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10 years of International Understanding Study.

The Chair of Practical Philosophy with a focus on International Understanding at the Munich School of Philosophy will celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2020. On the occasion of the anniversary, the chair holder Prof. Dr. Michael Reder will discuss "Islam and Religious Freedom" with Prof. Dr. Katajun Amirpur (Cologne) and Prof. Dr. Heiner Bielefeldt (Erlangen) on January 8. We spoke with Professor Reder about the work of the chair, the importance of international understanding in political philosophy and dangers for democracy.

Professor Reder, 10 years ago you took over the Chair of Practical Philosophy with a focus on international understanding. How has your research changed during this time?

A lot has happened in the past ten years, especially in a global perspective. One can think, for example, of the many conflicts and wars, the flight of millions of people worldwide, the rise of right-wing populism, or the intense debate about the consequences of climate change. All these developments shape the debate on global interrelationships and are therefore more than relevant for the research and teaching of my chair.

From the very beginning, the aim of the chair has been to philosophically reflect global developments. On the one hand, this involves appropriate descriptions and the search for convincing terms to describe the changed forms of global coexistence. On the other hand, it also deals with normative and political issues. In this respect, the chair asks, for example, about successful forms of living together.

My research has become both more concrete and more general in recent years. More concrete, because I am looking more and more closely at individual global phenomena. More general, because I am increasingly asking how philosophy in its reflections can really do justice to global dynamics.

What role does the topic of international understanding currently play in practical philosophy?

International understanding was and is not a genuine philosophical concept. The term originates from the post-war period and the concrete search for forms of peaceful coexistence beyond cultural or political rifts.

This search in the face of global conflict situations is becoming increasingly important today within practical philosophy. The question of democracy in a globalised world, the order of the world economy, the legitimation of state action in the face of permeable borders - all these are questions that are gaining enormously in importance today. For example, I am currently jointly responsible for a major project on transnational practices of solidarity in the field of migration, European integration and the global textile industry. As different as the subject areas may be, philosophy can be used to show what they have in common, both ethically and politically, and what possible forms of design can take.

Islam and its significance in politics and society remains a central theme. This topic has also become particularly explosive due to increased migration.

The debate about Islam today is often a crucial issue in Western societies. It is striking that many contributions often present a very undifferentiated picture of Islam. Islamist fundamentalism, political Islam and cultural secular Islam are often not separated but lumped together. This often has disastrous consequences, even when it comes to the topic of migration.

What role does political philosophy play in these discussions?

Political philosophy can help to draw a differentiated picture. This makes it possible to see the most diverse groups and dynamics that shape the globalized world, even within cultural groups such as Islam. It is only on this basis that a convincing ethical reflection can begin and then be asked how we want to shape the world politically.

Political philosophy is of course first and foremost an academic discipline. Especially when it begins to spell out the basic questions of solidarity or democracy globally, it does justice to the current situation. This is a great challenge, because despite its orientation towards the universal, philosophy in the 20th century often thought in terms of nation states. But political philosophy is always also a public matter. That is why I also see myself as a public actor who, on the one hand, interferes in social debates and, on the other hand, seeks cooperation partners who pursue the same goal of international understanding.

What does such cooperation actually look like?

At the moment, for example, I am planning a project between art and philosophy, together with the artist Lia Sáile and whiteBOX. The intervention EASTERN MUNICH deals with the topics interculturality and interreligiousness in the city of Munich. For this purpose, the floor plans of various past, present and future religious buildings from Munich are projected onto Wittelsbacheplatz in Munich in large-scale video projections. By superimposing the projections and sliding them into one another, the floor plans become not only visible but also "accessible" through their disclosure, thus enabling virtual border crossings. This is practical international understanding, in which, among other things, art and philosophy can be fertilized.

What are your plans for the coming years with the chair?

Global networking has only just begun. To that extent, the plans are correspondingly diverse. Specifically, I'm working on larger publications to represent future generations and on another on global solidarity as a form of international understanding.

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