Philosophy Day – National Bioethics Committee of Jamaica (NBCJ)

“One of the painful aspects of coming to terms with one’s inevitable aging is the realization of how many of the pivotal historical events in one’s life not only mean nothing, but are barely even known, to a younger generation.” Charles W. Mills (Caribbean Philosopher)


Philosophy is a human endeavour. Today gives us pause to celebrate philosophy and to reflect on its value to human life. Philosophy’s value lies in how it empowers, enriches and helps us with transitions and transformation of our lives. On this day we, as humans, celebrate our ability to think, to reason, to develop new ideas, and to create a more peaceful and meaningful existence.

The postmodern era of globalisation comes with swift technological advancements that challenge what we have thought of as ‘normal’ ways of being.  A very real example of this is how and where we work.  The very nature of work is being re-defined before our eyes.  This process has sped up even more with the COVID-19 pandemic. This has forced humanity to change and to adapt, as quickly as things around us are changing. Some of us have come to accept this and to realize the interconnected nature of our reality. Some, faced with the need to radically rethink how we live and exist in the world become fearful and uncertain.  This fear and uncertainty can be hard to overcome.

Even while we face the immediacy of the pandemic, nature continues to show the effects of human endeavours.  Climate change has been at the forefront of many discussions, and we could ask ourselves if this change is new. The earth has periodically warmed and cooled over thousands of years.  Even as recently as a few hundred years ago, there was a period in which the climate got warmer, and this resulted in changes in the patterns of mosquito-borne diseases.  If we now have access to information and technology and can demonstrate our impact on the climate, are we not obligated to use that knowledge and technology to adjust our behaviours to make the world more hospitable for all life?

It is especially during such times of shifting and uncertainty that philosophy remerges as an indispensable human endeavour. It is during these times that we most appreciate the philosopher’s pledge, “know thy self,” and the philosopher’s quest for knowledge and truth about life and reality.  Many of us find ourselves, at this moment in time, asking the big philosophical questions:

  • What is the meaning of life and existence?
  • Behind my title, my job, the demands of my family, and the demands of life, who am I?
  • What is our place in this world?
  • Apart from what I do for work, what is my value as a human being?

As the world changes, we are called upon to reimagine and redefine our role as human beings. But even within this change there are things in us that remain unchanged—our awareness that we exist, our wonder about the nature of reality, and our uncertainty about what time holds for us.  For as much as we discover, there is always so much more to find. Much more than we can imagine right now, for things will change, beyond what we can imagine now. Who could have in November 2019 imagined how Jamaica would be in November 2021?  For this reason, philosophy, and philosophers hold a valuable place in human life, especially when we are faced with the big questions.

Ultimately, what philosophy does is help people and society to develop, to become better. By contemplating the meaning of reality, of life and existence, we create meaning for ourselves. And by understanding how others have developed their own meaning of reality, of life and existence we can see each other’s vision of the coming time. From this vantage point, the question of how to construct a society which serves us better can be considered.  Herein lies  great value for tomorrow, regardless of how the world, the society and our personal lives will change.

The Covid 19 Pandemic has wreaked upheaval in everyone’s life and as we celebrate World Philosophy Day take a moment to pause and examine your philosophy about life and the role we ought to be playing on this planet.