Plutarch's Table

November Salon Tickets

October 16, 2010
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Tickets are selling fast for our November 20th event.  The salon will be held in a private downtown Toronto home, with delicious appetizers and dinner by Victoria’s Kitchen (7-10pm).  Contact us to reserve a spot.


Happiness, while it may look different for each of us, is the one thing that we all seem to want.  But is the pursuit of a subjective emotional state really the best goal for a life?  Our culture’s current obsession with all things happy would seem to suggest that it is, but there is also good reason to believe that the pursuit of happiness may be fundamentally harmful, not to mention disappointing.  Join philosopher Joanna Polley for a discussion on just what happiness is and why we might want to explore its alternatives.

“A people who conceive life to be the pursuit of happiness must be chronically unhappy” – Marshall Sallins

Tickets are $50 and guests bring their own wine.


Literary Salons/Book Club

September 21, 2010
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Plutarch’s Table offers literary salons that you can host in your own home.  These events work for the most part like a book club.  Most often a book club will meet at regular intervals to discuss a book that every member has read.  What we add to this picture is a stimulating philosophical orientation, so that instead of simply discussing your subjective reactions to the work your conversation will be guided by the deeper philosophical issues that the book raises.  In this way your experience of a work of literature can come to be a deeply thoughtful and productive one, and the engagement between members can transcend polite respect for the opinions of others.  The atmosphere is always lively but never hostile; the salon is a welcoming and egalitarian setting where conflicting ideas challenge us to higher levels of both thinking and camaraderie.  The format is usually a short talk on the work and then a facilitated discussion that is guided by the philosophical issues raised but in no way restricts the ability of participants to follow their own ideas and questions.

Food and drink is encouraged at Literary Salons.  These are less often dinner parties and more often wine and cheese events, but we are open to all of your great ideas for the set-up.  Food, drink, venue and guests is where you get to work your part of the magic for this event, though I also work with an outstanding caterer and can bring the whole package to your home.

Please contact me for more information at

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Philosophy Salons

September 21, 2010

The Appeal of the Salon

Salons have been a regular feature of human society throughout our history, from the Athenian Symposia to the café culture of Paris in the 1920s.  The word came into use in the 17th century, through salons that were most often hosted by women who had no official role in the political sphere but refused to be excluded from public engagement.  They gathered around them writers, artists, intellectuals, and like-minded citizens who came together to share ideas and inspire and learn from one another.  Not only have salons such as these been credited for inciting large-scale historical change like the French and American revolutions, but they have also been responsible for stimulating on a smaller scale everything from artistic movements to greater civic engagement to a more thoughtful populace on the whole.  Salons allow us the public forum to voice our ideas and the chance to learn how to think and share ideas in a more satisfying way, in a setting that is welcoming, stimulating and egalitarian.  In our age of technological speed and instant gratification, I like to think of the salon as slow food for the mind, where we take the time to ask the deeper questions and expand the limits of our too-familiar worlds, in the company of friends old and new.  And of course with some great food and wine.

Plutarch’s Table salons

Plutarch’s Table specializes in salon evenings that you can host in your own home and we are open to any great ideas that you want to put into action.  Our orientation is philosophical but we believe that almost any topic can be approached philosophically, so we are happy to consult with you in designing a topic that suits your own interests and that you think will be particularly stimulating for your guests.  All talks and discussions are designed for non-philosophers.

Some clients like to host a regular salon evening with changing but related topics, while others like to host the occasional dinner party as a separate event.  The event can be a wine and cheese, a dinner party, a cocktail party, or anything that involves food and drink and socializing.

I also work with a fabulous caterer and can arrange and run the entire event from start to finish.

Other Events

I also offer Literary Salons, which work something like book clubs, and I periodically host my own Salon evenings.  Check Upcoming Events to see what’s happening.

Contact me for more information at

What is Plutarch’s Table?

September 20, 2010
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The first century Greek philosopher Plutarchus believed that philosophy should be done at dinner parties, in convivial settings, and preferably with drinks.  Plutarch’s Table aims to take philosophy out of the academy and bring it back to the dinner table, in the belief that we should all be learning to think and live more philosophically, and that deepening our commitments to thoughtful living is not properly a lonely pursuit but one best done in joy and friendship.  We are located in Toronto, Canada.

See Philosophy Salons and Literary Salons for information on how you can host a Plutarch’s Table event.

About author

My name is Joanna Polley. I am a writer and a philosopher experimenting with ways of practicing and teaching philosophy outside of the university environment. I completed my PhD at the University of Toronto and have taught for several years in the departments of philosophy and literary studies, and am currently exploring ways to bring philosophy out of the ivory tower and into the wider public sphere. My specific research interests have been in the history of philosophy, philosophy of language and culture and the philosophy of literature, but I am interested in any philosophy that helps illuminate contemporary problems and deepens our experience of being alive. You can also visit me at for information about my philosophical therapy services.