World Philosophy Day
World Philosophy Day
Since the earliest times, philosophy has inspired new ideas and concepts, with the aim of sparking independence, creativity and original, analytic al thought.
UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) established World Philosophy Day in 2002 to encourage philosophical reflection worldwide, and it’s been held on the third Thursday of November every year since then. It is a day that is observed publicly, although it’s not a public holiday anywhere in the world.
The day’s purpose is to encourage people to share their thoughts, look at and discuss new concepts frankly, and to publicly debate and discuss the challenges facing today’s society. It’s also a time to celebrate and share mankind’s philosophical heritage, and for opening your mind to new ideas.
The initiative is widely marked across the world, in countries as diverse as Turkey, Chile, France and Morocco (among others).
UNESCO’s underlying belief is that the sort of analysis and reflection philosophy offers should be present in all disciplines that strive to create a greater understanding of the modern world and its challenges, especially those involving justice and ethics. It argues that ethical judgement is essential to a healthy society.
Events are held at international, national and local level to mark the occasion, and everyone is welcome to participate. Activities include:
- Philosophy cafes
- Book fairs
- Debates, meetings and lectures, sometimes featuring some of the world’s best-known present-day philosophers
- Global conventions focusing on themes such as the link between culture and education and philosophy.
In 2004, UNESCO’s Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura put out a public message about World Philosophy Day to highlight its significance.
He stressed that philosophy provided the conceptual grounding for the values and principles shaping the potential for world peace – democracy, human rights, justice and equality. Reflection on modern society’s problems and still-to-be-answered questions remain at the core of philosophical thinking.
In 2005, the UN’s General Conference underlined the importance of the event, stating: “Philosophy encourages critical and independent thought and can help towards a greater understanding of the world and encourage peace and tolerance.”
In particular, the importance of teaching philosophy globally was highlighted.
In 2012, the tenth World Philosophy Day has the theme “Future Generations.” It’s an appropriate occasion and theme given that 2012 sees the 15th anniversary of UNESCO’s adoption of the Declaration on the Responsibilities of the Present Generations Towards Future Generations. And, 300 years ago, in 1712, the great philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau was born.
Equally, the interests of younger generations are increasingly being taken into account when sustainable development is being considered.
In Paris, where it is based, UNESCO will organize a series of events on November 14 and 15, including a demonstration of how to teach this subject to schoolchildren.
At the same time, some Parisian school kids will write message for children of their age to see in 50 years’ time, and place them in a time capsule. On November 15, there will be a couple of round table discussion sessions focusing on youth and responsibilities towards future generations.