Did you know that today, November 17th, is World Philosophy Day? Celebrated at UNESCO’s (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization) initiative every third Thursday of November since 2002, World Philosophy Day offers us a chance to become philosophers and reflect on the big questions.

Some say that “astonishment” is the root of philosophy. Are you astonished by yourself and the world in which you live? Why not take this time then to reflect on the big questions. Today you can be a philosopher and give birth to concepts, ideas and analyses. It is your chance to ponder principles and values on which world peace depends: democracy, human rights, justice, and equality.

Regardless of culture, UNESCO encourages us to think about the following questions: “Who are we as individuals and as a world community?” And in particular, we are asked to focus on the following two questions which are often forgotten. “What do we neglect to think about?” “Which intolerable realities do we get used to?”

What with sweeping changes across North Africa and the Middle East this year as people took to the streets demanding fundamental freedoms and several large-scale disasters such as the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident in Fukushima, Japan, the globe and its peoples definitely seem to be shifting. It is a time to contemplate the big questions.

Brain World respects this initiative and includes the Director of the UNESCO’s address in here for inspiration. Won’t you find the philosopher in you and share with us your reflections?

Message from Ms Irina Bokova,
Director-General of UNESCO,
on the occasion of World Philosophy Day
17 November 2011

“Philosophy, the exercise of critical thought and freedom of expression are vital in the collective search for lasting responses to the challenges of peace and development. This message is central to World Philosophy Day, celebrated by UNESCO since 2002.

In 2011, the extraordinary exuberance of the Arab Spring invites each one of us, whether participants in or spectators of these events, to ponder the meaning of history, social justice, gender equality and fundamental freedoms. Several large- scale disasters – in particular, the earthquake followed by a tsunami and nuclear accident in Fukushima – have emphasized the powerful relevance of questions on the place of humans in nature. All of these events call on us to bolster our efforts to provide everyone, the young and the less young alike, with the means for understanding our rapidly changing societies.

Philosophy is an inexhaustible wellspring of renewal for ideas and societies. This year, the UNESCO Youth Forum once again took stock of young people’s thirst for reflective thinking and intellectual innovation. In response, UNESCO wishes to rally the whole human sciences community to whet their appetite for philosophy, even among the very young. Initiatives for children’s philosophical practice are very promising and offer real opportunities for educational progress. They deserve our full attention.

On 17 November, UNESCO and its partners in many Member States are holding hundreds of symposia, conferences and debates. The International Network of Women Philosophers, founded in 2007 under the auspices of UNESCO, will host its Third Assembly in Paris. The event is one of the main platforms for international
exchange enabling women philosophers to play an influential role in contemporary debates.

The practice of philosophy is a process benefitting the whole of society. It helps to build bridges between peoples and cultures and heightens demand for quality education for all. Philosophy encourages respect for cultural diversity, exchanging opinions and sharing the benefits of science, which are the conditions for genuine debate. This 17 November, let us rally together to harness the incredibly transformative potential of philosophy.”

Irina Bokova

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