phil.cologne 2021


The corona pandemic has been massively impacting our lives for at least the past 18 months. Indicators, statistics and variants that were once of interest to a handful of experts are now subjects of everyday conversation. Have we learned to live with the pandemic? Karl Lauterbach, health expert, epidemiologist and Member of the German Parliament, has become the public face of the crisis, educating the public and political actors on emerging developments and insisting that steps be taken; he has received much public praise, yet also become a target for outraged sceptics. He speaks with the…

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  • Live Stream
  • Thu. 02 September 2021
  • 20:30
  • Balloni-Hallen
  • Accessibility
    • Wheelchair-accessible

2021 is a year of turning points. The Merkel era is ending with the upcoming elections; and in with a historic decision, Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court has strengthened the liberties of future generations. At long last, ecology is being recognised as the prime consideration of all decisions relating to the future: the economy, transportation, food and agriculture, as well as science, journalism and politics – fundamental sectors of our society must be re-imagined. Great upheavals lie ahead. Luisa Neubauer is Germany’s best-known face of the Fridays for Future movement, while Bernd Ulric…

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  • Live Stream
  • Fri. 03 September 2021
  • 19:30
  • Balloni-Hallen
  • Accessibility
    • Wheelchair-accessible

Free on WDR 5 - 10-20 Uhr


We all agree: the times are both chaotic and challenging. For over 18 months, the corona pandemic has been occupying our attention and dominating our lives. Yet other social transformation processes are urgently necessary. Are we at a tipping point? How can we shape our future? We want to talk about the acute problems and challenges we currently face and hazard a look into the future. In cooperation with WDR 5, we offer ten hours of Philosophical Radio featuring a wide variety of experts, such as Petra Bahr, Heinz Bude, Alena Buyx, Thea Dorn, Wolfram Eilenberger, Svenja Flaßpöhler, Gerd G…

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  • Sat. 04 September 2021
  • 10:00
  • Accessibility

The word “resilience” comes from the Latin “resilire”, meaning “to spring back” or “bounce off”. Someone who is resilient is highly resistant, does not succumb to crises, but rather, as Friedrich Nietzsche asserted, is made stronger. In times of crisis, resilience is also demanded of entire societies. How must systems be structured to make them resilient? Closed or open? And how does resilience relate to sensitivity? Is the challenge facing us to promote greater individual resilience in the face of harm or damage or greater sensitivity for the limits of others? Andreas Reckwitz is one of the country’s l…

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  • Live Stream
  • Sat. 04 September 2021
  • 18:00
  • Balloni-Hallen
  • Accessibility
    • Wheelchair-accessible

Trond Reinholdsten is an exceptional artist. A composer by “trade”, this Norwegian polymath is also active in philosophy, opera, film, performance and installations. In the large-format, richly colourful, ingenious episodes of his series “O”, he retraces the history of philosophy, the great truths and overwhelming questions, and demands nothing less than “the birth of opera from the crisis of contemporary music.” An event at once challenging, spectacular, playful and mystifying. A mad, ingenious, phantasmagorical spectacle of sound and fury on the horizon of the current landscape of discourse, …

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  • Sat. 04 September 2021
  • 19:00
  • Filmforum im Museum Ludwig
  • Accessibility
    • Induction loop
    • Wheelchair-accessible

What do we really know about the lives of our parents, the wartime children? When is the right time to undertake the archaeology of one’s own life and interrogate one’s parents? Jürgen Wiebicke chronicles the accounts of his parents, who in the face of death are driven by a radical openness and no longer desire to keep their experiences to themselves. He spoke to both of them about their experiences – for the first time in this intensity – to ensure that the testimony of those who experienced war and National Socialism as children and youths is not lost to history. In “Sieben Heringe. Meine Mutter, da…

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  • Live Stream
  • Sat. 04 September 2021
  • 21:00
  • Balloni-Hallen
  • Accessibility
    • Wheelchair-accessible

Nach einem Gespräch und einer Pause werden geleitete praktische Meditationsübungen durchgeführt.


In the West, we mainly associate philosophy with forms of abstract thought that have developed since classical Greece. The philosophical schools of Egypt, India and China were long ignored as intellectually insignificant. Today, a paradigm shift is under way. People want to know what chakras are and how best to meditate. Paul J. Kohtes, Zen instructor and co-creator of the meditation app 7Mind, explains in detail how meditation is a form of philosophy and describes how to experience this on a practical level. This also includes the question as to why mediation is being so heavily hyped right…

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  • Live Stream
  • Sun. 05 September 2021
  • 11:00
  • Balloni-Hallen
  • Accessibility
    • Wheelchair-accessible

With the news format “Young and Naive”, Tilo Jung reinvigorated political reporting and has become an important protagonist of a contemporary journalism. Together with author and film critic Wolfgang M. Schmitt (“Die Filmanalyse”), he regularly and thoroughly examines the problems and discourses of our political and social “now” on his channel. At this phil.cologne event, the two welcome Spiegel columnist and media critic Samira El Ouassil, a prescient observer of the digital and media-driven present. Together, they explore such questions as, “Do we need a new narrative?”, “How can we get out of constantly…

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  • Live Stream
  • Sun. 05 September 2021
  • 17:00
  • Balloni-Hallen
  • Accessibility
    • Wheelchair-accessible

Unnoticed by many, the quantum world has long since taken its place amidst our day-to-day, macroscopic reality. While transistors, diodes and lasers have become an inextricable part of the fabric of our lives, we are already experiencing spectacular next-generation quantum technologies. What Einstein derided in 1935 as “spooky action at a distance” has become the bedrock of disruptively advanced quantum communication in optical fibre networks and satellite technology that heralds a quantum internet. Quantum computers are just the tip of the technological iceberg that is looming ever larger and…

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  • Sun. 05 September 2021
  • 17:30
  • COMEDIA Theater, Grüner Saal
  • Accessibility
    • Wheelchair-accessible

“How are you?” When Johanna receives this seemingly harmless question in a postcard from Max, her old philosophy teacher, she can no longer hold herself in: all her sorrow over the death of her mother and her anger at the hospital for not allowing her to keep company with her in her last moments. Provoked by further postcards, Johanna begins to face up to the demons driving her desperation. In her unique postcard-epistolary novel “Trost”, author and philosopher Thea Dorn ruminates on perhaps the greatest topic that modern humanity, drunk on technological progress and far from God, represses: explora…

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  • Sun. 05 September 2021
  • 19:00
  • WDR Funkhaus, Klaus-von-Bismarck-Saal
  • Accessibility
    • Induction loop
    • Wheelchair-accessible

What is homeland? Who decides what homeland is, and where is homeland even possible? In their latest works, Asal Dardan and Wilhelm Schmid pose this question in entirely different ways. In “Betrachtungen einer Barbarin”, Asal Dardan sets out to find a bridge between the eternal poles of “we” and “the others”. “Linguistically brilliant and stylistically elegant” (Süddeutsche Zeitung), the author forges links between her entirely personal experience and hot/button social issues, and demonstrates that living together means an acceptance of differences. In “Heimat finden – Vom Leben in einer ungewissen Welt”, ph…

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  • Sun. 05 September 2021
  • 19:00
  • Stadthalle Köln-Mülheim
  • Accessibility
    • Wheelchair-accessible

In English


Palo Alto, Cupertino and Mountain View are the names of the unassuming locales where radically optimistic thinkers and makers are in the process of inventing our technical future. These young souls form the epicentre of a new world that we have only begun to measure and critically analyse. Up against the Pacific Rim, a new culture of thinking is emerging that melds the long-standing European philosophical traditions with American pragmatism. Sam Ginn is one of these young visionaries. A computer linguist and Heidegger scholar, he is working at ground zero of ever smarter technology and the…

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  • Live Stream
  • Sun. 05 September 2021
  • 20:00
  • Balloni-Hallen
  • Accessibility
    • Wheelchair-accessible
    • Englisch

One thing is certain: the importance of the digital world is increasing inexorably. But how great are the chances of finding our “soul mate” through online dating? What exactly are our smart devices recording in our homes? Does the future belong to self-driving vehicles? And generally, when do algorithms perform better than people, and when don’t they? In “Klick. Wie wir die Kontrolle behalten und souverän bleiben in der digitalen Welt”, renowned psychologist and risk researcher Gerd Gigerenzer describes how we can learn to remain digitally competent in the digital age using a wealth of examples. …

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  • Live Stream
  • Mon. 06 September 2021
  • 18:00
  • Balloni-Hallen
  • Accessibility
    • Wheelchair-accessible

In English


Gaspard Koenig, born in 1982, is widely viewed as the rising star of French philosophy. He is the founder of the think tank “Generation Libre”, advocates a new liberalism and followed Montaigne’s trail to Rome on horseback. He has now embarked on a round-the-world journey to discover the future of artificial intelligence. In the course of exploring artificial and human intelligence, he interviewed more than 120 scientists, politicians, investors and activists and even a magician. He explores the threats to free will and the values of the Enlightenment, and outlines a policy to counter the end o…

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  • Mon. 06 September 2021
  • 20:00
  • COMEDIA Theater, Roter Saal
  • Accessibility
    • Induction loop
    • Wheelchair-accessible
    • Englisch

The corona crisis has raised not only virological, but also social, political and cultural questions. In their book “Zeitenwende. Der Angriff auf Demokratie und Menschenwürde”, Michel Friedman and Harald Welzer ask whether we are experiencing the advent of a new era, and outline how we might modernise our society. The strong resurgence of autocratic rulers, of right-wing extremists, nationalists, racists and anti/Semites is putting enormous pressure on democratic societies. This is exacerbated by social inequality, climate change and the pandemic. The world has become much more chaotic, the poli…

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  • Mon. 06 September 2021
  • 20:00
  • Stadthalle Köln-Mülheim
  • Accessibility
    • Wheelchair-accessible

Photos of coffins stacked high in Bergamo inspired fear and terror in an entire society. Death, which most of us otherwise only encounter in fiction, suddenly showed its face once again. Many people don’t see an actual corpse until well into the second half of their lives. Until then, we find it easy to live with the day-to-day illusion of our immortality. Death is monstrous, a return to nothingness, the greatest imposition on life. While we all know we’re destined to die, we would prefer to live without this awareness! The desire to tame our own fear of the end is a characteristic of all era…

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  • Mon. 06 September 2021
  • 20:00
  • WDR Funkhaus, Klaus-von-Bismarck-Saal
  • Accessibility

Jens Söring was imprisoned in the United States for over three decades. As a philosopher, Richard David Precht devotes himself to life’s existential questions. At the phil.cologne, these two men, both the same age, talk about what gives value to life and how we can preserve our inner freedom even under confinement and coercion.

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  • Live Stream
  • Mon. 06 September 2021
  • 21:00
  • Balloni-Hallen
  • Accessibility
    • Wheelchair-accessible

Our society is trapped in a crisis of material excess and permanent acceleration. Neuroscientist, physician and happiness researcher Tobias Esch believes that it is time to fundamentally rethink our striving for more – we need to turn away from the continually increasing density, from unbounded consumption and (self-)exploitation and return to the reduction to the minimum and a liberating “emptiness”. “More nothing! Why we need less of more” – this needs to become the guiding principle of our lives. Health and medicine, faith and mindfulness, politics, climate, ecology and economic structures:…

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  • Live Stream
  • Tue. 07 September 2021
  • 18:00
  • Balloni-Hallen
  • Accessibility
    • Wheelchair-accessible

The corona crisis has cast a harsh light on the complex interdependencies that underpin the relationship between the state and its citizens. The philosopher Richard David Precht, one of the most widely respected thinkers in the German-speaking region, describes the obligations that the welfare state assumes on behalf of its citizens. In his book “Von der Pflicht”, he also discusses what duties the individuals owe to society in return, and makes concrete, practical suggestions about how we can recalibrate the relationship between the state and the individual in our liberal democracy to ensure a m…

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  • Tue. 07 September 2021
  • 19:00
  • Stadthalle Köln-Mülheim
  • Accessibility
    • Wheelchair-accessible

In English


Disasters are unpredictable. They do not occur in cycles. Yet when they do strike, we hope to be better prepared than the Romans at the eruption of Vesuvius, the people of the Middle Ages in the face of the rapid spread of the Plague throughout Europe or the Russians after the Chernobyl reactor melt-down. But are we? Hasn’t the corona pandemic exposed a tangled web of imperial arrogance, bureaucratic paralysis and deep division? Prominent historian, financial chronicler and civilisation critic Niall Ferguson is known for constantly presenting paradigms for new worlds. In his latest work, “…

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  • Tue. 07 September 2021
  • 19:30
  • Kulturkirche Köln
  • Accessibility
    • Englisch

Ever more groups are demanding that the pluralistic society refer to them by their own terms of choice, such as LSBTIQ* or persons of colour. They define their limits of what is reasonable and point out legal and social inequities. But while some see these as urgently necessary, emancipatory acts, others perceive them as over-sensitivity and a threat to democracy. In his new book, “Die Feinde der Öffentlichkeit”, Bernd Stegemann undertakes a serious and critical examination of identity politics. In her novel “Identitti”, by contrast, cultural historian Mithu Sanyal attempts a witty, self-iro…

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  • Tue. 07 September 2021
  • 20:00
  • COMEDIA Theater, Roter Saal
  • Accessibility
    • Induction loop
    • Wheelchair-accessible

For some time now, a number of observers have been asserting risk is a cultural construct, risk is not quantifiable, and that risks cannot be rationalised. Julian Nida- Rümelin declares that risk is a reality, not a construct – as illustrated unmistakeably by the corona pandemic. We need to confront the reality of risk: What risks are we prepared to accept? Which ones are unacceptable? What can we protect ourselves against? What values are important to us as a society in assessing these? His book “Die Realität des Risikos” (with Nathalie Weidenfeld) argues for a realistic understanding of risks a…

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  • Live Stream
  • Tue. 07 September 2021
  • 21:00
  • Balloni-Hallen
  • Accessibility
    • Wheelchair-accessible

The abuse scandal of the Catholic Church has mushroomed into a crisis that threatens its very existence. In Cologne, the episcopal leadership's handling of abuse cases and the manner in which Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki has addressed this issue have triggered the greatest upheaval in the recent history of the archbishopric. Theologist Doris Reisinger and Joachim Frank discuss power and its abuse, ecclesiastic constitutions and Church reform. A representative of the Catholic German Bishop’s Conference has also been invited. Doris Reisinger went public with her experiences of abuse during her t…

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  • Wed. 08 September 2021
  • 18:00
  • COMEDIA Theater, Roter Saal
  • Accessibility
    • Induction loop
    • Wheelchair-accessible

The resentments toward gender politics range from mockery of linguistic de-gendering to manifestos of right-wing terrorists. In her penetrating analysis, Carolin Wiedemann (“Zart und frei: Vom Sturz des Patriachats”) demonstrates that the anti-feminist discourse is a core element of the rise in right-wing politics – as well as finding sympathy far into the left-wing spectrum – and requires a new feminism. Forty years ago, Klaus Theweleit published “Männerphantasien”, his ground-breaking study of the sexual, psychological and sociopolitical underpinnings of National Socialism in the Weimar Republic. Th…

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  • Wed. 08 September 2021
  • 18:00
  • Kulturkirche Köln
  • Accessibility

The death of George Floyd in the US also triggered a new, heated debate on racism in Germany. How racist are German institutions such as the police? What exactly is structural racism? Where does discrimination on the basis of race begin? With explicit verbal attacks or unconsciously applied stereotypes? Is using the N-word always wrong or only in certain contexts? And who is entitled to an opinion as to what is racist and what is not – only those affected by it or members of the German majority society as well? On the heels of his influential book “Das Integritätsparadox”, sociologist Aladin…

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  • Wed. 08 September 2021
  • 21:00
  • COMEDIA Theater, Roter Saal
  • Accessibility
    • Induction loop
    • Wheelchair-accessible

English/German


The phil.cologne concludes with the presentation of a work of fiction. In his novel “The Survivors”, Swedish author Alex Schulman (born 1976) recounts a family history. After two decades, the brothers Benjamin, Pierre and Nils return to the place of their childhood – a wooden house on a lake. A journey through raw, untamed nature and their own childhoods. Today, they feel impossibly distant and alienated from one another. Can they patch up the fracture in the world if they can’t even face up to their shared past together? A touching novel that offers an exciting journey into recollection while r…

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  • Wed. 08 September 2021
  • 21:00
  • Kulturkirche Köln
  • Accessibility
    • Englisch / Deutsch

“Scobel”, broadcasting from the phil.cologne on 3sat


Our knowledge is increasing constantly. But does this knowledge, more comprehensive than ever and available world-wide in real time, enable people to act more judiciously? Are their decisions on the basis of the available data more just, peaceful, sustainable or wiser than before? The term “knowledge society” referred tp the transition from the industrial to the service economy and ultimately to the “infosphere age”. However, our conventional knowledge models, based on the modes of thought of the Enlightenment, are proving ever more outdated when it comes to understanding our present. Gert Scobel …

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  • Thu. 09 September 2021
  • 20:15
  • Accessibility
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