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Philosophy Slam: That’s What You Think!

Goethe-Institut

13 June 2012

We’ve heard of poetry slams, but what on earth is a philosophy slam? Philosophers belong in quiet studies where they can philosophize on their own to their heart’s content, right? Wrong! The Goethe-Institut dragged the thinkers out of their ivory towers and onto the stage.

I think therefore I speak. This was the basic approach of the Philosophy Slam recently announced by the Goethe-Institut in Berlin. The organizers were well aware of the fact that there is something paradoxical about a philosophy contest. Would Socrates have taken part in a Philosophy Slam?

Well, why not? After all, the Greek thinker was well aware of the power of speech and, if we are to believe Plato, wielded words more effectively than others wielded the sword. But, Socrates here, Plato there: the new format of a Philosophy Slam has proven itself. In Bonn, Frankfurt, and now also in Berlin the Goethe-Institut has tested it together with universities and adult education centres. The aim of the event was to convey philosophical knowledge to a larger public and to make it think, in the literal sense of the word.

In Berlin, the philosophical quartet that competed with one another consisted of Christine Bratu, Jan Gertken, Benjamin Kiesewetter, and Christian Neuhäuser. They had twelve minutes to philosophize before an audience on the question “What is valuable?” The question never was decided conclusively, of course. More Philosophy Slams will be needed for that.

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