Who are the Upper West Side Philosophers?

Kathrin Stengel, Ph.D., cofounder and president of Upper West Side Philosophers, Inc. - Studio & Publishing, studied philosophy at the Universities of Leuven (Belgium), Munich, and Konstanz (Germany). She has taught philosophy at Seattle University and the Rhode Island School of Design, and has published widely on ethics, aesthetics, and epistemology, including Yoga for the Mind: A New Ethic for Thinking and Being & Meridians of Thought (with Michael Eskin), Das Subjekt als Grenze (The Subject as Threshold) - a comparative study on Ludwig Wittgenstein’s philosophy of language and Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy of perception. For her book November Rose: A Speech on Death - a philosophical meditation on loss, grief, and survival - she received an Independent Publisher Book Award in 2008. A frequent guest on radio programs throughout the US and Europe, Kathrin Stengel has designed and organized international philosophical events, including ‘What is Space? A Philosophical Inquiry into Space and the Imagination’, ‘About Style: A Philosophical Meditation on the Question of Style’,and ‘On Imagination: A Philosophical Studio’ (all three at the Rhode Island School of Design), as well as ‘Thinking and Experiencing Space’ (Germany), ‘Philosophical Walks with Nietzsche’ (Switzerland), ‘Pain and Beauty in Philosophy and the Arts’ (Seattle University), and ‘Image and Music: Improvisations on the 14 Stations’ for the Interfaith Assembly for Homelessness and Housing in New York City, video documentation of which was on display at the Brooklyn Museum of Art in 2005. For many years, Kathrin has also taught Vipassana Meditation and practiced Jin Shin Jyutsu. She lives in New York City.

“I fell in love with philosophy during my last two years in High School, when I was first exposed to the works of Camus, Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. Until then, I simply did not know that there was a discipline out there – philosophy – dealing precisely with those questions that I couldn’t stop thinking about: What is thinking? What does it mean to believe something? What does it mean to be a ‘human’ being? How does language work? How can we understand each other? What do I perceive? What is good? Even though my university training did not prepare me to test philosophy in everyday life, I felt that, as a philosopher, it is my duty and my job to do so. When I became a mother I added Vipassana meditation to my philosophical practice, approaching it with skepticism at first and enjoying it with enthusiasm later. Overcoming my intellectual fear of exploring the mind from a bodily perspective profoundly enriched my philosophical thinking: I realized that much of what the practice of philosophy involves can be called ‘intellectual meditation’, while meditation can be viewed as ‘embodied philosophy’. Working as a professor of philosophy I yet again realized that despite the fact that philosophy has so much to offer to everybody it is scarcely practiced outside the university. This led to the founding of Upper West Side Philosophers, Inc., an independent space and place for the practice of philosophy in a way that is rigorous, yet embodied, disciplined, yet relaxed, historically founded, yet geared toward everyday life.”

Kathrin Stengel

Michael Eskin, Ph.D., is an award-winning author, critic, translator and publisher. He was educated in Israel, Germany, France, Minnesota, and New Jersey, and is the cofounder and Vice President of Upper West Side Philosophers, Inc. - Studio & Publishing. A former Fellow of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, he has taught at the University of Cambridge and at Columbia University. His many publications on cultural, literary and philosophical subjects include: Nabokovs Version von Puskins "Evgenij Onegin": Zwischen Version und Fiktion - eine ubersetzungs- und fiktionstheoretische Untersuchung (1994); Ethics and Dialogue in the Works of Levinas, Bakhtin, Mandel'shtam, and Celan (2000); On Literature and Ethics: A Special Edition of Poetics Today (2004); Poetic Affairs: Celan, Grunbein, Brodsky (2008); 17 Vorurteile, die wir Deutschen gegen Amerika und die Amerikaner haben und die so nicht ganz stimmen konnen (under the pseudonym 'Misha Waiman'; 2008); Philosophical Fragments of a Contemporary Life (under the pseudonym 'Julien David'; 2008); The DNA of Prejudice: On the One and the Many (2010); The Bars of Atlantis: Selected Essays by Durs Grunbein (as editor; 2010); Yoga for the Mind: A New Ethic for Thinking and Being & Meridians of Thought (with Kathrin Stengel; 2013); and The Wisdom of Parenthood: An Essay (2013). His translations have appeared in The New Yorker and Sport 40, and include Durs Grunbein's The Vocation of Poetry (2011 Independent Publisher Book Award for Essay/Creative Non-Fiction) and Mortal Diamond: Poems (2013), as well as Andrea Kohler's The Waiting Game: An Essay on the Gift of Time (2012). A member of The Authors Guild, the Academy of American Poets, the P.E.N. Center for German-Speaking Authors Abroad, and SCALG, the Society for Contemporary American Literature in German, he has been a frequent guest on radio programs and lectured regularly on cultural, philosophical, and literary subjects across the US and Europe - as a guest of the United States Consulate General, Germany, The Federation of German-American Clubs, and Limmud, an international organization fostering cross-cultural Jewish education, among others. He lives in New York City

“Philosophy and poetry have been my two ruling intellectual passions. I fell in love with poetry when I first translated, in my early teens, the twentieth-century Russian poet, Sergej Jesenin; I consciously embarked on the journey of philosophical thinking when, as an adolescent, I began trying to make sense of the emotional and logical motivations underlying my own and my family members’ actions and decisions through the prism of my readings of the works of Sartre, Camus, and others. Much later – first, as a student of literature and philosophy and, subsequently, as a university professor – was I to understand why, at the end of the day, you may not be able to engage in one without engaging in the other: both philosophy and poetry are like the two sides of a coin – the coin being our continual attempt to make sense of and shape our lives. My twofold passion has bestowed intellectual direction and beauty on my life and given me strength to think and act with hope and clarity in moments of crisis. It is this passion, as well as a deep desire to embody and share it with others outside the established educational and institutional frameworks which inspired me to cofound Upper West Side Philosophers, Inc., with a view to creating a congenial and nourishing space and place for the pursuit of what Socrates poetically conceived of as the cultivation and perfection of our soul.” 

Michael Eskin

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