On World Day, UNESCO hails philosophy as ‘force for individual and collective emancipation’

Sculpture "The Thinker" by Auguste Rodin. World Philosophy Day takes place every November. Photo: Hans Andersen

19 November 2015 – Marking World Philosophy Day, the head of the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO) has stressed that sustainability calls for new ways of thinking about ourselves and the planet and as such, “philosophy and all the humanities will be essential.”

“The conviction that philosophy can make an essential contribution to human well-being, to addressing complexity, to advancing peace stands at the heart of World Philosophy Day,” UNESCO’s Director-General, Irina Bokova, said in her message for this year’s celebration.

Ms. Bokova pointed out that UNESCO puts philosophy forward as a force for individual and collective emancipation: “For to think, while reflecting on what it is to think, is to philosophize, and all of us do it constantly, driven by the truest motor of all human ingenuity – wonder.”

World Philosophy Day has been observed every third Thursday of November since 2002. According to UNESCO, philosophy is dialogue of wonder, across the ages, with art and literature, in social debates, on political questions, practiced by all, without specialized training, far beyond the classroom.

“We must raise the flag for philosophy as high as possible, to engage every woman and man, and especially every girl and boy. We need to share the wonder of philosophy more widely and differently,” the UNESCO chief said.

Ms. Bokova also noted that the agency was continuing its long-standing cooperation with the networks of philosophy teachers. “We are working to make philosophy, the most ancient of disciplines, reach broader audiences thanks to cutting-edge technologies,” she said. “For instance, through online teaching tools based on the 2015 UNESCO South-South Philosophical Manual.”

According to UNESCO, all activities celebrating this year's World Philosophy Day will emphasize the use of new communication technologies to engage global audiences. To celebrate the Day, many events will be hold in Paris, where UNESCO is headquartered, as well as in Dakar, Brasilia, and a number of other cities on all continents.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, agreed by UN Member States in September, created a new vision for people, prosperity, peace, and the planet for the next 15 years. Taking this to fruition, Ms. Bokova said, requires all the skills philosophy can hone, including rigour, creativity and critical thinking.

“Sustainability calls for new ways of thinking about ourselves and the planet. It requires new ways of acting, producing and behaving. Here again, philosophy and all the humanities will be essential,” she added.

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