UNESCO World Philosophy Day Prompts Students to Think About Thinking


By Holly Jenvey, Former Op/Ed section editor

On November 17th, the Tut House celebrated UNESCO World Philosophy Day with lunchtime workshops lead by the T3 and T4 philosophy students.

This annual event was founded by the UNESCO organization in 2005 to promote philosophical thinking among every culture and individual.

IB Philosophy teacher Johan Autio explained the importance of the holiday: “World Philosophy day reminds us of the importance of critical and creative thinking. Well-thought out and well-articulated ideas about the nature of reality, morality, society, and world order have changed the world many times in the past and will continue to do so in the future.”

IB philosophy students began preparations about a month prior to the event. They formed groups of around three to four students and their task was to come up with a topic to lead a philosophical discussion for half an hour. These topics included material studied in class, such as mindfulness and freedom. Discussions also covered topics that extended beyond the syllabus, like the ethics of artificial intelligence and dietary ethics. During the workshops, students taught the philosophical material by first defining key terms, then holding debates and showing videos.

T3 student Arman Abelian lead the workshop “Free Will vs. Determinism” with classmates Max Boie and Guilherme Oliveira. They started their workshop by explaining and demonstrating the concepts of Free Will and Determinism. Then they held interactive activities that helped the audience formulate opinions as to what position they were for. When asked about what the audience took away from his workshop, Arman responded, “I think they were able to get a firm grasp on why this topic is of such debate in philosophy.”

In the image shown above, T4 student Ed Horan conducted the workshop “Genetic Engineering” with T4s Kit Moynihan and Marco Heinrichs. Ed chose the topic because “the fact that we don’t know what to do about it concerns [him] and [he] wanted to share that concern with others.” Ed’s workshop was primarily based on interactive debate with his audience. The workshop focused on a central question: “Do you think humans are the best they can be?” In their discussion, students proposed potential alternatives or modifications to genetic engineering. “I think the audience left with potential answers to the ethical questions of genetic engineering. If not, they know the mystery behind it”, Ed said. As the president of the Philosophy Club, Ed was pleased to note that, due to his workshop, the club gained more members.

IB philosophy students believe that the celebration is essential to the UNIS community. “Philosophy is something that is universal. Knowing about the essentials of the subject and how topics are discussed impacts the way in which UNIS students see all their classes,” Arman Abelian said. “UNESCO World Philosophy Day gives all students the chance to engage directly with the most important things to discuss,” Ed added.

In terms of plans for next year’s UNESCO World Philosophy Day, Mr. Autio says he is unsure, but he believes that it would be beneficial to have a collaboration with some universities and the UNESCO branch here in New York City. Mr. Autio also believes that it would be beneficial if many people from the UNIS community helped to plan the event to ensure its success. He claims, “If you have family connections to UNESCO and/or Universities in New York, feel free to reach out about the Philosophy Day. Philosophy is worth celebrating, and pondering philosophical questions is simply a lot of fun, too.”