The Institute for African Ecology and Philosophy reports that World Philosophy Day 2006 was celebrated on 16 November 2006, by the Institute, in the Republic of Kenya.
Participating in its celebration for the 5th time, since 2002, the World Philosophy Day in Kenya allowed reflection on various topics of particular importance, such as “Philosophy and the Condition of Modern Man”, “Cultural Philosophy, Diversity and Communication”, “Modernity and Woman Condition”, “Philosophy and Obstacles to the Alliance of Cultures”, “Philosophy: Teaching, Discussing and Translating”, or “Philosophy and North-South Dialogue: What Difficulties? What Future?”.
Here is a comprehensive report of what we did…
On 16 November 2006, the seminar ” Philosophy and the Condition of Modern Man ’ took place at the Kenyatta International Conference Center. In a well filled seminar hall, five guest speakers presented their views on the question of how to involve stakeholders and the public in the development of Philsophy, Art and Humanism, each from a different background. Mr. Samson Mochoge represented an organization of Skeptical Philosophers, Peris Kamau of Project Nabuur Consult presented a consumers perspective. Ali Abdulahi, University of Nairobi, Bernard Ombasa, University of Nairobi and Annah Wamboi of Kenyatta University presented medical, philosophical and social scientists perspectives. Chaired by Dr.H Boaz Adhengo of the Institute for African Ecology and Philosophy and Mr. Salim Ongwae of Project Nabuur, the views of the speakers were discussed with the audience.
Questions raised by the speakers were: Why participation on the day celebrations? What exactly does it entail for participation? What is meant by the ‘public’? What is the role of NGO’s in participation of enhancing the North – South Dialogue? What should be the role of scientists in development of philosophy?
As it turned out, the answers are not that simple. In general, the audience agreed upon the need of public participation for a successful implementation of post – postmodern ideals such as freedom of inquiry, democratisation of art e.t.c. At the same time it is very hard to involve the ‘general public’ in future celebrations. Most citizens do not want to be involved actively in these processes. Often they will refer to their memberships of public interest groups, who are supposed to represent the public. There was some discussion about the question if philosophy is simply too difficult for the public.
However, it is not entirely clear how participation should be shaped. Interest groups, such as publishers’ associations, could play an important role in public participation through their members. In contrast with the general public, members of NGO’s will be more interested in philosophic progress and make one’s voice heard. Therefore, NGO’s should be more involved in democratic research and, together with the researchers, determine the secular humanist agenda. Moreover, NGO’s are perceived, by the general public, as very trustworthy. Therefore, NGO’s can fulfil an important role in informing and involving the public.
It occurs that NGO’s are asked to actively participate in a proposal for a scientific project. After the proposal has been rewarded, the role of the NGO representative is often very limited. These situations should be prevented. Another obstacle is the fact that NGO’s are often not paid for their representation in scientific projects. A financial reward would be very useful. In addition , empowerment of NGO representatives, in order to increase their expertise, could be helpful.
Whether or not artists should play a bigger role in public participation and become more aware of the societal aspects of their research is not exactly clear. It is obvious that artists are prone to interact actively with the public and stakeholder groups if this contributes to the way in which his results are judged..
In spite of the many questions that remained unanswered, the discussion pointed out the direction in which we have to think and what seems to be important. It will be a challenge to find the ‘right’ answers and it certainly will be an interesting matter for further discussion.
Despite the lengthy day, we faced problems of managing to finance the event to its fullest, with much of the expenses controvisal to the planned budget. We had to transport speakers from various places, advertise the event two days to time and more so, refresh the attendants. We spent close to U.S. $6000 to make this event a reality and hope that in the future, UNESCO will push on a helping hand towards the initiative of IAEP ( Institute for African Ecology and Philosophy ).
NOTE : IAEP has existed through the initiative of the Humanist and Ethical Union of Kenya