Columbus: A Conversation with Philip Kitcher and John Kaag

Event date: 
04/27/2017 - 7:00pm

Please join us on Thursday, April 27th at 7pm for a conversation between philosophers Philip Kitcher, author of The Seasons Alter, and John Kaag, author of American Philosophy.

The Seasons Alter

As the icecaps melt and the sea levels rise around the globe--threatening human existence as we know it--climate change has become one of the most urgent and controversial issues of our time. For most people, however, trying to understand the science, politics, and arguments on either side can be dizzying, leading to frustrating and unproductive debates.

Now, in this groundbreaking new work, two of our most renowned thinkers present the realities of global warming in the most human of terms--everyday conversation--showing us how to convince even the most stubborn of skeptics as to why we need to act now. Indeed, through compelling Socratic dialogues, Philip Kitcher and Evelyn Fox Keller tackle some of the thorniest questions facing mankind today:

  • Is climate change real?
  • Is climate change as urgent as the "scientists" make it out to be?
  • How much of our current way of life should we sacrifice to help out a generation that won't even be born for another hundred years?
  • Who would pay for the enormous costs of making the planet "green?"
  • What sort of global political arrangement would be needed for serious action?

These crucial questions play out through familiar circumstances, from an older husband and wife considering whether they should reduce their carbon footprint, to a first date that evolves into a passionate discussion about whether one person can actually make a difference, to a breakfast that becomes an examination over whether or not global warming is really happening. Entertaining, widely accessible, and thoroughly original, the result promises to inspire dialogue in many places, while also giving us a line of reasoning that explodes the so-far impenetrable barriers of obfuscation that have surrounded the discussion.

While the Paris Agreement was an historic achievement that brought solutions within the realm of possibility, The Seasons Alter is a watershed book that will show us how to make those possibilities a reality.

American Philosophy

The epic wisdom contained in a lost library helps the author turn his life around.

John Kaag is a dispirited young philosopher at sea in his marriage and his career when he stumbles upon West Wind, a ruin of an estate in the hinterlands of New Hampshire that belonged to the eminent Harvard philosopher William Ernest Hocking. Hocking was one of the last true giants of American philosophy and a direct intellectual descendent of William James, the father of American philosophy and psychology, with whom Kaag feels a deep kinship. It is James's question Is life worth living? that guides this remarkable book.

The books Kaag discovers in the Hocking library are crawling with insects and full of mold. But he resolves to restore them, as he immediately recognizes their importance. Not only does the library at West Wind contain handwritten notes from Whitman and inscriptions from Frost, but there are startlingly rare first editions of Hobbes, Descartes, and Kant. As Kaag begins to catalog and read through these priceless volumes, he embarks on a thrilling journey that leads him to the life-affirming tenets of American philosophy self-reliance, pragmatism, and transcendence and to a brilliant young Kantian who joins him in the restoration of the Hocking books.

Part intellectual history, part memoir, American Philosophy is ultimately about love, freedom, and the role that wisdom can play in turning one's life around.


Philip Kitcher is a professor of philosophy at Columbia University and one of the most influential philosophers of science of the past two decades.

John Kaag is a professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. He is the author of Idealism, Pragmatism, and Feminism: The Philosophy of Ella Lyman and Thinking Through the Imagination: Aesthetics in Human Cognition. His writing has appeared in The New York TimesHarper’s MagazineThe Christian Science MonitorThe Chronicle of Higher Education, and many other publications. He lives outside Boston with his wife and daughter.

Event address: 
450 Columbus Ave
New York, NY 10024
Can't make it? Reserve a signed copy by calling our store today: 
The Seasons Alter: How to Save Our Planet in Six Acts Cover Image
$24.95
ISBN: 9781631492839
Availability: Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order Now
Published: Liveright Publishing Corporation - April 18th, 2017

American Philosophy: A Love Story Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9780374154486
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - Click Title to See Location Inventory.
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - October 11th, 2016