Cafe Philosophique

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Date(s) - Saturday, May 19, 2018
2:00 pm - 4:30 pm

St John the Baptist Church Hall


Café Philosophique

When: Saturday 19 May 2018, 2 pm until 4 pm.

Please arrive a few minutes early for a prompt 2 pm start.

Where: St John the Baptist Church Hall, Grainger Street (on the corner of Grainger Street and Westgate Road), Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 5JG.

Please note that the entrance is through the church hall door, which is on the side of the building (and not through the main front church door).


Classical materialism begins as the claim that reality is made, first and foremost, of ‘matter’, in opposition to the idealist position that reality is, first and foremost, ‘ideal’. Yet this is something that has been challenged and complicated by developments both in modern philosophy and physics. In its place a variety of ‘new’ philosophical materialisms have attempted to outline alternative ways of thinking about reality that challenge the opposition between ideas and matter and even, in some cases, break away from the idea of matter as such. This talk will outline some of these approaches and consider their implications for understanding the world we live in as well as our place within it.

Andrés Saenz De Sicilia is a visiting lecturer in philosophy at the University of Roehampton and Central Saint Martins as well as tutor at University College London. He completed his PhD on Kant, Hegel and Marx at the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy, Kingston University, and has published articles in Radical Philosophy and Language Sciences. His first book is due out next year.


The task of the audience is to attempt to be Socratic, as it were, in exploring philosophically the basic concepts being presented, their underlying assumptions, coherence, and viability.  We invite you to join us in this exciting and challenging endeavour.

A contribution of £2 is requested, for those attendees who can afford it, to cover the room hire costs.

Reading & resources for the session

If you would like to receive any of the following 3 references in the form of pdf attachments, please email – and please indicate which reference item you would like.

1) The Bertrand Russell overview of the history of materialism from the 1950s. It is from the introduction to one of the classic texts on the topic, the three volume History of Materialism by Frederick Lange.

2) A more updated “historico-philosophical” overview of materialism by Charles Wolfe (from 2015).

3) Marx’s brief but very famous ‘Theses on Feuerbach’ which offer powerful insights into his more philosophical positions in relation to materialism – includes the one about philosophers only interpreting the world but the point being to change it.


Café Philosophique has been the flagship of the Newcastle Philosophy Society since its inception in 2003. More than the weekly study groups, it embodied the spirit of taking philosophy out of academe and into the domain of public interest, combining erudition and argumentation with wider participation, personal involvement, and broadening of scope to include all matters of interest and concern to a growing diversity of individuals and the public at large.

The model of Café Philosophique, as implied by its title, is based on a popular movement in France over the past half century, where people with an interest in philosophy gathered in cafés or similar venues, and took turns to introduce a theme or topic for collaborative reflection and discussion.  On occasion, an invited speaker would be invited to focus the debate or draw people’s attention to a particular subject beyond their immediate grasp.

For a number of years, Café Philosophique at the Newcastle Philosophy Society has drawn on the seemingly inexhaustible knowledge and expertise of its regular members.  It has also benefited from a range of contributions by guest speakers from university departments and elsewhere.  Café Philosophique currently meets on the 3rd Saturday of the month at 2 pm (about 10 times a year).

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