Frequently Asked Questions

WHAT IS PRACTICAL PHILOSOPHY?

Practical Philosophy is a study that offers an effective and novel approach to answering the great questions of life.  It examines the key principles underlying the master philosophers of East and West, showing how their ideas can be put to immediate, practical use. Through discussion, practice and observation, students discover how these principles can become an effective guide to living a truly satisfying and happy life.

WHY STUDY PRACTICAL PHILOSOPHY?

Practical Philosophy is for everyone. No prior knowledge is needed – simply a desire to know oneself and enjoy life more fully. Students find it refreshing to join the company of other thoughtful men and women who also recognize the need to discover the finest principles of life and apply them for the welfare of all. Other benefits include:

  • Becoming more confident
  • Overcoming the effects of negative emotions
  • Discovering purpose and satisfaction in the world
  • Being more productive and free of stress
  • Appreciating the underlying unity to life
  • Experiencing contentment, happiness and connection to the world around us
  • Finding the peaceful, unchanging and steady anchor within
  • Transcending limits and experiencing freedom from habitual responses
  • Cultivating a quiet mind, an open heart and balance in life
  • Uncovering one’s full potential and universal nature
  • Sharpening the powers of attention

The School provides tools to help you realize these capabilities.

HOW DID THE SCHOOL OF PRACTICAL PHILOSOPHY GET STARTED?

The School of Practical Philosophy was originally named The School of Economic Science and was founded in London in 1937 to promote the study of the natural laws governing human society. At that time the central subject was economics. The School arose in response to the Great Depression of the early 1930s. Thus the main issue underlying the early studies was how economic justice might be achieved through a fair system of taxation and equitable distribution of wealth.

The study of economics led to fundamental questions about the origin of the creation, the role of human beings in the world, the nature of society and the ultimate essence of a human being. The pursuit of these questions naturally led to the study of philosophy. In the early 1950s philosophy courses were offered and soon became the main endeavor of the School. The School’s approach to philosophy has been practical from the beginning. It proceeds on the basis that what is learnt is for the benefit of others and that the teacher never ceases being a student. All of the instructors, called “tutors”, are students themselves and have been practicing the philosophic principles for years. Philosophy forms the essential reference point for all studies in the School and economics courses, in addition to other disciplines, continue to be offered.

As students relocated over the years, new schools began around the world, each reflecting the society in which it was established. The Schools maintain regular contact with each other and share a common approach to the subjects. The New York City School was founded in 1964. Like all other Philosophy Schools, its primary aim is to provide a systematic study for men and women wishing to embark on the journey towards Self discovery. A list of worldwide Schools is available.

The School’s curriculum is inspired by the world’s great universal teachings. Particular emphasis is given to the philosophy of Advaita, the works of Plato, Marsilio Ficino, Ralph Waldo Emerson and others thinkers who speak of discovering an underlying unity and joy in life.

The School is a not-for-profit educational institution, chartered by the Regents of the State of New York. It welcomes students of all races, nations and religious backgrounds

WHAT DO STUDENTS SAY ARE THE BENEFITS FROM ATTENDING CLASSES?

I am steadier and less affected by the ups and downs of life

The gift of stillness allows me more control in my life.

I am clearer than I have ever been about what I am.

Now I live in the present instead of worrying so much.

I feel lightness in myself, a kind of freedom.

I realize that whatever is in front of me is my teacher.

I am not interested in judging people; I am interested in living in the light, finding harmony & unity. 

There is an experience of clarity, freedom and integrity; the procrastination and circling thoughts are less and less frequent.

I am more forgiving; I practice meeting people as if for the first time and it makes a real difference in my relationships and my happiness.

I stop listening to myself and listen to others instead; rather than maintaining the position that I am right, I now focus on what is fair.

I have made the connection between anger and the loss of my freedom. I now increasingly allow reason, rather than the emotions, to guide my actions.

I used to be anxious and agitated all the time; now I am peaceful most of the time.

I see now how it is easy to be generous and forgiving with others when I am at peace with myself.

After the first session, I realized I had always been in a deep sleep and had just waked up.

This class has given my nature back to me and I love the good company. 

Not taking offence, not needing to teach others, being peaceful rather than being in the whirlpool is powerful stuff.

I have rediscovered my long term belief, which I had lost for a while, that everything is possible.

Before this class, I used to do laundry on Saturdays. Now I look forward to coming here to cleanse the mind and heart.

When I leave here, I am unstoppable, I am dancing.

WHAT IS THE FORMAT OF CLASSES?

Classes are very interactive and involve inquiry and discussion. Handouts containing key points from the class are given at the end of each session so students may continue to reflect on the principles during the week. Each class runs 2 ½ hours with a refreshment break in the middle. There are no tests or written assignments. The only homework is to put into practice the principles discussed in class and see whether they apply to your life.

ARE THERE REQUIRED BOOKS OR TEXTS TO TAKE TO THE COURSE?

No. You need not bring anything to the class but a willingness to consider the philosophic principles being investigated.

IS THERE A READING LIST?

There is an optional reading list available to anyone interested in doing further reading. A copy of this reading list is available under Cafeteria & Bookstore.

DO I GET ACADEMIC CREDIT OR A CERTIFICATE?

No. This is not an academic study of philosophy. The meaning of the word philosophy is love of wisdom. The purpose of this study is to gain the wisdom that will allow you to lead to a more useful and rewarding life.

IS THIS A SYSTEMATIC SERIES OF COURSES THAT CONTINUE EACH TERM?

Yes. The philosophy program consists of a series of courses that build upon concepts taught in previous courses. Click for an overview of the entire philosophy program.

WHO ARE THE INSTRUCTORS AND WHO ARE THE STUDENTS?

Following the principle of learn and teach, instructors, or tutors as they are called, are appointed on the basis of having a firm understanding of the philosophic principles. They have attended the School for a number of years and demonstrated an appreciation of the practice of philosophy in their daily lives. All tutors remain students as well since the learning process never ends. No remuneration is received for tutoring in the School. The New York City student body is drawn from the Metropolitan area and represents a broad spectrum of people from all walks of life. This diversity holds true for all School locations.

DOES THE SCHOOL TEACH MEDITATION?

At the end of Philosophy 4 students are offered the opportunity to take up meditation. The actual introduction to meditation takes place during Philosophy 5. This practice, which uses a mantra, helps gradually to bring about inner peace, harmony and clarity of mind and to release fine energy for practical use in daily life.  The simple exercise introduced in the Philosophy Works course helps to prepare students to meditate.