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Message from Ms Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of World Philosophy Day, 15 November 2012

Nov 15, 2012, 9:02 AM

Philosophy, said Socrates, is a state of awareness – “I know that I know nothing”. Faced with the complexity of today’s world, philosophical reflection is above all a call to humility, to take a step back and engage in reasoned dialogue, to build together the solutions to challenges that are beyond our control.

This is the best way to educate enlightened citizens, equipped to fight stupidity and prejudice. The greater the difficulties encountered the greater the need for philosophy to make sense of questions of peace and sustainable development.

No philosophical tradition has a monopoly on answers to these questions -- the diversity of philosophies is our greatest asset to build inclusive and tolerant global citizenship.

Against the rising tide of ignorance and intolerance, philosophy can help to increase mutual understanding.

In celebrating World Philosophy Day, UNESCO reaffirms the power of philosophy to change the world, because it can help us to change ourselves – by giving weight to our indignation before injustice, lucidity to ask the right questions, and conviction to defend human dignity. In all these ways, it holds the key to a new humanism.

Under this year’s theme, “Future generations”, UNESCO wishes to reiterate the urgent need to pass on to young people the taste for philosophy, its rigour and its joys, from the earliest age.

UNESCO supports the practice of teaching philosophy in primary school and is committed to the democratization of philosophy.

It is one of the conditions of a more intelligent public debate and that is why philosophy is indispensable to the education of younger generations, as expressed in UNESCO’s groundbreaking Declaration on the Responsibilities of the Present Generations towards Future Generations, adopted in 1997.

Philosophy is both a meeting point and the culmination of UNESCO’s activities: it gives meaning to the content of culture and science, draws on the free movement of ideas and thrives on quality education for all.

On World Philosophy Day, UNESCO invites you to participate in the roundtables, debates and concerts organised for the occasion, in Paris and around the world.

A group of schoolchildren will place messages for children of their age in a time capsule to be opened in 2062.

I call upon all of UNESCO’s partners to rally round for philosophy, to join the many discussions and workshops, whether planned or improvised, and I invite you to send your messages and questions through social networks to enliven the debate.

Beyond all of our differences, we are all equal in the exercise of reason – this is the sure way to build fairer, more equitable societies, sustained by the energy of critical thinking.

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