Thursday 21 November 2019

World Philosophy Day!

Today marks World Philosophy Day, an event that is celebrated annually on the third Thursday in November (for some reason!). In 2019, by happy coincidence, the event coincides with the birth, in 1694, of François-Marie Arouet, known to the world by his non de plume, Voltaire. The Irish-born, rationalist philosopher, John Toland (1670-1722) has been referred to as the Irish Voltaire.

Nicolas de Largillière, François-Marie Arouet dit Voltaire adjusted
Nicolas de Largillière
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
World Philosophy Day has been celebrated annually since 2002 however, in 2005, UNESCO designated it an official day of observation at the United Nations:
"In establishing World Philosophy Day, UNESCO strives to promote an international culture of philosophical debate that respects human dignity and diversity. The Day encourages academic exchange and highlights the contribution of philosophical knowledge in addressing global issues."United Nations

Philosophy (from the Greek word phílosophía, meaning 'the love of wisdom') in this instance, is described as "the study of the nature of reality and existence, of what is possible to know, and of right and wrong behaviour. ... it aspires to get at the very meaning of life."

So, why does it merit its own day of observation and what exactly does that mean? Again, according to the UN:
"International days are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilise political will and resources to address global problems and, to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool."United Nations

In 2019, World Philosophy Day is being celebrated with the aim of highlighting "the importance of philosophy in different regional contexts. ... to obtain regional contributions to global debates on contemporary challenges that support social transformations. The purpose of this approach is to foster regional dynamics, stimulating global collaboration to address major challenges, such as migration, radicalisation, environmental change, or artificial intelligence."

Thursday 14 November 2019

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716): philosopher, mathematician, Google Doodle honouree

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Bernhard Christoph Francke
Christoph Bernhard Francke
[Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, philosopher and mathematician, died on this day in 1716.
"... he is often regarded as one of the three great advocates of rationalism. A largely self-taught polymath, his discoveries and contributions to many fields of human scientific enquiry would, in time, have important implications right up to the computer age"Sophia of Hanover – Winter Princess: Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716)

He was both a contemporary and acquaintance of the Irish-born, rationalist philosopher, John Toland, who whom this web project is dedicated. Leibniz was court librarian at the House of Hanover from 1676 until his death. There, he came under the patronage of the Electress Sophia, who also sponsored Toland. The two men respected each other but, may not always have seen eye to eye for, as author J.N. Duggan (biographer of both Toland and Sophia of Hanover) recounts, Leibniz thought him to be "a man of esprit and is not lacking in erudition, but he pushes things too far" – see John Toland: Ireland's Forgotten Philosopher, Scholar ... and Heretic J.N. Duggan, 2010.

In 2018, Leibniz was an honouree of the prestigious Google Doodle – "the fun, surprising and sometimes spontaneous changes that are made to the Google logo to celebrate holidays, anniversaries and the lives of famous artists, pioneers and scientists" – on the occasion of the 372nd anniversary of his birth.
Google Doodle on the occasion of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz's 372nd Birthday

In view of the upcoming centenaries that surround his birth and his death, we ask, would not John Toland (1670-1722) also make a worthy honouree? Have your say by taking part in the poll below.

You can also make your views known directly, by contacting the Google Doodle team. Information about how members of the public can submit ideas for future doodles is available from their dedicated web page.

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Milestones and Anniversaries

Further Reading

  • An Account of the Courts of Prussia and Hanover: Sent to a Minister of State in Holland by John Toland (The Manuscript Publisher, 2013)
  • Letters to Serena by John Toland (Four Courts Press, 2013)
  • Nazerenus by John Toland (Voltaire Foundation, 1999)
  • Physic without Physicians byJohn Toland (The Manuscript Publisher, 2020)
  • Reasons for Naturalizing the Jews in Great Britain and Ireland by John Toland (The Manuscript Publisher, 2013)