Thursday, 19 November 2009

World Philosophy Day

Today is the fourth World Philosophy Day as announced and orchestrated by UNESCO. The events listed by UNESCO for today are centred on Russia though there is also included a list of colloquia throughout the world including a celebration of the 150th anniversary of the publication of John Stuart Mill's On Liberty and extensive discussions of the question of teaching philosophy to children. These events are welcome, as is the general intention of UNESCO to celebrate philosophy as a discipline and activity.

It is the case, however, that the fact of World Philosophy Day should also mark an occasion for philosophers to actively consider the question of what philosophy offers to the world and in what ways it can, has and will relate to the prospects of the world becoming, in some sense, a "better place". This is a topic to which I have personally devoted some thought and it is one of the bases of the formation of the series I am general editor for at Palgrave Macmillan: Renewing Philosophy.The series was and is intended to be a show-case for philosophical work that does one of two central things: 1) reflects in some critical and self-conscious way on the legacy of modernity; 2) demonstrates in some sense an engagement of philosophy with contemporaneity. 12 books have been published in the series since 2002 and a thirteenth is already cleared for publication next year (with two others currently close to also being cleared for next year). Since it is the only philosophy series dedicated to the pursuit of showing how philosophy can renew itself by means of contact with modernity/contemporaneity I urge all readers of this blog to check it out, think about looking over the books in question, borrowing them from libraries and maybe even purchasing them. Advert over.

Staying with the theme of such a relationship between philosophy and the world, the other significant question here, and one this blog is specifically aiming to try to address, concerns how philosophy can consider, in an increasingly globalised world, the condition of thinking in an international way. Obviously many types of response to this question are required but that the Kantian tradition of thought has a serious focus on the problem of international conditions should be evident enough as should the need for such a focus to include more specific thought concerning the nature of "public philosophy". By "public philosophy" I don't necessarily mean thoughts that are aimed at or could be understood by some presumed "general" public. I rather am thinking about a form of philosophy that can specify in various careful ways the nature and conditions of "publicity" itself. That this was one of the opening questions of this blog will be evident to regular readers. Expect more on it in future and don't forget the key motto: Sapere Aude!

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