Cities to Inspire Philosophical Thinkers

| 15/04/2013 | 0 Comments
 Philosophy originated in the city of Athens, with Socrates who was known to converse with his followers in the marketplace there, and it seems that the search for wisdom or ‘philosophia’ has always been an urban pursuit. From the café culture of Paris to the jewels of Rome, from meditative Japan to historical Cambridge, cities spark and inspire philosophical thought among students and theorists.


Athens became the centre for philosophy, literature and art after its navy dominated the sea and Pericles built the Propylaea and Parthenon and began to promote democracy and drama. Thus the plays of Euripides, Sophocles and Aristophanes were written and a philosopher named Socrates enlightened city dwellers with his teachings. Athens became known as the cradle of Western Civilization for its writings and political thought, mostly during the 4th and 5th centuries BC.

Standing at the Acropolis today, you can look down upon the market place where Socrates used to speak and see all of Athens spread out below the hillside. The ruins of the Parthenon can be seen here, as well as some artistic reconstruction of these ancient buildings and columns. You can visit a museum, which still displays artefacts from the Acropolis. The archaeological park in Athens has reconstructed the traditional landscape, and offers visitors the chance to step back in time.


In Montparnasse, Paris, writers, poets and painters frequented the cafes to share stories and philosophies, and members of the surrealist movement often joined them. At Café de Flore, Jean Paul Sartre discussed philosophy with friends and followers, making Paris a cultural and important city in terms of democratic thought and freedom of speech.

Inspired by these Parisian cafes, the philosopher Sautet coined the term ‘café philos’ in the 1990s. It all began in the Place de la Bastille and debates would often last for 2 hours. These became popular among university students, as well as off duty taxi drivers and anyone with something to say.

Students from around the world visit Paris every year to savour its culture, from its famous art galleries to its theatre scene and café conversation. Paris remains one of the most popular cities to visit.

Seneca was perhaps the most famous stoic philosopher who practised in Rome and reached a wide audience because of the simplicity of his teachings about realism. Another philosopher, Zeno, identified interconnection within the Universe.Rome

Rome is known as the ‘Eternal city’ and visitors marvel at its ancient architecture, its art and museums. The labyrinths of streets and alleyways, hidden cafes and fountains make Rome a must see destination for anyone with an interest in philosophy and culture. From the church of San Luigi dei Francesci, containing the paintings of Caravaggio, to the Vatican museum, Rome is guaranteed to impress you. Visit the Pantheon, a monument of Augustan times, and be spellbound by these ancient ruins or step inside the San Giovanni in Laterano church, which was thought to be the first church of Christendom. Students flock to the Colosseum every year, considered to be an amazing feat of Roman engineering and the site of the gladiator fights in the 1st Century AD. Sit in one of the many exquisite squares of the city and drink at its cafes to truly take in historical, cultural Rome.

The Philosopher’s Path, Japan

Within the Higashiyama district of Kyoto in Japan, the Philosopher’s Path is a stone walkway alongside a canal that is lined by many cherry trees. It is one of the most popular cherry blossom viewing places in Japan, as well as an area for thought and one of outstanding natural beauty. The path is 2 kilometres in length and is named after Nishida Kitaro, who was a famous philosopher in the country. He evidently meditated along this route on his way to Kyoto University each day. There are temples and shrines scattered along this route as well as cafes and restaurants.

Philosophise Abroad

There is a wealth of cities around the world for you to explore and uncover their history of philosophy at your leisure. Imagine sitting in a Paris café, where Sarte once held court with his followers, or standing in the market place frequented by Socrates for the same purpose. Philosophy explores the psyche and the cosmos and it is a truly inspirational subject to dive into. There is a range of philosophy textbooks available to accompany student travellers, whatever their destination. Reading about the fascinating origins of critical thinking, from reasoning, responsibility, to dialogues by Plato and the power of ideas will inspire you on your travels. As you take in the sights of any of the historical cities that bred independent thought and democracy, creativity and culture, you will be able to learn much more about the heart of philosophy. Take a poignant, intellectually inspired journey abroad and discover philosophy today.

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