York celebrates World Philosophy Day

York University will hold a one-day conference to celebrate the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Philosophy Day. The conference, Philosophy for a Better World: Examining Foundations, Extending Frontiers, will be held today, from 1 to 4pm in Founders Assembly Hall, 151 Founders College.

Right: Socrates

The event is presented by York’s Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts and will feature a panel discussion on the theme with six York students who are enrolled in the Graduate Program in Philosophy. Participating in the panel are Jeremy Petch, Mark Staz, Jason Breen, Susan Dieleman, Serife Tekin and Danielle Brown.

The spirit behind UNESCO’s World Philosophy Day is the belief that philosophy makes the world a better place in which to live. Founded in November of 1945, UNESCO was grounded in the conviction that since war began in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defence of peace must be constructed. Peace could no longer be based on the political and economic arrangements of governments, but had to be grounded in the intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind.

From its inception, UNESCO saw philosophy as a key element in the attainment of these ideals by cultivating in individuals the intellectual tools to analyze and understand key concepts such as justice, dignity and freedom. Philosophy was regarded as an essential component in building the capacity for independent thought and judgement through the enhancement of critical skills required to understand and question the world and its challenges.

From this perspective, the teaching of philosophy contributes to the formation of free citizens. It contributes to building the capacity for individuals to have genuine freedom of thought, freedom from dogmas and credible, if not, uncontested wisdom. It also fosters the ability for a human being to make judgements concerning his/her situation.

UNESCO suggests that world peace and democratic ideals are enhanced, if not contingent on, the open exchange of ideas and the critical reflection proper to philosophy. To promote this notion, UNESCO initiated World Philosophy Day in 2002 to be celebrated around the world in November of each year. In 2005, organizers asked participants to focus on the general theme “Does Philosophy Matter?”

For 2006, the general theme is “Philosophy for a Better World: Examining Foundations, Extending Frontiers”. With this in mind, the panel of six graduate students in philosophy will briefly discuss their own current research in their respective or related fields from biomedical ethics, including distributive justice in health care ethics, to feminist epistemology and beyond. There will be two panels and each will be followed by a discussion which is open to the public. Refreshments will be served compliments of the Master’s Office at Founders College.

For more information contact Gerard Naddaf, Department of Philosophy, at ext. 55133 or e-mail naddaf@yorku.ca.