Philosophy at the World Conference: A Discussion

Minutes: The Conference of Philosophical Societies (CoPS) met to discuss “Philosophical Themes of World Congresses of Philosophy: What Impact?” at the Marriott Waterfront Hotel in Baltimore, Bristol room, 6.30-9.30pm, December 27, 2007 during the annual meeting of the American Philosophical Association, Eastern Division.


John Abbarno, President, CoPS
George F. McLean, Vice President, CoPS, Sec.-Treas. The Council for Research in Values and Philosophy (RVP)
David Schrader, Executive Director, APA
William McBride, Secretary-General, International Federation of Philosophical Societies (FISP)
Kihyeon Kim, Secretary-General, Korean Organizing Committee for the World Congress of Philosophy
Jinho Kang, Vice Secretary-General, Korean Organizing Committee for the World Congress of Philosophy

The goal of the CoPS meeting was to invite the American philosophical societies to explore the philosophical challenges and opportunities emerging from globalization as well as how nations and cultures could unite while sustaining their identity through change. As stated by the letter of convocation from the President of CoPS:

Are the traditional avenues and methods of reasoning sufficiently equipped to address these new concerns? As philosophers we wonder how this global impact challenges our own enterprise.

We see this reflected in the theme of the next World Congresses of Philosophy (XXII) planned to convene 30 July-5 August 2008 in Seoul, South Korea. The theme is “Rethinking Philosophy Today.” Gone it seems is the confidence of the previous World Congress (XXI) held in Istanbul, Turkey in 2003 which had the theme “Philosophy Facing World Problems.” In more sobering times we rightly face the task of rethinking the philosophical enterprise itself. This is a most rare step–unequaled since, perhaps, Descartes set the modern goal of “clarity and distinctness.”

The American philosophical community seems called upon in a special way for this task. United in the American Philosophical Association (APA) it is also diversified and specialized in the 173 societies listed in the Directory of American Philosophers. The Conference on Philosophical Societies (CoPS) serves to interconnect this open network.

G. John Abbarno chaired the session.

William McBride, Secretary General of FISP introduced the work of FISP in the past years and pointed out the problems facing the professional philosophical organizations. The World Congress of Philosophy will be held in Seoul, Korea on July 30-August 5, 2008, it is the first time since 1900 that the World Congress will be held outside of the North Atlantic region. In this global age, it is necessary to seek out what other cultures and civilizations can contribute to present-day philosophical thinking. Asian cultures as both rich and diverse can contribute and enrich world philosophy. Other cultures recognize the significance of this global interaction and actively engage in international philosophical activities. American philosophers need, and are needed for, this open world horizon of the many ways of thinking and doing philosophy. Today international collaboration in philosophy has become especially important.

George F. McLean, Director of the Council for Research in Value Philosophy and Vice President of CoPS told of the young Whitehead and Russell attending the first World Congress in Paris in 1900 and being impressed by the students of Giuseppe Peano. This inspired their joint work: Principia Mathematica, whence came two of the most important philosophical trends of the 20th century: analytic philosophy and process metaphysics. The World Congresses long had no particular theme, but only showcased whatever work was being done. After World War II general themes were added, at first in the philosophy of science, but with the emergence of the world from colonialism and the cold war issues of freedom and human dignity became central.
Since the new millennium the new global reality calls for attention to the diversity of cultures and civilizations and to their interrelations. Hence the theme of the 2003 World Congress “Philosophy Solving World Problems” now gives way to an even more fundamental of issues, namely, “Rethinking Philosophy Today”. This suggests recognition that today it is philosophers’ task to develop a new epistemology, indeed a new paradigm, in order to enable diverse civilizations to engage in peaceful global progress in our times.
The American philosophical situation today is twofold. On the one hand, the APA unites all in a well-organized professional society. On the other hand, 173 specific philosophical societies promote the specialized philosophical competencies in the many fields. It is important to our day to find a new way of drawing upon these special capabilities and applying them to the work of philosophizing on the complex issues of our times. This is the founding purpose of The Conference of Philosophical Societies (CoPS).

David Schrader, Executive Director of the American Philosophical Association pointed out that we constantly redefine philosophy as a perpetual path. Philosophy is to communicate ideas and find values for society. The APA has a 105 year history. Philosophers need to talk to each other. Whereas before it was difficult to travel, now technology and internet make it much easier to communicate physically and virtually. Separated from the rest of the world by two oceans, American philosophers seem not to have been adequately attentive to the thinking going on around the world. If one’s home can be a window of the world, philosophy needs to find value in everyday life and consider the social and political issues this entails.

Kihyeon Kim, Secretary General, World Congress of Philosophy Korean Organizing Committee introduced the organization of the XXIInd World Congress of Philosophy in Seoul, Korea (July 30-August 5, 2008), mentioning especially the new issue of globalization. This first World Congress of Philosophy to be held in Asia opens philosophy to a world horizon and its civilizations. Where professional philosophy thus far turned especially to the Greek tradition, globalization opens this to the new philosophical ideas and new identities of the world.

Along with the usual issues of scheduling and facilities, the organization of the current World Congress in Seoul faces that of participation from all region and hence of finances. As the important issue facing philosophers today is the crisis of humanity, it is important to revive the interest on the study of humanity itself. This calls for participation by representatives of all parts of the world’s philosophical communities and societies.

Jinho Kang, Vice Secretary General of the World Congress of Philosophy Organizing Committee provided detailed concrete information on the organization of the World Congress as a platform for dialogue of philosophies: East and West, North and South. Key challenges are how to enlarge and evoke more philosophical interests on some concrete social concerns; how to apply philosophical theories to human life. The World Congress program in Seoul aims to balance different philosophical ideas, thoughts and discussions and will offer a platform for dialogue and communication. It hopes to add the rich cultures of Korean and other Asian people to the global perspectives.

Discussion ensued especially on: (a) the pattern of registrations thus far, (b) the pre-Congress Congress conference of the Council for Research in Values and Philosophy (Seoul, July 27-29, 2008) on “Philosophy Emerging from Culture” (, and (c) Islamic participation especially from South East Asia.
In conclusion President Abbarno extended special thanks to the speakers and especially to the Korean representatives who were thanked for their great effort to develop philosophy for global times. He offered assistance of the Conference of Philosophical Societies (CoPS) in any manner they believed would be helpful.

–Hu Yeping, Secretary, The Conference of Philosophical Societies

By mopress

Writer, Editor, Social Democrat

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