Thursday, 20 November 2008

World Philosophy Day

I bet you did not know that it is World Philosophy Day. Once you've settled down your raucous laughter perhaps we can be  serious for a moment and at least admit there are worse reasons for a "day". (How about World Telecommunications Day, or World Television Day? "Here's a good idea - let's all make phone calls or watch TV today, because we don't do enough of that!") As a rather amateur philosophy teacher who is really a theologian I am glad that a discipline with such an impressive heritage is being recognised. The Western world could only benefit from greater emphasis on the life of the mind.

Though too much can be claimed for philosophy. Koïchior Matsuura Director General of UNESCO connects the human rights tradition to philosophy, saying about the Day " Of eminent philosophical importance, the 1948 Declaration implicitly evokes the universality of human beings and their rights. It also provides an opportunity to revisit today some of the key concepts that underpin our modernity: human dignity, freedom and universality". That all sounds very Kantian, and did give some of the language in which human rights have been couched. However I think it is widely acknowledged that the Kantian account does not provide resources which really sustain a moral life. Much of the content of the human rights documents draw from the Christian tradition not from Kant.

One way to celebrate the day would be a rousing rendition of the Philosopher's Song by Monty Python (excuse the language), and note that this comes from the Philosophy school of University of Wooloomooloo in Sydney (it doesn't actually exist).


Pete Moore said...

That is very encouraging - I think? Of course World Philosophy Day might prove to be like 'Whacking Day' on the Simpsons - - a day for abusing rather than celebrating (in the Simpsons its snakes that get whacked.)
Of course there is the old maxim 'there is no such thing as bad publicity', or as Oscar Wilde put it 'There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.'
As enthusiasts for careful thinking - which is what Philosophy is all about - a good first step is to get people thinking about thinkers. Whether they think carefully about those careful thinkers is another matter.

david said...

I notice a revival of interest in philosophy in the popular press recently .. eg 'The Consolations of Philosophy'; 'The Pig Who Wanted to be eaten' etc. I'm wondering how much of this is the propaganda arm of militant atheism on the move or how much is an attempt to try and find a centre for a de-centred and drifting culture.