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Message from Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of the Third Philosophy Day 2004 - 18 November 2004

17-11-2004 - It has been said by many thinkers that the heart of philosophy is astonishment. Indeed, philosophy is born out of the natural tendency of human beings to wonder about themselves and the world in which they live.

As a discipline of reflection and wisdom, it teaches us to think about thinking, to question established truths, to test assumptions and to search for our own conclusions. For centuries, in a wide range of cultures, philosophy has given birth to concepts, ideas and works of sustained analysis, and has laid the foundations for critical, independent and creative thinking.

UNESCO, in conformity with its intellectual and ethical mission, launched Philosophy Day in 2002 in order to promote fora and public spaces all over the world to celebrate philosophical reflection. The aims are to encourage people to share their philosophical heritage, to open up their sphere of daily thinking to new ideas and to foster a public debate amongst thinkers and civil society on the challenges facing societies today. Philosophy gives the conceptual grounding to the principles and values that shape the possibility of world peace - democracy, human rights, justice and equality. Reflection on the unsolved problems and unanswered questions of contemporary society has always been at the heart of philosophical analysis and thinking. As such, it is a discipline that contributes to fostering the conditions in which peaceful co-existence may flourish.

For this third Philosophy Day, over a hundred and twenty philosophers from thirty-five countries will be gathering at the Organization’s Paris Headquarters. Thinkers will be putting their heads together with the general public to discuss topics such as human rights and international law, philosophy in Africa and Latin America, inter-regional philosophical dialogues, philosophy and the liberation of women and the future of human beings. Over seventy countries will be celebrating the Day. From Argentina to Canada, from South Africa to the People’s Republic of China, students, scholars, artists, and activists will be engaged in critical and creative discussions on themes relevant to their community.

On this Third Philosophy Day, one of the major events for UNESCO will be a panel discussion with prominent thinkers on the issue: ‘Which UNESCO for the Future?’ This is a particularly important topic, not only in relation to the 60th anniversary of UNESCO that will be commemorated next year, but also in connection with the question of the relevance of multinational organizations today.

Let us take the Day of Philosophy to reflect on who we are, what we do, and why we do not do otherwise. Let us ask ourselves who we have become as individuals and as a world community. Let us ponder the state of the world today and determine whether it is consistent with our ideals of harmony, peace and equality. Let us ask ourselves if we, as a global society, are living up to the moral and ethical standards we so often declare as universal. It is a Day to think, to wonder, to discuss, to interpret, to analyse, to interrogate and to ponder on the vast horizons of human activity and the deep reservoirs of untapped possibilities for a bright and open future for all.

Source Office of the Spokeswoman





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