The First Real Museum of Philosophy Prepares to Launch: See the Museo della Filosofia in Milan

You’ve almost cer­tain­ly been to more art muse­ums than you can remem­ber, and more than like­ly to a few muse­ums of nat­ur­al his­to­ry, sci­ence, and tech­nol­o­gy as well. But think hard: have you ever set foot inside a muse­um of phi­los­o­phy? Not just an exhi­bi­tion deal­ing with philoso­phers or philo­soph­i­cal con­cepts, but a sin­gle insti­tu­tion ded­i­cat­ed whol­ly to putting the prac­tice of phi­los­o­phy itself on dis­play. Your answer can approach a yes only if you spent time in Milan last Novem­ber, and more specif­i­cal­ly at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Milan, in whose halls the Museo del­la Filosofia set up shop and proved its sur­pris­ing­ly untest­ed — and sur­pris­ing­ly suc­cess­ful — con­cept.

“What we had in mind was not an his­tor­i­cal­ly-mind­ed muse­um col­lect­ing relics about the lives and works of impor­tant philoso­phers, but some­thing more dynam­ic and inter­ac­tive,” writes Uni­ver­si­ty of Milan post­doc­tor­al research fel­low Anna Ichi­no at Dai­ly Nous, “where philo­soph­i­cal prob­lems and the­o­ries become intu­itive­ly acces­si­ble through a vari­ety of games, activ­i­ties, exper­i­ments, aes­thet­ic expe­ri­ences, and oth­er such things.”

In the first hall, “we used images like Mary Midgely’s ‘con­cep­tu­al plumb­ing’ or Wittgenstein’s ‘fly bot­tle’ to con­vey the idea accord­ing to which philo­soph­i­cal prob­lems are in impor­tant respects con­cep­tu­al prob­lems, which amount to ana­lyz­ing con­cepts that we com­mon­ly use in unre­flec­tive ways.”

In the sec­ond hall, vis­i­tors to the Museo del­la Filosofia “could lit­er­al­ly play with para­dox­es and thought exper­i­ments in order to appre­ci­ate their heuris­tic role in philo­soph­i­cal inquiry.” The expe­ri­ences avail­able there ranged from using an over­sized deck of cards to “solve” para­dox­es, the per­haps inevitable demon­stra­tion of the well-known “trol­ley prob­lem” using a mod­el rail­road set, and — most har­row­ing of all — the chance to “eat choco­lates shaped as cat excre­ment” straight from the lit­ter box. Then came the “School of Athens” game, “in which vis­i­tors had to decide whether to back Pla­to or Aris­to­tle; then they could also take a sou­venir pic­ture por­tray­ing them­selves in the shoes (and face!) of one or the oth­er.”

In the third, “pro­gram­mat­ic” hall, the muse­um’s orga­niz­ers “pre­sent­ed the plan for what still needs to be done,” a to-do list that includes find­ing a per­ma­nent home. Before it does so, you can have a look at the pro­jec­t’s web site as well as its pages on Face­book and Insta­gram. At the top of the post appears a short video intro­duc­ing the Museo del­la Filosofia which, like the rest of the mate­ri­als, is for the moment in Ital­ian only, but it nev­er­the­less gets across even to non-Ital­ian-speak­ers a cer­tain idea of the expe­ri­ence a philo­soph­i­cal muse­um can deliv­er. Philo­soph­i­cal think­ing, after all, occurs pri­or to lan­guage. Or maybe it’s inex­tri­ca­bly tied up with lan­guage; dif­fer­ent philoso­phers have approached the prob­lem dif­fer­ent­ly. And when the Museo del­la Filosofia opens for good, you’ll be able to vis­it and approach a few philo­soph­i­cal prob­lems your­self. Read more about the muse­um at Dai­ly Nous.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Free Online Phi­los­o­phy Cours­es

Philo­graph­ics Presents a Visu­al Dic­tio­nary of Phi­los­o­phy: 95 Philo­soph­i­cal Con­cepts as Graph­ic Designs

The His­to­ry of Phi­los­o­phy Visu­al­ized

A Data Visu­al­iza­tion of Mod­ern Phi­los­o­phy, 1950–2018

Phi­los­o­phy Explained With Donuts

Watch a 2‑Year-Old Solve Philosophy’s Famous Eth­i­cal “Trol­ley Prob­lem” (It Doesn’t End Well)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.


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