It’s World Philosophy Day today. An official UNESCO day since 2002, World Philosophy Day is celebrated annually on the third Thursday of November. The theme for 2012 is ‘Future Generations’.
The objective of the day is “to encourage the peoples of the world to share their philosophical heritage and to open their minds to new ideas, as well as to inspire a public debate between intellectuals and civil society on the challenges confronting our society.” On the day, governments, educational institutions and organisations of all kinds are encouraged to organise workshops, dialogues, debates, and other events to promote intellectual debate, reasoning and informed thinking.
In terms of this year’s theme, the focus is specifically on promoting philosophical thought among young people, to nurture their taste for the the joys and rigour of critical thought. The great philosophers challenge us to question accepted truths; to not merely accept opinions as the truth; to test hypotheses; to reach our own conclusions. Surely developing this mode of thinking among the next generation is the wisest means of ensuring the future well-being of the world and its people. Abraham Lincoln captured it well when he said: “The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.”
So, today is the day to don your thinking cap, and tackle the big subjects – or, as Douglas Adams would say, “Life, the Universe and Everything”. Philosophy is not about passively sitting around thinking – it’s about actively engaging with those around you. Take a stand, don’t shy away from controversy. Get the big debates going.
Just remember that philosophical debate is not a competition – differences of opinion is a good thing. To quote Thomas Jefferson: “I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as a cause for withdrawing from a friend.”