney’s Socrates Cafe (founded by New Philosopher contributor Tim Dean), Philo Agora at Berkelouw Books in Leichhardt and the Hunter Valley Socratic Society at the East Maitland Library.

See the list below for more options, if you know of another cafe philo please post it below and we’ll add it to the list.


Sydney Socrates Cafe

Meetings are held monthly at two locations – Chatswood and Redfern, see the website for more details:

Hunter Valley Socratic Society

Meetings are held at 1pm on the first Tuesday of each month at the East Maitland Library, Garnet Road Green Hills (East Maitland). Contact David Atkinson 0408 636 437 or Frank Oakes 02 49 332 956

Philo Agora

Held at Berkelouw Books, Leichhardt on the first Thursday of the month at 7:15pm. See the website for more details:


Melbourne Existentialist Society

Lectures take place at 8pm on the first Tuesday of the month (except January). All are welcome. Admission is free. No prior booking is necessary. See the website for more details:


Freemantle Philosophy Cafe

Meets each month at the Sail & Anchor pub at 7:30pm. See the website for more details:


August 26, 2013 10:33 am

Concerning Dr. Merlyn's reference to the great 'Push' pubs in Sydney during the 1950's, it's perhaps worth mentioning that the remnants of the Sydney Push are still meeting for fortnightly discussions in Glebe (in the community centre next to the library) and publish an occasional magazine 'The Sydney Realist'. Their bodies may no longer be able to do what they did in the fifties, but their minds are as lively as ever.

David Atkinson

August 25, 2013 11:06 am

I am part of a small group of thinkers in the lower Hunter Valley known as "The Hunter Valley Socratic Society" and we meet on the first Tuesday of the month at East Maitland Library. Our original concept was to establish a philosophy café however we could not find a suitable venue. The article in NP is enlightening and thanks for the effort. We will look again for a suitable café and keep you informed. Some of our past topics were – What is a just war. Was justice done in Pakistan. Should we choose the lesser of two evils. Ethics in education.

Dr Teri Merlyn

August 16, 2013 9:19 am

I love this idea. When I was young there were a number of what we referred to as 'Push' pubs in Sydney, where you could rely on finding good conversation, and people were happy to argue, vociferously at times, and no one took offense. The Royal George in Sussex St was my first experience, as an alienated, precocious fifteen-year-old who used to hitch-hike looking for real conversation. I still remember the buzz of walking into that hive of the mind and feeling like I'd come home. Then there was the Vanity Fair, down towards Central, and the Windsor Castle and Four in Hand in Paddington. There were also a couple of like-mind-hives in Balmain, but I didn't go there often. I don't know if places like this still exist, but I'd love it if there was one out my way, on Sydney's Northern Beaches.

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