mural painting
The mural painting "Titans" by Lumen Martin Winter, which hangs in the General Assembly building at UN Headquarters.
Photo:UN Photo/R Grunbaum

Philosophy is the study of the nature of reality and existence, of what is possible to know, and of right and wrong behavior. It comes from the Greek word phílosophía, meaning 'the love of wisdom.' It is one of the most important fields of human thought as it aspires to get at the very meaning of life.

World Philosophy Day was introduced in 2002 by UNESCO (the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) with the following objectives:

  • to renew the national, subregional, regional and international commitment to philosophy;
  • to foster philosophical analysis, research and studies on major contemporary issues, so as to respond more effectively to the challenges that are confronting humanity today;
  • to raise public awareness of the importance of philosophy and its critical use in the choices arising for many societies from the effects of globalization or entry into modernity;
  • to appraise the state of philosophy teaching throughout the world, with special emphasis on unequal access;
  • to underline the importance of the universalization of philosophy teaching for future generations.

2020 Observance

The 2020 edition invites the world to reflect on the meaning of the current pandemic, underlining the need, more than ever before, to resort to philosophical reflection in order to face the multiple crises we are going through.

The health crisis brings into question multiple aspects of our societies. In this context, philosophy helps us to take the necessary distance to better move forward, by stimulating critical reflection on problems that are already present, but which the pandemic has pushed to the forefront.

Programme of Events in 2020

Background

In 2005 the UNESCO General Conference proclaimed that World Philosophy Day would be celebrated every third Thursday of November.

In establishing World Philosophy Day UNESCO strives to promote an international culture of philosophical debate that respects human dignity and diversity. The Day encourages academic exchange and highlights the contribution of philosophical knowledge in addressing global issues.

Why a Philosophy Day?

Many thinkers state that “astonishment” is the root of philosophy. Indeed, philosophy stems from humans’ natural tendency to be astonished by themselves and the world in which they live.

This field, which sees itself as a form of “wisdom”, teaches us to reflect on reflection itself, to continually question well-established truths, to verify hypotheses and to find conclusions.

For centuries, in every culture, philosophy has given birth to concepts, ideas and analyses, and, through this, has set down the basis for critical, independent and creative thought.

World Philosophy Day celebrates the importance of philosophical reflection, and encourages people all over the world to share their philosophical heritage with each other.

For UNESCO, philosophy provides the conceptual bases of principles and values on which world peace depends: democracy, human rights, justice, and equality.

Philosophy helps consolidate these authentic foundations of peaceful coexistence.

drawings of symbols and images of ancient Greece

Philosophy – which is part of the humanities - questions every dimension of human life. UNESCO has always been closely linked to philosophy, which is defined as a “School of Freedom” in one of its major publications. Through critical questioning, philosophy gives meaning to life and action in the international context. The link between philosophy and UNESCO stems from the inquiry on the possibility of and necessary conditions for the establishment of long-term peace and security in the world.

 

Geometric illustration with the Secretariat building at UNHQ, New York.

International days are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool. We also mark other UN observances.