History of FISP


 by Evandro Agazzi, Honorary President



1.      Individual and communitarian aspects of philosophical work in the last century


In order to better appreciate and understand the creation and development of the International Federation of Philosophical Societies (whose acronym FISP reflects the first letters of its original name in French, i.e., Fédération Internationale des Sociétés de Philosophie) the consideration of certain general features of philosophical work during the last century can be helpful. These features can be essentially reduced to the following: the work of philosophers became increasingly communitarian and professional, and this in turn gave rise to the creation of an increasing number of philosophical associations and the promotion of a great quantity of philosophical congresses. We shall briefly analyse this development.


Already in ancient Greece, philosophy was a communitarian effort, largely stimulated by open debates and controversies; and at that time it developed into several famous schools that were actual communities of persons who not only listened to the teaching of a master, but met in a particular building or place and participated in the elaboration of the master’s doctrine. The same can be said of the philosophy of the Middle Ages, whose doctrines were elaborated mainly in the context of universities or similar institutions and were the result of a communitarian life of research and teaching in which masters and disciples were both deeply engaged. All this, however, did not prevent prominent philosophers at that time from proposing original doctrines that still carry the mark of their personalities, and in which the contributions derived from the confrontation with other positions (which they very often mention and discuss) are integrated in a personal perspective.

            The situation changed with the Renaissance and the birth of “modern” philosophy. The teaching of philosophy continued in the universities, but the creative philosophers, those whose doctrines we find in our textbooks, did not belong to such institutions. They were individual thinkers, usually earning their living by some profession having nothing to do with philosophy, and writing their works from intellectual passion. Their speculations did not result from work done within something like a school or a circle, but were on the one hand the product of personal reflection and, on the other, the result of controversies with other individual thinkers experienced “at a distance,” i.e. through books and at times through correspondence. The freedom of thought that was a typical expression of modern individualism implied for philosophers an independence not only from authorities of any kind, but also from the adherence to particular traditions or schools; and the most profitable way of doing philosophy was considered to consist in deep personal reflection undisturbed by discussion with others. This view was reinforced during the Romantic period, when the work of philosophers came to be perceived as comparable to that of artists, in the sense that creativity, originality and breadth of inspiration were particularly appreciated. In such a way even the fact that philosophy was incorporated into the institutional framework of the newly conceived universities could not really influence the way in which it was carried out. In fact, in the nineteenth century almost all of the most significant philosophers were university professors; but this did not mean that philosophical work had become the result of a co-operative effort: every professor of philosophy wanted to be a creative original thinker, producing his own philosophical system, or at least some new philosophical doctrine.

As a consequence of this historical development, the image of the philosopher that still prevails among cultivated people is that of a lonely intellectual, of someone who, being specifically a “thinker,” is supposed to produce ideas and systems of ideas thanks to his intellectual acumen or the creativity of his mind, which cannot be replaced by external inputs. If a thinker expresses too many ideas that appear to have been “borrowed” from others, his originality is seriously called in question, and his reputation as a philosopher suffers. In other words, the work of a philosopher seems to share those characteristics of individual singularity that we usually attribute to the work of poets, painters, musicians, and other artists.

            In the course of the nineteenth century, however, the fact that philosophers were “normally” university professors gradually led to a professionalisation of philosophy, to the extent that philosophy, having been accredited an academic status, could not avoid adopting at least certain basic characteristics typical of this status. In particular, since the model of the academic disciplines in the modern universities was inspired by the natural sciences, research and teaching were considered to be the fundamental obligations of (academic) philosophers, who implicitly became the members of an ideal community, much like the communities of physicists, mathematicians, historians, philologists, and so on. This fact, in turn, entailed that certain criteria be adopted for admission to this community, that certain credentials be required for becoming a professor of philosophy or a teacher at a prestigious university, and that common standards be recognised by the members of this community for the evaluation of philosophical work. Despite the fact that the very concept of “research” is rather hard to define for philosophy, and that the appreciation of the “results” of this research cannot be based (as is usually the case in the scientific disciplines) on the requirements of “novelty” and “importance,” it was natural that some form of “public” assessment should take place. This form was easily suggested, once again, by the practice of the scientific communities; it is the judgment of one’s peers, which presupposes at least two conditions: that the “peers” be such in virtue of their specific competence, and that their judgment be expressed in a public form regarding an equally public presentation of what is being subjected to judgment.

            The first condition entailed, for philosophy, the recognition that it was, after all, a specialised discourse, in spite of its being concerned with the most general issues; and this was easy to admit owing to the fact that it had become one among the many academic disciplines at the universities. In addition, internal subdivisions of philosophy itself had a very long tradition, and became more significant over time, introducing in philosophy that trend towards specialisation that was already dominant in the sciences. As to the second condition, it was progressively satisfied thanks to the fact that specifically philosophical journals began to appear, in which philosophical matters were increasingly treated.

            All this brought about the existence of a non-institutionalised, informal and even ideal philosophical community whose nature was comparable to that ideal République des Lettres of which the intellectuals of the Enlightenment used to speak, and in which the circulation and confrontation of ideas was secured by the great diffusion via the press (books and especially journals). Philosophical work had recovered some kind of a communitarian dimension, not in the ancient form of direct physical encounter and debate, but in the much more indirect but still not insignificant form of a relatively efficient communication and circulation of the products of the personal elaborations of single philosophers. This, as we have said, was gradually accomplished in the nineteenth century.

In the twentieth century the strong accentuation of the already mentioned characteristics of philosophical work, i.e. specialisation and professionalisation, rapidly led to the appearance and diffusion of two forms of communitarian interplay of philosophical work, associations and congresses, both characterised by their implying the personal participation of people and not just the impersonal communication of their ideas. Once more, this phenomenon was promoted by the example of the exact sciences: already in the nineteenth century, several specialised associations of mathematicians, physicists, chemists, biologists, psychiatrists, and so on were founded, both on national and international levels, which published bulletins and promoted periodical congresses. It is interesting to note that the role of these societies was, in a way, that of correcting the too strict dependence of scientific work on its affiliation to universities. For example, the great mathematician Georg Cantor could not find adequate recognition of his merits within the world of the university mathematicians, especially because of the opposition to his ideas constantly expressed by very powerful and influential academic personalities such as Leopold Kronecker. This is why Cantor was among the promoters of the German Mathematical Union, a free professional association of mathematicians in which the circulation and acceptance of non-orthodox ideas were much easier and their resonance more significant.

These associations had something in common with the traditional institutions called “academies,” but also showed notable differences. Academies were (and are) “closed” institutions in which membership depends on appointment, and their activity consists essentially in the presentation and discussion of work produced by their members. Professional associations, on the other hand, are in principle “open”: acceptance depends on application and (though usually being bound to the ascertainment of certain professional requirements) is not limited in number and much less “personalised.” Moreover, the internal life of these associations is more democratic, and their aim is not so much to produce high quality work, but rather to foster the development of a discipline and, ideally, to incorporate not just a few (even the most excellent) people cultivating a certain field, but (ideally) to be open to all the specialists of the field. Therefore, their typical form of activity is congresses and meetings of different sizes, in which the expression of the state of the art and the personal encounter of the members are the expected results.

            This trend also manifested itself in the field of philosophy, as a consequence of its professionalisation, and we shall consider it starting with its most typical aspect, i.e. the organisation of international congresses of philosophy, a phenomenon that was inaugurated at the beginning of the twentieth century and preceded the specialised fragmentation of the philosophical profession that we shall discuss in the sequel, and has much to do with the proliferation of specialised philosophical associations.


2. The international congresses of philosophy


It is certainly significant that (on the occasion of the “Universal Exhibition” that was organised in Paris in the year 1900) the first International Congress of Philosophy took place a few days after the International Congress of Mathematics. Both congresses have remained rightly famous and were characterised by the fact that they brought together a considerable number of the most prominent personalities of both disciplines. Limiting our consideration to philosophy, let us remember that among the participants were people such as H. Bergson, M. Blondel, E. Boutroux, L. Brunschwicg, M. Cantor, L. Couturat, W. Foerster, A. Lalande, E. Schroeder, E. Le Roy, P. Natorp, H. Poincaré, B. Russell, G. Simmel, P. Tannery, H. Vaihinger and G. Vailati. To stress how important the possibility of personal encounter among scholars was at that time, it would be sufficient to mention the fact that, on the occasion of this congress, Russell made personal acquaintance with Peano and his disciples, an event that (according to an explicit declaration by Russell himself) was decisive in producing a new orientation in his philosophical thinking, and especially in his approach to the philosophy of mathematics. As to the international congress of mathematics, let us remember that it was on this occasion that Hilbert presented his famous opening lecture On the future problems of mathematics in which he listed 23 great open problems that (in his opinion) represented the major commitment of mathematical research for the just beginning century (a lecture that for several decades actually represented a reference point and challenge for mathematical investigation world-wide).

Recognising these two features enables us to appreciate the importance of the novelty introduced by the practice of international congresses, an importance that has become less evident in our time owing to their over-proliferation. They reintroduced into philosophy the practice of personal contact, discussion and living communication that had disappeared during the long period in which books and journals were the normal means of communication. Another remark may be useful: what is not to be expected from congresses is that exceptional contributions of special originality be offered within their framework, even when outstanding personalities are invited as speakers. Their interest consists in the fact that they give us (particularly when we read their proceedings) a reliable picture of the “state of the art,” of the main themes, trends, approaches, and methods characterising philosophical work at a given time. Nevertheless, this is not completely incompatible with the fact that certain currents of contemporary philosophy availed themselves of the instrument of congresses for characterising and organising themselves, and imposing their influence. It is sufficient to remember how the logical-empiricist philosophers were able, through the congresses of Prague (1929 and 1934), Koenigsberg (1930), Paris (1935 and 1937), Copenhagen (1936), Cambridge (1938), and Cambridge, Mass. (1939) to expand the original Circles of Vienna and Berlin to include a very large number of philosophers coming from the most varied cultural areas.

            An initial limitation of the international congresses of philosophy had to do with the congress languages. All the papers presented at the Paris congress were in French, and this can explain rather well why several important philosophers who did not have a sufficient command of this language either did not participate, or did not play a significant role in it. At the second international congress held in Geneva in 1904, the papers were in French and German, and this is reflected in the increased number of participants. At the third International Congress (Heidelberg, 1908) the papers were in French, English, German and Italian, and the number of active participants significantly increased again. The president of the congress was the French philosopher E. Boutroux, and plenary session lectures were given by J. Royce (in English), W. Windelband and H. Meyer (in German), and B. Croce (in Italian), while a great many significant personalities contributed papers and participated in discussions in their native languages. The problem of the official congress languages, as we shall see, was also a concern for FISP.

The fourth and fifth congresses took place in Italy, in Bologna (1911) and Naples (1924). The Bologna congress represented a true advance from the point of view of the presence of the various philosophical trends and the participation of well-known personalities (it would take too much space to list the names of the outstanding foreign and Italian philosophers) whose contributions were distributed in papers offered at plenary and specialised sessions. Noteworthy was also the fact that representatives of the world of science, the arts, and literature who were interested in the philosophical debates concerning their disciplines also played an active role in this congress. The tragic experience of the First World War, and the subsequent atmosphere of international tension that divided the nations who had taken part in that war, did not favour the organisation of international congresses of philosophy and, when the fifth congress took place in Naples, it did not show the same level of participation and quality of contributions as did the Bologna congress. This was also due to the fact that the fascist regime was already influencing Italian cultural life (as a consequence of this influence, Croce and Enriques, for example, were absent from this congress). The Naples congress, however, must be mentioned for a particular feature: it was promoted and organised by the Italian Philosophical Society; and in such a way a tradition was inaugurated that became normal in the history of the international congresses of philosophy for a long period of time, namely their being organised on the invitation of the philosophical society of a particular country. This is another feature that has had repercussions on the history of FISP, as we shall see.

            It would not be of much interest to continue with this review of the international congresses of philosophy: the form and structure of these congresses were stabilised according to a rather well established model, and their succession respected a regular rhythm up until the Second World War. The successive congresses took place in New York (1927), Oxford (1930), Prague (1934), and Paris (1937). The Second World War produced an interruption in the series of these congresses, that was afterwards resumed and regularly continued with a quinquennial rhythm: Amsterdam (1948), Brussels (1953), Venice (1958), Mexico (1963), Vienna (1968), Varna (1973), Düsseldorf (1978), Montreal (1983), Brighton (1988), Moscow (1993), Boston (1998), and Istanbul (2003).

            The concrete organisation of an international congress of philosophy, as we have already mentioned, was normally taken up by a certain national philosophical society; but, in order to characterise such congresses as distinct from the many other international congresses of a philosophical nature that were promoted with increasing frequency, some kind of official supranational responsibility was felt necessary and, at the beginning of the twentieth century, a rather informal Permanent Committee of International Philosophical Congresses was created, whose task is clearly indicated by its name. With the creation of FISP this task was explicitly formalised in that the promotion and supervision of the international congresses of philosophy became FISP’s most significant task, as we shall see. This was not just a formal decision, but was a result of the fact that FISP was institutionally created as the official representative body of all the philosophical associations. This is why, before presenting the specific history of FISP, a few considerations regarding the phenomenon of the philosophical associations are of interest.


3. The philosophical societies


Among the institutional structures, the first to be constituted were the philosophical societies, mostly but not exclusively of a national character. Some of them are very old, though the majority are rather recent. We give here a sample of a few of them (in alphabetical order of country), with an indication of the year of their foundation. This cannot be taken too strictly; sometimes interruptions and reconstitutions have occurred in the history of some of them, and sometimes a national society was created only recently due to the fact that in a given country there already existed regional or sectorial philosophical associations with long and prestigious traditions which the national society sometimes (but not always) absorbed.


Australia: Australasian Association of Philosophy (1923)

Austria: Philosophische Gesellschaft Wien (1954)

Belgium: Société Philosophique de Bruxelles (1980)

    Societé Philosophique de Louvain (1888)

Brasil: Sociedad Brasileira de Filosofia (1927)

Bulgaria: Bulgarian Philosophical Society (1968)

Canada: Canadian Philosophical Association (1958)

France: Société Française de Philosophie (1901)

Finland: Finnish Philosophical Society (1873)

Germany: Allgemeine Gesellschaft für Philosophie in Deutschland (1948)

Ireland: University Philosophical Society (1648)

Italy: Società Filosofica Italiana (1906)

Poland: Polish Philosophical Society (1904)

Switzerland: Société Suisse de Philosophie (1940)

Turkey: Turkish Philosophical Society (1943)

United Kingdom: Aristotelian Society (1870)

                             Mind Association (1900)

                             Royal Institute of Philosophy (1925)

                             Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow (1802)

                             Royal Philosophical Society of Great Britain (1865)

                             The Philosophical Society of England (1913)

U.S.A.: American Philosophical Association (1900).


            As already noted, many more philosophical associations existed (also in the first half of the twentieth century) that are not listed here. For example, in France there were about fifteen regional philosophical associations, in Italy there were at least four very significant associations and institutions, and so on. Moreover, in the socialist countries the formal representation of philosophy was officially attributed to the philosophical institutes of the respective academies of science, a situation that continued when national philosophical societies were founded in the same countries, sometimes recalling to life certain glorious societies of the past (as in the case of Poland and Hungary, for example). In several countries of the so-called Third World philosophical societies were created only recently, for obvious historical reasons related to decolonisation. As to the United States, it is well known that a very large number of philosophical societies exists in this country, but we shall return to this when we come to discuss the typology of the philosophical associations, which is largely dependent on that “professionalisation” of philosophy of which we spoke above.

            In fact there is today something comparable to a “professional register” of philosophers represented by works such as the Directory of American Philosophers and the International Directory of Philosophy and Philosophers. Both were founded by A. Bahm as the promoter of the Philosophy Documentation Center of Bowling Green. The first edition of the American directory was in 1922, and the first edition of the international directory was in 1965; since then they have appeared in updated editions every two years. The philosophers mentioned in these directories are practically those who occupy academic positions at various levels and who, in this sense, are making philosophy their “profession.” This condition also reflects itself in their affiliating themselves to specialised philosophical associations corresponding to the specialisation of their philosophical work. If we now consider the fact that philosophy teaching is very widespread in the United States and Canada (at the level of universities proper as well as colleges), it is no wonder that there are 186 philosophical associations listed for these countries (in the 20th edition 2000-2001 of the American directory), the most important of which (the American Philosophical Association) numbers about 10,000 members of a total of more than 13,000 philosophers listed.

In many African countries, on the other hand, where philosophy is represented by very few professional philosophers, the purely numerical conditions for the constitution of a philosophical association are hardly realised, so that the representation of these scattered philosophers is granted to some extent by the existence of supranational organisations such as the Conseil Interafricain de Philosophie, situated at Cotonou. It must be appreciated, in addition, that the recognition of philosophy as a specific discipline is a characteristic of Western culture (and of those countries affected by it), while in other cultures it is absorbed into broader contexts inspired by religion or “wisdom” in a general sense. The figure of the professional philosopher is therefore almost unknown in many cultural areas and this, besides explaining the non-existence of philosophical associations there, makes it difficult to appreciate the size and quality of the philosophical work on a world level.

This situation is eloquently mirrored in the extension of the two companion volumes mentioned above. If we consider, for instance, the 17th edition of the Directory of American Philosophers (1992) and the 7th edition of the International Directory of Philosophy and Philosophers (1990), we see that the first consisted of 476 pages, while the second, though covering the rest of the world, contained only 336 pages. This is in part a result of the fact that the information contained in the two directories was provided by single philosophical departments and institutions and, in such a way, was bound to the goodwill of the people who communicated it to the Philosophy Documentation Center at Bowling Green, a goodwill that was very contingent and not particularly widespread. The habit of information exchange has substantially improved over the last few years, and we have evidence of this by considering the latest editions of the two directories. The already mentioned 20th edition of the Directory of American Philosophers records information from 1,873 university and college philosophy departments, and contains the names of more than 13,000 philosophers while listing 186 societies, altogether constituting 672 pages. The 12th edition of the International Directory (2001-2002) records information coming from 1200 university philosophy departments in 130 different countries, and contains the names of 13,000 philosophers while listing 302 societies, consisting of a total of 764 pages. The situation is obviously more balanced; the still existing notable difference between the dimension of philosophical work in North America and in the rest of the world is in part due to the fact that philosophy teaching at colleges is recorded in the American directory (since it corresponds to a first stage of university education), while the corresponding teaching often present at high schools in many other countries does not appear in the international directory (since it does not belong to university teaching); in addition there still remains the fact that regular information is not often sent to the Philosophy Documentation Center by the philosophy departments of several countries. All this, however, does not lessen the fact that philosophical work in North America is proportionally much more developed than elsewhere (as can be seen by considering the number of journals, publications, conferences and meetings, and so on).

            The above considerations are not simply of statistical interest since the data referred to are indicative of a new style prevailing in the way of doing philosophy, a style of “collaboration” that has gradually superseded the more traditional “independence” of philosophical activity. By this latter term we mean the more traditional view according to which a “true” philosopher is a person capable of elaborating and expanding his own more or less original doctrine intended to cover several sectors of the philosophical “encyclopaedia.” In the present situation the philosophical community appears rather to be divided into subgroups whose specific identity is no longer to be found in the acceptance of a common doctrine, but in common research interests or “methods.” In particular, no hierarchical order exists among such subdomains (since there is no “tree” of philosophical disciplines to which such an order could be related), and this has produced the commonly recognised fragmentation of philosophy. It has also produced a decrease in the number of references to and the importance of great philosophical figures. Today a philosopher (as we have already noted) is practically a professor of philosophy who, from many points of view, is on an equal footing with his or her colleagues; and when we read the enormous specialised production in the different philosophical subdomains, we seldom find reference to the ideas of great thinkers (not even of contemporary ones), but rather frequent discussions of the positions held by relatively obscure specialists of the same field.

            If we now consider the specialised fields in which very many contemporary philosophers work, we see that many of them correspond neither to the “canonical” subdivisions of the philosophical disciplines, nor to the traditional partition of philosophical currents. Most are devoted to a large variety of themes that have not been put on the research agenda by any particular philosopher or school, and that in certain cases would have been considered alien to philosophy until very recently. These themes correspond to what many philosophers consider to be their jobs, that is, the application of strictly intellectual tools to the study of a great variety of concrete, palpable issues debated in present society, and to which public opinion is sensitive. In this sense we can say that today’s philosophy presents itself increasingly as applied philosophy. These considerations are certainly not intended to underestimate the importance of this attitude, which has actually produced new interesting fields of philosophical inquiry; let us only mention, as examples “applied ethics,” the birth of new specialised disciplines such a bioethics and business ethics, and the new fields related to technological advances in artificial intelligence, which have rejuvenated classical debates on the mind-body problem and on several topics in the philosophy of mind. It would be misleading to say that, after all, these philosophical discussions are encompassed by one or another well-recognised philosophical discipline, since they did not begin as sub-questions or particular aspects of traditional problems, but were unsystematically produced by reflection on concrete problems that challenged philosophers and induced them to freely use the contributions of their intellectual acumen and disciplinary competence in various fields.

            It could be expected that, as a consequence of this co-operative style and its sensitivity to concrete issues, philosophical discourse would become much more accessible and open. But this is not the case. In the past it was common to blame terminological and conceptual obscurity on certain great thinkers, who had created their own languages whose understanding and penetration could require much patient study. Today the situation is only partially different: the specialisation does not simply consist in the selection of circumscribed themes on which a small group of persons works, but is often accompanied by the creation of a rather esoteric language and the use of sophisticated technical tools (taken usually from mathematical logic, semiotics, cybernetics, learning theory, etc.) so that, in several cases, one obtains the impression that only rather modest results of genuine philosophical interest are obtained through the use of very complex technical machinery. Apart from this consideration, it is a fact that the increasing “technicisation” of philosophy has lessened its accessibility even within the philosophical community. Today no single thinker would be able to master the whole spectrum of the results and interests that characterise present philosophy; and such a completeness is hardly attainable even within any particular university department of philosophy.

            This subdivision of philosophical activity into specialised groups naturally entailed some forms of institutionalisation and organisation, that is, the creation of specialised philosophical associations whose members could meet and exchange views in a way much more direct and efficient than they could in larger and more general philosophical associations. This has produced not only a multiplication of the number of philosophical societies, but also a differentiation of their typology. Many of them remain of a traditional type, being related to canonically recognised subdivisions of philosophy (such as the International Society of Metaphysics, the International Society of Aesthetics, the International Association of Philosophy of Science), be it at a national or international level. Others are characterised by a geographic criterion: national, regional, or supranational (such as the Afro-Asian Philosophy Association or the Inter-African Council of Philosophy). Others by a linguistic criterion (such as the Association of the Philosophical Societies of the French Language, or the Ibero-American Society of Philosophy). Others societies, national or international, are characterised by a religious inspiration (such as the numerous associations of Christian, Catholic and Calvinist philosophers). Several societies (again international or national) are named after a certain great philosopher (such as Kant, Hegel, Hume, Leibniz, Peirce, etc.) or are devoted to the study of a certain period in the history of philosophy (e.g. the International Society for the Study of Medieval Philosophy). The societies, however, that more directly reflect the present style of philosophising are those that we could call thematic, and which express in their names several themes that would not have been considered philosophical in the past but which are to an ever greater extent being accepted in philosophical congresses and journals. Just to give a couple of examples, there are associations such as: Machines and Mind, Informal Logic and Critical Thinking, The Study of Ethics and Animals, Analytical Feminism, Philosophy of Sport, Philosophy of Sex and Love, and so on.

            In the presence of this fragmentation (for which there are good reasons) and the “centrifugal” effect it produces, the need is felt to determine a certain ground for continuing to recognise the common philosophical nature of this panorama, to produce a “centripetal” effect capable of giving sense to the idea of a philosophical community. Since the reference to a commonly recognised philosophical tradition is no longer effective, one of the most suitable instruments to this end is offered by the activity of institutions that have a broad scope; this is not only because they are, for example, international, but also because they can host the different specialised expressions of philosophical work and promote the development of philosophy in those parts of the world where it is less evident, thereby offering philosophers opportunities to co-operate across their different specialised fields and geographic locations. FISP is precisely the most significant of these institutions.


4. The origins and structure of FISP


The creation of a Fédération Internationale des Sociétés de Philosophie (FISP) was the result of an initiative on the part of UNESCO that, as is well known, is the institution of the United Nations Organisations (UNO) specifically devoted to the promotion, at the international level, of education, culture and science. UNESCO promotes several activities directly through its sections and divisions (among which there has always existed a division including philosophy), and its policy is decided by various bodies – such as the General Assembly and the Executive Council – that reflect the structure of the Organisation (identical with that of UNO) based upon national representatives. In other words, these organs are “governmental” in the sense that various governments designate their representatives within UNO and UNESCO; and the decisions are taken, in a broad sense, according to political criteria, that is, as a result of the majorities of votes expressed in those organs on the questions at issue.

            From their foundation onward, however, the United Nations and its specialised institutions – including UNESCO – felt the need to counterbalance the weight of the governmental representation through the presence of other organs, called “non-governmental organisations” (NGOs), capable of expressing the voice of the different disciplinary competences. These organs present proposals that, though not binding, afford the basis for the decisions of the governmental organs. In the case of UNESCO, the constitution of such non-governmental organisations was realised in part by taking up and adapting certain institutions that already had their own histories. For instance, already towards the end of the nineteenth century the rapid development of the exact sciences had produced the need to create an international organisation precisely of a non-governmental type (though this terminology as well as this concept were not yet codified) and, actually, after the First World war (in 1919) the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) was founded that covered the field of mathematics and the exact sciences. Between the two world wars international collaboration at a political level was assumed by the Society of Nations (a precursor of UNO) that availed itself of the suggestions of the International Committee for Intellectual Cooperation (a precursor of UNESCO). With the Second World War the Society of Nations and the said Committee disappeared. After the war was over, however, when UNO and UNESCO were founded, the latter constituted, along with ICSU, a new organ destined to have a similar function in the domain of the humanities, the Conseil International de la Philosophie et des Sciences Humaines (CIPSH).

Its very name indicates that philosophy occupied a distinct position in CIPSH, not being identified as one of the “human sciences” such as ethnology, history, classical studies, and linguistic disciplines. This important recognition was due to the discrete capacity of persuasion on the part of a few philosophers who were influential in the UNESCO milieu at that time. The problem, however, was that of producing a concrete organisation capable of representing philosophy in CIPSH, and this had to satisfy, first of all, certain substantial requirements, namely those of being truly international and truly pluralistic (i.e. open to every branch of philosophy and every philosophical current). A supranational institution for philosophy inspired by such principles already existed at that time, namely the Institut International de Philosophie (IIP), but it could not represent philosophy in CIPSH owing to a particular formal condition. CIPSH had certain structural differences with respect to ICSU, due to the difference of organisational traditions in the humanities as compared to the exact sciences; it was much less homogeneous, since it included not only “Unions” whose precise delimitation is apparent from their being named after a certain scientific discipline, but also other international collective organisations sometimes called Federations and sometimes Councils, depending on their specific natures. But in any case the members of CIPSH must be second-level organisations, i.e. associations of associations, societies of societies, federations of societies, unions of academies, and so on; a society whose members are just single individuals is not eligible to be a member of CIPSH. At present CIPSH counts thirteen such international institutions, of which FISP is the only one representing philosophy.

Now the IIP was (and still is) an institution essentially comparable with an international academy, since its members are individual philosophers who are appointed by its General Assembly according to strict criteria of professional excellence. This is why the IIP could not represent philosophy in CIPSH. However it was influential and active enough to promote the creation of the appropriate institution to play this role, and this was the International Federation of Philosophical Societies (FISP), founded in Amsterdam in 1948, and of which the IIP became one of the first members. The specific merit of the IIP is attested to by the fact that it was a high IIP officer (Raymond Bayer) who in 1947, i.e. one year before the Amsterdam congress, accepted the task of elaborating the project of an international federation that was later to become FISP.

            The nature of FISP is reflected in its name. It does not include individual members, but only “societies” in a broad sense, that is, philosophical institutions of different kinds, such as associations, societies, institutes, centres and academies, which are accepted only if they satisfy certain substantial and formal requirements (essentially those of being of a minimum size and of regularly promoting professional philosophical activity). FISP member-societies are divided into national and international: to the first class belong not only those that, according to their statutes, include philosophers belonging to a given nation, but also, more generally, philosophical institutions of a regional kind that function within a single nation. Such a distinction has practically only a technical meaning, since it reflects itself in the right to vote at the General Assembly. A society can choose to belong to FISP either as a corresponding member (having no right to vote at the General Assembly) or as a full member (with the right to vote), and pays a different membership fee accordingly.

            The institutional structure of FISP has the characteristics of representative democracy. The deliberating body is the General Assembly (constituted by the delegates of the member-societies) which normally meets every five years on the occasion of the international congresses of philosophy. Within its competence lies the approval of: the statutes and by-laws and their modification, the reports presented by the Comité Directeur or CD (the Steering Committee), the plans for future activities, and the constitution of special committees. It also elects the President of the Federation and the members of the Comité Directeur. These are elected for a period of ten years and can be re-elected for five more years; it meets every year and decides on the various concrete aspects of the functioning of the Federation in conformity with the guidelines determined by the General Assembly. The CD elects in turn the Bureau composed by the President, three Vice-Presidents, the Secretary General, the Treasurer and the Past-President. This is the most recent structure of FISP, as has resulted from successive modifications of the statutes and by-laws, of which we shall speak in the sequel.


5. The evolution of FISP


5.1 Broadening of the tasks of the Federation

One of the reasons that stimulated the creation of FISP was the necessity of having a means for obtaining subventions from UNESCO for philosophical enterprises. In fact, UNESCO itself has directly promoted many initiatives in the domain of philosophy, having in view the international situation of this field. It has always been very difficult (and now almost impossible), however, to obtain subventions from UNESCO for activities promoted by “external” bodies, including prestigious associations, academies and institutions. The only way formally available is that of passing through CIPSH, to which UNESCO every year allots a certain quantity of funds, which CIPSH then distributes among its affiliated institutions. For philosophy this means that applications for UNESCO subsidies emanating from philosophical societies must first be submitted to FISP which, in turn, after having made its own evaluation, selects those that deserve to be presented to CIPSH, whose General Assembly finally decides which proposals can be financially supported and the amount of this support. This procedure is certainly complicated, but has proven to be the best available for obtaining rather regular funding for internationally significant philosophical enterprises, such as congresses, conferences and publications. It is in this way that the IIP itself normally receives substantial help for its very valuable activities.

This state of affairs explains why, for a rather long while, the function of FISP was practically limited to two basics tasks. The primary one was the preparation of the international congresses of philosophy (a role in which FISP replaced the rather informal Permanent Committee of International Philosophical Congresses, which was an organ whose members were individual philosophers of particular reputation, but not representatives of any philosophical society); and this corresponded to the wish on the part of UNESCO that national societies be more significantly involved in the preparation of such congresses. The second was the evaluation and transmission to CIPSH of the requests for subsidy presented by FISP member-societies. Another task was that of facilitating communication and exchange among philosophers and philosophical societies, but it remained without concrete forms for initiatives that could attain these goals outside the opportunities offered by the international congresses.

            The necessity of broadening this spectrum of activities became ever clearer in the years preceding the International Congress of Varna (1973), and the merit of having stimulated this awareness goes to André Mercier. The position of Secretary General of FISP had been assigned, from 1953, to Chaim Perelman (a prestigious philosopher and very influential member of the IIP) who, already at the meeting of the CD in 1963 in Mexico, had expressed the wish not to occupy this position perpetually, and had accepted to continue only for the additional period of five years. At the meeting of the CD in Vienna in 1968, however, he was reconfirmed (though he expressed the same wish to be replaced once a suitable successor could be found). The following year Perelman (having in the meantime been elected President of the IIP) found it inappropriate to occupy both positions, and at the annual meeting of the CD in Heidelberg in 1969 presented André Mercier, who was also a member of the IIP, as a possible efficient Secretary General of FISP. This proposal was unanimously accepted by the CD, which then elected Perelman Vice-President and Mercier Secretary General.

Mercier began his activity with enthusiastic ideas about the role of FISP in an international situation which had significantly evolved during the time of FISP’s existence, owing especially to the fact that individual philosophers had become ever more sensitive to international exchanges, and more conscious of the philosophical importance of international activities. In addition, the increasing participation in the philosophical life of large world regions such as Asia and Latin America was imposing a broadening of the consideration of philosophical work beyond the borders of Europe and North America that had been essentially shared by FISP and UNESCO and had given rise to certain criticisms of the latter. (It may be interesting to note that, at its meeting in 1969, the CD had to regret that, though the number of countries in which FISP member-societies were present had doubled since 1953, attaining the number of 38, no single African society was among the members). Mercier was led, as a consequence, to elaborate the idea of a “major project,” substantially consisting in FISP’s promoting a “Year of Philosophy” (e.g. in 1978, as a replacement for or complement to the traditional International Congress), characterised by the organisation of several philosophical meetings in different parts of the world, and especially in those where philosophy was little developed. In addition, a popularisation of philosophy should be looked for through the use of mass-media, more accessible and efficacious than the usual channels of books and journals. He had already received positive reactions from important philosophers as well as from U Thant and the director of the philosophy division of UNESCO. When he presented this project at the CD meeting in Bern in 1973, a lengthy discussion took place which eventually resulted in a substantial rejection of the project for various reasons. One of them was the opposition to the idea of “popularising” philosophy that seemed to be at the root of the whole project (philosophy cannot abandon its standards of rigor and professionalism simply in order to have a broader audience and representation); others were concerned about the technical and financial difficulties of such an ambitious project, which implied a long-term engagement and official support from governments and UNESCO that were difficult to obtain. A more modest but feasible initiative had to be envisaged in order to meet the criticisms of the several FISP societies which felt they did not understand the role of the Federation, and did not find that they received something in exchange of the affiliation fees they had to pay.

            Historical honesty requires our noting that a more subtle motivation also lay behind the opposition to Mercier’s ideas, that is, a tacit rivalry that was surfacing between the IIP and FISP. In the minds of the most influential members of the IIP, a division of labour was considered natural at the international level: the IIP had the task of promoting and carrying out high-level philosophical enterprises such as its “entretiens,” the publication of great works with the collaboration of outstanding specialists, the translation into different languages of classical philosophical texts, the regular issue of a Bibliography of philosophy, and so on; the task of FISP on the other hand had to remain essentially administrative, along the traditional lines of actively participating in the organisation of the international congresses of philosophy, broadening the list of its member-societies, facilitating communication and interchange among them and circulating information about philosophical matters. For this reason certain officers of the IIP confidentially tried to prevent the confirmation of Mercier before the CD meeting of Varna in 1973 and, during this meeting, presented the candidacy of a prestigious philosopher (P. Ricoeur) against Mercier. With the majority of two votes, however, Mercier was elected Secretary General by secret ballot and, owing to this confrontation, a certain tension between the IIP and FISP originated, that lasted for a few years. This was, however, objectively unnatural, not only because an IIP initiative had supported the origin of FISP, but also because a great many FISP officers (and CD members) had also been members of the IIP for a long while. It suffices to consider that the eleven Presidents of FISP from 1948 to 2002 have also been members of the IIP, with the exceptions of Ganovski, Diemer and Cauchy, and that all FISP Secretaries General have also been IIP members. The full overcoming of this tension, however, occurred rather quickly as a consequence of a division of labour deriving from a significant expansion of FISP activity.

            In fact, despite the rejection of his “major project,” Mercier started the publication of the FISP Newsletter (Bullettin de la FISP), and prepared various projects for which he had gained the consensus of the Bureau and the CD. These projects were submitted to the General Assembly in Varna in 1973, which approved them, also introducing the necessary modifications in the FISP statutes and creating by-laws to regulate those matters that could not profitably be specified in detail in the statutes. In particular, the possibility of creating specialised Committees with a consultative role for the preparation of the decisions of the Bureau and the CD was explicitly introduced, and three such committes were formed (for General Policy, Congresses, and Finances).


5.2 The regional conferences of FISP

The new spirit of optimism prevailing in the General Assembly of Varna immediately reflected itself in the subsequent activity of FISP under the presidency of Sava Ganovski (who had been the chairman of the Organising Committee of that congress) and his successors. There also took place a substantial enlargement and improvement of the Newsletter (which has been regularly published twice a year since then, and the production of which has remained one of the most important tasks of the Secretary General). The Bureau meetings were normally called twice a year (in the spring and autumn), and visits of the President and especially of the Secretary General to different countries in order to foster philosophical activity and to render FISP’s role better appreciated became increasingly frequent over the years. But the most significant innovation was FISP’s starting to promote international conferences in different parts of the world, meeting in such a way the challenge of concretely promoting philosophical encounters in the five year period between the international congresses. A careful policy, however, was to be outlined in order that such conferences should have characteristics deserving the patronage and moral support, and even some financial support, either directly from or via FISP.

This led to the elaboration of the concept of regional conferences of FISP. They are conferences of an international character that are “regional” in some specific sense: either they are such because they are organised in a restricted geographical region and primarily open to participants of this region, or because they are restricted to a particular “region” of the philosophical domain. In any case, they must fulfil the condition of admitting unrestricted participation (independently of any political, racial, ideological or religious orientation), and of being genuinely philosophical. At least some officers of FISP must be invited to participate and bring to the participants a message from the Federation (independently of these persons being or not being among the professionally invited speakers). The great advantage of promoting such regional conferences has been that, in many cases, the Bureau or the CD of FISP could meet on these occasions; and, in such a way, contacts and better knowledge of the international philosophical situation became available to the FISP bodies, while at the same time greater knowledge of FISP was gained by the philosophers of the various countries. Under the Presidency of Ganovski three such conferences took place (in New Delhi, New York and Moscow), and in the sequel they became increasingly usual.



 5.3 The World Congresses of Philosophy

The novelty represented by the promotion of regional conferences has constituted true progress in the work of FISP. It remains true, however, that one of the primary tasks of the Federation (though not explicitly indicated in its statutes) is that of ensuring the occurrence of the international congress of philosophy every five years. At the General Assembly of Varna it became apparent that this task might become difficult, since no proper invitation to host the next congress (of 1978) had been made by any country (the possibility of having it in the United States in 1976 by taking advantage of the public funds available for the bicentennial celebration of the United States was discarded for several reasons, the main one concerning the interruption of the traditional quinquennial periodicity of the congresses). The CD was therefore entrusted with the task of making efforts to acquire an invitation; and at the beginning the enterprise became almost desperate, owing also to an unfavourable atmosphere deriving from the criticism against the very idea of great congresses (termed by someone “mammoth congresses”) that were circulating even in UNESCO and were also supported by several philosophers. Therefore, the CD had first to devote serious consideration to this question of principle in order to find the necessary motivation to make efforts with the view of obtaining an invitation.

The result of this reflection was that international congresses of philosophy were important essentially in view of certain specific goals, i.e.: to offer the occasion for encounters among professional philosophers coming from all parts of the world; to facilitate the collaboration of philosophers within the single specialised domains of philosophy and among these same domains; and to allow for a specifically philosophical discussion of certain important issues of special significance to the present world. At the same time, the professional quality of the congress was also to be secured by a careful structuring of its programme, its subdivision into specialised sections, the determination of highly qualified invited speakers, and a selection of contributed papers according to quality assessment. All this entailed the elaboration of explicit rules concerning the steps to be taken in the preparation and organisation of the congress, the sharing of the determination of the programme by the host country and FISP, including the invitation of speakers, and the recognition that the ultimate responsibility for the approval of the programme was to remain with FISP.

All these matters have subsequently been incorporated in a special document regarding the guidelines for the organisation of World Congresses, that was prepared and approved by the CD before the 1978 congress, and approved by the General Assembly of that year; it has since received modifications and integrations from time to time. The salient features of these detailed regulations are the following: the preparation of the congress must take place through a written consultation with FISP member-societies regarding the main theme, its fundamental subdivisions and the proposals for specialised sections and round tables, as well as regarding possible invited speakers. These proposals are to constitute the basis for a decision on the part of the CD regarding the theme and structure of the congress in question. The technical responsibility for organisation is to be in the hands of the Organising Committee of the host country, while the elaboration of the professional structure is the responsibility of a committee, which received the final name of the International Congress Committee (the ICC), composed of ten members, of which five are elected by the CD and five are designated by the host country, plus a non-voting president designated by FISP. In such a way a balanced responsibility between the rights of initiative of the host country and the general responsibility of FISP are to be secured. The International Congress Committee, however, only makes proposals, which must be formally approved by the CD in order to become formal decisions to be put into practice (the CD, however, may empower the ICC to take final decisions on certain pending questions). The ICC normally meets twice during the period of preparation of the congress


            A question of denomination also imposed itself as a consequence of the fact that FISP had accepted to support and recognise as “regional conferences” several philosophical meetings that called themselves “international” or even “international congresses of philosophy,” something that could not be objected to since they were truly international (and this was even a condition for being recognised as regional conferences of FISP). Therefore, a proposal was made that had already been advanced (but rejected) at the CD meeting of 1971, that is, to call each quinquennial congresses promoted by FISP the World Congress of Philosophy, in order to stress that they were actually the only philosophical conferences having a planetary latitude and scope, and to avoid any confusion with other international philosophical congresses. The first congress to receive this new name was the one held in 1978.

            But how and where was this congress to take place, considering that the tremendous financial and organisational burden of realising such an enterprise had discouraged every member-society from presenting an invitation at the General Assembly of Varna? In its meeting of 1974 the CD had entrusted Paul Ricoeur with exploring the possibility of having the congress in France, and André Mercier with seeing whether some possibility might present itself in the German Federal Republic. Ricoeur reported after a while that no possibility existed in France, while Mercier sent the CD members a letter in November of 1974 informing them that Professor Alwin Diemer of the University of Düsseldorf had accepted to shoulder the burden of finding funds and providing the organisational conditions for the realisation of the World Congress in Düsseldorf in 1978; the German Philosophical Society was ready to propose five members for the immediate constitution of the International Congress Committee, to which FISP had but to elect its own delegates. Since the time was very short, a consultation of the CD members took place by correspondence, and resulted in the acceptance of the German invitation on the conditions mentioned above. The Bureau then approved the composition of the ICC, and the work of preparation was quickly started, so that at its meeting in January of 1976 in Delhi the CD was in the position to discuss the first draft of the congress programme and the text of the first circular. Professor Diemer was appointed (in conformity with an already existing tradition) as Honorary Vice-President of FISP in order to be entitled to participate in the meetings of the CD.

            A delicate question surfaced however. In his contacts regarding a possible invitation to Düsseldorf, Diemer had discretely but firmly requested to be assured that, if he was to be the organiser of the World Congress, he had also to be the next President of FISP. Such an assurance was informally given him as was implicit in the tradition of FISP. When this became known to his German colleagues, certain negative reactions arose in the German Philosophical Society, because while it was true, on the one hand, that the organiser of the World Congress was implicitly destined, according to tradition, to be the next President of the Federation, on the other hand this had been rather natural because in the past the invitation used to be extended by the national philosophical society of the inviting country, whose President was a known philosopher who was considered an excellent representative of the country’s philosophical profession. In the case of Diemer, certain of his colleagues did not believe that he could play such a role, and advanced the proposal that the next President of FISP should be the acting President of the German Philosophical Society (Kurt Hübner). An in-depth discussion took place in the Steering Committee of the German Society and, on the insistence of Hübner himself, it was finally decided not to oppose the candidacy of Diemer as future President. Information regarding this dispute and the decision was discretely communicated to FISP officers. The preparation and realisation of the Düsseldorf congress went on smoothly and with considerable success, and Diemer was elected President by acclamation by the new CD on September 1st, 1978. However, having been obviously well acquainted with the criticisms levelled against his person, Diemer had decided to be a normal candidate for election to the CD at the General Assembly and had actually obtained the greatest number of votes; in such a way he could present himself as enjoying the full confidence of the FISP societies. This story, however, cast the first doubts on the reasonableness of continuing with this tradition in the election of the President of the Federation, and prepared the way for the introduction of a new praxis on this point.

            At the General Assembly in Düsseldorf two invitations for the 1983 World Congress were submitted, one from Canada and one from Greece. Both were attractive but, after a short discussion, the General Assembly simply expressed a preference for Greece, entrusting the CD with the task of making the final choice after a careful examination of certain still pending details. At its meeting in February of 1979 the CD made the final decision to have the 1983 World Congress in Athens, elected the five FISP members of the ICC, and Evandro Agazzi as its President. The first meeting of the ICC took place in Athens a few months later and good preparatory work regarding the structure of the congress programme was made. However, the President of the Greek Organising Committee (John Theodoracopoulos, President of the Greek Philosophical Society – an already retired but highly respected philosopher) was quite vague regarding the technical facilities and financial means actually available for the celebration of the World Congress. The decision was taken to hold the second meeting of the ICC in September/October of 1980 but, when Agazzi wrote to Theodoracopoulos in February of 1980 asking whether the dates of 29-30 September were agreeable to the Greek Committee, Theodoracopoulos answered that there was no need for such an ICC meeting (which, however, had been explicitly provided for in the mutual agreement regarding the congress).

The Bureau considered this situation with concern at its meeting in April of 1980, and asked the Secretary General to contact Theodoracopoulos in order to clarify the matter. Unfortunately this clarification did not produce the desired effect since, in a letter to Agazzi in June of 1980, Theodoracopoulos reported that at a meeting of the Greek OC, at which representatives of the Ministry of Culture and Science were also present, it was decided that the second meeting of the ICC was not necessary (matters being such that they could be treated simply by correspondence). He further reported that at this meeting the representatives of the Greek Ministry “have insisted on the fact that, due to the present international economic situation, the session of the ICC should not take place. They also expressed their belief that, under certain financial and other conditions, it would be possible for the World Congress to take place in 1983 in Athens.” The implicit, but clear, meaning of this letter was that the vital financial prerequisites for the realisation of the World Congress were still far from being secured, and this fact obliged the Bureau to urgently take contact with Venant Cauchy, who had presented the Canadian invitation at the GA in Düsseldorf, in order to see whether this invitation was still valid.

The issue was discussed in depth at the CD meeting in September of 1980 at Chapala, Mexico, where Cauchy reconfirmed the Canadian invitation and submitted a detailed document in which the financial conditions, the general characteristics of the congress, and the special weight to be attributed to the Canadian Organising Committee were stressed, as well as the intention of maintaining continuity with the work already done towards the preparation of the congress in Athens. The CD found these conditions reasonable and decided to move the 1983 congress from Athens to Montreal. The decision was also taken to maintain the general theme of the congress as it had already been determined, also as a consequence of consultation with FISP member-societies, and to limit the modification of the composition of the ICC to the replacement of its five Greek members with five Canadian members. The preparation of the congress then started immediately and continued very smoothly through an excellent collaboration between the ICC and the Canadian OC during the three remaining years. Nevertheless certain questions of principle regarding in particular the due recognition of the fundamental responsibility of FISP and its President in the predisposition of the “scientific” aspect of the congress and regarding the issue of invitations to speakers gave rise to a controversy between the President of FISP (Diemer) and the President of the OC (Cauchy), that was brought to the knowledge of the CD members via a letter of Diemer. This controversy was substantially resolved, but indicated that some refinements were still to be elaborated as to the formal conditions for the realisation of World Congresses, and this was subsequently done, leading to the requirement of a formal “protocol of agreement” in the form of a legal contract to be signed by the President of FISP and the President of the Organising Committee of the host country, a procedure that was applied starting with the 1988 World Congress.

In the meantime several voices, within and outside FISP, had solicited a modification of the traditional praxis according to which the organiser of a World Congress should become the next President of the Federation. A proposal of modification implying the direct election of the President by the General Assembly was elaborated by the CD and approved by the General Assembly of Montreal (in 1983), whose application was to begin with the 1988 congress (this point will be presented later). Cauchy was thus appointed President of the Federation according to tradition at the meeting of the CD immediately following that General Assembly. He asked, however, that his election be ratified by a formal vote of the CD, and this was done with an unanimous positive result.

At the GA of Montreal three invitations to hold the 1988 World Congress were submitted: by the German Democratic Republic, Great Britain, and Kenya. After discussion, the GA decided to entrust the CD to study the matter after receiving more detailed information and commitments. This was done in subsequent meetings of the CD, and eventually the decision was taken to hold the 1988 World Congress at Brighton (Great Britain) in conformity with a formal contract to be signed by the President of FISP and the President of the British Organising Committee (Prof. H. G. Lewis) and respecting the regulations for the organisation of such congresses that had been updated by the General Assembly.

FISP and the local OC co-operated well in the preparation of the Brighton Congress, which took place successfully in 1988. Nevertheless a serious difficulty arose after the congress. According to tradition (and then as an explicit condition formulated in the contract), the Organising Committee had the obligation of publishing the congress proceedings. This proved impossible however because all the funds available had been used for the realisation of the congress. Efforts to approach publishers prepared to publish the proceedings were fruitless, since this kind of publication has a very poor market and, in addition, much money would have been required to pay people to perform the necessary editorial work for publication. The newly elected President (Evandro Agazzi), visited Great Britain and other countries trying to find financial support for this enterprise for a couple of years, but nothing could be done. Therefore, the proceedings of the Brighton congress are still unpublished; and it seems that even the rough material that had been kept in the premises of the Royal Institute of Philosophy in London (that is, the texts of the invited and contributed papers) are now no longer available.

Two invitations for the 1993 World Congress had been submitted to the GA in Brighton: one from the U.S.A. and one from the Soviet Union, the second being presented by Ivan Frolov, the most direct collaborator of Michail Gorbachov in cultural matters, who was in the position to give warranties that the Soviet Government was ready to satisfy all the financial and organisational requirements of the congress, as well as ensure the professional collaboration of the people of the Institute of Philosophy of the Soviet Academy of Sciences. Owing to the new atmosphere of political détente between the United States and the Soviet Union due to the advent of Gorbachov, the American delegation proposed a gentlemen’s agreement according to which the 1993 World Congress should take place in Moscow, with a moral commitment on the part of the GA to support the American invitation for the World Congress of 1998. The GA approved this proposal and the preparation of the Moscow congress began according to the already well established regulations.

A sudden very serious difficulty, however, arose when Gorbachov was defeated in the internal political struggle in the Soviet Union, and it became extremely doubtful that the new government would be ready to respect the commitments regarding the World Congress. It was hoped that some clarification could be obtained from Frolov (then one of the Vice-Presidents of FISP) on the occasion of the CD meeting in Nairobi (in August of 1991), but the Soviet delegation sent a fax reporting that at the last moment they had been prevented from flying from Moscow by the epidemic service of the airport. The possibility that the World Congress could not take place in Moscow began to surface, and was also briefly discussed by the CD, but a decision was postponed since the President, Agazzi, hoped to be able to meet the Soviet colleagues on the occasion of the International Congress of Logic, Methodology and Philosophy of Science that was going to take place in Uppsala within a few weeks. He met these persons in Uppsala, and it became clear that, after the political changes in the Soviet Union, no possibility existed of receiving from the new government the substantial support needed, owing to the fact that all the Soviet people already involved in this congress were “Gorbachov people.” The only resource still available was the active collaboration of the persons of the Philosophy Institute of the Academy of Sciences, who had retained their positions; but no financial support was available from this source.

After having immediately tried to see whether other possibilities existed in other countries, with no concrete success, the President received the advice of many persons within FISP that the 1993 World Congress had to be cancelled. He did not resign himself, however, to abandoning such a truly historical opportunity of bringing FISP into direct contact with the philosophers of Eastern Europe, after decades of practical isolation, in which contacts had only been possible through the filter of politically selected official organs. He began then to study whether FISP could organise a self-financing congress and found that an Italian company (the EGA of Rome) had two years previously successfully performed the task of organising in Moscow the International Congress of Byzantine Studies on a self-financing base. He met the officers of this company, who declared themselves ready to undertake this enterprise, taking advantage of the experience accumulated on the previous occasion and the participation of the people who had concretely taken care of that enterprise, the pivotal person being Vera Capitani. After many contacts with the Soviet colleagues, including a visit to Moscow, the result was that the Soviet side could provide, thanks to the people of the Academy of Sciences, the necessary organisational work on a voluntary basis. Furthermore, the technical problem of having convenient places for the different plenary and special sessions and decent rooms for the accommodation of several hundred participants could also be solved thanks to the existence of a former school of the communist party (constituting several buildings) which was offered at a reasonable price.

In such a way Agazzi decided to meet the challenge of carrying through with the Moscow congress and, in accordance with a careful budget obviously implying a substantial increase in the congress fees, the initiative was launched without even officially informing, until the last moment, the Soviet political authorities, in order not to create unnecessary political obstacles. The congress was prepared in the traditional way, including the meeting of the ICC in Moscow, and took place in Moscow on the established dates, being quite successful as regards both participation and professional standard. Gorbachov gave a speech at the inaugural session, and the participation of many philosophers from the Eastern countries (that balanced the practically equivalent participation on the part of philosophers from other parts of the world) made this congress a milestone in the opening of an East-West philosophical dialogue that had far-reaching consequences in the following years, thereby contributing to a substantial fulfilment of one of the fundamental aims of FISP. The GA elected as President the well known Peruvian philosopher Francisco Miró Quesada, and respected the moral commitment of the Brighton GA to accept the invitation of the United States to hold the next World Congress in Boston in 1998. Unfortunately, budget limitations could not include the expense of publishing the Moscow congress proceedings, so that they are also still unpublished. The manuscripts of the invited and contributed papers, however, are still being kept at the Institute of Philosophy of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, and could in principle be published if the necessary funds were found.

            The preparation of the Boston congress followed the procedures that were substantially codified at the GA in Montreal and slightly improved afterwards, including the establishment of a contract between FISP and the American Organising Committee. The latter was very active in giving a partially new shape to the congress format, corresponding to the variety of expressions of philosophical work in the U.S., of which we have already spoken. This led not only to a multiplication of the special sections, but also to the introduction of a new category of “invited sessions,” in which professional philosophers of particular reputation were invited (with no financial support from the congress organisers) to present papers on topics in their specialised areas. This measure could substantially increase the professional level of the congress and allow for a larger presence of professional philosophers, who felt more attracted to participate given the opportunity to present contributions not strictly encompassed within the explicit congress theme. The General Assembly accepted the invitation of the Turkish Philosophical Society to hold the 2003 World Congress in Istanbul, and elected the president of this society, Ioanna Kuçuradi, who had served as Secretary General of the Federation for ten years, as President of FISP. In her double position as President of FISP and of the Turkish Organising Committee, she did a remarkable job, in collaboration with the International Congress Committee, in preparing the Istanbul congress.

            As we have already mentioned, the problem of the languages to be used at the World Congresses has been of notable importance even before FISP came into existence, and this problem was taken up again in discussions of FISP bodies on several occasions. It had become customary to admit as congress languages French, English and German, besides the language of the host country; but it was evident that valuable philosophical work was being done also outside the areas covered by these languages. Moreover, philosophers can often find difficulties in expressing themselves in a foreign language. A verification of this circumstance was often provided by the fact that eminent philosophers, who had been invited to speak at the World Congresses, had declined such invitations precisely because (though they were able to read these languages and understand them when spoken) they did not consider themselves able to write a paper or sustain a discussion in any of them. Increasing the number of the official congress languages entailed certain difficulties, of which two are particularly clear. One is of a technical and financial nature, and has to do with the fact that simultaneous (and philosophically competent) translations from and into all the official languages should be secured at least for the plenary sessions, and this becomes both professionally very demanding and financially very expensive when the languages increase in number. The other is of a more delicate nature: what languages should be added? Is there a criterion for choosing the philosophically “most important” languages and not just those that are the most widespread?

When Agazzi was entrusted with the position of Secretary General, he felt that this issue required an urgent solution, owing to the fact that the activity of FISP was rapidly expanding in all regions of the world, and that objections to the existent limitation of the congress languages were very often expressed. He estimated that the addition of Russian and Spanish to the three traditional languages could be an objectively satisfactory solution. He was able to persuade several CD members to admit Spanish, especially on the occasion of the CD meeting held in Tallahassee in 1981 within the framework of the 10th Interamerican Congress of Philosophy, where very many Latin American philosophers were present and where Prof. Kilgore (President of the Interamerican Philosophical Society) strongly advocated its admission. At the GA held in Montreal in 1983, a document was discussed (carrying the signatures of fifty philosophers from nine Latin American countries, Canada, Nigeria, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey and the United States) in which the permanent admission of Spanish as an official language of the World Congresses was requested. After an in-depth discussion, the General Assembly decided that, in the future, Russian and Spanish were also to be official languages of the World Congresses, except when serious practical reasons should make it impossible to fulfil this condition. As a consequence, all the World Congresses since 1983 have adopted five official languages (English, French, German, Russian and Spanish) in addition to that of the host country.

It must be stressed, however, that French and English remain the only official languages of FISP itself, that is, the languages used at the FISP administrative meetings and for the editing of the documents and correspondence of the Federation. Therefore, member-societies should make an effort to use these languages in their correspondence with FISP.


5.4 International relations

FISP is an international institution in itself, but it also has an objective interest in developing relations with other international institutions within the domain of philosophy. In practice this principally means relations with UNESCO. As already explained, UNESCO has always had a division either explicitly called “of philosophy” or at least including philosophy in its name, and has promoted several valuable initiatives related to philosophy from the point of view of information, the organisation of meetings and seminars, the constitution of expert groups with the aim of producing certain publications, and so on. But it must be recognised that, with very few exceptions, FISP has not been associated with these initiatives nor even been consulted regarding them. The only permanent link with UNESCO has been that, being a member of the CIPSH, FISP introduces through CIPSH the applications for financial support in favour of philosophical enterprises presented by its member-societies. Though FISP officers have sometimes been elected as members of the CIPSH Bureau (Mercier as one of the Vice-Presidents, Agazzi as Treasurer), this is clearly too little to speak of a real collaboration of FISP with UNESCO. Therefore, a lengthy effort has been undertaken to change this situation, and it has gradually improved in this regard. Not only have UNESCO’s philosophical initiatives been mentioned in the FISP Bulletin, but personal contacts and direct commitment have made the participation of the Federation in certain enterprises of UNESCO more substantial and visible. This trend must obviously be reinforced.

            Somewhat more significant have been the relations with the International Division of Logic, Methodology and Philosophy of Science of the International Union of History and Philosophy of Science, that is a member of the other non-governmental organ of UNESCO, that is, of the already mentioned ICSU. A dialogue between representatives of FISP and IDLMPS at their respective congresses has been the most usual (formal) sign of this relation, though perhaps more substantial has been the fact that FISP officers have actively participated, on a personal basis, in the activity of IDLMPS.


5.5 Internal relations


5.5.1. The Bulletin

It has also been explained how variegated the typology of FISP member-societies is. The number of these societies has constantly increased over the years both geographically and thematically (an updated list is contained in the Appendix, showing that there are presently 102 FISP member-societies, of which 79 are national and 23 international). This fact has imposed upon FISP the difficult task of securing efficient communication with and among them, and this task has been fulfilled through the regular publication of FISP’s Bulletin (Newsletter). This small publication brings to member-societies twice a year information regarding the activities of the Federation (meetings of the Bureau, of the CD, of the General Assembly, of the different special Committees), the work in progress in the preparation of World Congresses, announcements and reports of regional conferences or other initiatives supported by the Federation, obituaries and congratulations on the occasion of the death or of significant happy events regarding persons particularly bound to the Federation, changes and novelties in the composition of FISP organs, and many other useful or interesting pieces of information. In addition, the Bulletin publishes the reports of activities that the single member-societies send to the Secretary General. These reports should actually be sent regularly every year, but only a few societies respect this duty, which is regrettable since this is a practical and easy way of securing mutual information among member-societies.


5.5.2. Contacts of FISP officers

A very efficacious instrument of mutual acquaintance and information exchange between FISP and its member-societies has also consisted in visits that the Bureau members (and especially the President and the Secretary General) have often had the opportunity to make in different parts of the world. They have always made possible a direct acquaintance with and very fruitful discussion of many questions of common interest. Moreover, these visits have had considerable importance from the point of view of broadening the presence and activity of FISP world-wide, especially when they have reflected a conscious policy. For example, after becoming FISP President, Diemer developed an intense effort of collaboration with African philosophers, both by creating a centre for the study of African philosophy at his university in Düsseldorf and by personally paying visits to Africa. A similar policy was developed in the same period by the Secretary General Agazzi in Latin America. The most visible results were the affiliations of new African and Latin American societies to FISP. Agazzi also fostered the creation of the Afro-Asian Philosophy Association, which promoted several meetings that were very significant from the point of view of this intercontinental philosophical collaboration and were often recognised as regional conferences of FISP. This policy was then continued by President Cauchy and Secretary General Agazzi, and among its major events must be mentioned a regional conference in Jakarta in 1990 and another in Dakar in 1992. Cauchy was particularly sensitive to the problem of intercultural collaboration and has for several years chaired a special committee of FISP entrusted with this issue. Intensive activity of this kind has also been carried on by Ioanna Kuçurady during the periods of her being Secretary General and President of FISP.

            But not only the President and the Secretary General were involved in such international contacts. Indeed, it has become a constant policy of the Federation, after 1978, to foster the organisation of philosophical meetings in different parts of the world for which not only the patronage of FISP, but also some form of financial support (especially through CIPSH) was often secured. Many such meetings could also be recognised as regional conferences of FISP. The advantage of this procedure was that funds were available for inviting the Bureau and the CD to have meetings on these occasions, and this made possible the presence of these governing bodies of the Federation at those places, which was a clear advantage as regards increasing the degree of acquaintance between FISP and the local philosophers and philosophical associations. In such a way Bureau and CD meetings could take place not only in the traditional countries of Europe and North America, but, for example, also in Mexico and Brazil, in Lima and Quito, in Cairo, Nairobi, Rabat and Dakar, in Delhi, Jakarta, Seoul, Beijing, Kyoto and Ankara, that is, in those parts of the world (such as Latin America, Africa and Asia) that had remained peripheral in the life of the Federation for many years.


5.5.3. The increase in participation

Even more important must be the fact that member-societies were not only better informed about FISP activity, but could actually participate to a much more significant extent in the concrete realisation of this activity. This is particularly evident as far as the realisation of World Congresses is concerned. Until the Varna congress in 1973, the responsibility of FISP had mainly consisted in half of the members of the ICC (or its equivalent body) being elected by the CD, while the structure of the programme and the choice of the invited speakers was not usually formally submitted to the approval of the CD itself. After Varna, however, a praxis was inaugurated (and gradually formalised and codified in special by-laws regarding the realisation of the World Congresses) which included a preliminary consultation of all the member-societies regarding the general theme of the congress in question, its division into subtopics, the determination of plenary session events, specialised sessions and round tables, and so on, as well as the proposal of invited speakers and session chairpersons. Such proposals are elaborated by the ICC and then submitted for the approval of the CD at various stages in the preparation of the congress. In such a way member-societies have a real right of initiative in the preparation of the World Congress, and the final responsibility of the CD is explicitly recognised.

The preparation of the General Assembly is somewhat similar: member-societies receive questionnaires concerning issues on which the CD believed that FISP should take a decision, and are invited to formulate their opinions. These opinions are then organised, and constitute the basis for the formulation of explicit proposals on the part of the CD, usually entailing the forming of new regulations, the amendment of the statutes or by-laws, and the proposals of certain motions or declarations to be submitted for the approval of the General Assembly. In such a way the delegates coming to the GA can be well informed about the different points on the agenda and be prepared for a serious discussion of them. Other aspects of this preparation for the GA will be mentioned later.


5.6.The evolution of the structure of FISP

The basic structure of FISP was fixed in its statutes when it was founded, and included, as already explained, three official organs: the General Assembly, the Comité Directeur (Steering Committee) and the Bureau, whose respective competences were outlined in the same statutes. The composition of and the way of constituting these organs was not very precisely prescribed, however, and certain inconveniences appeared in the course of time, so that a more precise and strict regulation of several points was felt desirable. This resulted first in the formulation and formal approval of by-laws intended to specify in detail matters that were left rather undetermined in the statutes, as well as in certain more or less substantial amendments being made to the statutes and the by-laws on the occasion of the subsequent General Assemblies. A detailed review of this evolution is unnecessary, and we shall limit ourselves to the presentation of a synthetic overview.


5.6.1 The General Assembly

The sovereign organ of the Federation is the General Assembly, constituted by the delegates of the member-societies. In the oldest statues, however, no strict regulations were included regarding the right to be present or vote at the GA, nor were precise criteria indicated or forseen regarding the procedures for the verification of powers. For example, art. 13 of the first statutes said that only “duly appointed” delegates of member-societies could participate in the GA, and that such an appointment had to reach the President of the CD in writing at least a week before the Assembly; but this condition was often neglected, certainly not due to a lack of good will, but rather because no precise procedure was indicated for submitting the names of the appointed delegates.

Certain unclear situations could then occur, an example of which was patent at the GA of Varna: two philosophers of a certain country presented themselves at the Assembly, declaring that they were the delegates of two philosophical societies of that country. After checking the list of member-societies, it turned out that both of these societies were indeed FISP members, but had not paid affiliation fees for several years. On the proposal of a couple of influential CD members, these persons were allowed to pay five dollars each from their own pockets as a regularisation of the financial position of their societies, and were admitted by a ballot on the part of the GA to participate in it with the right to vote. In the discussion regarding the election of CD members they spoke against the candidacy of a philosopher of their country (who had been regularly proposed by the CD) and advanced instead the candidacy of one of themselves. The result of the election was that this unexpected candidate prevailed over the other and became a member of the CD. The perplexities that arose from this episode made it clear that the determination of precise rules and procedures for participation in the GA, as well as concerning the right to vote, were urgently needed, and this has led to the subsequent drawing up of regulations (which, in particular, were related to the difficult question of determining the affiliation fees, which will be dealt with later) that have become routine praxis on the part of the Federation, and can be summarised as follows. Member-societies are formally invited by the Secretary General to communicate well in advance of a General Assembly the names of their delegates and of their possible replacements. A verification of powers must take place in accordance with this at the opening of the GA, and the number of participants with the right to vote, to participate in the discussion without voting, and to be present simply as observers can be precisely determined.


5.6.2 The Comité Directeur (Steering Committee)

No precise procedure was indicated in the first statutes regarding the election of the members of the CD. In principle this election was expressed as a task of the GA, but no explicit rules existed as to the presentation of candidates. This fact is historically understandable, since the first list of members of the CD was necessarily formed at the moment of the founding of FISP in 1948 by the officers of the IIP that had promoted the foundation, and therefore included almost only IIP members. This also explains why, even after the GA in Amsterdam in 1953, the CD members elected on that occasion still included only seven persons not belonging to the IIP. Nor did this situation change substantially in the subsequent years; and, though a certain amount of care regarding geographical distribution was respected, it is clear that the initiative of FISP member-societies was not a truly important factor in the formation of the CD. Indeed, the statutes indicated that the CD members were to be elected by the GA “on presentation by the delegations of the national and international societies”; but no procedure was indicated for making clear in what such a “presentation” should consist. In addition, certain tacit rules became traditional. One consisted in the fact that a CD member attaining the age of 75 (but also before, if certain special conditions were met) could designate his own successor. This rule was sanctioned by a vote of the GA in Vienna (but not included in the statutes), and applied on a few occasions (e.g., van Breda succeeded Dondeyne in 1973 and Agazzi succeeded Calogero in the same year). More generally, the CD could appoint new members when a member died (e.g., Ntumba was appointed after the death of van Breda in 1974, Caturelli was appointed in 1980 as successor to Kuypers, who had reached the age of 75 without designating his successor, Kuçuradi took the place of Garcia Bacca after his death in 1982). These procedures reflected the practical identification of FISP with the CD that had prevailed for a long while, but it appeared rather unjustified when the role of the GA was more specifically stressed. The present regulation attributes to the GA the entire responsibility of electing CD members: when vacancies in the CD occur, the gaps must be filled by giving places to the non-elected members who had received the minimum number of votes at the last GA, in descending order with respect to the votes obtained.

            Another question concerned the duration of office of the CD members. Strangely enough, this period of office remained unspecified in many successive versions of the statutes, where only the possibility of re-election for single members and the fact that the CD was renewed by a third at every GA were mentioned. The determination of this duration of office became in such a way a matter left to the decision of the CD, which initially fixed it at fifteen years. This was considered by many to be excessive, and was criticised on several occasions at the meetings of the CD; but it was only in 1974 that the CD approved a new rule according to which a CD member is elected for ten years, with the possibility of a re-election for a subsequent five. This rule was approved by the GA and included in the statutes. Appointment by the CD is still admitted, but is limited to the organiser of the World Congress becoming an Honorary Vice-President of FISP (in order to secure his/her presence at all the CD meetings during the preparation of the congress).

            A more substantial issue, however, could not be avoided, that of the representativity of the CD. This issue was complicated by the fact that the requirement could be interpreted in at least two different ways. The first was that the CD must be a good representative of philosophy from a professional point of view. The list of the CD members appearing on the stationary and on all the official documents of the Federation should be a good “visiting card” of FISP, a list that, in its including the names of many prestigious philosophers, would attract the consideration of international authorities as well as the philosophical community itself. Therefore, on this interpretation there is nothing negative in several CD members’ being from the same country or the same region of the world, while other countries or regions are not represented, if this is a consequence of a quality judgment. This “elitarian” view was in a way the heritage of the fact that the creation of FISP had been fostered, as we have seen, by the IIP and, as an understandable result, the majority of the CD members were also members of the IIP (an institute whose members are appointed according to criteria of professional excellence). The broadening of the Federation, however, had made evident the necessity of also broadening the representation of the member-societies, understood in a geographical sense.

Both views had their strong points. If we look at the composition of the CD during the first decades of the life of FISP, we are certainly impressed when we find there the names of very many personalities who have truly marked the history of the philosophical profession during the twentieth century. Nevertheless, it is explicitly stated already in the statutes of 1953 that the CD cannot include more than two members representing the same nation, nor more than six representatives of any one international society. This explicit requirement (which was never removed from the statutes) could not be concretely fulfilled, however, for the lack of any precise procedural indication regarding how to secure such a limitation. A compromise solution was needed, and it was gradually elaborated according to the criterion of respecting the sovereignty of the GA, but at the same time placing certain limitations on the possibility of being elected. Though the general principle has been always maintained that a CD member, once elected, is not the representative of any country, it was gradually recognised that no country can have more than one member in the CD, with the exception of very “large” countries (the Soviet Union and the United States for a long time; now only the United States after the dissolution of the Soviet Union), and the host country of the World Congress (which is entitled to have up to two members). Candidates proposed by international societies can also be included in addition to those that emanate from a national member. Therefore, the GA is free to elect all the CD members, but not everyone is eligible as a candidate: the list of candidates prepared by the CD on the basis of the proposals submitted in due time by member-societies is already filtered according to this criterion.

As to the question of professional quality, a first remark is in order: a CD member is expected to actively participate in the activities of the Federation (starting with his/her participation in the CD meetings), while experience has shown that rather often prestigious CD members were hardly prepared to devote themselves to such a regular collaboration. This fact, in particular, has led to the formulation of a rule according to which failing to participate in the activity of the CD over a certain period of time entails termination of CD membership. Another rule, however, tried to secure the respect of professional qualification. When member-societies are invited to propose candidates for the CD, they are not only advised that they are not to restrict their proposals only to philosophers of their own country, but must also provide a short presentation of the professional qualification of their candidates, and a declaration of their readiness to actively work for the Federation. The application of these rules (gradually included in the FISP by-laws) has permitted the attaining of an acceptable balance between the professional qualifications and geographical representation of the CD members. This goal has also been served by another measure. The number of CD members had long been fixed (initially 30, later 39). According to the present regulations, this number can vary between a minimum of 29 and a maximum of 39 due to the adoption of the clause that candidates having received less than 15 votes at the GA are not elected to the CD but can be included in it only in the event that vacancies should otherwise reduce the number of the CD members below the minimum. The implicit logic of this regulation is obviously that only philosophers enjoying a certain degree of international reputation would be entitled to belong to the CD.


5.6.3 The Bureau

According to the statutes, the first task of the newly constituted CD is that of electing the Bureau, and this meant, until the Brighton GA, the election (by acclamation) of the President, three Vice-Presidents, the Secretary General and the Treasurer. The election of the President then became a task for the GA, as we shall soon see. An important requirement in the functioning of FISP gradually appeared to be that of combining continuity with innovation, since the correct way to approach several questions had very often appeared to require the consideration of previous discussions, experience, and traditional ways of proceeding which had to be reconciled with the emergence of new problems. Sometimes the elements of the “tradition” were not contained in written documents (such as statutes and by-laws or regulations of various kinds) or were hidden in the minutes of past meetings of the Bureau and CD, and several issues had often already been addressed in the past without coming to final decisions. Therefore, it appeared advisable to maintain in the Bureau the presence at least of certain persons who had been responsible for the functioning of the Federation and could provide their “experienced” advice. To this end the GA of 1983 approved a modification of the statutes according to which the outgoing President of FISP remains a Bureau member as Past-President (traditionally he became Honorary President), while all the Past Presidents received the qualification of Honorary Presidents and have the right, but not the obligation, to participate in the Bureau meetings with no right to vote.

            More complex was the issue regarding the position of Secretary General. With the great increase in administrative work, correspondence, the editing of the Bulletin, and the preparation of several documents, this had become a very demanding function, requiring an exceptional degree of devotion from the person responsible for it, as well as the availability of clerical aid and infrastructural facilities not covered by the modest budget of the Federation. For these reasons, when, for example, Mercier announced his intention to relinquish his position of Secretary General (in part for personal reasons, and in part because, having become a retired professor at the University of Berne, he no longer had at his disposal the technical facilities and funds with which this university had provided him), the Bureau was extremely concerned; and it was very fortunate that a solution could be found simply through an exchange of positions. Agazzi (who had been Treasurer until then), accepted the position of Secretary General, while Mercier was able to assume the much less demanding function of Treasurer.

This change was approved by the CD at its meeting in September of 1980. Being aware of the risks involved in this situation, however, the CD decided upon a measure that could help in the event that, after the expiration of the membership in the CD of a Secretary General, no CD member could be found who was willing and able to take up this function. It was therefore decided that, in such a case, the CD could appoint as Secretary General a respected member of the philosophical profession who, while not belonging to the CD, was willing and able to accept this charge. A similar decision, for analogous reasons, was also taken regarding the Treasurer; and these decisions were included in the by-laws at the GA of 1983. Fortunately, the Federation has not yet needed to avail itself of such a possibility, and to date the Secretary General and Treasurer have been always found among the CD members.


5.6.4 The President

The status and function of the President are those of officially representing FISP, chairing its different organs, signing contracts and agreements implying the responsibility of the Federation, presiding at the World Congress, and in general ensuring that the activity of the Federation is in conformity with its statutes and by-laws and in keeping with the decisions of the General Assembly. We have already explained that, according to tradition, the organiser of the World Congress almost automatically became President of the Federation, by acclamation of the CD. (To be more precise, in the statutes of 1948 that were elaborated for the creation of the Federation, art. 16 stated that “the Federation is presided by right by the outgoing President of the last International Congress of Philosophy”; this statement was dropped however by the GA of 1953 and never reintroduced, such that this procedure remained simplly a tradition.) We have also hinted at the reasons that had made such a practice rather plausible at the beginning, but which had become rather problematic when the organiser of the World Congress was no longer the President of the philosophical society of the inviting country. Moreover, the expansion of FISP member-societies had created a situation in which more than one philosophical society existed in certain countries, no one of which could have the pretension of representing the philosophers of the whole country. In addition, the retention of this tradition automatically implied that countries not sufficiently wealthy to be able to host a World Congress were automatically excluded from the possibility of having one of their philosophers as President of FISP.

More decisive than these reasons, however, was the trend towards “democratisation” that, as we have seen, step by step came to concern all FISP organs, eliminating all form of automatism from their constitution, and this could hardly avoid taking cognisance of the most important position in the Federation. After long debates within the CD, a modification of the statutes was elaborated and then approved by the GA in Montreal in 1983, according to which the President is considered as a separate organ of the Federation that is elected by the General Assembly by secret ballot among candidates specifically nominated for this position by the member-societies. The President is not bound to be or have been a member of the CD; he/she has simply to be a distinguished philosopher whom the member-societies consider capable of representing their Federation on an international level. The Presidents elected according to this new procedure have been Evandro Agazzi (Brighton 1988), Francisco Mirò Quesada (Moscow 1993) and Ioanna Kuçuradi (Boston 1998).


5.6.5 The special committees of FISP

Sometimes issues are too complex to be handled by the CD during a few hours’ discussion, and in such cases it is expedient to have preparatory work done. In view of this, the CD proposed, and the GA of 1978 approved, the constitution of consultative committees whose task is that of studying certain specific questions, and of making proposals to the CD in the form of written reports. The CD can then deliberate and decide on the basis of such reports. Three permanent committees were included in the by-laws, the Committee on General Policy, the Committee on Finances, and the Committee on Congresses, Conferences and other Philosophical Meetings (not to be confused with the ICC, but which is to provide guidelines for the organisation of all kinds of conferences supported by the Federation, including general suggestions regarding the World Congresses). Other committees were also created with a transitory status, i.e. devoted to the study of certain particular issues (such as the committee for the World Decade of Cultural Development, or the committee for the World Decade of Education of Human Rights, both constituted in connection with initiatives of the said denominations promoted by UNESCO). Some of them, however, have existed for a long while, such as the Committees for the Teaching of Philosophy, Intercultural Research in Philosophy, and Bioethics. The name of the Committee for Congresses was changed to the Committee on Philosophical Encounters and International Cooperation by the GA of August, 1998. The significance of the work done by these committees has varied from time to time owing to different contingencies. Their importance, however, also consists in the fact that, though normally being chaired by a CD member, they also include persons not belonging (or no longer belonging) to the CD, and in such a way they can secure a wider participation in the life of FISP on the part of members of the philosophical community, besides studying issues that can bring FISP work into closer contact with general cultural and philosophical themes.


5.6.6 The finances of FISP

The increasing latitude of FISP activities obviously required a strengthening of its financial autonomy, a problem that was not so urgently felt when its task was considered to consist essentially in giving assistance in the preparation of the World Congresses and in channelling financial requests to UNESCO through CIPSH. Shortly before the Varna congress, A. C. Ewing (then Treasurer of the Federation) died, and the Bureau urgently asked Agazzi to provisionally adopt the position of treasurer, and prepare the financial report for the GA. When taking contact with him for this reason, Secretary General Mercier said to him that it was necessary to radically reconsider the whole of the financial situation of the Federation, which was “close to bankruptcy.” Agazzi accepted this task and, in preparing his report, found that the situation was indeed very complicated and even quite precarious. The fact that his report was 28 pages long depended in part, on the fact that it contained the status of eight different accounts of FISP in six different currencies (2 in Manchester, 3 in Lausanne, 1 in Paris, 1 in Brussels, 1 in Bern) that, moreover, had different dates of closure. This made it difficult to estimate the actual amount of money at the disposal of the Federation (an approximate estimation was 9,450 Swiss Francs).

But much more problematic was the proposal of a budget for the future period, since no strict regulations existed regarding how much the member-societies were to be required to submit as an annual affiliation fee. In art. 8 of the 1953 statutes it is stated that member-societies “pay a normal annual fee proportional to the fees paid by their own members, and that cannot be lower than 5% of this amount.” This disposition, however, was ambiguous, since it was not clear what must be the case for a fee to be “normal,” and also because it was obviously very problematic to check the correctness of the 5% of the total income received by a society from its members’ annual fees that could obviously change from year to year. As a practical consequence, it had even been the case that certain societies contributed only five dollars a year to FISP, almost as a voluntary contribution, and many did not even pay their overdue fees.

Agazzi therefore proposed a budget in which the proposal was formulated according to which the total sum of 20,000 Swiss Francs was to be received from the societies every year (this more or less tripled the annual sum actually received from fees up to that date); but this proposal would avoid being too utopian only if the GA agreed to fix a minimal fee as the “normal” contribution from each society, according to a detailed proposal that Agazzi had prepared and that had been approved by the CD. The GA preferred not to take a final decision on this point (which had been made explicit in a proposed article of the by-laws) and decided that a consultation with the member-societies should take place, and that the CD could approve the text of the pertinent article of the by-laws as a consequence.

The subsequent CD elected Agazzi Treasurer, his financial project was submitted to the member-societies and also discussed at a meeting of the Committee on Finances that had been constituted at the GA. The final formulation was approved by the CD and included in the by-laws. These measures require that a “basic unit” of 200 Sw.Fr. be paid by those societies that want to be “full members” of the Federation, with the right to vote at the GA. Societies having more than 500 members can pay more and have more votes (up to a maximum of four); societies that want only to be “corresponding members” are to pay a fee of 100 Sw.Fr. and, though receiving all information disbursed by the Secretariat, including the Bulletin, have no right to vote at the GA. Measures are established in favour  societies of economically weak countries and societies which are not able to send foreign currency, or cannot pay fees according to their statutes. As to the application of these rules (including the exclusion from the Federation in the case of prolonged non-payment of the fees) a reasonable flexibility has always been adopted by the CD, preferring recourse to discrete negotiations rather than automatic exclusion (also because the change of officers in certain societies easily leads to a change of attitude towards FISP). This wise policy has proved satisfactory since, very often, delinquent member-societies pay their overdue fees when the date of the GA approaches and they want to send proposals for candidacies and their representatives to the GA.

Certain simple technical measures were adopted by the Treasurer (with the approval of the CD), such as that of concentrating FISP’s funds in only two bank accounts in Lausanne (one in Swiss Francs and one in dollars). The choice of the Swiss Franc as the currency for the payment of the fees was suggested by the circumstance that the U.S. dollar was periodically affected by important fluctuations that made the budgetary proposals somewhat insecure (the same difficulty was also experienced, by the way, by CIPSH). The soundness of these regulations, which regarded at the same time the financial and the institutional functioning of the Federation, is reflected in the fact that they have remained practically unchanged over the years. More details can be found in the text of the last version of the statutes and by-laws included in the Appendix.

            An obvious concern of the Committee on Finances has always been that of finding ways to secure funds for FISP outside the indirect financing of CIPSH and the affiliation fees paid by member-societies. Despite often having included persons of special financial experience who were also endowed with good personal relations with the financial world in this committee, these efforts have never attained tangible results, principally for two reasons. First, it seems very difficult to gain the sympathy of business leaders for philosophy. Second, it is practically impossible to obtain even the support of culturally sensitive foundations for an institution as such, such support being given only to specific circumscribed projects. Funding of this nature was received from time to time, but it of course did not mean the availability of more money for the “normal” activity of the Federation, whose costs are mainly of an administrative nature. An exception is represented by an endowment made by a private donor with the precise condition of using this money for holding a special lecture, called the “Maimonides Lecture,” to be entrusted to a prestigious philosopher on the occasion of every World Congress, in addition to the normal programme of the congress itself. Two similar lectures (the “Ibn Rushd Lecture” and the “Kierkegaard Lecture”) have been proposed and accepted by the CD in 2002, and will be held for the first time at the Istanbul congress in 2003.


5.6.7. Publications

Apart from the Bulletin, no publications formally produced by FISP exist, according to a decision repeatedly confirmed by the CD not to engage in such enterprises. Nevertheless, certain publications have appeared corresponding to initiatives promoted by the Federation, publications whose variety and unequal degree of FISP commitment suggests that we do not mention them in this short history of the Federation.


5.6.8 The FISP official seats

A distinction must be made between the “official” and the “working” seat of FISP. The first is that appearing in the statutes for normal legal reasons; the second corresponds to the address concretely usable for coming into contact with the Federation, and this is usually that of the Secretary General and/or the President. FISP’s first seat was both things at the same time, and was located at the premises of the IIP at the Sorbonne in Paris. The official seat remained unchanged in the statutes when the IIP moved to a different address, while the working seat was moved first to Brussels (during the period when Perelman was Secretary General), then to Berne (when the Secretary General was Mercier), and then to Fribourg (when the Secretary General was Agazzi). It appeared, however, inappropriate that the Headquarters of FISP be expressed in the statutes as being at an address where nobody could locate the Federation, though the indication of such an address was necessary for legal reasons. The GA of 1988 therefore decided that FISP Headquarters be at the Philosophy Department of the University of Fribourg (Switzerland), giving consideration to the fact that Switzerland is a neutral country, hosting also certain institutions of the UNO at Geneva, and that the University of Fribourg had generously helped FISP over several years by securing funds and facilities for the activity of FISP officers (Agazzi as Treasurer, Secretary General and President, and G. Küng, as Treasurer). The Philosophy Department of Fribourg agreed to house the Headquarters of FISP and, in such a way, a certain warranty of continuity has been reasonably secured.

Related to the existence of a certain seat was also the problem of preserving and taking care of the whole of the documentation of the Federation. Moreover, the constitution of such archives has always been included among the aims of the Federation in its statutes, and this requirement had been rather informally fulfilled by the fact that every Secretary General kept the documentation of the Federation at his office and transmitted it to his successor. This was, however, not a very satisfactory solution since a permanent location of the archives was obviously needed. It was a merit of Diemer that he created within the framework of the Institute of Philosophy of the Düsseldorf University the Archives of FISP, where these documents are regularly classified and open to consultation. At present, Dr. Ulrike Hinke is responsible for the care of these Archives. In addition to these, however, copies of many documents regarding mainly the General Assembly, the Bureau and the CD of FISP were left at the Philosophy Department of the University of Fribourg by Agazzi, when he retired from this university and left Switzerland. In such a way a partial documentation is also available there.

FISP has also a LOGO that was designed on the initiative of President Ganovski shortly after the Varna congress and was approved by the CD.



















 Officers of FISP since 1948 :

  • 1948-1953 President: H.J. Pos (Amsterdam); Secretary General: R. Bayer (Paris).
  • 1953-1958 President: N. Barzin (Brussels); Secretary General: Ch. Perelman (Brussels).
  • 1958- 1963 President: F. Battaglia (Bologna); Secretary General: Ch. Perelman (Brussels).
  • 1963-1968 President: F. Larroyo (Mexico); Secretary General: Ch. Perelman (Brussels).
  • 1968-1973 President: L. Gabriel (Vienna); Secretary General: Ch. Perelman (Brussels) until 3.9.1971, A. Mercier (Bern).
  • 1973-1978 President: S. Ganovski (Sofia); Secretary General: A. Mercier (Bern).
  • 1978-1983 President: A. Diemer (Düsseldorf); Secretary General: A. Mercier (Bern) until the end of 1980, E. Agazzi (Genova/Fribourg).
  • 1983- 1988 President: V. Cauchy (Montreal); Secretary General: E. Agazzi (Fribourg).
  • 1988-1993 President: E. Agazzi (Fribourg); Secretary General: I. Kuçuradi (Ankara).
  • 1993-1998 President: F. Miro Quesada (Lima); Secretary General: I. Kuçuradi (Ankara).
  • 1998- 2003 President: I. Kuçuradi (Ankara); Secretary General: P. Kemp (Copenhagen).
  • 2003- 2008 President: P. Kemp (Copenhagen); Secretary General: W. McBride (West Lafayette)
  • 2008- 2013 President: W. McBride (West Lafayette); Secretary General: L. Scarantino (Paris)
  • 2013-- President: D. Moran (Dublin); Secretary General: L. Scarantino (Milan)