World Philosophy Day on Thursday:
Help people think rationally
Philosophy is the eye to all disciplines. Every study sums up a
philosophy. This philosophy in a nutshell comes from Prof. S.G.M.
Weerasinghe in his foreword to Dr. A.D.P. Kalansuriya’s book “Philosophy
- An Introduction.” Philosophy and human culture are seen as two faces
of the same coin.
20th Century American philosopher
19th Century German Philosopher Wilhelm Hegel
19th Century German philosopher Karl Marx
17th Century French Philospher Rene Descartes
20th Century French
philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre
Lynn de Silva
Prof. K.N. Jayatilleke
Kelaniya University Philosophy Department
Acting Head Prof. Daya Edirisinghe
World Philosophy Day
of Philosophy of the Russian Academy of Sciences organizes
UNESCO’s international celebrations in Moscow and St. Petersburg
(November 16-19) on “Philosophy in the dialogue of cultures.”
Freeing from historic stereotypes, dialogue of rationalism,
cultural self-consciousness in globalization, philosophy for
children and teaching philosophy in a multi-cultural context are
some of the topics. UNESCO Paris head quarters will have a
symposium on French anthropologist Pierre Clastres’ book
“Society against State” and his view that primitive societies
are alternative modes of social organization.
A congress will mark the 150th anniversary of John Stuart Mill’s
“On Liberty”, a major work of modern political philosophy.
Innovative philosophical practices will be presented in a
variety of settings.
Kelaniya University Department of Philosophy Acting Head Prof. Daya
Edirisinghe, the country’s most senior professor of philosophy, reasons
the relevancy of applying philosophy to daily life.
“To profess philosophy,” defines Prof. Edirisinghe, “is to help
people to think rationally.” Rationalism is an essential part of the
mind that helps people to behave logically in society. “The rationale of
doing something is to ask why we want to do it, the easiest way to do it
and the benefit to the society by doing it.”
Philosophy in Greek origins means “love of wisdom”, philo meaning
love and sophia, wisdom. “We mistakenly thought of philosophy as Western
whereas we must identify our own cultural connections,” clarifies Prof.
Edirisinghe, citing that we tend to absorb only the religiosity of
Buddhism, or any religion.
Of the three great world philosophical traditions, the Western stands
on logic, ethics, rational system and systemology, bent on materialism
and benefit giving.
Man is born free but he is everywhere in chains.
Jean-Paul Sartre: We are condemned to be free. Hell is
Protagoras: You have one truth, I have another.
Bertrand Russell: Love and knowledge led me upward to
heaven but always pity
brought me back to earth.
Wittgenstein: Its impossible for me to say one word about
all that music has
meant to me in my life. How, then, can I hope to be understood?
Rene Descartes: I think, therefore, I am.
The Indian is based on Upanishads, Vedanta and Buddhism concentrating
on spirituality and developing the innermost mind. One-fourth of the
world follows the Laotse and Confucius-introduced, ethics-driven Chinese
Chinese thinking avoid Heaven and Hell and introduce moral conduct or
ethical development of human beings. Prof. Edirisinghe points out China
as retaining its character of a well-organised, calm and ethical
society. He himself authored 20 books, with “Scientific Knowledge”,
“Philosophical Attitude” and “Philosophical Analysis” among them.
“In Sri Lanka, philosophy is not used much for logical and critical
thinking,” he analyses. “Often, people do not know ‘why’. Philosophy
helps clear people’s minds as only that discusses origins, nature and
limits of knowledge.”
Prof. Edirisinghe strongly upholds his views on developing the
discipline of philosophy to encourage economic, social and moral
development. “Free thinking is important. Countries developed because of
great thinkers.” Currently, the discipline of philosophy is offered only
to Liberal Arts and Social Sciences students while other university
students can choose it as a selective subject. “But lack of facilities
prevent a common time table for lectures being worked out.”
The human code of conduct in Aristotle’s “Nichomachean Ethics”,
separation of rational thinking from mysticism and mythology, Rene
Descartes liberating philosophy from religion, Immanuel Kant’s duty for
duty’s sake theory, phenomenologist Husserl’s human rationality, G.E.
Moore’s analytic tradition and Derrida’s deconstruction are among
notable thinking which catalyzed change over centuries. Prof.
Edirisinghe credits Karl Marx as being the first person to change minds
using philosophy, saying, “Bertrand Russell said Hegel put man’s head
into the earth but Marx uprighted man.”
Coomaraswamy (1877-1947) Metaphysician, historian, philosopher
on Indian art history and symbolism. Authored many publications
with “Rajput Painting” among them.
* Lynn de Silva
(1919-1982)Theologian, Methodist Minister, foremost practitioner
of Buddhist-Christiandialogue. Author of “The Problem of Self in
Buddhism and Christianity.”
* Prof. K.N. Jayatilleke
(1920-1970) Researched to verify rebirth scientifically.
Maintained that Buddha upheldthe value of analytic reason than
speculative reason. His “Early BuddhistTheory of Knowledge” is
described as an outstanding philosophicalinterpretation of the
Buddhist texts in Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
* Prof. David Kalupahana
Encouraged Theravadin Buddhists to sympathetically re-evaluate
legitimacy oflater Mahayana texts. Student of the late Prof.
Russell, a Nobel Laureate for championing humanitarian ideals and
freedom of thought, identified philosophy as being in-between science
Linguistic philosophy on using natural language in a discussion is a
new trend that Prof. Edirisinghe perceives.
Peradeniya University Philosophy and Psychology Department Head Dr.
M.S.M. Anez remarks that “Human language problem is the biggest
philosophical hurdle in the 20th century.
Everyone has his own understanding of words, causing unwanted
Fallacies over “federalism” or “democracy” provoked political issues.
“The world is full of pseudo-problems,” Dr. Anez observes. “The 20th
century philosopher G.E. Moore used the tool of common sense to solve
Another new trend is the philosophy of films which Dr. Anez says
examines how a film deals with human nature. Philosophy also relates to
computer science, built on symbolic logic and mathematics.
From Socrates to Wittgenstein, solving problems of human kind has
been the task of philosophers. “Philosophy is the questioner in any area
of study,” explains Dr. Anez. “A philosopher has a problem for which he
must find information and an answer. In Sri Lanka, philosophy can help
common people and the youth to develop an open mind that inquires
The broad range of philosophical inquiry covers the human environment
of ethics, aesthetics, mind and consciousness, time, language, science
and environment and also, family, community and society.
Dr. Anez acknowledges that the United Nations programs released
philosophy from being an elitist theoretical study and brought it down
to the common man. Sri Lankan universities have not celebrated World
Philosophy Day for several years, hampered by fund dearth.
The decision is between trusting our senses and our reason. Our
senses may deceive us but we can trust our reason. In UNESCO ethos,
philosophy fights against dogma and manipulation, giving people a
critical and independent spirit and a concept to induce thought,
listening and exchange of views.
(Additional sources: www.unesco.org;
thinking is important. Countries developed because of great thinkers”
the discipline of philosophy is offered only to Liberal Arts and
Social Sciences students while other university students can choose
it as a selective subject. “But lack of facilities prevent a common
time table for lectures being worked out