On Monday, October 27th, students had an opportunity to get a taste of contemporary philosophy. In the Erasmus Paviljoen, a leading German philosopher, Markus Gabriel, tried to explain why the world and does not exist.

Ten minutes before the start and the crowd has already lined up. Not only students but also professors themselves were drawn by the intriguing title ‘Why the world and the man do not exist?’ and the charismatic personality of the popular philosopher. For some Philosophy students, the lecture was part of the curriculum, so the moderator warned the audience right away: we will get technical. And so they did.

No unified totality

The youngest professor of Philosophy in Germany at the time, Markus Gabriel started by running through the main argument. He went on to explain what ‘the world’, ‘the man’ and ‘existence’ mean in his view to prove that these terms are irrelevant. He argued that there is no unified totality, but a variety of discrete fields created through human senses. Daring statements, constant engagement with the audience and sprinkles of brilliant humor left the public mesmerized.


Then, it was the turn of  Henk Oosterling to share his idea of a man in the contemporary world. However, he chose a more traditional lecture-like format, using striking visuals to  establish his position. In contrast to Markus Gabriel, he contended that everything is connected to everything’ and we exist as ‘interviduals’ get feedback from the global network through the media of technology.

Too abstract

While some left the event in a sheer confusion, others were fairly enthusiastic. Psychology students, for example, thought that they lacked the proper background. Britt Schuthof admits: “It was hard to follow without prior knowledge, but it is still interesting to know.” Meanwhile her friend, Stephany Stuart, adds: “I could understand it, but I don’t know what to do with it, it is all too abstract.”   

The way you look at the world

A slightly more prepared Philosophy student, Bob Holle, agrees: “I am interested in Philosophy, but I don’t see any added value in discussing particular questions.” In contrast, philosophy students shared their excitement, saying the lecture was ‘fascinating, triggered reflection and stimulated thinking’. Unlike others, Philosophy master student Manon Dillen emphasized the relevance of such topic to daily life: “Even if you don’t fully understand it changes the way you look at the world.” KS/photo: Oliver Hohmann