- Guilt applies to the irreversible past; responsibility entails obligation toward an undetermined future
- Know thyself, and you will know the universe and the gods
- We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed
- If there is a science man really needs, it is philosophy. It teaches how man can reach his appropriate place in the world, from which position he can learn what to do to become a human being
Greece is center field to numerous challenges and promising opportunities for change and development. One challenge is that of strengthening geo-economic diplomacy in the extraction reservoirs of energy in the Eastern Mediterranean. In doing so, it should aim at minimizing contributions to climate change, making it easier to live with extreme weather phenomena in the future as it does now with seismic activity, and to become better prepared to face an awful menu of more frequent disasters. Another is to strengthen the forces of integration within Greek society. One opportunity for change, integration and development is presented by the presence of the World Philosophical Forum (WPF) 1, a recently constituted think tank in Athens whose mission is to revive Greek classical philosophy and as a strategic instrument in decision making.
Within this context, the WPF makes an urgent appeal to Greece, governments of all nations and the international community on behalf of its Governing Board, Honorary President Evangelos Moutsopoulos, Academician, and President, Igor Kondrashin, Russian philosopher who established it in 2010. In 2018 he was honored by the Greek authorities.
The WPF appeals to the newly installed prime minister of Greece, the Right Honorable Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Leaders of the Opposition (Alexis Tsipras, Fofi Genimata, Dimitris Koutsoubas, Kyriakos Velopoulos, Yianis Varoufakis), members of the two newly constituted parliaments (National and European), all members of the European Parliament, and to all candidates in the two recent Greek elections in order to help secure a new moment for peace in the world, sustainable development in Greece, and to halt the growth of social dementia. The WPF strongly appeals to you, Mr. Prime Minister to take immediate measures and actions to revive Classical Greek Philosophy in lieu of predominant scholasticism, in the belief that philosophy is a vital unused instrument in the solution of existential problems the world faces. In parallel, it asks support of the United Nations, the World Health Organization, the European Union, and the Council of Europe.
The WPF was established to promote ancient classical Greek philosophy not in Brussels, Rome, Moscow, London or Washington but in Athens and for good reasons: Greece is universally recognized and accepted as the cradle of western culture and civilization, the place where science, philosophy and democracy were born. The WPF aims to shore up civil learning when and where it is failing, and to promote solidarity, respect and responsibility for a better shaping of man’s future. From its inception, the Forum has been fully aligned with the ideals of UNESCO and, in reciprocity, supported by it. In introducing World Philosophy Day in 2005, UNESCO highlighted the importance of philosophy for young people, emphasizing that philosophy is a discipline that encourages critical and independent thought and can provide a better understanding of the world and with a distinctively different means of promoting tolerance and peace.
Irina Bokova, former Secretary-General of UNESCO once said that philosophy confers humility and is a means to take a step back and engage in reasoned dialogue to build solutions to challenges beyond our control. Audrey Azoulay another General Secretary of UNESCO, says that philosophy is a bastion against the narrowing of opinion and of minds. It is the best way to educate and enlighten citizens as well as to equip them to fight stupidity, prejudice and social dementia. The greater the difficulties encountered, the greater the need for philosophy. Although the United Nations and UNESCO have promoted the concept of Global citizenship to reflect the thinking of Socrates, not one country (including Greece) has adopted it until now.
Social dementia is the shame of the civilized world in general, and for each society in particular. It does not have a Greek cause, but Greece is in the enviable position of holding its antidote, namely classical philosophy originating in ancient Greece. Classical philosophy can bring a change of the world’s heart. It should become one flag for the two new political bodies in Athens and in Brussels, as they design strategies to reshape Greek and European futures and in continuum, implement effective policies. We are utterly convinced that social equity, environmental consciousness, and human rights, along with artistic and cultural expression placed on a Hellenistic philosophical platform of influence is the one and only vehicle for change in our socially demented world.
A realistic investment by Greece as advocated by the WPF can prove a most creative instrument to help overcome remnants of resistance towards economic and social evaluation, including self-evaluation, weaknesses within the public sector, the mutually exclusive concepts of meritocracy and favoritism and the deep political polarization within Greek society. Such an investment will be a boon for education, especially of children and youth, a strong attractive magnet to hold on to or bring home its scattered and significant talent, and it can act as a release valve to any and all tendencies to extremism. Applied classical philosophy can restore diminished autonomy to its institutions and it can act as a vehicle of humanism and an antidote to despair. It will result in more lives lived with meaning. In modern and ancient parlance nothing is possible without man, nothing is achievable without institutions and prevention is only possible with democracy.
With mythological expression and somewhat like Heracles, the WPF, would like to divert rivers of despair and remove social dementia from the Augean stables, but not in one day. Greek children born today will face rivers of despair from the encroaching ravages of global warming, shifting morbidity to earlier ages, a shorter life expectancy and a lower quality of life than their parents and an impending growth of cancer, without as yet knowledge of the cause of childhood leukemia. These factors add significant elements to the so called “demographic problem”. Today, our highest goal is to preserve humanity aided by philosophy and politics, and to strive through policy to give our children and our children’s children the means to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives as citizens, united within a hospitable Earth-XXI and within the framework of the golden mean. We appeal to Greece at this an auspicious time of renewal to take one step back towards an increased use of Greek classical philosophy and help secure a new moment for peace in the world with sustainable development in Greece by. We urge the revival of philosophy in the spirit of advice given to young people by Socrates, marry and make children; if it works, good, if not, become philosophers. We say to politics, solve problems; when those solutions work, great; if not, use all available tools of Greek classical philosophy in education, in health and in culture as well as in the public and private sectors. In classical Greece worth was seen in the public person; idiot is a derived word from the Greek, for private.
We suggest that the Right Honorable Kyriakos Mitsotakis Greece’s most public person convene a panel to assess the symptoms and causes of the collective state of social dementia noting that we have to wonder, which system will collapse next: the environment as a result of climate change; health from a global pandemic; a button pressed initiating nuclear conflagration; the collapse of an economic or banking network, or some other unexpected disaster for which we are as yet unprepared; this according to Things ended by the great poet Cavafy: disaster never anticipated-imagined… overwhelmingly descends and being unprepared we are swept away.
In positive anticipation, the WPF enthusiastically petitions the Greek political world to take appropriate actions to restore classical philosophy and to all walks of life. In parallel, it wishes the incoming government and parliament well in their new and important capacity of governance (government and opposition), imbued with courage and political will to counter both the symptoms and causes of social dementia. It urges them to fight against climate change and do whatever is humanly possible to alleviate the nuclear threat and the dangers of the Internet for our children. In the shadow of a nuclear nightmare doing nothing is not an option; not for government, not for the international community and not for high profile citizens and politicians.
As the world moves towards a new arms race, it is imperative to work towards arms control and the alleviation of existential threats not only to the two nuclear superpowers but to the totality of humanity. The United Nations must be reinvigorated as the guardian of human rights and the defense of people at greatest risk of abuse, and to better promote social equality in a world where a salary is often a means of survival removed from the dignity of a well spent life.
While we have great universities, brilliant scholars and researchers, great orchestras, libraries, museums and many book shops, the main source of information for citizens, locally, regionally and internationally comes through television and social media, which is now hiring neuroscientists like the writer to tap brain know-how for the purposes of marketing. Philosophy for all can have a great effect to reverse this trend.
With all due respect Mr. Prime Minister to You and your Office we believe that you must do what you can to end the accumulating misery of man, indiscriminate killing of civilians in bloody conflicts, and the senseless loss of migrants in the Mediterranean, as well as ensure social justice and human dignity and the recovery of the Greek people from the miseries resulting from austerity; you have already underscored the awesome responsibilities ahead and your dedication to change.
Such worthy goals can be aided by returning Greece and the entire world to the concept of know-what and returning them to the principles of wisdom, reason and morality embedded in classical philosophy. Classical philosophy will be of help in the struggle to replace scholasticism, in youth’s civic based education and in everyday practical life by. We ask that you cultivate all forces of integration and constrain destructive forces to help turn the corner towards a brighter future for all. In your journey to Ithaca the WPF stands with you.
With our Urgent Appeal the World Philosophical Forum reaches out to Greece and back to Classical philosophy in the name of a better future for all children and our children’s children.
1 The 10th Anniversary of the World Philosophical Forum will take place under the Acropolis, in the Museum of the University of Athens, October, 2019. WPF says come to the eternal city of Athens, Greece, where hospitality is still a virtue and part of everyday life; walk through the streets of old Plaka, dine in a colorful taverna, and follow in the footsteps of St. Paul as he contemplated his Epistle to the Athenians. It will be followed by events in Malaysia and the Philippines (November, 2019). The WPF has 57 branches worldwide.
See Jeffrey Levett, Attica Aflame, Greece Mourns Dealing with Disaster. When populism and fanaticism enter the arena of human affairs, disaster is never far behind, in Wall Street International, 16 August 2018