Lou Marinoff

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Lou Marinoff at Taplow Court, UK

Louis Joshua Marinoff (born October 18, 1951) is a philosopher, author, and philosophical practitioner. He is currently professor of philosophy at The City College of New York. He is also founding president of the American Philosophical Practitioners Association.

Childhood and early education[edit]

Lou Marinoff was born in Noranda, Quebec. His grandparents had emigrated to Canada from Russia, escaping tsarist pogroms, and the Russian Revolution and civil war. His mother, Rosaline Tafler, was born in Montreal; his father, Julius Marinoff, in Joliette. Julius served with Canadian forces in WWII, and later with the Haganah and Palmach in Israel's War of Independence. He then became a fur-trader and prospector in northern Quebec, relocating his family to Montreal when Lou was two weeks old.

Lou was educated initially at Somerled School, and was accepted to Lower Canada College (LCC) in 1962, where he graduated with a McGill Junior Certificate in 1968. He then spent six months in Israel, on Ulpan at Kibbutz Yiron, and briefly attended McGill University. He graduated from Dawson College in 1972, with a liberal arts diploma.

During these formative years, Lou became an athlete, public speaker, folksinger, and poet. He played football, hockey and other sports at LCC, McGill, and Dawson, and was captain of championship football teams at LCC and Dawson College.

During the 1970s, Lou devoted himself primarily to music, studying classical guitar privately with Miguel Garcia and Florence Brown, and later with Peter McCutcheon and Alexander Lagoya at Jeunesses Musicales du Canada. He also taught classical guitar during this period, and performed music in a variety of idioms. He recorded his first album of original compositions, Marinoff Ex Machina, with a band of Montreal musician friends, in 1973.

Lou earned a certificate in computer technology at the Control Data Institute in 1979–80, and worked as a computer technician for Northern Telecom in 1980–81.

Higher education[edit]

Marinoff earned a BSc in theoretical physics at Concordia University (1981–84), completing the program at Science College, founded by distinguished professor Elaine Newman. He graduated with great distinction, won the Walter Raudorf Medal for Physics, and was valedictorian for the class of 1984.

In 1985, Marinoff won a Commonwealth Scholarship to pursue a PhD in philosophy of science at University College London (UCL). In 1988 he was awarded a pre-doctoral fellowship at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Edelstein Center for the History and Philosophy of Science, Technology, and Medicine. He completed his PhD at UCL in 1992.

From 1991 to 1994, Marinoff was moderator of the Canadian Business and Professional Ethics Network (CBPENET) at the University of British Columbia's Centre for Applied Ethics. He was also a lecturer in UBC's philosophy department, and in the philosophy department at Capilano College.

In 1994, he relocated to The City College of New York, where he is currently professor of philosophy.

Philosophical interests[edit]

Philosophy of science, decision theory, and the prisoner's dilemma[edit]

Marinoff (1990) proved, contra Axelrod and Hamilton, that there is no evolutionarily stable strategy in the prisoner's dilemma (PD). He also developed a strategy that out-performed Rapoport's "tit for tat" in iterated PDs, based on maximizing expected utility with a cooperative disposition (1992, 1998). He resolved Bertrand's paradox (1994), a thorny problem in the philosophy of probability. Among his other publications in this field, Marinoff has treated Newcomb's problem, Braess's paradox, the two-envelope problem, the phenomenon of "costly riding" (a complement to "free riding"), and the phenomenon of "cascading mimicry".

Asian philosophy[edit]

Marinoff is a devotee of Asian wisdom traditions, mainly Hinduism, Taoism, and Buddhism. He has learned from American, Chinese, Indian, Japanese, and Tibetan masters, and has taught Asian philosophy for many years at City College. His three main Buddhist mentors were Sogyal Rinpoche (1980s), Roshi Robert Kennedy SJ (1990s) and Daisaku Ikeda (currently). Marinoff has blended Asian teachings into philosophical practice, and has published three books to date that directly implicate Asian philosophy (2007, 2011, 2012, 2014). As a young man, he was a student of grandmaster Sing Ming Li for eleven years, at the Wu Do Kan Kung Fu Academy in Montreal. In 2012 Marinoff became a cultural adviser to venerable Shi Yongxin, Abbot of the Shaolin Temple in Dengfeng, China.

Political philosophy[edit]

Marinoff's political position might best be described as "neo-classical Liberal", incorporating selected elements of liberalism, conservatism, libertarianism, and objectivism. Marinoff is a staunch defender of individual rights and freedoms, including equal opportunity, while upholding the obligations that flow from them. He ardently defends Mill's view that the sole warrant for constraining an individual is to prevent harm to others. At the same time, Marinoff avers that strong government may be necessary to enforce such warrants, and constrain harm-doers. He is an outspoken critic of Soviet-style collectivism, "group rights", political correctness, and all forms of totalitarian suppression of the individual. At the same time, one of his British PhD examiners called him "the Thomas Hobbes of the 20th century." Marinoff has published columns, essays, book chapters, and a satirical novel expressing his political views.


Marinoff's involvement with globalization is both scholarly, and practical. In scholarly terms, he assesses civilizational dynamics and cultural evolution wrought by the transcendence of global economics over sovereign politics and regional religions. He has argued consistently that economic development must be guided by a moral compass if globalization is to fulfill its humanistic potential.

In practical terms, Marinoff has worked with numerous global organizations and leadership forums devoted to peaceful, sustainable, harmonious, and prosperous visions for humanity. These include the Aspen Institute's Executive Seminar (Aspen), Biovision (Lyon), Festival of Thinkers (Abu Dhabi), Soka Gakkai International (Tokyo), Horasis (Zurich), Strategic Foresight Group (Mumbai), and the World Economic Forum (Davos).

Philosophical practice and public advocacy[edit]

In the public domain, Marinoff is best known for his international bestseller Plato Not Prozac (1999), translated into 27 languages. Journalist Carlin Romano (in the Philadelphia Inquirer) called Plato Not Prozac "the bible of the philosophical counseling movement". It has sparked renewed interest in philosophy as a guide to the art of living, and an alternative to the culture of rampant diagnosis, rote pathologization, and over-medication of the human condition. Philosophical counseling is defined as an educational activity, suitable for clients who are rational and functional, and able to benefit from philosophical insight.

In North America, philosophical counseling is perhaps the best-known aspect of philosophical practice, often portrayed by the media as a controversial counterpoint to psychotherapy and psychiatry. In fact philosophical practice consists of more than one-on-one counseling: practitioners also engage in philosophy for children, facilitate Socratic dialogues for groups, and consult with organizations in various capacities. Philosophical practitioners are active in dozens of countries, rendering services to a variety of individuals, groups, and organizations. These include inmates of correctional facilities, cancer survivors, clinical rehabilitation patients, military personnel, political refugees, civil servants, corporate managers, and youth leaders.

To help further these and cognate activities, Marinoff became founding president of the American Philosophical Practitioners Association (APPA), an inclusive non-profit educational organization, and an international certifying body for philosophical practitioners. APPA has certified practitioners in 32 US states and 22 foreign countries. APPA also publishes a peer-reviewed journal, Philosophical Practice, founded and edited by Marinoff.


2010: Changing Our Minds, Living Life Films, San Diego. Directed by David Sousa. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1741651/

2006: Way of the Puck, Creative Ape Productions, Los Angeles. Directed by Eric Anderson. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0822046/

2004: Table Hockey: The Movie, Triad Films, Nova Scotia. Produced by Peter d'Entrement; Directed by Thor Henrikson. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0829293/

Marinoff has also produced 18 short films, viewable on his YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/loumarinoff


The Power of Tao. Denver: Argo Navis, 2014.

Therapy for the Sane: 10th Anniversary Edition. Denver: Argo-Navis, 2013.

The Inner Philosopher: Conversations on Philosophy's Transformative Power. A dialogue with Daisaku Ikeda. Cambridge, MA: Dialogue Pathways Press, 2012.

The Middle Way. New York: Sterling, 2007.

The Big Questions. How philosophy can change your life. New York and London: Bloomsbury, 2003.

Therapy for the Sane. New York: Bloomsbury, 2003

Philosophical Practice. New York: Elsevier, 2001.

Plato Not Prozac. New York: HarperCollins, 1999.

Fair New World. Vancouver: Backlash Books, 1994.

Book chapters[edit]

2014. "A Skeptical View of Sustainability," in Design a Pattern of Sustainable Growth, edited by Daniele Schilirò, ASERS Publishing, Craiova, Romania, 2014, 14–30.

2013: "Philosophical Challenges in Building a Culture of Peace," in Voices for the Culture of Peace: Compendium of the SGI-USA Culture of Peace Distinguished Speaker Series, volume 2. Editor: Ian McIlraith. Publisher: Culture of Peace Press, Los Angeles, 149–180

2013: Chapter in Philosophical Practice: Five Questions, edited by Jeanette Bresson Ladegaard Knox. Automatic Press, Birkerod, Denmark, 183–202.

2013: Chapter in Daisaku Ikeda – Sekai tono Taiwa (Daisaku Ikeda – Dialogue with World Figures), Daisan Bunmei Publishing Company, Tokyo, 196–199.

2012: "Humanities Therapy: Restoring Well-Being in an Age of Culturally-Induced Illness." Keynote address, in Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on Philosophical Practice, Humanities Institute, Kangwon National University, South Korea, 27–48.

2010: "Synchronicity, Serpents, and 'Something-Elseness'," in The Challenge of Dialogue, eds. Jens Peter Brune, Horst Gronke, Dieter Krohn, Münster/London: LIT, Volume 12, Series on Socratic Philosophizing, 133–156.

2007: "Ethics, Globalization and Hunger: An Ethicist's Perspective", in Ethics, Globalization and Hunger, eds. Per Pinstrup-Anderson and Peter Sandoe, Springer Netherlands, 29–49.

2006: "The PC Tyranny", in In The Agora, eds. Andrew Irvine & John Russell, The University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 456–461.

2006: "Tres Desafios Para la Filosofia Practica", in La Filosofia a las Puertas del Tercer Milenio, ed. & trans. Jose Barrientos Rastrojo, Fenix Editoria, Universidad de Sevilla, 135–146.

2005: "The Matrix and Plato's Cave: Why the Sequels Failed", in More Matrix and Philosophy, ed. William Irwin, Open Court, Chicago, 3–11.

2004: "Thus Spake Settembrini", in Philosophy and Psychiatry, eds. Thomas Schramme & Johannes Thome, De Gruyter, Berlin, 27–49.

2003: "The Big Picture: What is Business Ethics? What are Its Prospects in Asia?", in Asia's New Crisis, eds. Pamela Mar & Frank-Jürgen Richter, John Wiley & Sons Asia, Singapore, 16–40.

2003: "The Geometry of Defection" in Cheryl Hughes and James Wong, eds., Social Philosophy Today, Volume 17, Philosophy Documentation Center, Charlottesville, 69–90.

1998: "The Failure of Success: How Exploiters are Exploited in the Prisoner's Dilemma", in Modeling Rational and Moral Agents, Peter Danielson, ed., Vancouver Cognitive Science Series, Oxford University Press, 161–185.

1997: "The Quest for Meaning", in Mind Versus Computer: Were Dreyfus and Winograd Right?, M. Gams & M. Paprzycki, X. Wu, eds., IOS Press, Amsterdam, 64–79.

1996: "An Approach to Indian Philosophy: Hindu and Buddhist Doctrines of Karma", in Reason, Knowledge and Value, CCNY Philosophy Dept., eds., McGraw-Hill, 214–248.

1995: "On the Emergence of Ethical Counseling", in Essays on Philosophical Counseling, Ran Lahav & Maria Tillmanns, eds., University Press of America, Lanham, 171–191.

Selected scholarly publications[edit]

2014: "Biological Roots of Human Conflict", Journal of Conflictology, 5.2, 2-13.

2012: "Humanities Therapy: Restoring Well-Being in an Age of Culturally-Induced Illness", Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on Philosophical Practice and 4th International Conference on Humanities Therapy, Humanities Institute, Kangwon National University, 27–48.

2011: "Transforming Poison into Medicine: The Role of Dualism in Psychiatry", The World Journal of Biological Psychiatry, 12(S1), 66–69.

2009: "Synchonicities, Serpents, and Something-Elseness", Philosophical Practice, 4.3, 519–34.

2007: "Geometry of the Lotus: The Middle Way and Humanity's Future", Journal of the Institute for Oriental Studies.

2006: "Leonard Cohen", entry in the Encyclopedia of Erotic Literature, eds. Gaetan Brulotte & John Phillips, Routledge, London, 261–263.

2003: "General Semantics and Philosophical Practice: Korzybski's Contributions to the Global Village", General Semantics Bulletin, 69, 13–26 (The Alfred Korzybski Memorial Lecture, 2001.)

2000: "Employment Equity versus Equal Opportunity", Sexuality and Culture, 4, 23–44.

1999: "The Tragedy of the Coffeehouse: Costly Riding, and How to Avert It", Journal of Conflict Resolution, 43, 434–450.

1999: "On Virtual Liberty: Offense, Harm and Censorship in Cyberspace", Inquiry: Critical Thinking Across the Disciplines, 18, 64–76.

1996: "How Braess' Paradox Solves Newcomb's Problem: Not!", International Studies in the Philosophy of Science, 10, 217–237.

1995: "Has Turing Slain the Jabberwock?", Informatica, (Special Issue: Mind <> Computer), 19, 513–526.

1994: "A Resolution of Bertrand's Paradox", Philosophy of Science, 61, 1–24.

1994: "Hobbes, Spinoza, Kant, Highway Robbery and Game Theory", Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 72, 445–462.

1993: "Three Pseudo-Paradoxes in ‘Quantum' Decision Theory: Apparent Effects of Observation on Probability and Utility", Theory and Decision, 35, 55–73.

1992: "Maximizing Expected Utilities in the Prisoner's Dilemma", Journal of Conflict Resolution, 36, 183–216.

1990: "The Inapplicability of Evolutionarily Stable Strategy to the Prisoner's Dilemma", The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 41, 461–472.

Selected book reviews[edit]

2012: Review of The Spinoza Problem, by Irvin Yalom, in Philosophical Practice, 7.1, 945=50. http://www.yalom.com/documents/Spinoza%20Review%20Philosophical%20Practice%20March2012.pdf

2010: Review of Nonsense on Stilts, by Massimo Pigliucci, in Times Higher Education, June 10, http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storycode=411973

2010: Review of Winning Habits, by B.P. Bam, in Philosophical Practice, 5.1, 600–602. http://www.loumarinoff.com/offprint%20marinoff.pdf

2003: Review of Blinded by the Right, by David Brock, in Sexuality and Culture, 7, 84–87.

2002: Review of Political Correctness: The Revolt of the Primitive, by Howard Schwartz, in Sexuality and Culture, 6:97-02.

2001: Review of Quills, in Sexuality and Culture, 5, 11–17.

1997: Review of Moral Panic, by John Fekete, in Sexuality and Culture, 1, 293–297.

1996: Review of Personal Existence After Death, by Robert Geis, in Canadian Philosophical Reviews, 16, 396–7.

1995: Review of Metaphysical Myths, Mathematical Practice, by Jody Azzouni, Canadian Philosophical Reviews, 5, 156–158.

1994: Review of The Language of First-Order Logic with Tarski's World 4.0, by Jon Barwise and John Etchemendy, Canadian Philosophical Reviews, 14, 162–164.

Other interests[edit]

Table hockey[edit]

Table hockey is a well-known game and sport in countries where ice hockey is played pervasively or professionally, including Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, Ukraine, and the US. Table hockey enjoyed a "golden age" in Canada from the 1950s until the early 1980s, when it was overshadowed by the emergent industry of electronic games.

Marinoff is a living legend of the sport. He was three-time consecutive Canadian Open champion, 1978-79-80, (on the "classic" Coleco 5380 model). He was also six-time consecutive Montreal Table Hockey League champion, 1978–1983. He then briefly retired from the sport.

Marinoff was lured back into competitive table hockey during the making of Table Hockey: The Movie (2004). As with all sports, table hockey has evolved, and a new champion has emerged in Montreal, namely Carlo Bossio. In his heyday, Marinoff was compared to Guy Lafleur by longtime hockey analyst, writer, and voice of the Montreal Canadiens, Rejean Tremblay.

Marinoff made his official comeback in 2006–07, and won the New York City Table Hockey Association's league and payoff championships in three straight seasons: 2007-08-09. He also won the Las Vegas Classic Open twice, 2008–09. In 2012, at age 60, he won the 39th annual Johnny Good Guy invitational tournament, in Brampton, Ontario. His biggest challenge lies in his native province of Quebec, where he has yet to win a tournament since his comeback, owing to the strength and depth of Coleco players there. See Hockey sur Table Quebec. You can read about this journey (26 episodes to date)in Marinoff's table hockey chronicle, The Comeback Trail.

Marinoff has become an ambassador of the sport, promoting its virtues for children. He claims that children who play table hockey regularly will develop better attention spans, hand–eye coordination, and bodily posture. Table hockey is a real game, not a virtual one, and can be played year-round. It enhances healthy social bonding, and also imparts virtues of sportsmanship. It's a sport for girls and boys alike and, like tennis, can be enjoyed by singles, doubles and mixed doubles players.


Marinoff is an avid photographer, largely of landscapes and often from airplanes. His signature work, perhaps appropriate for a philosopher, consists of reflections. He shoots flora reflected in lakes, Amsterdam reflected in its canals, and urban architecture reflected in its own mirrors of glass and steel. He has created 92 galleries containing some 3,200 photos at his Zenfolio site, http://loumarinoff.zenfolio.com/

George Nitti, publisher of Warwick Valley Living, writes "In his photos, I believe what we find is not man's struggle against man, but man's personal inspiration to find beauty in this world."

Criticism and controversy[edit]

Lou Marinoff has been criticized by other philosophically oriented members of the helping professions for being too pop-philosophy and for not respecting the established disciplines of psychology and psychiatry. Many find them more focused on denigrating clinical psychology and psychiatry than on offering real philosophical alternatives. Elliot D. Cohen of the American Society for Philosophy Counseling and Psychotherapy has stated "The biggest obstacle to philosophical counseling's growth in the U.S. is its acceptance by the established mental health fields...With Marinoff certifying people who have no clinical training, they're saying, 'Philosophers don't know anything about mental health, and they're going to serve as an endangerment to clients."

Shlomit Schuster, an Israeli practitioner, has called "Dr. Marinoff's overpopularizing presentation a worldwide embarrassment for the profession." See for Cohen's, Schuster's and O'Donaghue's critiques more in the "The Socratic Shrink"[1] by Daniel Duane. David O'Donaghue, a licensed psychologist with a doctoral background in philosophy (although this is what O'Donaghue claims), says that Marinoff is "not a scholar, he's not a guy who should be leading a country" in philosophical counseling. O'Donaghue says that he considers Marinoff's three-day certification efforts "ludicrous".

A critical overview of Marinoff's books is found in "Marinoff's Therapy" in The International Journal of Philosophical Practice at http://www.aspcp.org/ijpp/SchusterMarinoff.pdf.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "The Socratic Shrink" The New York Times, Mach 21, 2004