Street philosophy in Munich

This is a guest post by Julia Kalmund from Munich

Although I live in Germany, I was brought up in England and have always been impressed by British pragmatism. I still read mainly in English and whenever I am in Zurich I always go to the English Bookshop Orell Füssli. Some time ago I happened to stumble on Jules Evans’s Philosophy for Life (and other dangerous things).

I was both excited and fascinated by the theme of the book. I had felt for some time that there must be an alternative to therapy and a different type of help to tackle life’s ever increasing challenges. Through Jules’s newsletter I discovered that grassroot philosophy and philosophy clubs were popular in Britain and Jules was just launching his Philosophy Hub.

Although there has been a definite move towards more ‘popular’ philosophy in Germany - several books have been top of the charts by philosophers such as David Precht, Wilhelm Schmid and Julian Nida-Rümelin (who has also done a stint in government, much like Luc Férry in France), philosophy clubs are few and far between – maybe a dozen in all.

About 8 years ago I started a ‘Salon’ in my home. Gatherings that take place 8 to 10 times a year. We have a lecture, followed by discussion on different subjects, but the philosophy evenings are the most popular. I was lucky to meet several young philosophers with excellent academic qualifications and at the same time a huge talent – also rare in Germany – of explaining difficult or seemingly complicated thoughts and theories in such a wonderful way that most guests go away with the feeling that they have finally understood things that they intuited before but could not really put their finger on.

Jules mentions the dichotomy we live in nowadays and our daily struggle trying to balance what we experience in our lives and the values that are essential to us, but often seem unattainable. German society is no different and I felt that it was time to start a philosophy club and give more people the chance to profit from the insights of philosophy and seek help outside of therapy. We were very lucky to find a suitable location where the owners are enthusiastic supporters of the idea.

For the philosophers, both Dr. Celina von Bezold and Dr. Karin Hutflötz, who have contributed so much to my Salon, the club is a base outside of academia. They can reach and help a wider public and advance their careers and their vision.

I hope in time to found a ‘Good Life Institute’ somewhat like The School of Life in London but catering to German mentality. I know by experience that you have to let things grow and develop. We have just taken our first steps and I am hoping that other people will follow suit and more philosophy clubs or societies will take off. I am greatly indebted to Jules for his inspiration.

Julia Kalmund