Founding of the AIPPh in 1974

Eduard FEY (1900-1994 ) (†)

AIPPh President

(NL) Marcel FRESCO (1925-2011) (†) 1971-1985

(A) Erich MOLL, 1985-1998

(B) Herman LODEWYCKX, 1998-2006; 2012-2019

(D) Werner BUSCH, 2006-2012

(D) Gabriele OSTHOFF-MÜNNIX, 2012-2019     Vice-Président, 2019-2023

(I) Riccardo POZZO, 2023

Honorary President

(NL) Marcel FRESCO (†) 1971-1985

(D) Werner BUSCH


Honorary Member

(D) Luise DREYER (1929-2018) (†) former treasurer

(D) Edgard FUHRKEN former treasurer

( (I) Riccardo SIRELLO former secretary general

On the History of AIPPh and its Regular Activities

1. The „Paris Declaration for Philosophy“
It was as early as 1995, that a conference of philosophers on „Philosophy and Democracy in the World“ took place in Paris. This conference was organized by UNESCO and in the end led to a „Paris Declaration for Philosophy“ in which 22 experts from various countries maintained the importance of philosophical education worldwide, because philosophical reflection cannot only „contribute to the understanding and conduct of human affairs“, but also provide „knowledge of philosophical thought in different cultures“. A culture of free discussion in which concepts have to be clarified and arguments verified would create an atmosphere of respect and lead to capacities of „how to think independently“. In consequence philosophy teaching would encourage „open-mindedness, civic responsibility, understanding and tolerance among individuals and groups“, so that they become „capable of resisting various forms of propaganda“ and prepared „to shoulder their responsibilities in regard to the great questions of the contemporary world, particularly in the field of ethics.“ [1]

This declaration could have been ours and was highly welcome to our association, where teachers of philosophy at schools and universities strive for a societal impact of their subject, share their experiences and problems and have opportunities to learn from each other. Especially the fact that philosophy „should not be subordinated to any overriding economic, technical, religious, political or ideological requirements“ seemed and still does seem important, an issue that is important to teachers at schools and universities as well, so that „philosophy teaching should be maintained or expanded where it exists, introduced where it does not yet exist, and designated explicitly as ‚philosophy‘.“ [2]

In order to get qualified students whoever teaches philosophy at universities has to rely on qualified teachers in schools who create not only basic knowledge and a culture of arguing, but also enthusiasm for the history and problems of thought that have occupied philosophers throughout the centuries. And this does not take place in the ivory tower: Philosophical thought has moved the world, for instance through the development of democratic ideals, human rights, enlightenment, and it has – in the name of an idea of justice – even led to revolutions that have changed the world. And, moreover, it has to fulfil important tasks for a livable future, for instance in developing guidelines in the field of applied ethics.

Of course the guidelines differ in different states, and this is another field for fruitful exchange among the countries: Whereas in some countries teaching is strictly historical and text-oriented, others choose problem-oriented teaching and do not only concentrate on classical texts, but use other media such as newspaper articles, pictures, thought experiments, mindmapping, fishbowl discussions etc. So we can maintain – and have experienced - that it may be an enrichment to look over the garden fence and see how and by which methods and media philosophy teaching is done in other didactical cultures. And exactly this, besides discussing topical philosophy, has been our target for decades, in which our association has undergone some changes as well.

2. Twenty years earlier
In 1974 Dutchman Marcel Fresco (1925-2011) had founded an „Association Internationale des Professeurs de Philosophie“ (AIPPh), which was listed in the register of associations in Brussels, according to Belgian law. (The notion of „professeur“ in French means teacher at high schools or universities, and we address both circles). He came from a half-Jewish family in Düsseldorf and had emigrated to the Netherlands in 1933. After having taught at the European School in Brussels, he got a professorship at Leiden university [3] , but still occupied himself with Philosophizing for Children (P4C), and he became the first president of AIPPh, at a time when the countries of the European Community tried to move towards each other and to establish ties in order to prevent any war in the future. Fresco, as I remember him, was – even in his old age – a warm-hearted and vivid thinker who liked to move things for the better, and we want to follow his example. In order to create a feeling of community (Jacques Delors required: „donnez une âme à l’Europe“) it seemed necessary to become aware of the common roots in Europe, for instance in Greek philosophy, and in the history of thought which has caused fruitful development also between the countries, for there have been many interdependencies. So for instance the first formulation of human rights took place in France, after the Valladolid-controversy in Spain (whether or not the inhabitants of the New World would have certain innate rights or should be regarded as natural born slaves), but both events would not have been possible without the Italian Renaissance movement, re-animating Greek culture and thought, and Pico della Mirandola’s „De dignitate hominis“. So we can observe throughout the times a European concert of thought which helped to develop common values. [4]

But AIPPh could not have been founded, had not a German teacher of philosophy, Eduard Fey, who later became school inspector in Münster, called together, as early as 1959, a meeting of philosophy teachers from France, Italy, Austria, Germany and Switzerland. Conferences in Milan, Sèvres, Vienna and Brussels followed [5] and led to the foundation of the above mentioned society according to Belgian law, at a time when many of us expected Brussels to become the capital of Europe. So at that time the focus was on Europe. Of course Europe at that time comprised fewer countries than nowadays; But it was the merit of former treasurer Luise Dreyer (1929-2018), to open our society towards the countries of Eastern Europe. After the fall of the wall she was lucky to obtain massive financial support from the German Ministry of Science and Education, and they supplied contacts to the ministries of education in the countries formerly not accessible, behind the so-called „iron curtain“. The target behind it was of course to spread liberal and democratic thinking traditions. But for us the main aspect was the abolition of prejudices on both sides. We could talk freely about our common subject and the frame conditions in various countries, and exchange ideas about better teaching and better curricula. And many of us can exert influence.

3. Conferences and publications
In our conferences we have cultivated the use of two or three conference languages: English, German and sometimes French. Really exciting was a conference near Leipzig (formerly in the German Democratic Republic) shortly after the fall of the wall in 1989, where every small village had its own video shop and travel agency, because travelling and seeing foreign films were no longer forbidden.
In this time Luise Dreyer started to edit „Europa Forum Philosophie“, a periodical for our members who could not travel, to inform them of the activities of our association. The biggest event of all was a congress in the conference centre of Kloster Banz 1994, in the North of Bavaria. About 200 participants had come from 20 countries, because generous funding could provide free lodging and travel costs for all philosophers from formerly socialistic countries. It then emerged that after a conference on the philosophy of language at Helsinki university, organized by the late Pekka Elo (1949-2013), who was responsible for philosophy in the Finnish Ministry of Education [6] , AIPPh members were invited to visit (by ship) Tallin /Estonia, where the philosophical department wanted advice which topical philosophical standard works should be purchased, after for a long time works of Marxist and socialistic philosophy had to dominate.

In Prague we celebrated Descartes‘ 400th birthday with a congress – organized by Dr. Jaroslawa Schlegelova [7] – that took place in the National Academy of Science, a highly impressive building near the Moldova, just beside the Opera House. And in Leusden near Utrecht (NL) – with the help of Miriam van Reijen – AIPPh members got to know a philosophy hotel where each of the rooms was dedicated to a different philosopher. All these conferences were – and still are – possibilities to present ideas and lectures and conduct workshops, or as a normal participant take part in discussions and critical thinking. Or during the meals and in the evenings exchange experiences and ideas and establish further contacts.
Nowadays we can observe a third period: In times of globalization we have grown beyond Europe. For example we are now – thanks to our honorary president Werner Busch – a member of the FISP („Féderation Internationale des Sociétés Philosophiques“) and can establish new contacts at the World Congress of Philosophy, which takes place every five years [8]. For instance at the World Congress at Athens more than 3000 philosophers from all over the world were invited into the ancient theatre of Herodes Atticos just beside the Acropolis and were welcomed by the Greek prime minister and the FISP world president, before ballet dancers and the Athens Symphony Orchestra began their open-air performance with increasing darkness, and everything ended up in a wild sirtaki. But the main thing of course were most inspiring lectures and workshops on topical research and current problems of philosophy in 8 languages. And our honorary president was chair of a section “Teaching Philosophy”.

On the occasion of our 40th birthday a conference took place near Bonn, in which we wanted to reflect on our difficulties of communicating in three languages. This big conference on the topical philosophy of translation was enriched by speakers from Japan, Tunisia and New York and led to two publications: the more practical ones came out in our yearbook „Europa Forum Philosophie“, and in addition to that a book was published presenting the current positions in the philosophy of translation in order to gain more public attention for our association . Our board members today come from Poland, Russia, Bulgaria, Norway, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy, Tunisia and Germany, and the last General Assembly decided unanimously that we change the title of our yearbook from „Europa Forum Philosophie“ to „Forum Philosophie International“, while maintaining the numbering. It is now published at LIT Zürich and can be obtained on the book market as well (whereas it is free for members), and we hope for presence in university libraries.

4. New developments
And there are still other developments: After our registration in Belgium had expired, our association changed its legal form and is now registered as a non-profit society at a German court. We had to deliver new statutes, oriented at our old statutes of course, but we included the reference to the above mentioned Paris Declaration for Philosophy which was decisive in order to get the non-profit status. Now we are allowed to accept donations for the support of our work and can issue donation receipts. The 17 founding members of our new/old association who signed these new statutes come from 10 countries: Finland, Poland, Norway, Bulgaria, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Russia, Croatia, and Slovenia. And we always look for new members who will help us carry on our work into the future.

Our Dutch members’ initiative led to an Erasmus+ project “Community of Ethic Teachers” (“COMET”) and an internet platform where interested teachers can downlowd inspiring material. In another project university philosophers from 5 countries have decided to work together on the topic of populism and have been invited to present their thoughts at the next WCP in Rome, when our association will celebrate its 50th birthday. And we have set up an annual ZOOM conference for more member participation, an idea that was born in the Corona pandemic, when our Utrecht conference on “Peace and Citizenship” had to be cancelled.
But nowadays the frame conditions in many countries have changed: In some German federal states, for instance, in the golden age of philosophy teaching in the 80s and 90s, students could choose a course of 5-6 philosophy lessons per week in the final three high school years (comparable to A(dvanced)-level-subjects in former English grammar schools). But the increase of more obligatory subjects and of central exams leave less space for philosophy, other subjects are regarded as more important, which means that we have to go on fighting for the importance of our subject thus spreading the importance of philosophical education. It is part of our cultural heritage and may contribute to a better future, not only in Europe.
(Dr. Gabriele Osthoff-Münnix, November 2022)

  1. Roger-Pol Droit, Philosophy and Democracy in the World, UNESCO Publishing, Paris 1995, S. 15ff (s. auch 
  2. Ibid. 
  3. For more details concerning our history see Werner Busch, L’Association Internationale des Professeurs de Philosophie. Histoire et Actualité, in: Diotime 86 (2020) , see and Franz Schüppen, The AIPPh in the Era of Luise Dreyer, in: Europa Forum Philosophie (EUFPh) 61 (eds. Werner Busch/ Edgar Fuhrken), Kiel 2010, pp.27-39. 
  4. More detailed in Gabriele Münnix, L’identità europea e l’educazione filosofica, in: Communicazione Filosofica 45 (2020), p. 81-101 (Italian and German version), see 
  5. Werner Busch, L‘AIPPh- Histoire et Actualité, loc.cit. 
  6. Documentation in Pekka Elo and Juha Savolainen (eds.), Reports from the Department of Philosophy, University of Helsinki 1/95. 
  7. Documentation in Univerzita Karlova/ Akademie věd České republiky (eds.), Filosofické dílo René Descartesa, Prag 1998. 
  8. Werner Busch, Der Weltkongress der Philosophie „Learning to Be Human“ in Peking 2018 und die AIPPh, in: Europa Forum Philosophie 68 „Identity“ (ed. Gabriele Münnix/ Natascha Kienstra/Bernd Rolf), Nordhausen 2019, pp. 12-19 (ISBN 978-3-95948-404-6)
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