Men, Toilets or Philosophy: Which to celebrate today?

Thursday is ‘feast day’ for three good causes - but only philosophers are really persecuted

It seems a real shame that three things of significance have to share the one “feast day”: men, toilets and philosophy. File photograph: Getty Images

It seems a real shame that three things of significance have to share the one “feast day”: men, toilets and philosophy. File photograph: Getty Images

 

There are 365 days in a year. So it seems a real shame that three things of significance have to share the one “feast day”: men, toilets and philosophy.

Thursday is International Men’s Day, an initiative running since 1992 aimed at promoting the health and welfare of a notoriously GP-shy gender.

It’s also World Toilet Day - a UN-backed initiative aimed at raising awareness of the 2.4 billion people in the world without adequate sanitation.

It’s also World Philosophy Day, introduced by Unesco in 2002 to promote philosophy in schools and an intellectual life in societies across the globe.

Worthy causes

Three worthy causes - notwithstanding the jibes about “every day being men’s day” (a glance at health and suicide statistics puts paid to that notion).

But which is more deserving of our applause?

Men are often taken for granted, as are toilets, but neither could be said to be persecuted.

Philosophers, on the other hand, are under considerable attack these days.

First, they’re being slagged off by top scientists, including Stephen Hawking - who has declared philosophy a “dead” discipline - and Richard Dawkins, who has similarly questioned the point of philosophical inquiry (given, he argues, it doesn’t accumulate knowledge in the same way, for example, as physics does).

Casual dismissal

There’s also a casual dismissal of intellectual activity which doesn’t serve economic ends, something that’s particularly evident in the political realm.

Earlier this month, Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio said in a campaign debate that “we need more welders, less philosophers”.

The remark provoked much mirth on social media, but was representative of a common sentiment: If something can’t be monetised, it’s not worth talking about.

There’s an added reason to celebrate World Philosophy Day in Ireland.

No philosophy course

Unlike in many European countries, Ireland has no philosophy course on the school curriculum.

A Junior Cycle short course is planned but it could be some years before it’s implemented and, even then, only a minority of schools may chose to offer it.

Pausing to think is a much underappreciated activity in today’s fast-paced world.

Archimedes famously did his thinking in the bath. You may wish to do yours in the toilet (and if you’re a man you can then perform a hat trick of celebrations on Thursday) but whatever your gender, don’t forget to give some love and attention to that unseen marvel: your brain.

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