Peter Koestenbaum

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Peter Koestenbaum
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Peter Koestenbaum, Ph.D. (born 1928) is a German-American philosophy academic. [1] He received national media attention in the United States the in 1970s with his views on using the knowledge of one’s inevitable death to organize one’s life, and published books on the subject, including his most notable work called "The Vitality of Death".[2][3] He also co-authored two more books with notable American author Peter Block.[4][5] He received a B.A. from Stanford University, an M.A. in philosophy from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in philosophy from Boston University. He also attended the University of California, Berkeley where he studied music and philosophy.[6] He taught for 34 years in the philosophy department at San Jose State University where he won the Outstanding Professor Award for the 1969-1970 academic year.[7][8]

Publications & Journals

  • Philosophy: A General Introduction, by Peter Koestenbaum | Jan 1, 1968
  • Existential Sexuality; Choosing to Love., by Peter Koestenbaum | Jul 1, 1974
  • The Heart of Business: Ethics, Power and Philosophy
  • The New Image of the Person: The Theory and Practice of Clinical Philosophy (Contributions in philosophy ; no. 9)
  • Leadership: The Inner Side of Greatness: 1st (First) Edition
  • The Vitality of Death: Essays in Existential Psychology and Philosophy (Contributions in Philosophy, no. 5)
  • Freedom and Accountability at Work: Applying Philosophic Insight to the Real World (with Peter Block)
  • The Philosophic Consultant: Revolutionizing Organizations with Ideas
  • Is There an Answer to Death? (Spectrum Books)
  • Confronting Our Freedom: Leading a Culture of Chosen Accountability and Belonging (with Peter Block)
  • Managing Anxiety
  • Philosophic Foundations for the Theory and Practice of Humanistic Psychology; Volume


  • 1960 Named California State University system’s outstanding professor
  • 1969-1970 San Jose State University’s Outstanding Professor Award

Media Appearances

Koestenbaum appeared on The Merv Griffin Show on May 13, 1977 with other guests Ray Moody, George Ritchie, Charles Gardfield and Vi Horton to discuss the topic Life After Death.[9]

Early Life

Koestenbaum was born to Jewish parents Ernst and Ilse on April 6, 1928 and raised in Berlin, Germany. He describes jumping on his bed at the age of six and telling his mother that he wanted to become a philosopher. He remembers being 10 yards away from Adolf Hitler as Hitler led a military parade in 1936. “I was scared to death. I knew it was bad.” Koestenbaum's family moved to Caracas, Venezuela in 1937 prior to Kristallnacht, the night of widespread attacks on Jewish businesses throughout Germany that presaged the Holocaust. In Venezuela, Ernst Koestenbaum went door to door selling products without being able to speak Spanish to support his family. Presbyterian leaders educated Koestenbaum in a safe environment, while Ernst hoped that Peter would become a coffee farmer.

In 1945, Koestenbaum, a brilliant student, matriculated to Stanford University at the age of 17 to Palo Alto, California. At the time, Koestenbaum spoke German, Hebrew and Spanish, but not English. At Stanford he studied philosophy and physics and received a B.A. while working as a gardener in Palo Alto to support himself.[10]

Personal Life

Koestenbaum currently lives and works with his wife Patty in Carmel-By-The-Sea, California.


  1. "Koestenbaum Peter". Philosophie et Management (in français). Retrieved 2022-09-14.
  2. Koestenbaum, Peter (January 1972). "The Vitality of Death". OMEGA - Journal of Death and Dying. 2 (4): 253–271. doi:10.2190/BXMU-81HF-FVLL-0MGQ. ISSN 0030-2228.
  3. Koestenbaum, Peter (1972). "The Vitality of Death: Essays in Existential Psychology and Philosophy". Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. 33 (2): 283–284. doi:10.2307/2106477.
  4. "A Conversation With Peter Koestenbaum, PhD".
  5. "About Peter Block". Flawless Consulting. Retrieved 2022-09-14.
  6. "Koestenbaum Institute and Leadership". Retrieved 2022-09-14.
  8. Kirkpatrick, Doug (2019-06-05). "A Talk with the Remarkable Dr. Peter Koestenbaum". D’Artagnan Journal. Retrieved 2022-09-14.
  9. "Archival Television Audio - Search Results". Retrieved 2022-09-14.
  10. "Q&A: Peter Koestenbaum challenges executives to be better leaders". The Mercury News. 2014-01-31. Retrieved 2022-09-14.

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