SOAS University of London

Department of Religions & Philosophies celebrates UNESCO’s World Philosophy Day

19 November 2020

Since 2002, UNESCO has celebrated the World Philosophy Day each year on the Third Thursday of November with the goal of underlining and reiterating the enduring values of philosophy for the development of human thought. What is interesting about the World Philosophy Day, at least in the recent years of its celebration, is its decolonial approach to the enduring values of philosophy for human thought and human wellbeing. The 2019 edition, for example, highlighted the importance of philosophy in and from different regional contexts with the goal of harnessing regional and continental philosophical contributions to global debates on contemporary challenges.

At SOAS, the study of World Philosophies has a special place. Besides its interest in the study of specific world philosophical traditions such as African philosophy, Islamic philosophy, Buddhist philosophy, Jewish Philosophy and Indian philosophy, SOAS has dedicated programmes for the study of World Philosophies at the Department of Religions and Philosophies. SOAS recognises the importance of a robust understanding of the philosophical traditions of the world and their values and contributions to human development, social transformation and a better world.

In celebration of the World Philosophy Day this year on Thursday November 19, 2020, the staff and students of the BA World Philosophies Programme at SOAS will be organising a roundtable discussion virtually on Philosophies and the Building of Community, Resilience and Hope during a Global Pandemic. We have all been affected one way or another by the COVID-19 pandemic. It has threatened above all our communion as persons, weakened our spirit of resilience and our individual and collective hope for a better future. What can we learn from the many philosophical traditions to rebuild and strengthen our collective will to move on, our communities, our resilience, our hope?

To address these questions, the roundtable will feature the following speakers:
Polycarp Ikuenobe: Professor at the Department of Philosophy, Kent State University, Ohio. His expertise includes intercultural and comparative African Philosophy, philosophy of race and racism, social political and moral philosophy and philosophy of justice. He is author of several books and essays including Philosophical Perspectives on Communalism and Morality in African Traditions (2006). He will be speaking on ‘African Philosophy and the building of Resilience and Hope during a Global Pandemic’.

Joseph Cohen: Associate Professor in Contemporary Continental Philosophy at School of Philosophy, University College Dublin. He is Founding Co-member of Les Rencontres Philosophiques de Monaco, Principality of Monaco and Founding member and Secretary of Irish Phenomenological Circle. His expertise include contemporary continental philosophy and Jewish Philosophy. He has written a number of books and essays on this topic including contributions to Heidegger and Jewish Thought (2017), the preface to the Hebrew translation of Derrida’s Of Grammatology (2015), The Husserl Dictionary (2012) and Judeities. Questions for Jacques Derrida (2007). He will be speaking on ‘Jewish Philosophy and the building of Resilience and Hope during a Global Pandemic’.

Richard King: Professor Emeritus of Buddhist and Asian Studies at the School of European Cultures and Languages, University of Kent, Canterbury. His expertise include Hindu and Buddhist philosophy, classical South Asian thought and postcolonial theory. He is author of several books and essays including Indian Philosophy: An Introduction to Hindu and Buddhist Thought (2000). He will be speaking on ‘Buddhist Philosophy and the building of Resilience and Hope during a Global Pandemic’

Dead Philosophers Society: DPS is a space where different people of the SOAS community can come together and have a think about the philosophical issues that they are concerned with. Often conversations emerge on identity, sometimes on ethics and understanding. The goal of this society is to keep revolutionizing Philosophy, by making the space radically open, radically accessible. DPS will be discussing how virtual socials and societies help tackle the loneliness and isolation felt by students dealing with remote learning. For DPS, talking and engaging with philosophy allowed for a space of resistance and connection to be built in the middle of an isolating time. DPS will speak on ‘Fighting loneliness and isolation through an accessible study of philosophy’.

Each guest speaker will speak for 20 minutes each and 40 minutes will be spent for comments, discussions and questions from staff and students of the World Philosophies Programme and other participants.

The event will take place on Zoom on 19 November from 2-4pm. (Meeting ID: 879 4561 2230; Passcode: 376551).