London has been a hotbed of philosophical debate for many years.
There seems to be a day marking just about everything now – Dress Up Your Pet Day anyone? – but there are some days that are really worth taking notice of. And when they have been set up by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), you know that they have some clout. That’s why it’s worth knowing that November 17th is World Philosophy Day.
Since 2002, UNESCO has used the annual event to help people think about their philosophical heritage and open up debate. Its director general, Irina Bokova, said: “Philosophy is more than an academic subject; it is a daily practice that helps people to live in a better, more humane way.”.
While there are many spaces throughout the world you can go to reflect on World Philosophy Day, you can mark the event right here in London. A number of blue plaques dedicated to philosophers are dotted around the city, making for a fascinating autumn walk to discover them. Otherwise, check out some of the other philosophy locations to head to.
Blue plaques dedicated to philosophers in London
A great way to follow in the footsteps of some of the greatest philosophers is to check out their blue plaques. This fantastic scheme by English Heritage allows you a little insight into their lives and ethos through the buildings that played an important part in their stories. With several within the confines of The City and even more spread across London, you don’t have to go far to get on the blue plaque trail.
Sir Ebenezer Howard – Fore Street
Town planners may not seem like natural philosophers, but Sir Ebenezer Howard certainly falls into this category. He was the founder of the garden city movement, envisioning a utopia where people could live together in harmony. His ideas were laid out in To-Morrow: A Peaceful Path to Real Reform and put into practice with the formation of Welwyn Garden City. His blue plaque reads: “Near this spot at 62 Fore Street on the 29th January 1850 was born Sir Ebenezer Howard founder of the Garden City Movement.”
Bertrand Russell – Bury Place
While Bertrand Russell brought contributions to many areas throughout his life, his work in philosophy should not be overlooked. Among volumes he wrote on the subject were Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy and Analysis of Mind, as well as a paper entitled Contemporary British Philosophy: Personal Statements. The plaque at 34 Russell Chambers on Bury Place says: “Bertrand Russell 1872-1970 philosopher and campaigner for peace lived here in flat no 34 1911-1916.”
Sir Karl Popper – Burlington Rise
Widely regarded as one of the most important science philosophers of the 20th century, Karl Popper had such a large reach that his work was influential in a broader social context. His theory of falsifiability, which distinguishes the scientific from the non-scientific is an important demarcation in the world. His plaque in High Barnet reads: “Sir Karl Popper 1902-1994 philosopher lived here 1945-1950.”
London Lecture Series – The Royal Institute of Philosophy
The Royal Institute of Philosophy runs regular free lectures throughout the year and are well worth attending. They take place at 5.45pm at 14 Gordon Square, making them perfect for a little after work musing. Arrive early to guarantee a seat. The format consists of an hour’s talk, followed by a short break and half an hour for questions. This year’s theme is metaphysics, which opens up a whole world of questions. On November 18th, Amie Thomasson will present a lecture entitled Easy Ontology and the Work of Metaphysics and on November 25th, Elselijn Kingma will talk on the subject of The Metaphysics of Pregnancy.