Taiwan marks World Philosophy Day with marathon-style salons

Taipei-World Philosophy Day, established by UNESCO in 2005 to promote critical and independent thought, is being celebrated in Taiwan on Thursday for the first time, attracting hundreds of people interested in brainstorming on important life issues.

A two-day event comprising 16 salons that start in the afternoon and run until midnight, is being held to encourage free and continuous discussions, an area of study that has not gained the attention it deserves until recent years in Taiwan, according to the organizers, a group of intellectuals and scholars.

Claire Lin (???), event coordinator and deputy head of the Philosophical Education Development Organization, told CNA that In recent years the "pursuit of reasoning" has become popular in Taiwanese society and it is timely to re-emphasize the importance of philosophy because it provides "good tools" through which people can reflect on the issues they encounter in their daily lives.

There has been more reflection on the relation between individuals and society especially since the high-profile death of Hung Chung-chiu (???), which raised awareness of social justice.

The 24-year-old conscript died of heat exhaustion on July 4, 2013 after being forced to do strenuous exercise in a confined facility.

Hung's death raised questions about human rights violations in the military, sparked mass protests in Taiwan and led to the prosecution of several military officials and major legal reforms such as the abolition of military courts during peacetime.

Lin said that once people familiarize themselves with the study of philosophy, they are better equipped to reflect on and understand what is happening in the world around them.

"Those who follow a consistent set of values as a result of healthy reasoning are more likely to have a peaceful state of mind," Lin said in the opening salon, "The Possibility of Philosophy Education: France and Taiwan."

Giving the example of the philosophy curriculum in France, where third-year high school students discuss how the use of language delivers power, Carole Lo (???), a writer, said such life quests are important for teenagers.

"There is no right or wrong in philosophy, which makes it a study of humanity," she said. "This is a necessary coming-of-age gift we offer to the younger generation."

Numerous issues were discussed in the salons, including "Is bullying legitimate if it represents the interest of an overwhelming majority?" and "Should people be allowed to buy and sell human organs if they belong to the individual?"

On the whole, philosophy is about asking questions and exchanging ideas, Lin said.

"Philosophy is an action rather than an idea, through which people complete one another's thoughts," she said.

Liu Chieh-sheng (???), a 23-year-old university student, is one of the salon-goers.

"I have always been interested in the discussion of philosophy. It inspires me," he told CNA.

According to UNESCO, by celebrating World Philosophy Day each year, on the third Thursday of November, people underline the enduring value of philosophy for the development of human thought in all cultures and for all individuals.

"Faced with the complexity of today's world, philosophical reflection is above all a call to humility, to take a step back and engage in reasoned dialogue, to build together the solutions to challenges that are beyond our control," said Irina Bokova, former UNESCO director-general.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel