Do you want to experience philosophy in the streets of Berlin? This city is full of the streets, buildings, monuments, cemeteries, squares, others that are somehow associated with philosophy and philosophers. We would like to explore this, so we start with the project of free “Berlin Streets Philosophical Guide”. You will be able to download the first edition soon from this website. We hope also to develop the guide on regular basis – it should be a living book, to which you could also contibute. If you write a short text up to 500 words about “a philosophical” place in Berlin, just send it to us, we will take it into consideration as a possible part of it.
We are starting our guide with Michal Czapara’s text on Kurt Tucholsky, the name so much known to Berlin-Mitte residents from Tucholsky street (Tucholskystrasse). Mr. Czapara is one of the founding members of Berlin Forum.
VISIT KURT TUCHOLSKY OR: ABOUT A STROLL DOWN LüBECKERSTRAßE
by Michał Czapara, Berlin philosopher and historian, European-University Viadrina
Visiting Berlin, take a stroll down Lübeckerstraße in Berlin’s district of Moabit. Take a break in front of the house number 13. A memorial plaque will tell you that this is the birthplace of Kurt Tucholsky, a man who had chosen the following message as an epitaph for his gravestone: “Here rest a golden heart and an iron muzzle. Good night –!”
Admittedly, Tucholsky is seldom recognized as a philosopher. He never was one by profession. He indeed was a journalist, a writer, a satirist – often hidden behind several pseudonyms. Despite all formal attributions, he was a brilliant analyst (of political developments and social changes), a man forwarding questions of existential manner (in a skilled, light and varied literary way), and a man writing about his struggles with daily life and himself – quite often himself and women.
Reading the works of Tucholsky we in fact can learn a lot about life, humanity and existential questions, probably more than by reading a wall cabinet of academic philosophical books. Nevertheless, can a satirical journalist seriously be taken for a philosopher? Kurt would have had objections; once he wrote: “A bad journalist is yet not a philosopher.” As a matter of fact, Kurt was a very good journalist…
Putting all job designation aside and putting it straight: he was a brilliant thinker. We can read him without compunction as an iron muzzled philosopher – and a damn good author.
Attentive readers know by now that this quote refers to his 1921 book Rheinsberg – a Picture Book of Lovers. Two names, two question marks. That’s enough, that’s Kurt’s style, it works! Contributing to Kurt’s favour for French language and culture: Ça marche!
Beside a wonderful love story (literarily hidden but visible within the reader’s fantasy with every single and wonderful detail) his first book already shows one of Kurt’s most excellent skills: combining everyday world and common language with fundamental questions – with existential thoughts. Who are we? Which role do we play? What impels us to do so? Who is (…why…) expecting something from us?
Kurt is sending us these questions in an easy digestible way, he points to them by twinkling to us through his texts. Remarkably, he is always twinkling without a bigger overall system, without a philosophical concept of the total – “only” brilliant and analysing thoughts from an iron muzzle.
If you are in Berlin, don’t waste (all) your time with academia, follow life – visit Kurt’s birthplace. Afterwards, enjoy your life and read some of his works. Kurt will make you laugh, at least smile…probably even think.*
*The author is grateful to Claire Gambetta from Lindenau for several inspirations – mainly concerning Kurt.
 Among others Peter Panter, Ignaz Wrobel, Kasper Hauser, and Theobald Tiger.