Riyadh conference to highlight that philosophy is for everyone
Next week in Saudi Arabia, we will hold the inaugural Riyadh Philosophy Conference, the first event of its kind to take place in the Kingdom. The conference will be a wonderful opportunity to hear talks by the world’s foremost philosophers and thinkers, and also to participate in discussions about some of the most important issues humanity faces.
The theme for the conference, which has been organized by the Ministry of Culture’s Literature, Publishing and Translation Commission, is “Unpredictability” — a perfect motif for the pandemic-defined era in which we have lived for the past two years.
Under this theme, speakers will bring to life a wide range of current philosophical questions, from considerations that underpin the ethical development of artificial intelligence to the thinking that informs the challenging decisions that physicians make every day — and much else besides.
The conference will hear talks by more than 50 leading speakers from Saudi Arabia and all over the world. Saudi speakers include Dalia Toonsi, the founder of Baseera Educational Consultancy, Alwaleed Adel Alsaggaf from Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, and Dr. Abdullah Almutairi, president of the Saudi Philosophy Society. International speakers include Fran O’Rourke, Maeve Cooke, Nicolas de Warren, Emmanuel Goffi, A.C. Grayling and Michael Sandel.
They will give a broad range of audiences — both at the conference and watching online — vast insight into the many ways in which our lives are already influenced by philosophical concepts, whether we realize it or not, and how, by deepening our awareness and understanding of philosophy, we can enrich experiences for ourselves and for others.
Although the three-day event is the first of its kind, the Riyadh Philosophy Conference will by no means exist in a vacuum. Rather, the conference, which will be open to everyone, is emblematic of the incredible change Saudi Arabia is currently undergoing, as we continue to work tirelessly throughout the Kingdom to achieve the ambitious goals of Vision 2030.
Core to these goals is ensuring every person in Saudi Arabia has access to a truly world-class education. To this end, in 2019, the Kingdom’s secondary school curriculum was broadened to include critical thought and philosophy modules.
In fact, in 2020, the first philosophy society was launched in the Kingdom. Its rapidly increasing membership reflects the growing enthusiasm for philosophy in Saudi Arabia, particularly among young people.
Vision 2030 is, of course, about so much more than domestic transformation. It is also about ensuring Saudi Arabia plays a central role on the global intellectual stage, and that our voice is an influential one in the international debate of ideas.
In this context, the Riyadh Philosophy Conference is a tangible expression of the Kingdom’s enthusiasm to work in partnership with leading universities and academics throughout the world to become established as a major global center of learning and knowledge. It will also help Saudi Arabia become recognized as a place in which the planet’s greatest thinkers can congregate to deepen our collective understanding of the universe and our place within it.
As anyone who has ever participated in a philosophical conversation — perhaps on the subject of the nature of time or why one plus one equals two — can attest, the thread of ideas can, in the blink of an eye, go from easy to comprehend to profoundly esoteric. For this reason, the organizers of the conference have prioritized ensuring that, throughout the event, philosophy is made accessible to all.
In reality, this means that, while naturally there will be very high-level discussion of philosophical concepts beyond the reach of all but the most learned scholars, there will also be a wide range of philosophy-themed events and debates more suited to those of us to whom the study of the metaphysical is a new experience, as well as interactive displays perfect for igniting the imagination of children.
World’s leading thinkers to gather in capital for Kingdom’s inaugural international philosophy conference.
Dr. Mohammed Alwan
For example, there will be a philosophy cafe — built to be a place in which people can reflect on the very greatest of questions — and philosophy workshops for children aged 12 and over. The conference will also showcase innovative interactive features, such as a philosophy tree, to present philosophical themes in a manner that is fun and engaging.
Likewise, there will be many other interactive educational attractions to delight the senses, while making philosophy real for audiences of all ages.
The Riyadh Philosophy Conference is a perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in the incredible world of philosophy — and to discover that philosophy is for everyone.
— Dr. Mohammed Alwan is CEO of the Ministry of Culture’s Literature, Publishing and Translation Commission.
— The Riyadh Philosophy Conference will be held at the King Fahad National Library from Dec. 8 to 10. See the conference website — https://engage.moc.gov.sa/philosophy_conference — for more information.