A Brief History of
The International Council for Philosophy and Humanistic Sciences (ICPHS)
It was in September 1947 that Julian Huxley, the first Director-General of UNESCO, decided to ask a group of experts from different countries and from different fields of knowledge to investigate how UNESCO could comply with the duties laid down by its constitution in the domain of humanistic studies.
The preparatory committee of a common organism for humanistic studies met in 1948. Its task was to define the relationship of the organism-to-be with UNESCO, and its aims were to keep ICPHS's autonomy, to concentrate on tasks of international interest and insure that its character remained strictly scientific. The composition of the Council was to guarantee its Non-Governmental (NGO) nature.
Many European intellectuals and researchers felt the need to come out of the isolation to which they had been driven because of the war, and that certain ideological barriers were again creating. They hoped to leave the narrow sphere in which they had been confined, mainly in the former occupied countries. They wanted to fight against massive specialisation and to create a permanent link between the organisations called to join the future Council, favouring their grouping by affinities. Moreover, it was felt that only an international structure with dimensions as large as possible could allow the renewal of the researchers' circulation, their coming together, their possibility of exchanging ideas.
The first general assembly of the International Council for Philosophy and Humanistic Studies met in January 1949. A supporting organ for a multi-disciplinary and international vocation, ICPHS was conceived as the intermediary between UNESCO on one hand, and learned societies and national academies on the other. Its aim was to extend UNESCO's action in the domain of humanistic studies.
Among its initial activities, in 1949, a first analysis of national-socialism was prefaced by ICPHS's first president, Jaques Rueff. This collective study had been prescribed in 1948 by the UNESCO General Conference, but had met with reticences about its publication.
Its status of non-gouvernemental organisation in UNESCO granted the advantage of freeing it from sometimes insurmontable political matters.Hence scientists from countries that were not represented at UNESCO could make themselves heard and be kept informed of worldwide works thanks to ICPHS.