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World Philosophy Day: Through the Eyes of Students

Two of my best friends and I were waiting outside of our high school once. We were in Grade 12 then. During our conversation, one of my friends, Athavi Kugathasan, mentioned something about how in class she discovered that philosophy really changes the way you see the world. That’s how I believed she told us although I can’t remember her words clearly now when I try.  

When I called Kugathasan, now a third-year social work student, for this article to ask her if I could include the memory and what she said, I also asked if she could recall what she stated then.

“...That’s why it makes you think different because it’s like you can’t prove it wrong or you can’t prove it right, and it’s not [necessarily] things that you would think [of on a day to day basis] unless you’re studying philosophy, you know what I mean?,” she emphasized to me.

In 2002, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) proposed a World Philosophy Day, which was officially established three years later. This day is observed yearly on the third Thursday of November.

Nov. 15, 2018, was this year’s World Philosophy Day, according to UNESCO’s website.

“In establishing World Philosophy Day in 2005, UNESCO’s General Conference highlighted the importance of this discipline, especially for young people, underlining that ‘philosophy is a discipline that encourages critical and independent thought and is capable of working towards a better understanding of the world and promoting tolerance and peace,’” wrote UNESCO.

“I’m interested in the whys and hows of humanity,” said Danica Hooper, a third-year fashion communication student, regarding her decision to take the class Philosophy of Love and Sex.

“To me, that’s what philosophy is: exploring the human consciousness using the ability of thought and sheer curiosity.”

“It’s digging deep into more than what we do but why we think we do those things,” said Hooper.

Hooper said she enjoys the individuality of philosophy.

“Not only do you have your own opinion, but you learn about other people’s opinions and you can agree or disagree, but there’s no absolute,” said Hooper.

When asked why she selected the Philosophy of Beauty class, Sabrina Sciscente, a media production student in her third year, said it fascinated her.

“I never really thought of beauty being a philosophical kind of topic. So when I saw it, it kind of caught my eye and I wanted to know more,” said Sciscente.

“I feel like for the majority of my young adult life, I was really entertained by questions like ‘What is life? What does it mean to be human?’ or just questions that nobody can really give me an answer to, but for some reason, I wanted to find out how to answer those questions,” said Vina Quiambao, a first-year philosophy student.

Quiambao said she pursued philosophy after recognizing her interest and her dissatisfaction with business once she had completed a previous degree in the subject.

“I wanted to kind of fine tune my thinking skills in a way that I could actually attempt to answer those questions because I didn’t think that I could really learn it anywhere else. If I really was serious about answering those questions in life, then I wanted to be serious and be committed to studying it formally,” she said.

“That’s really one of the main reasons as to why I studied philosophy or got into philosophy,” Quiambao said.

Sciscente said within the philosophy of beauty class, there was a unit discussing how flaws exist in circles.

That unit stuck with her,  though why it did she does not know.

“He talked about a circle and how a circle can never really be perfect because there’s always going to be slight imperfection. If you’re drawing it with a pencil, the pencil could go over a bump and even though it may look perfect, it scientifically isn’t perfect,” said Sciscente.

“And it kind of taught me that nobody in life will ever be perfect, so to strive for perfection, it doesn’t make sense. You should be comfortable and happy with who you are because what you are is beautiful,” she said.

When asked how her awareness of relations, sex and endearment had been affected by Philosophy of Love and Sex, Hooper mentioned how the relationship between religious people and God was made understandable to her because of the class.

“I personally don’t believe in God, but now I understand that to some people, their love for God is the highest form of love to them because it’s more than a physical relationship. And it’s kind of like your own thoughts of what God is or what a god is. So that’s kind of like a deeper understanding, I guess,” said Hooper.

“It helps me see why people bring God into everything, like why they pray to God and why they love God so much, I guess,” she said.  

Quiambao said studying philosophy is a feat of learning to reflect analytically.

“Just because you studied one course doesn’t mean that you’re an expert in your thinking or just because you finish an undergrad doesn’t mean you’re an expert in whatever it is that you’re doing. You really have to commit to it,” said Quiambao.

“It’s a way for me to always strive for something better. I can never be a perfect critical thinker. I will always have something to work on and that’s kind of fun,” she said.

Sciscente said that one result of taking a philosophy class, for her, was that she became more aware and more interested in other people’s lives.

“At the end of the course, there was an article we had to read about a guy who was dying from cancer and he talked about how the diagnosis was this life-changing moment,” she said.

“And his life was basically divided by moments before he was diagnosed and after. So I feel like after taking that course and people telling me about things that are going on in their life, I ask a lot more questions.”

“It’s kind of nice to be able to say ‘Wow, I’m actually wrong with the beliefs that I had before.’ And it’s nice to be wrong once in a while,” Quiambao said. “Actually, it’s nice to be wrong in general because it kind of reminds you that you’re growing and you’re not staying stagnant in your beliefs, that you’re going to stay the same forever.”

Regarding the perspectives of others and our notions, apprehension is essential, said Hooper.

“It really is just understanding, I think. And having your own thoughts rather than always just agreeing with other people. It’s just good to know how we come to think about certain things we think about,” said Hooper.

“If I could speak to all the students at Ryerson, I would tell everyone to give philosophy another chance. It’s not even about studying it formally or going and taking a class on philosophy because philosophy is just about ideas about life. Be explicit about making your own philosophies in life because I feel like that’s really the only way that anyone could ever feel satisfied with their life,” said Quiambao.

Subhanghi Anandarajah, who also goes by Subi, is a final-year student at X University pursuing journalism and a huge Disney fan. Not a day has ever gone by without her reading, and her mind is always filled with visions for stories she hopes to recount. Becoming an author is one of her aspirations. Social justice issues are what she plans to focus on in future writing.
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