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Message from the Director-General on the occasion of Philosophy Day at UNESCO (21 November 2002)

20-11-2002 - Many people ask: why philosophy at UNESCO? My reply is: how could UNESCO, as the intellectual and ethical arm of the United Nations, function without promoting philosophical reflection as the basis for democracy, human rights and a just society? In other words, how else can one foster an authentic foundation for peaceful co-existence?

Philosophy, as the term signifies, is the love of wisdom. Regardless of its specific terminology in various cultures all over the world, tetsugaku in Japanese, indicating the discipline of wisdom, or in Arabic, falsafa, meaning science of wisdom, this act of thinking about thinking turns by definition around the fundamental concepts and ideas that lie at the heart of existence, both individual and collective. It is this act of philosophizing that is the lifeblood of philosophy. And it is precisely this act of reflection, of analysis, of questioning – whether of concepts that are taken for granted, ideas dulled by time, or long-established paradigms ‑ that I wish to support and promote through the launching of this first Philosophy Day at UNESCO, which is being celebrated by over 50 countries, through conferences, debates and related activities.

For this first Philosophy Day at Paris Headquarters, we will be discussing topics such as: poverty, justice and world peace; philosophy and human rights; philosophy as the pathway to emancipation; philosophy of cultural diversity and cultural rights; philosophy and media ; ethics and science, philosophy and knowledge. Through philosophical analysis and debate, answers to contemporary world problems will be sought and explored.

More than ever, mutual knowledge and understanding of all traditions of thought in the world is crucial for dialogue and respect amongst people. Let us take the time today to celebrate the universality of philosophy. The love of wisdom is inherent in all cultures, and stands as an intangible heritage of humankind. Through the celebration of Philosophy Day at UNESCO, I should like to highlight the importance of philosophy and the contribution of philosophy to society.

Let us take this day to reflect upon what we do; how is it that we do it; and why is it that we do not do otherwise. Let us question our daily practices, take a critical look at the men and women we have become. Let us cast light on the darkened corners of our understanding of the ‘Other’. It is the day to ponder on the ethical consequences of our actions, or the unintended outcomes of our decisions. Let us encourage youth to be creative in searching for new answers to the challenges of our societies, and to look for gaps in the current structures set up to serve equity and justice. I encourage you all to philosophize today. In this world where action does not necessarily spring from thought, let us take this day to think, question and search, beneath and beyond the confines of what we think we know.

Source Office of the Spokesperson





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