Message from Ms Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of World Philosophy Day, 17 November 2011
Philosophy Day has been celebrated by UNESCO every year since 2002, on the third Thursday of November, both at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris and other cities around the world. The General Conference of UNESCO established World Philosophy Day in 2005. UNESCO’s objective is 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.
World Philosophy Day was introduced in 2002 by UNESCO to honour philosophical reflection in the entire world by opening up free and accessible spaces. Its objective is to encourage the peoples of the world to share their philosophical heritage and to open their minds to new ideas, as well as to inspire a public debate between intellectuals and civil society on the challenges confronting our society.
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.
UNESCO’s Philosophy Day allowed this institution to celebrate, in particular, the importance of philosophical reflection, and to encourage 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.
Over seventy countries, including twenty-five in Africa, celebrated the first two Philosophy Days which offered everyone, regardless of their culture, the opportunity to think about different questions such as: “Who are we as individuals and as a world community?” It is up to us to reflect upon the state of the world and determine whether it corresponds to our ideals of justice and equality. It is up to us to ask ourselves whether our society is living according to the ethical and moral norms of our great Declarations.
This Philosophy Day thus provided us with the occasion to ask ourselves questions that are often forgotten: “What do we neglect to think about?” “Which intolerable realities do we get used to?”
Message of the Secretary-General on the occasion of World Philosophy Day, 18 November 2010