This paper explores the distinction between domination and dialogue. It analyses dialogical philosophy, mainly in the works of Mikhail Bakhtin and some other contemporary authors, grounding the universal character of dialogue as constitutive of human personality itself. Dialogism is a fundamental characteristic of language. In its normative role, dialogism can serve as the standard for the evaluation and critique of existing relationships within a socially and culturally diverse world. It can also serve as a regulative principle in the ennoblement of human relationships. This paper highlights intercultural philosophy and its grounding of the ideas of cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue. It analyses the manifestations of cultural diversity in Latin American, African and the African-American philosophies. These philosophies show the tendency to evolve from ethnocentrism to more openness and finally to inter-philosophical global dialogue. Dialogism is opposed to historical-cultural conditions that hinder it. In analyzing the historical contradiction between domination and dialogue, this paper points out its causes, such as calculative ‘instrumental reason’, colonial exclusion of the other, and the asymmetries of power. The current hegemonic US policy aiming for global domination is at odds with the dialogical and collaborative relationships of sovereign nations as equals. The paper argues for the implementation of dialogical relationships within society and in the international arena as well as for the collaboration of peoples, which is necessary to find a solution to social and global problems. The concept of the dialogue of civilisations – asserting a plurality of civilisations – orients us toward the study of intra-civilisational and inter-civilisational relationships, with the aim of fostering dialogue. The enhancement of dialogical relationships is both a condition and an indispensable means of progression toward a more humane, peaceful and just world order. This special report concludes with ten recommendations for next steps and further research in this important area.
Human history, with the progressive achievements of humanity, has a long list of various forms of domination as well as structural, cultural and military violence. In search of remedies to these conditions, philosophers are grounding the ideas of dialogic relationships leading to peace and harmony.
The ideals of dialogue and harmony have been expressed in various ways in cultural heritages across the world since ancient times. Their expression can be found in different cultural traditions, including Daoism, Confucianism and ancient Greek philosophy as well as in contemporary philosophical thought. Harmony is a general notion; its semantics include meanings related to music, arts, social relationships and the inner world of human beings. The term ‘harmony’ derives from the Greek ἁρμονία (harmonia) meaning joint agreement and concord (from the verb ἁρμόζω, harmozō, to fit together, to join). In Greek mythology, Harmonia (Aρμονία) was the goddess of harmony and concord. Her Roman equivalent was Concordia, the goddess of agreement, understanding and marital harmony. Their opposites are Eris and Discordia. Socratic dialogue, as developed by Plato, was not only a method of inquiry, but also a model for human relationships. The commonality and relevance of these ides are remarkable in our culturally diverse, conflicted and globally interrelated world.
Contemporary dialogical ideas were elaborated in the different fields of dialogical thought, such as dialogical philosophy, theories of the dialogue of cultures and studies of the dialogue of religions. Dialogical philosophy grounds the conception of dialogue, stressing its personal and spiritual nature. Theories of the dialogue of cultures, which made an impact on the philosophy of culture and the philosophy of education, are also related to the more specific studies of dialogical relationships between social groups, ethnic communities, professional associations, political organisations and political culture. Intercultural philosophy explores the relationships between culturally embedded philosophies and inter-philosophical dialogue. An inter-philosophical global dialogue can serve as the epistemological and ontological foundation for intercultural and inter-civilisational dialogue. The concept of the dialogue of civilisations – asserting the plurality of civilisations – orients us toward the study of intra-civilisational and inter-civilisational relationships with the aim of fostering dialogue.
The consistent implementation of dialogical relationships at intersubjective and social levels in a diverse world – across social and ethnic groups, communities, states, cultures, religions and civilisations – requires a deep transformation. Thus some philosophers convey their hope for the deep transformation of the current world order, which is based on competition and domination, into a more peaceful and humane alternative, called ‘dialogical civilisation’.
On the one hand, dialogue – as the way toward removing divisive prejudices and collaborating on solutions to problems – has never been so urgent as it is now, in a world facing global problems that threaten the future of humanity. On the other hand, the task of implementing dialogical relationships has never been as difficult as it is in today’s politically and economically polarised world. The political abuse of cultural differences continues to result in ‘culture wars’ and violent clashes. Asymmetry of political-economic power, domination and the homogenising effects of globalisation in its hegemonic version create conditions conducive neither to the preservation of the unique cultures of nations and minority groups nor to the dialogical relationships among nations as equals.
The ideas of dialogue and harmony need to be studied in the current setting, and their normative role in the analysis of complex and conflicting socio-cultural tendencies in different countries and in the world at large need to be examined. In contrast to the theories justifying conflicts and domination (such as concepts of ‘the clash of civilisations’ and culture wars), this paper articulates the normative status of dialogism. Intercultural dialogue is mutually beneficial to each culture and is a condition for their flourishing. The ideas of dialogue are related to the philosophy of nonviolence and the planetary ethics of co-responsibility.
The philosophy of dialogue emphasises the comprehensive character of dialogue. It opposes dialogue to the unidirectional statements (what Mikhail Bahktin calls ‘monologism’) and universalistic claims of authoritarian power. In their political implications, the ideas of dialogic relationships are intrinsically democratic, challenging the monologic commanding system of dominating power. Dialogism promotes the principles of democracy and of universal participation as key political principles for society.
A search for an alternative to the existing state of affairs can be conceived in terms of the contrast between the one-dimensional monologic world of stereotypes and authoritarian dicta versus the pluralistic dialogic world of creative thinking, recognition of others as equals, personal moral responsibility and shared co-existence and an openness toward the cultural-historical creativity of individuals. In the international arena, this contrast refers to the opposition between the hegemonic policy of the sole superpower aiming for global domination versus the multilateral collaboration of sovereign nations as equals in their joint efforts to solve global problems.
‘Divide and rule’ is a classic formula for domination. In contrast, dialogue unites peoples in solidarity in the struggle for their freedom and rights. The dialogic philosophy in its classical and contemporary versions inspires intellectual resistance to the ideology of domination and contributes to the social struggle for human liberation. The enhancement of dialogical relationships is both a condition and an indispensable means for progression toward a more humane, peaceful and just world order.
The first section of this paper, ‘Dialogical Philosophy’, mainly presents the works of Mikhail Bakhtin and a few other contemporary authors, grounding the comprehensive character of dialogue, its ontological, linguistic and ethical meaning and its relevance to intercultural relationships. The second section, ‘Cultural Identity, Diversity and Interculturality’, analyses contemporary discussions of multiculturalism and the development of an intercultural philosophy that aims for dialogue. The third section, ‘The Emerging Diversity of Philosophical Cultures: From Ethnocentrism to Inter-Philosophical Global Dialogue’, explores manifestations of cultural diversity in emerging philosophies – such as Latin American, African and African-American philosophies – and their evolution from initial ethnocentrism to more openness to inter-philosophical global dialogue. The fourth section, ‘Dialogue as an Alternative to Domination’, examines the historical contradiction between domination and dialogue, the causes of this contradiction and ways to promote dialogical relationships. The fifth section, ‘Conclusion’, touches on the possible connections between intercultural dialogue and dialogue of civilisations and argues for the enhancement of dialogical relationships as both a condition and an indispensable means for progression toward a more humane, peaceful and just world order.
Dialogism ranks as one of the preeminent turns in twentieth-century philosophy. Dialogical philosophy was first developed in the mid-twentieth century in Germany by Martin Buber, Franz Rosenzweig, Ferdinand Ebner, Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, in Russia by Mikhail Bakhtin, and later on in France by Emmanuel Levinas. In his now-famous I and Thou (1970; first published as Ich und du in 1937), Buber elucidated the idea that intersubjective relationships (I–other) and communication conveyed via dialogue are essential to human flourishing, and that dialogue is constitutive of human cognition. It is the study of these intersubjective relationships that comprises the dialogical philosophy.
1.1. Overview of Bakhtin’s Dialogism
In Russia dialogical philosophy was developed in-depth by Mikhail Bakhtin, who was active in the debates on aesthetics and literature in Russia during the 1920s. As a philosopher, Bakhtin was ‘discovered’ rather belatedly, mainly after the publication of his early philosophical works, in which the key concepts of his philosophy were introduced. He became known for his groundbreaking works in philology, literary criticism, aesthetics and cultural theory. Nonetheless, these diverse aspects of his creativity were first rooted in his philosophy.
Bakhtin’s philosophy offered a unique take on the conception of dialogism. Quite familiar with Buber’s work (see Friedman, 2001, p. 25), Bakhtin developed his original conception of dialogism. His ideas became more widely known when his works were rediscovered by Russian scholars in the 1960s. Thereafter, his ideas regarding dialogism spread and had a significant influence on the works of many philosophers in Europe, the United States and Latin America.
Bakhtin saw traditional systems as characterised by ‘monologism’ or the monologue delivered by ‘authority’ – whether proclaimed by scientists as ‘truth’, by politicians deciding what is in ‘the best interest’ of citizens or even by hegemonic authorities of one country who impose their ideas on other countries. In this paradigm, the consciousness of different individuals (or groups, societies, etc.) is supplanted by the unity of a single consciousness (power), which takes the metaphysical form of consciousness in general: an ‘Absolute I’ or ‘Absolute Spirit’ (or ‘Truth’, ‘Right’, ‘Manifest Destiny). Thus, in his view, traditional systems (whether education or government) were dominated by a single voice of authority or by unidirectional proclamations that dismissed individual opinions as irrelevant. As Bakhtin wrote, ‘On the basis of the philosophical monologism any substantial interaction of consciousnesses is impossible, and therefore any substantial dialogue is impossible’ (2000, pp. 60–1).
In contrast, Bakhtin offered the dialogical philosophy as the better paradigm, arguing in favor of the plurality of consciousnesses and ways of knowing. It holds that the notion of truth itself is not limited to only one consciousness, but that truth requires a plurality of consciousnesses. Truth is social by nature; it emerges at the point of substantial interaction among various consciousnesses.
Together with Buber and others in the field, Bakhtin considered the dialogic nature of consciousness to be constitutive of human personhood. He viewed dialogism as inseparable from the human persons between whom dialogue takes place. He focused on individuals – speaking of dialogism of consciousness, intersubjective relationships, cultural creativity and a variety of conflictive social relationships – in dialogue with themselves or others. He characterised the cultural, social and natural world of Being as one of shared ‘co-being’ (co-existence) with others.
Another key concept in Bakhtin’s theory is ‘outsideness’, meaning an ability to see things from a perspective outside oneself or outside the relationships in which one exists. I-and-the-other occupy positions of outsideness with respect to each other, thus reciprocally making possible our greater understanding. True dialogue enhances personal growth of both the self and the other. Analogous to individuals in relationship to one another, each culture also needs other cultures to provide it with an outside perspective to surmount its one-sidedness and help it better understand itself.
In ‘Notes made in 1970–1971’, Bakhtin concisely summarised some key tenets of his philosophy regarding the event of Being, self-consciousness, I-other relations, dialogism, language and freedom:
When consciousness came into existence…the world changed radically…It stopped simply being and started being in itself and for itself (these categories appear for the first time here) as well as for the other, because it has been reflected in the consciousness of the other (the witness and the judge): this has caused it to change radically, to be enriched and transformed…The reflection of the self in the empirical other through whom one must pass in order to reach I-for-myself (can this I-for-myself be solitary?). The absolute freedom of this I. But this freedom cannot change existence, so to speak, materially (nor can it want to) – it can change only the sense of existence (to recognise it, to justify it, and so forth); this is the freedom of the witness and the judge. It is expressed in the word. (1986b, pp.137–8)
1.1.1. Dialogism and a Personalist Ontology
Bakhtin’s dialogism is intimately related to intersubjectivity, i.e., ‘I-other’ relationships. This theme was also elaborated by Buber and Levinas. As his original contribution, Bakhtin grounded a personalist ontology, the understanding of Being as the co-being of I-other interrelations, as ‘the unitary and once-occurrent event of Being’ (1993, p. 12). Personalist ontology asserts the uniqueness of the event of ‘co-being’ and the plurality of perspectives of its participants. Dialogical relationships between I and the other (and ultimately between I and the Absolute Other) constitute the structure of Being understood as an ‘event’. This fundamental ontological structure determines the forms of existence and the forms of thought, language and cultural meaning as such. For the realisation of an event of Being, at least two personal consciousnesses are needed: this is the ‘co-being of being’. His analysis aims to help us come closer to an understanding of ‘the architectonic structure of the actual world-as-event’ (ibid., p. 61), revealed within the absolute coordinates of I and the other.
Bakhtin speaks of the ‘two-plane character of the valuative determinateness of the world – for myself and for the other’ (ibid., p. 74). I-and-the-other are architectonically two value-centers of life, different yet correlated with each other. He continues, ‘It is around these centers that all of the concrete moments of Being are distributed and arranged’ (ibid, p. 74). He approaches the philosophical one-and-many problem through a phenomenological grounding of the ontology of ‘Being as event’ (bytie kak sobytie) or ‘event of Being’ (sobytie bytiia), taking Being as fundamentally constituted through human activity.
Bakhtin’s ontological valorisation of the word ‘event’ (sobytie) stems from its etymology in Russian, in which sobytie can literally mean ‘co-being’ or ‘being with’, indicating an event that is shared simultaneously – co-existence (Holquist 2002, p. 25). He formulates the dialogic principle of responsibility or ‘answerability’ (otvetstvennost) as a personal task of unifying various phenomena of moral reality (such as arts and life, for example) based on their common social-ontological ground.
At the same time that Bakhtin characterises existence as the unique and unified event of Being, he also emphasises the plurality of perspectives of the participants in dialogue. Actual Being as an event is determined to be uniquely important not in or by itself, but precisely ‘in correlation with my own obligative uniqueness’ for me myself from my own unique place (1993, p. 46). The same is true for the others’ perspectives. Thus, I-and-the-other are both participating in the same event, each from our own position. Therefore, there is no contradiction between the valuative world-pictures of every participant from their unique places: ‘The truth [pravda] of the event is not the truth that is self-identical and self-equivalent in its content [istina] but is the rightful and unique position of every participant – the truth of each participant’s actual, concrete ought’ (Ibid, p. 46).
Unitary Being as event is defined architectonically, and its ‘parts’ are its participants – that is, the others to each other, with their engaged ‘participant thinking’ making it possible to grasp the unitary event simultaneously from inside and from outside of the concrete experience. The deepest foundations of the human person and its inner world have social dimensions. An individual is characterised as ‘dialogical self’ (Hermans and Hermans-Konopka 2010).
1.1.2. Dialogism Combines Diversity and Co-Existence (Unity in Diversity)
Dialogue does not necessarily result in complete harmony. Nor does it mire us in irreconcilable disharmony. But it does respect the dialectical relationships between its participants. It opposes I-other relationships in which one side or the other is either elevated or suppressed, where one side is dominated by the other. Where domination is the operative method, one side tends to neutralise the opposition until what passes for the equality of both sides is achieved, but which is merely an illusion. In reality, that approach creates either mutual isolation or illusory ‘social unity’.
On the contrary, Bakhtin criticises ethical theories that prioritise either the I or the other. He views I-and-the-other in opposition, but both existing within the unity of the event of Being. In that case, each side retains its uniqueness and equality of value. He describes I-other relationships as simultaneously mutual outsideness and connectedness in one co-being: as independent-interdependent, or ‘non-fused yet undivided’ or ‘unconfused and inseparable’ (nesliiannoe i nerazdel’noe). He argues that the ethical way to surmount this kind of inequality is to see in an abstract ‘other’ a concrete ‘you’.
Dialogism combines two interrelated qualities: diversity and co-existence. On the one hand, Bakhtin asserts the difference between I-and-other, underscoring the ideas of diversity and of the plurality of perspectives. He writes about ‘the clear demarcation of two consciousnesses, their contraposition and their interrelations’ and ‘a tense dialogic struggle’ on the boundaries between the individual’s own words and the other’s words (1986b, pp. 142–3). On the other hand, he emphasises the dialogic co-existence of I-and-other as co-participants in the event of Being. For him, ‘active agreement/disagreement…stimulates and deepens understanding’ (ibid., pp. 142–3). Creative understanding is result of dialogic ‘co-creativity of those who understand’ (ibid., pp. 142–3). He writes that an individual loves an other as ‘another’, and not as oneself, but ‘the other’s love of me sounds emotionally in an entirely different way to me…than the same love of me sounds to him, and it obligates him and me to entirely different things’ (1993, p. 46). The unitary event of love has a common center but two points of reference for its realisation, because an event of love is realised in the relationship between two different individuals, I and the other.
In Bakhtin’s theory, all the values of actual life and culture are concentrated around the basic moments in the architectonic of the actual world of the performed act or deed: ‘I-for myself, the other-for-me, and I-for-the-other’ (ibid., p. 54). It suggests the inequality of the I-and-the-other in the sense of the primary orientation of moral consciousness and deed toward the other rather than toward the self. This prioritising the other over the self stands in contrast to ethical systems in which ‘I’ is considered more important than ‘other’ (for example, those of Georg Simmel and Max Scheler). For Bakhtin, the values of what ought to be are correlated with I, while the values of what is are correlated with the other. The ought can be related by the acting I only to its self (but not imposed on the other), and in this sense, ‘universal’ values are not merely abstract and declarative ones, but they are the actual and operating motives of actions or deeds. I assume the ‘ought’ while providing an ‘ethical-aesthetical kindness to the other’, and this altruistic relationship is actively realised through my responsible act or deed.
The meaning of this architectonic contraposition of I-and-the-other is expressed in the fundamental moral principle of ‘absolute self-exclusion’ (absolutnoe sebia-iskluchenie, or exclusion of self, self-exception) (Bakhtin,1993, p. 75). This principle of self-exclusion from the values of the present-on-hand Being implies favoring the other and imparting these values to the other. Traditional ‘theoretical ethics’ was unable to grasp this principle of self-exclusion; thus, its articulation was an innovative characteristic of Bakhtin’s moral philosophy. He noted that this principle constitutes not only ‘the sense of all Christian morality’, but also that it is ‘the starting point for altruistic morality’ (ibid., p. 75).
1.1.3. Dialogism as a Constitutive Characteristic of Language
Dialogue lies at the heart of Bakhtin’s philosophy of language. He holds that dialogism, and all linguistic phenomena related to it, is a constitutive characteristic of language. He writes that the internal dialogism of word grows organically out of a stratified and heteroglot language, and ‘this double-voicedness [meaning two voices within the same utterance] in prose is prefigured in language itself (in authentic metaphors, as well as in myth), in language as a social phenomenon’ (1990c, p. 326). Moreover, the roots of novelistic dialogues ‘always reach deep down into the internal dialogic essence of language itself’ (ibid., p. 405). Yet he called his study ‘philosophical’ as opposed to ‘linguistic’; i.e., not limited by a linguistic, philological, literary or any other approach, but performed ‘on the borders of all the aforementioned disciplines, at their junctures and points of intersection’ (1986a, p. 103). He argued that multifaceted dialogic relations cannot be the subject only of linguistics and its methods, but rather need a multidisciplinary approach, conceiving language as living dialogue, which is the realm of metalinguistics, the study of language in its relationship to other aspects of culture.
As a mode of human communication using natural language, dialogism refers to relationships among persons engaged in that communication. Therefore to more fully understand dialogism, it is necessary to understand how these relationships are connected to language. According to Michael Holquist, Bakhtin’s dialogism is characteristic of a broad range of relations but mostly related to language. It is a kind of epistemology that seeks ‘to grasp human behavior through the use human beings make of language’ (Holquist, 2002, p.15).
Bakhtin’s approach was in contrast to early twentieth-century currents such as formalism and structuralism. He focused on the speech acts of individuals in which their interactive communication occurs. Here, within the individual consciousness of speakers and their communication with listeners (others), dialogical relationships emerge. He articulated the role of an internal dialogue in the formation of speech and consciousness. Inner speech is related to consciousness, and consciousness is related to activity. At the time Bakhtin was formulating his ideas, discussions about linguistics were focused on language in general and the formal sentence in particular, but he drew attention to speech and utterance. Accordingly, dialogic relations cannot exist among concepts, judgments or the elements of a language, and they do not reside within the language system as it is studied in linguistics. Rather, dialogic relations need to be studied as semantic relations among utterances, as the relations of utterances to reality and to the speaking author in the larger dialogue of speech communication (1986a, p.118).
For Bakhtin, ‘dialogical relations among utterances that also pervade individual utterances from within fall into the realm of metalinguistics’ (1986a, p. 114). This expresses the trans-linguistic or meta-linguistic character of the understanding of a word (or an utterance). In developing his conception of metalinguistics, Bakhtin extended the theory of ‘double-voicedness’ of the word, which had been shown to be present in novels, into the entire sphere of language. Metalinguistics has since become an area of analysis of dialogic relations.
In grounding his theory about ‘the dialogic nature of language, which was a struggle among socio-linguistic points of view’ (1990b, pp. 273–5), Bakhtin drew attention to ‘dialogized heteroglossia’ as manifested in the diverse ‘low genres’ – on the stages of local fairs and folk sayings – as opposed to the official unifying linguistic center of the nation. In relating these speech phenomena to the concept of the double-voiced word or double-voicedness, Bakhtin used the term ‘indirect speech’ (nepriamoe govorenie): utterances expressing indirect (not literal) meaning. This concept became one of the central notions of Bakhtin’s philosophy of word (2012, p. 28).
Unlike the traditional, purely linguistic approach to the concept of dialogue, Bakhtin offers a broader and more dynamic view of dialogic relations as the interplay among the voices of participants as integral personalities. In contrast to an over-simplistic understanding of dialogue, reducing it to ‘crude’ forms of dialogism as polemics or parody, he argues for a deeper understanding of dialogue. Dialogic relations involve:
confidence in another’s word, reverential reception (the authoritative word), apprenticeship, the search for and mandatory nature of deep meaning, agreement, its infinite gradations and shadings (but not its logical limitations and not purely referential reservations), the layering of meaning upon meaning, voice upon voice, strengthening through merging (but not identification), the combination of many voices (a corridor of voices) that augments understanding, departure beyond the limits of the understood, and so forth. (1986a, p. 121)
Dialogic relationships are expressed in many ways, ranging from a real dialogue between individuals to its artistic use in literary works, especially in the polyphonic novel. A dialogic orientation is a property of any word, and it is the natural orientation of any living word: ‘On all its various routes toward the object, in all its directions, the word encounters an alien word’ and inevitably enters in a living interaction with it. Bakhtin says further: ‘the word is born in a dialogue as a living rejoinder within it; the word is shaped in dialogic interaction with an alien word that is already in the object. A word forms a concept on its own object in a dialogic way’ (1990b, p. 279).
Bakhtin was interested in the dialogic life of words as expressed in novels as a window to understanding the inner world of consciousness, motives and actions of individuals in their relationships to themselves and to others. He believed that while dialogic relationships are impossible without logical and semantically referential relationships, they are not reducible to them. In order to become dialogic, referential relationships must be embodied. In other words, they must become words or utterances and receive authors as creators of the utterances that express their position. They must become personified utterances, expressing positions of various subjects, and entering into the dialogic relationships (Bakhtin, 2002, p. 206).
Moreover, the word can have a dialogic meaning only if it expresses the position of the subject behind it, to which it is possible to react dialogically. Dialogic relationships can permeate utterances and can exist at various levels and be expressed in many ways. The dialogic approach can be toward the whole utterance as well as toward any signifying part of an utterance, and even toward an individual word, if it expresses another person’s position and if within it two voices clash and interact dialogically (1984, p. 184). Dialogic relationships within the double-voiced word are a focal point of Bakhtin’s metalinguistics.
The double-voiced word ‘inevitably arises under conditions of dialogic interaction, that is, under conditions making possible an authentic life for the word’ (1984, p. 185). As supporting evidence, Bakhtin provided examples of ‘“nondirect speaking” – not in language but through language, through the linguistic medium of another – and consequently through a refraction of authorial intentions’ (1990c, p. 313).
The relationships within a real dialogue (as opposed to fictitious ones in novels) are fairly obvious as an exchange of syntactically independent remarks between at least two participants, the rejoinders of which are syntactically independent. Much more difficult to grasp and explain linguistically is the dialogic relationship between two voices within the same utterance – the double-voiced word in Bakhtin’s terminology, which is a single syntactic unit.
As Bakhtin indicated, the basic characteristic of any double-voiced word is the simultaneous presence of two voices (two speakers) within the same syntactical construction. One possible and heuristically promising approach in the linguistic analysis of this phenomenon is to compare the relationship between the two voices to the relationship between subject and predicate in the act of predication. Ludmila Gogotishvili (2006) has successfully applied this predicative interpretation in exploring the syntactic relationships between two voices within one utterance.
The analysis of this double-voicedness, through its analogy to the predicative act, is heuristically fruitful. It provides a linguistic interpretation of the properties of the double-voiced word (as well as the related concepts of monologism and polyphony). The concept of the dialogism of the double-voiced word, elaborated by Bakhtin at the linguistic level, serves as a basis for a better understanding of his concept of dialogism at the philosophical level. Accordingly, it also provides a deeper interpretation of his theory of language and of his dialogic philosophy.
These ideas regarding dialogue inspired later work by such philosophers as Karl Jaspers, Gabriel Marcel, Emmanuel Mounier and Paul Ricœur as well as the work on language done by philosophers such as Ludwig Wittgenstein, Karl-Otto Apel and Jürgen Habermas. Several other philosophers have also contributed to the theory of dialogue (Braun, 1996; Coll, 1990; Hösle, 2006; Meyer & Pleger, 2006: among others). As Raúl Fornet-Betancourt concludes: ‘all reflection about dialogue has to take into consideration that the constitutive fundamentality of dialogue for and with us exists prior to any instrumentalization or instrumental use of dialogue, or any programming of discursive strategies…This means that as human beings, prior to beginning any communication, we are already in dialogue’ (2012, p. 41).
Bakhtin applied his theory to many areas of the humanities. He developed dialogic versions of philosophical anthropology, ethics, aesthetics, philosophy of language and religious philosophy.
1.2. Dialogism as the Basis for Transformation of the Humanities
The humanities play a unique and important role in understanding and transforming human beings in their cultural manifestations. In order to realise their transformative potential in a conflicted world and to respond constructively to internal theoretical and external socio-cultural challenges, the humanities themselves need to undergo a self-transformation and revitalisation. This transformation is a process in which the dialectics between tradition and innovation is in play. One classic yet relevant source of innovation is Mikhail Bakhtin’s dialogic philosophy.
Bakhtin’s groundbreaking work had a revolutionary impact on the development of the humanities in the twentieth century, and its influence continues. He highlighted the personalist and dialogical dimensions of the human sciences. These dimensions need to be further articulated as part of the transformation of the humanities. His core philosophical ideas and principles were expressed in his early philosophical works – Toward a Philosophy of the Act (1993), written between 1919 and 1921, and ‘Author and Hero in Aesthetic Activity’ (1990a), also written in the 1920s – and were then further elaborated, albeit in different and terminologically transformed ways, in his later works in the context of his philosophical anthropology, moral philosophy, aesthetics, philosophy of language and religious philosophy, wherein he outlined dialogic versions of these disciplines. These later works also included criticisms of monologic thinking as opposed to dialogic thinking and elucidation of themes such as I-other relations and outsideness.
In Toward a Philosophy of the Act, Bakhtin critically analyzed the ‘philosophy of life’ as he strove to find a firm basis for the human sciences. In so doing, he pointed out its main, ethical deficiency. Bakhtin was nearer than Martin Heidegger (1927) to the methodological innovations of contemporary philosophical hermeneutics, such as its ethical aspect. Accordingly, he argued that understanding can never be achieved only from the point of view of the self; it requires the outside perspective of the other. He held that understanding is dialogic and, ideally, in dialogue, we should respect differences and interaction with others should be conducted in an ethical manner. Unlike the natural sciences (‘thought about the world’), the human sciences (‘sciences of the spirit’) study human beings and their spiritual world, the world of culture to which belong the cognising subjects themselves (‘thought in the world’) (Bakhtin, 1986c, p. 162). In natural sciences knowledge is explanation, while in human sciences knowledge refers to understanding. The natural sciences constitute a monologic form of knowledge, wherein the cognising subject contemplates only ‘a voiceless thing’. But the humanities study ‘expressive and speaking Being’, a being of the human soul. This being is self-revealing or freely revealing of itself for us in our act of knowing, but it cannot be grasped in the categories of the natural sciences: ‘soul is freely speaking to us about its immortality, but it is impossible to prove that’ (1996, p. 8). In the human sciences, the subject as such cannot be studied as a thing, for as a subject it cannot ‘become voiceless, and consequently, cognition of it can only be dialogic’ (Bakhtin, 1986d, p. 161). As Mikhail Epstein wrote, in this approach ‘the dialogue among cultures and the dialogue between the humanities and humanity’ (2012, pp. 57–68) is more important than scientific precision.
We have seen that Bakhtin’s dialogism generally challenges monologism, considering the latter as the inferior of the two. According to him, any impersonal, logical (monologic) meaning in the humanities is not primary, but only a secondary or ‘technical’ aspect of the process of knowing. He also goes beyond the traditional view of the value system in axiology. For him, the principal epistemological categories are the various types of dialogic relationships among persons, which constitute the ultimate goal of knowledge in the humanities. For example, in linguistics, the crucial categories are forms and types of speech communication. This personalist-dialogic understanding of the priorities in epistemology has far-reaching implications, not only for the ‘technology’ of humanitarian thinking, but also for its philosophical teleology.
Although human practical activity can be explained in part on an objective level, the crucial aspect is understanding human consciousness, motives, goals, and other subjective factors underlying the activity. Bakhtin held that true understanding requires two or more consciousnesses to participate, and that process is dialogic. Thus, research is comprised of questioning and answering, which is also a kind of dialogue. In the human sciences, which study creative works of the human spirit, understanding is the basic method of knowing.
Bakhtin’s methodology goes beyond texts and postmodern deconstruction toward individuals and communication with humans as spiritual beings. To understand is to grasp the living meaning of emotional experience and expression. Creative understanding involves the ‘dialogic movement’ of correlation of a given text with other texts and reinterpretation, in new contexts, as ‘a dialogue of personalities’ (1986d, pp. 161–2). This opens the space for creativity. Creative understanding supplements the text and it is ‘the co-creativity of those who understand’ (1986b, p. 142). Bakhtin stresses the ‘living word’, the dialogic relationships between individuals.
Bakhtin lamented the dehumanisation of culture and politics: in his critique of formalism and structuralism, he foresaw the emerging paradigms of postmodern thinking and illustrated ways to overcome and go beyond them. For many scholars, Bakhtinian ideas of dialogism serve as a guide to restoring effective communication among human beings as well as between human beings and nature, thus leading toward re-humanisation of the human sciences.
Bakhtin put forward the idea of the comprehensive character of dialogue. Consequently, the human sciences, dealing with this human world of relationships, need to become dialogic – to be founded upon dialogism. Creative implementation of dialogism in the humanities broadens its potential for innovative transformation.
Bakhtin showed that dialogism, together with all the linguistic phenomena related to it, is a constitutive characteristic of all language. As such, dialogism is not some abstract concept, but lies at the very foundation of culture and its creative potential. Better understanding and implementation of dialogue taught in the humanities can enhance both the human and natural sciences. Through effective dialogue, as envisioned by Bakhtin, scientific ideas can flourish with synergic effects among individuals and cultures.
The dilemmas facing the contemporary humanities can be understood in terms of the Bakhntinian contrast between the one-dimensional, monologic world of stereotypes and authoritarian dicta and the pluralistic, dialogic world of creative thinking, recognition of others as equals, personal moral responsibility and shared co-existence and an openness toward the cultural-historical creativity of individuals. The task of the humanities is to enhance dialogic relationships in order to fully realise the dialogic potential of culture and its creative possibilities for humanity. In our conflicted world, replete with social and global problems, the realization of the dialogical potential of culture is a condition for the possibility of the progressive development and perhaps even the survival of humanity.
Bakhtin’s ideas regarding philosophical anthropology (including human self-awareness and one’s capacity to be other to oneself) offer a new view of the phenomenon of humanity, and its creative development opens a new perspective on ‘the rehumanization of the humanities’ (Epstein, 2012, pp. 62–6). Above all, Bakhtin’s philosophical worldview is an inexhaustible source of inspiration for the innovation of the humanities, aiming for a more humane and peaceful world.
The humanities can play an important role in the enhancement of dialogic consciousness and relationships, which are crucial for advancement toward a dialogic civilisation. The realisation of human dialogic potential ultimately depends on us. Transforming the humanities in this way can provide encouraging support to the creative efforts of those who want to cultivate dialogic and harmonious relationships with ourselves, others, diverse cultures and the social and natural worlds within which we are living.
1.3. Dialogue of Cultures
Bakhtin’s works contributed to the theoretical grounding of the ideas of cultural diversity and dialogue. His Problemy poetiki Dostoevskogo (Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics, 2002) presented a comprehensive view of the theory of dialogism and culture, which is crucial for understanding his later works. He challenged the ‘centrist’ view of culture and universalistic claims that present the dominating culture as superior and its canon as a ‘model’ for others. His thesis of recognition of the other includes valuing the plurality of cultures. Plurality does not mean isolated, separated factions, but rather an interrelated diversity.
In contrast to Oswald Spengler’s concept of closed cultural worlds (1926–1928), Bakhtin viewed the unity of a particular culture as ‘an open unity’ (1986c, p. 6) and a nondeterministic concept of an open history, which is the result of human actions, thus entailing an ethics of co-responsibility. In contrast to the short-sighted perspective of ‘small time’, he argued for the understanding and evaluation of the future ‘on the level of great time’, which is not predetermined and which is open to ‘unexpectedness, as it were, “surprisingness,” absolute innovation, miracle, and so forth’ (1986d, p. 167). His theory conceptually embraced various aspects of the dynamic life of culture, with shifting boundaries and ‘border zones’ of mutual influence and the creative interaction of various areas of culture.
The relation of otherness and different positions of outsideness generate what Bakhtin called ‘the excess of seeing’. This ‘excess of my seeing, knowing, and possessing’ in relation to all other human beings is founded in ‘the uniqueness and irreplaceability of my place in the world’ and my position of outsideness (1990a, p. 23). This is advantageous because in my dialogue with you, we can combine my excess or surplus with your surplus, share our visions of things that each of us see from our own perspectives and, in doing so, better understand ourselves and each other and have a more complete version of the event of our joint existence.
Bakhtin extended the principle of outsideness to the realm of cultures, drawing an analogy between the self-consciousness of an individual and the self-consciousness of cultures. Similar to individuals, each culture needs another culture to provide it with an outside perspective to help it surmount its one-sidedness and better understand itself: ‘It is only in the eyes of another culture that the foreign culture reveals itself fully and profoundly’ (1986c, p. 7).
He emphasised the creative nature of understanding, by which he meant that understanding is the result of one’s own active position in a Socratic-like questioning – from one’s own unique place in the event of Being. This means seeking answers to questions in foreign cultures and engaging in dialogue with others, thus generating new meaning. This is a reciprocal and mutually beneficial relationship. We seek answers to our own questions in a foreign culture; at the same time, the foreign culture benefits from our questioning because we raise new questions that the foreign culture itself had not previously raised. Thus, the foreign culture reveals ‘its new aspects and new semantic depths’, enriching and deepening our understanding (Bakhtin, 1986c, p. 7).
Yet the importance of recognising the other does not mean accepting the other’s perspective at the cost of neglecting one’s own perspective or forgetting one’s own roots. Completely identifying oneself with another culture and viewing the world only through the eyes of the foreign culture would be a kind of reverse one-sidedness, neither adding anything new nor enriching understanding: ‘creative understanding does not renounce itself, its own place in time, its own culture; and it forgets nothing’ (ibid., p. 7). Instead, contact between cultures should be a dialogic encounter, just as contact between I and the other. Furthermore, the perspectives provided by each culture can create a deeper understanding and new meaning by virtue of outsideness: ‘A meaning only reveals its depth once it has encountered and come into contact with another, foreign meaning: they engage in a kind of dialogue, which surmounts the closedness and one-sidedness of these particular meanings, these cultures’ (ibid., p. 7).
Some interpretations of Bakhtin’s concepts, when taken in isolation and understood too abstractly in an absolute sense, can result in the conclusion that his theory is contradictory and relativistic. However, his ideas are actually interrelated and contextualised. His pluralistic view of interculturality does not entail cultural relativism in a negative sense, as a rejection of transcendental meaning and universal values. Instead, Bakhtin understood the uniqueness of each individual and their dialogic communication and co-existence as based on shared values. He expanded the meaning of ‘dialogue’ to include intercultural relations. Analogously, the ‘dialogue of cultures’ takes place between original cultures complementing each other on the common ground of universal human values. He wrote, ‘such a dialogic encounter of two cultures does not result in merging or mixing. Each retains its own unity and open totality, but they are mutually enriched’ (1986c, p. 7).
The dialogic worldview embraces openness to the other and collaborative relationships, an ability to consider others’ viewpoints and interests, with the goal of mutual understanding and co-existence, and a willingness to cooperate in search of truth and solutions to common problems. It also implies a concept of an open history, which is result of human actions, and thus an ethics of responsibility of each of us for our choices and the consequences of our actions, which affect others and ultimately the future of humanity.
1.4. From Dialogism of Individuals to Dialogue of Cultures
The postmodern concept of the ‘death of the subject’ shows a tendency toward culture-centered or socio-centered objectification and ‘dehumanisation’. In contrast, when we apply the term ‘dialogue’ in relation to cultures or civilisations, it is important to avoid ‘depersonalisation’ and to keep in mind the personal nature of dialogic relationships.
Dialogue is a phenomenon of personal being. This idea was articulated in Bakhtin’s philosophy, which was essentially personalist and at the same time dialogic. He developed the concept of an individual who actively participates in being and self-realising, and who has a moral obligation to assume responsibility for personal uniqueness and being. For Bakhtin, dialogism is inseparable from the individuals who are engaged in dialogue. A person perceives the world only from a certain perspective. Thus a person needs to go to a certain context, beyond his or her own point of view, and assume a position of ‘outsideness’ to be in dialogue with others and ultimately with the Absolute Other.
Bakhtin wrote about dialogue not only as communication, but as the metaphysics of personality and meaning. For him, dialogue takes place first of all within a spiritual context. In this regard, his concept of dialogue is similar to the concepts developed by Martin Buber and Emmanuel Levinas. At the center of his dialogism is a person who is in dialogue with him/herself and with others. Bakhtin considered the dialogic nature of consciousness and personality to be constitutive of human personhood; he viewed dialogism as inseparable from the human persons between whom dialogue takes place. He focused on individuals – speaking of dialogism of consciousness, intersubjective relationships, cultural creativity and a variety of conflictive social relationships – in dialogue with themselves or others. He characterised the cultural, social and natural world of Being as shared co-being (co-existence) with others.
From this perspective, the expression ‘dialogue of cultures’ or ‘dialogue of civilisations’ is a metaphor. The actual dialogue takes place among individuals, groups or communities as representatives or bearers of different cultures. The interaction of different meanings, values and norms takes place within the field of consciousness of the individual, who is both the source and result of meaning-formation and the development of cultural experience.
Bakhtin also used his expression ‘a dialogic encounter of two cultures’ as a metaphor, in the sense that the meaning of each culture reveals its depth when ‘they are engaged in a kind of dialogue’ (1986, p. 7). This use of ‘dialogue’ as a metaphor is heuristically rich as a concept, describing the mutual relationships and influence of cultures. Nevertheless, one can ask: Why use the metaphor of ‘dialogue’ to describe intercultural relations instead of using more neutral terms, such as ‘interaction’, ‘coexistence’ or ‘mutual influence’? I believe that ‘dialogue’ has become an established term because it articulates a personal dimension (and sensitivity to values) in cultural relationships.
Bakhtin understood the uniqueness of each individual and their dialogic communication and co-existence as based on shared values. He expanded the meaning of ‘dialogue’ to include intercultural relations. Analogously, the ‘dialogue of cultures’ takes place between original cultures complementing each other on the common ground of universal human values. He wrote, ‘Such a dialogic encounter of two cultures does not result in merging or mixing. Each retains its own unity and open totality, but they are mutually enriched’ (1986, p. 7).
One of the causes of misinterpretations of Bakhtin has been the paradoxical reception of his works by the French structuralists Julia Kristeva and Tzvetan Todorov. In these interpretations the personalist core of his philosophy was obfuscated, and culture was presented as unrelated to human subjectivity. Bakhtin’s ideas of dialogue and dialogism were presented in the light of a theory of communication rather than as a metaphysics of human existence as ‘co-being’. His pluralistic view of culture was interpreted relativistically, as a rejection of transcendental meaning and universal values. Bakhtin was first perceived only as the author of the ideas of ‘chronotope’, ‘carnival’, ‘the culture of laughter’ and, related to these, the ambivalence of culture, without considering his philosophy and theory of dialogism. These depersonalising and relativist interpretations of Bakhtin’s concepts have been criticised by various authors, who point out that his statements should be understood in the larger context of his complete works, considering his thought and his philosophical position as a whole (Bibler 1991; Averintsev 2001). Bakhtin’s theory contributed to the dismantling of the one-dimensional, ‘monolithic’ view of culture and to a deeper understanding of the diversity of cultures.
In his analysis of culture, Bakhtin remains a personalistic philosopher. He views culture as an anthropological phenomenon, as a product of human subjectivity. In this sense, culture is personalistic by its very nature. According to him, culture reveals everything human – the life of the human body and spirit.
At first glance, it may seem that an individual and a culture are too different from each other to apply the person-related term ‘dialogue’ to culture. Contemporary cultural studies and the study of civilisations are concerned not with individuals, but with large-scale cultural processes and historico-civilisational, global realities. In terms of systems theory, which views human culture or civilisation as ‘a multilevel hierarchical system’, an individual as an anthropological reality is at a microscopically small level and is too comparatively far from the large-scale general levels of culture or civilisation to be a significant factor in these analyses. Between these two levels lie a variety of layers of social, political, economic and historical reality. From this perspective, the personal or anthropological level’s influence is mediated by these intermediate planes, and everything that occurs on the level of the individual is considered an insignificant factor.
Nevertheless, there are some intermediate links that show how the theory and practice of dialogue can be translated into wider spheres of cultural reality. One of the most important of these links is language. Language is intrinsically dialogic and deals with relationships among persons engaged in communication. Bakhtin’s philosophy of language asserts the dialogic nature of language. As I have mentioned elsewhere, ‘the analysis provides further arguments in support of the Bakhtinian idea that dialogism, and all linguistic phenomena related to it, is a constitutive characteristic of the language as such. Consequently, the various forms of dialogue related to language (including a dialogue of cultures) bear this “genetic” dialogic property immanent in language’ (Demenchonok, 2016, p. 115).
Scholars provide other arguments demonstrating the connections between the personal character of dialogism and its cultural manifestations. They highlight the spiritual and moral content of culture. The use of the term ‘dialogue’ with reference to intercultural relations implies a certain view of culture. In contrast to the view of cultural relations as an ‘objective process’ (similar to deterministic historicism) of interaction between ‘objective’ cultures, intercultural dialogue refers to the relationship of living human beings to culture. Through culture, individuals are engaged in a search for creative answers to their existential questions.
Not every aspect of culture deserves to be a subject of intercultural exchange and dialogue. The spiritual and moral ‘soul’ of each culture is the most valuable aspect. The personalist and spiritual concepts of culture and of the dialogue of cultures have been highlighted in some recent publications. According to Melikov and Gezalov, it is impossible to talk about a dialogue of cultures without considering a culture of dialogue. At the heart of a dialogue of cultures there are two ideas. The first is the idea of culture as a field of interaction. No culture is self-sufficient; each culture is a developing system, and it needs to be open and interact with other cultures as a condition of its growth and flourishing. The second idea for a culture of dialogue is unity in the diversity of cultures. Cultures are different, and their interaction and development cannot be realised without their being somehow interrelated and united. The unity of cultures is based on their spiritual essence (rooted in religion) and moral content. Not every product of human activity deserves to be considered a culture. Culture includes only those human activities and their products that have spiritual and moral meaning and serve the good (Melikov & Gezalov, 2014).
Vladimir Bibler offered an original interpretation of Bakhtin’s concept of the dialogue of cultures. According to Bibler, the idea of dialogue became the general characteristic of humanitarian thinking as a definition of reason oriented toward communication and mutual understanding. The totality of human culture is considered a unified, creative universe, in which the inhabitants are represented by their works and are engaged in a certain implicit or virtual dialogue according to dialogical logics, or ‘dialogics’. Each culture (whether ancient Greek, medieval, modern, Asian, etc.) ‘in great time’ (using Bakhtin’s expression, 1986, p. 4) is understood as a ‘subject’ and as one of the participants in a dialogue regarding the ultimate questions of human being. As Bibler writes,
Such being of cultures in Great time (…and their co-being) is always personified. The communication and dialogue (within the consciousness of an individual and his being) take place not between abstract cultures as such, but rather – between Prometheus and Don Quixote, Oedipus and Hamlet, Augustine and Pascal…All these characters or images have been elaborated during the centuries as alternatives (and catharses) of our moral and creative decisions. (1991, p. 104)
In this sense, these and other archetypal characters, representing particular cultures and certain values, are engaged in a virtual dialogue among themselves, and human culture as a living, creative organism is supposed to transform the virtual interaction into actual dialogue.
The connections between the dialogism of an individual and a culture are better understood in the light of the quest for the self-transformation and rehumanisation of the humanities. Bakhtin’s ideas regarding a philosophical anthropology (including human self-awareness and one’s capacity to be other to oneself) offer a new view of the phenomenon of humanity. Dialogic relationships form the very foundation of all human activities – self-consciousness, intersubjective relationships, cognition, communication and cultural creativity – from the personal level to the most general level of dialogue among cultures.
1.5. Personal Spiritual Practices in Dialogue with Spiritual Traditions
Dialogism of human consciousness and personality is present in the internal dialogue and relationship of individuals with themselves. It is manifested in many ways in so-called practices of the self and of self-formation, including spiritual practices. Michel Foucault, Georges Bataille, Gilles Deleuze, Pierre Hadot, Sergey Horujy and other philosophers pay attention to this new anthropological reality and to the study of ‘practices of the self’. As a heuristic paradox, an in-depth understanding of an ‘inner universe’ and the inner practices of the individual helps to open oneself to dialogical relations with others.
Examining historical epochs, Foucault distinguishes three models of practices of the self (pratiques de soi): the Platonic model as self-knowledge, the Hellenistic model as ethical self-cultivation and the Christian model of ‘self-renunciation’ as religious self-cultivation and the condition for salvation. Foucault’s main concern is the relation of models of practices of the self to power – ecclesiastic or secular. The ‘technology of the self’ – traditionally developed as a means for self-formation and spiritual growth and then adopted by the pastoral powers for ecclesiastic control over the individual’s soul and conduct – has been, since the eighteenth century, transformed by the modern state as ‘the political technology of individuals’ and used by secular governments to control and manipulate citizens’ ways of thinking and living. Foucault’s attempt to find an alternative to the Western morality of self-renunciation led him to study the Hellenistic model of practices of the self. He sketched ideas for a new ethics of the care of the self as ‘the conscious practice of freedom’ and of a new anthropological strategy as the ‘esthetics of existence’ (1997, p. 281).
Foucault’s project remained unfinished due to his untimely death, and it has certain limitations. Pierre Hadot praised Foucault’s meticulous description of the practices of the self as articulated by Stoic philosophers. At the same time, in his opinion, Foucault’s description of ‘techniques of the self’ is ‘focused far too much on the “self”, or at least on a specific conception of the self’ (Hadot, 1999. p. 207). Hadot stresses the openness and the relational aspect of the practices of the self and believes that a ‘conversion toward the self’ leads to ‘the higher psychic level’ and ‘a new being-in-the-world’, in which ‘one identifies oneself with an “Other”: nature, or universal reason, as it is present within each individual’ (p. 211). This implies a radical transformation of perspective, which has a universalist, cosmic dimension: ‘interiorization is a going beyond oneself; it is universalization’ (ibid.).
Another limitation of Foucault’s project is that his ‘Christian model’ relates mainly to Western Christianity, ignoring the theological and ascetic experience of Eastern Christianity. His model of practices of the self is limited by the analysis of early Christian ascesis as described by John Cassian (Foucault was fascinated by the rigorous way Cassian defined and struggled against the ‘flesh’) and Augustine. However, Foucault does not differentiate between these two theologians regarding cardinal questions concerning the freedom of human will and divine grace. His analysis of the sacrament of confession is based mainly on examples from the Catholicism of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Consequently, some philosophers have begun to rethink Foucault’s theory of the practices of the self in their search for a new anthropology. For example, Sergey Horujy compares Foucault’s theory of practices of the self and the Eastern Orthodox ascetic tradition of Hesychasm, revealing an affinity between their insights into new approaches to philosophical anthropology (2015).
Hesychasm (from the Greek ἡσυχία [hesychia], meaning stillness, rest, quiet, silence) is an ancient mystical tradition of prayer and spiritual practices in the Eastern Orthodox Church. It is mental prayer (‘prayer of the heart’) requiring solitude and quiet; its practitioners are called ‘Hesychasts’. The term hesychia, found in monastic literature since the fourth century, designates the mode of life chosen by hermits dedicated to contemplation and unceasing prayer. Hesychasm can refer to solitary life (eremitical life), anchoretic monasticism in silence (as opposed to collective monasticism), the technique of inner prayer with the aim of union with God – the Jesus Prayer – or the theology of St. Gregory Palamas (Palamism).
The hesychast tradition is rooted in the earliest Christian asceticism of the fourth century. Depiste undergoing many crises and interruptions, it continues today. As the ascetic and mystical practice of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, Hesychasm has its roots in the monastic practices of the Desert Fathers of ancient Coptic Egypt and Palestine. It flourished in fourteenth-century Byzantium, was nurtured and preserved by the monks of Mount Athos, had a renaissance in Greece and Russia in the nineteenth century, and later spread to southeastern Europe – to Bulgaria, Serbia, and Rumania, as well as the Caucasus of Georgia. Eastern Orthodox Christianity considers Hesychasm to be the very core of Orthodox spirituality. In the Orthodox tradition, Patristics (teachings and texts of the church fathers) is complemented and deepened by ascetic practice, which aims to achieve communion and unity with Christ.
Hesychast theology is founded on St. Gregory Palamas’s Orthodox doctrine of the divine energies. In his treatises (2002), he asserted that divine and divinising illumination and grace is not the essence (ουσία), but rather the energy (ενέργειαι) of God. In addressing the question of how it is possible for human beings to have knowledge of a transcendent and unknowable God, he described how God manifests himself to the world, maintaining the Orthodox doctrine that God’s essence is unknowable, but his non-hypostatic, non-autonomous energies are revealed to the world by his actions and are united with humanity. Palamas also espoused the possibility of the vision of the uncreated divine light of God, with the help of repentance, monastic solitude, spiritual discipline and unceasing contemplative prayer. In accordance with the patristic tradition, he maintained that the existential living experience of the deifying energy of the Holy Spirit endows the Hesychastic way of life with special theological meaning, which aims for the union of humanity with God and the charismatic theosis (divinisation) of humanity, which is the highest form of spiritual life for the faithful. The source and power of human theosis is not divine essence, but the grace of God – the divinising energy, by participation in which one is divinised. At the heart of Palamas’s theology is the history of salvation – not only as the biblical story, but also as the story of the Christian faithful, striving after perfection and gradually ascending until they encounter God in the vision of his glory.
Created (human) beings can contact the energies of uncreated divine being, but not the essence of it. Thus, the Hesychast spiritual practice of unceasing Jesus Prayer is founded on the belief that through ascetic works and the grace of God, the union of human and divine energy, belonging to ontologically separated modes of being, can be achieved. Through the discipline of frequent or unceasing repetition of prayers, believers aspire to reach a state of non-discursive prayer, aiming at union with God on a level beyond images, concepts or language. This process involves attention – being focused on the mind and heart, attention to oneself, memory, and staying awake (vigil).
The sphere of prayer has a stepped structure of spiritual processes, which takes a great deal of time and effort, until the heart learns to pray automatically. While there is a certain amount of technique involved, it is usually emphasised that the prayer of the heart is not a mechanical process, but a gift God’s grace. This is a manifestation of synergy, or the cooperation of human and divine wills, which is necessary for salvation and in which the divine will is the most important factor.
The combination of unceasing prayer and attention gives birth to holistic anthropological practice, in which the whole human being is involved and transformed in its entirety. These practices – not limited to an empirical human being, but oriented toward communion with God – attain meta-empirical and meta-anthropological dimensions. The individual is open to change not only in the sphere of reality, but also in his or her very being. This openness of the person is achieved through the love of God and neighbour and through personal communication in love.
The Hesychast prayer has evolved from a primarily oral monastic tradition to a more widespread written tradition, and now it has also become more widely known and practiced among the laity. The theme of Hesychast prayer is a subject studied in theology, philosophical anthropology and psychology.
One of the key issues of any spiritual practice is the question: Can the individual’s personal work of spiritual self-transformation – focused on ascension toward the highest mode of being and aiming for unity with God – be combined with a rich social life and interpersonal relations? (Horujy, 2015). The personal inner practice is an individual occurrence, but it is realised in dialogue with others, and it is connected with some comprehensive historical and social wholesomeness – with a spiritual tradition.
A valuable insight into understanding the above-mentioned question can be found in Russian Hesychasm, which continued the main classical characteristics of the mystical-ascetic tradition while being enriched by specific Russian characteristics. On the one hand, in Hesychasm, humankind’s aspiration toward unity with God has always been understood as an alternative to the ordinary, ‘earthly’ plane of existence, and the realisation of this aspiration led to the development of new anthropological practices and strategies: namely, the Hesychast discipline of the Jesus Prayer. This discipline requires maximum concentration and extremely strenuous inner work, which can be successfully accomplished only in quiet conditions, free from any distractions. On the other hand, Hesychasm at its mature stage became more conscious of the universal-human nature of its practice and way of existence, and thus tended to translate itself into the surrounding Christian world. This characteristic is reflected in the specificity of Russian Hesychasm and its tendency toward openness to the world – the active interaction between ascetic tradition and society.
In the first decades of the nineteenth century, the phenomenon of eldership emerged. It embodied a union of the spiritual and the cultural traditions of Russia. The monastic elders were Hesychasts with inexhaustible love and the ability to see deeply into a person’s inner soul. They served as spiritual counselors through personal contacts, not only helping to solve personal problems, but also introducing people to the Hesychast way of life. Elders, such as those in the Optina Pustin’ Monastery, combined the individual work of spiritual self-transformation with social life. In the eldership, the openness of Russian Hesychasm toward the surrounding Christian world was manifested in a self-sacrificing willingness to accept those who suffer, communicating in love and guiding them toward the Hesychastic way of life in Christ.
Hesychast spirituality attracted the attention of Fyodor Dostoevsky. At the beginning of his work on The Brothers Karamazov, he made a pilgrimage to Optina Pustyn’ Monastery, the main center of Russian Hesychasm. There he found inspiration for many aspects of this novel.
In reconstructing Dostoevsky’s view of human beings and of Hesychast spirituality, Horujy examines this novel. In this project, he relied on Bakhtin’s analysis of Dostoevsky’s poetics as the way to anthropology through the prism of poetics. The poetics of the polyphonic novel are built out of personal elements, but they are also anthropological, which makes it possible to reconstruct the anthropology of the novel, conceiving it as a polyphonic ensemble of ‘individual anthropologies’.
In the world depicted in The Brothers Karamazov, there is an instance or an ethical center embodied by ascetic-monastic elders, such as the Elder Zosima, who possesses high spiritual, valuative and moral authority. While deeply personal, at the same time, spiritual practices have a dialogic dimension, including the master-disciple relationship and a connection to the spiritual tradition. In notes made in 1970–71, referring to the meeting of two consciousnesses in the process of understanding and as an example of the role of the second consciousness and the outsideness of an observer, Bakhtin mentions an episode related to one of the novel’s central characters, the monastic elder Father Zosima, who listens to a confession from a ‘mysterious visitor’: ‘The event that has an observer, however distant, closed, and passive he may be, is already a different event’ (Bakhtin, 1986, p. 136).
Horujy stresses the personalised nature of the discourse in Dostoevsky’s novels as a plurality of personal sub-discourses, representing the voices of definite persons and their consciousnesses. Each personal voice-discourse develops autonomously while in dialogue with the voices of the others: ‘Thus the world of the novel has the nature and structure, corresponding to the famous Bakhtin concept of “polyphony”, or many-voiced dialogue of free and equal persons-voices’ (Horujy, 2008, p. 2).
The Hesychast tradition also represents an original view of human beings, of their consciousness and actions. The reconstruction of and philosophical reflection on Hesychast practices and spiritual traditions, in the light of the quest for a new anthropology, can provide heuristically valuable insights, which can serve as the basis for the development of a new anthropology.
Horujy develops ‘synergic anthropology’ through a reconstruction of Hesychasm, focusing on its anthropological meaning and insights for a new approach to philosophical anthropology. Synergic anthropology is oriented toward exploring the rich philosophical and psychological potential of Hesychast and other traditions of spiritual practice and applying it to the development of a new, comprehensive anthropological model. It is developed as an alternative to classical philosophical anthropology, which is based on the principles of subject, essence and substance and uses a methodology of abstract postulates and speculative essentialist constructions.
The basic concept of synergic anthropology is humankind’s attainment of ‘openness’ – the unlocking of one’s self, or anthropological unlocking. This unlocking is any kind of human encounter with the Other, including another person or the surrounding reality. This openness, understood energically, occurs during the encounter of the configuration of the energies of a human being with the energies of his or her Other (Horujy, 2015, p. 124). This unlocking becomes constitutive for the human person only if it takes place in extreme experience. In all extreme anthropological manifestations, which he calls the anthropological border, Horujy describes three areas corresponding to the three basic kinds of constitutive anthropological unlocking: ontological, ontic and virtual.
The first and highest kind of unlocking, related to spirituality, is the ontological unlocking, in which a human being attains his or her openness, actualising his or her relation to being as distinct from present empirical being (the ontological difference). The main sphere of this unlocking is religious life. In the Hesychast practice of ontological unlocking, ‘human energies achieve openness to the Other-being, to “personal being-communion” playing the part of the meta-anthropological telos of the practice’ (Horujy, 2015, p. 124). Thus Hesychast practice served as a prototype of ontological unlocking. A similar kind of anthropological unlocking can be found in the spiritual practices of other religions.
The second kind of unlocking is the so-called ontic unlocking. Its extreme experience does not actualise ontological difference, but is restricted to present being. Its examples are related to the area of the unconscious, such as neuroses, manias, etc. The third kind is the virtual unlocking, which is realised in virtual practices, for example in cyberspace.
In response to the current situation of anthropological crisis, Horujy offers an alternative anthropological paradigm, which must give the human personality space for self-realisation in its integral, unabridged form. Such a paradigm is represented by the personal paradigm of inner practice, the phenomena of spiritual tradition and the dialogue between spiritual traditions. This broad scope of practices and strategies can be spread through the modern world as a means to overcome the catastrophic tendencies of the current anthropological situation. Horujy concludes that the old paradigms of ascetic anthropology (such as inner practice and spiritual tradition) can be helpful for modern persons.
Through studies of inner practice in the context of spiritual traditions, Horujy highlights the role of spiritual tradition as a medium for connecting human beings with culture and with global reality. The most important of these levels is spiritual tradition. Inner practice is an individual occurrence, but it is inseparably connected with some comprehensive, super-individual, historical and social wholeness. The main reason for this lies in the ontological and meta-anthropological nature of inner practice. Spiritual traditions include the organisation, interpretation and examination of the experience, which provides direction and individual help in the movement toward a meta-empiric goal. Spiritual tradition is inner-personal and trans-individual, and it is a result of the efforts of many generations in forming this experience, in developing many psychic and hermeneutical procedures and methods. Although each spiritual tradition is unique, spiritual traditions are not isolated; they are dialogically related (Lochhead, 2012; Westoby & Dowling, 2013).
To the existing philosophical grounding of intercultural and interreligious dialogues, Horujy adds more support from his theoretical perspective, according to which each of the steps of a hierarchy of increasingly profound and differentiated forms of communication aims at personal transformation. In Hesychasm, these forms gradually approach the paradigm of the trinitarian divine being, called perichoresis in Greek (from the Greek peri-, meaning ‘around’, and chorein, meaning ‘go forward’ or ‘contain’) and circumincession in Latin (from the Latin circum-, meaning ‘around’, and incedere, meaning ‘to go, to step, approach’). The term means the ‘interpenetration’ of the three persons of the Trinity. It describes a ‘timeless process of permanent mutual exchange of being, like usual communication is the exchange of information’ (2012, p. 6). It is ontological or absolute communication: ‘This form of communication characterizes Divine being, which is considered in Christianity to be personal (hypostatic) being’ (ibid.).
The quest for the means and strategies of harmonious relations between religions through dialogue is increasingly important in our post-secular age. In his study of the history of the contacts between world religions, Horujy distinguishes two different approaches or models of a dialogue of spiritual traditions and their respective religions: one formal, the other more personal. The formal approach is based on the principle that all discussions must be based only on the aspects held in common, must discuss them comprehensively and must reach agreement among all the participants regarding these common elements, which should thereafter determine their mutual relations and ensure harmony between them. This model is currently predominant, and it may work well at the beginning of the dialogical process, mobilising the potential for mutual accord and countering the extremist trends of mutual intolerance and aggression. However, such a reductive approach ignores all the profundity of spiritual experience and its concrete features, which are specific and unique to each participant. This kind of limited dialogue is not comprehensive and cannot achieve any real rapprochement between its participants; neither can it have any profound influence on the situation.
One possible alternative to formal communication is dialogue based on the model of personal communication. It is the face-to-face communication of living persons who possess their own unique personal and spiritual experiences. As Horujy explains, personal communication and rapprochement are not solely based on identical or coinciding features. Although the divergences between participants can provoke mutual estrangement, in personal, face-to-face conversation, participants’ differences do not hinder communication; rather, they can spark mutual interest and stimulate dialogue (Horujy, 2011, pp. 7–8).
Is it possible to combine the personal nature of spiritual experience and the social character of communication in large communities? It is certainly not an easy task. Nevertheless, Horujy argues that it is possible, but that it can only succeed under certain conditions. Such communication should be informal, and it should be genuine interest in the participants’ personal experiences that stimulates such interactions. The crucial precondition is mutual trust: an openness to the Other and a readiness to exchange personal and spiritual experience is possible only if there is ‘trust in the genuineness of the Other’s spiritual experience’ (Horujy, 2011, p. 8). He called this the ‘encounter in the depths’, in which ‘two radically different spiritual worlds, out of the depths of their experience, become capable to see and appreciate the profundity of the experience of each other and exchange elements of this experience’ (Horujy, 2012, p. 6).
As an example of this model of dialogue based on personal communication, Horujy again presents Hesychasm, in which, as we have seen above, the inner practice of an individual takes place in dialogue with a spiritual tradition. The spiritual tradition serves as the medium for connecting an individual with the community and with the wider spheres of culture and the global world. The main reason for this lies in the ontological and meta-anthropological nature of the inner practice. The concepts of inner practice and spiritual tradition are considered the means of transferring the anthropological phenomena onto the broader levels of culture; thus inner practice and a spiritual tradition are a meta-anthropological strategy. In relation to this, there are ‘associate practices’ or side practices of a spiritual-cultural tradition, as expressed in literature and the arts (Horujy 2015, pp. 123-42). Moreoever, although each spiritual tradition is unique in its own way, spiritual traditions are not isolated, and they display a tendency toward more dialogical relationships. The spiritual tradition is the spiritual core of any religion. Thus the advancement of dialogue between spiritual traditions is essential for dialogue among different religions.
In comparing spiritual traditions – such as Roman Catholic spiritual exercises, Eastern-Orthodox Hesychasm, classical yoga, Tibetan tantric Buddhism, Taoism, Zen and Islamic Sufism – Horujy discerns in them some of the universal (ontological, methodological and anthropological) elements of spiritual practice. For example, Christian Hesychasm and Buddhism both represent the meta-anthropological strategies and well-developed methodologies of spiritual practice. They also have substantial similarities in how their practitioners view reality. The contacts between spiritual traditions and their dialogue are a part of intercultural dialogue. He also points out some of the tradition-dependent elements of spiritual practice. The universal elements of spiritual practice can facilitate communication among people from different religious backgrounds and a dialogue among their respective traditions. The advancement of a dialogue of spiritual traditions is thus essential for paving the way toward interreligious dialogue.
In conclusion, this analysis confirms Bakhtin’s conception of the comprehensive character of dialogue and the fact that dialogical relationships permeate ‘all human speech and all relationships and manifestations of human life’ (1984, p. 40). Bakhtin stressed that all language and thought are dialogic, underscoring ‘the dialogic nature of consciousness, the dialogic nature of human life itself’ (ibid., p. 293). Indeed, the idea of dialogue, as developed by Bakhtin in its many aspects and applied to various fields of the humanities, became his signature term for a phenomenon seen in multifarious areas of philosophy: epistemology, ethics, aesthetics, axiology and social philosophy, as well as the philosophy of language. Dialogism refers to human communication using natural language; it deals with relationships among persons engaged in that communication. Dialogic relationships form the very foundation of all human activities – self-consciousness, intersubjective relationships, cognition and cultural creativity – from the personal level to the most general level of dialogue of cultures and dialogue of spiritual traditions.
Dialogue is always personal, even when it expands into the spheres of culture or spiritual traditions. The personalist core of Bakhtin’s philosophy remains present at all levels of analysis of dialogical relationships within society and the cultural-spiritual realm, just as the main theme of the fugue unfolds through the many interacting voices and registers of polyphony. This articulates a personal dimension in the understanding of society and culture, asserting the role of the human being as the subject of cultural-historical creativity.
Bakhtin’s dialogical philosophy made a profound impact in Russia, Western Europe and the Americas. His works sparked a great deal of interest, not only among philosophers and literary and cultural theorists, but also among a broad range of intellectuals. His ideas of individual freedom, recognition of the other, plurality, dialogic relationships and ethics resonated with individuals and movements protesting against domination in its many forms, including the dehumanising economic-political system, as well as with those striving for civil liberties, social equality, justice, the recognition of cultural diversity and the awakening of a global consciousness
Dialogical philosophy – as developed by Martin Buber, Mikhail Bakhtin and Emmanuel Levinas, among others – remains a participant in today’s ongoing dialogue regarding relations with the other, cultural and religious diversity, intercultural relationships and the ethics of co-responsibility in a globally interrelated world. This is evident in continuing publications about various aspects of their legacy, as well as in attempts by contemporary authors to creatively use the ideas of dialogical philosophy in developing their own analysis and theories. Dialogical philosophy remains a source of inspiration in quest for a more just and humane alternative to the current conflicted world.
Cultural Identity, Diversity, and Interculturality
Dialogue thus became the crux of discussions around issues of cultural identity, diversity and relationships among diverse cultures. Ideas generated by the philosophy of dialogue regarding plurality and the recognition of the other, which challenged monological, authoritarian thinking, resonated with advocates of liberation philosophy. Reciprocally, dialogism was inspired by socio-cultural processes of striving for liberation, sometimes anticipating them and serving as a theoretical and ideological foundation for liberation and democratisation movements, both within societies and in the international arena.
The recognition and celebration of cultural diversity was a hallmark of the second half of the twentieth century. After World War II and the establishment of the United Nations, decolonisation, national liberation movements and movements toward cultural diversity stimulated the emergence of Latin American, African and other ‘Third World’ philosophies. The cultural identity issue came to the forefront of social consciousness during the second half of the twentieth century and manifested itself in movements in support of cultural diversity. This interest in cultural identification showed its positive impact in helping individuals regain the cultural dimensions of their personalities and in uniting people in their cultural-spiritual resistance to the depersonalising influences of socio-economic-political systems. Dialogism’s opposition to monologism has contributed to the dismantling of the one-dimensional, ‘centrist’ models of the world and ‘monolithic’ views of culture, including the Eurocentric narrative of modern history as evincing the progress of Western civilisation, thus paving the way for a deeper understanding of the socio-cultural diversity of the world.
The celebration of cultural diversity can help to prevent a depersonalising homogenisation of people and can also help to forestall their subjugation to totalitarian and imperialist projects. Cultural diversity contains rich potential and opens new opportunities for the creative self-expression of individuals and for an interactive development of cultures and human liberation. But cultural identity is also used as an ideological weapon in political power-games under the banners of nationalism, racism and religious fundamentalism. Freedom of cultural self-identification presupposes a responsibility for respecting the same freedom for others and thus promoting mutually beneficial intercultural relations through dialogue. Otherwise, the continuation of historical patterns of ‘cultural wars’ and ‘clashes of civilisations’ will be even more devastating in the globalised world. Mutually respectful dialogical interrelations among culturally diverse people must prevail.
The recognition of cultural, ethnic and racial diversity was expressed in the concept of ‘multiculturalism’, which became a popular and fashionable term. Multiculturalism does have its conceptual failures, however. Liberal multiculturalism frequently merely gave lip service to the development of diverse cultures; i.e., the other’s ‘right to exist’ may be acknowledged while one’s own culture or truth is still considered to be absolute or superior to others. In other cases, it has been presented as the holistic rather than the dynamic model of cultures as hermetical and self-sufficient (see, for example, Will Kymlicka). Instead of being focused mainly on their differences, the cultures should be more open to shared values and dialogue.
The postmodern critique of the dominant ‘mass culture’ unmasks the relations of knowledge and power. Its weakness, however, is relativism and scepticism regarding universal concepts and values. The multiculturalist critique of power from the perspective of ethnic, racial or gender identities undermines the value-based grounds of the critique itself. Not only did multiculturalism fail to become a vivid alternative to the dominant ‘mass culture’, but it was not immune from its own problems with knowledge/power relations, such as the dependence of individuals on the group’s ideological dogmas and the authoritarian power of their leaders. In postmodern theories of culture, there is an internal tension between multiculturalism and deconstruction. Multiculturalism implies an essentialist connection between cultural production and ethnic or physical origin; it describes the factual existence of various cultures but does not say anything about the relationship among them. Facing the reality of multicultural societies, where the differences can be potential sources of conflict, this concept is unable to provide guidance on how to live together in peace and solidarity in these societies.
Since the beginning of twenty-first century, however, with the neoconservative shift in world politics, multiculturalism has been overshadowed by a reverse tendency toward ethnocentrism and ideological fundamentalism, suspicion of ‘the other’ and the anti-multiculturalist politics of ‘integration’. For instance, the hypocrisy of liberal multiculturalism and intolerance of the other has been evinced in the recent treatment of migrants in the West during the immigration crisis.
The failure of multiculturalism stimulated the efforts of many philosophers to find an alternative theoretical view of cultural diversity and to rethink the matters of identity and diversity, which has resulted in theories of transculture and interculturality (intercultural philosophy).
The concept of ‘transculture’ is defined as ‘an open system of symbolic alternatives to existing cultures and their established sign systems’ and ‘a way of expanding the limits of our ethnic, professional, linguistic, and other identities to new levels of indeterminacy and “virtuality”’ (Epstein, 1999, pp. 24–5). Mikhail Epstein critically analyses postmodern theories of culture and points out the internal tension between multiculturalism and deconstruction, which was discussed above. Multiculturalism implies an essentialist connection between cultural production and ethnic and physical origin (race or gender), viewed in terms of ‘representation’. From a transcultural perspective, origins need to be acknowledged in order to be exceeded by the cultures which relativise natural identities, and as the next step, undergo a transcultural movement that demystifies cultural identities. Thus deconstruction will become positive and constructive, and cultural diversity will be free from determinism and representation. From a transcultural perspective, each culture is incomplete, and its potential can be realised only if it transcends its borders and is engaged in dialogue with other cultures. The critical self-consciousness and the openness of cultures to interrelations can lead to their mutual ‘interference’ and help build new transcultural communities. The concept of critical universality orients us toward a whole picture and approaches different cultures as interrelated, integral parts of the comprehensive human culture; thus each culture can be viewed and evaluated in its relation to this diverse universality.
The idea of interrelations and dialogue among diverse cultures is articulated in the concept of interculturality. The influential ‘White Paper on Intercultural Dialogue’ from the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (2008) argues that multiculturalism has failed and interculturalism should be the preferred model for Europe. It asserts that, ‘whilst driven by benign intentions, multiculturalism is now seen by many as having fostered communal segregation and mutual incomprehension’, whereas ‘the emerging interculturalist paradigm’ incorporates the best of the preceding models and ‘adds the new element, critical to integration and social cohesion, of dialogue on the basis of equal dignity and shared values’ (p. 19). In the same vein, the second UNESCO World Report: Investing in Cultural Diversity and Intercultural Dialogue (2009) argues in favour of a new approach to cultural diversity – one that takes account of its dynamic nature, cultural interactions, intercultural competencies and intercultural and interfaith dialogue at all levels.
The term ‘interculturality’ indicates the real phenomenon of existing intercultural relations as well as a certain understanding and attitude toward them. Ram Adhar Mall, for example, definied it as ‘a mental and moral category’, an ‘attitude’ toward others or a ‘spirit’ that approves the values of pluralism, diversity and difference (2000, p.15). The concept of interculturality does not mean that general notions such as truth, culture, religion and philosophy must be abandoned. Instead, it aims to deconstruct the absolutistic and exclusivistic use of these notions. It respectfully acknowledges the other and valorises mutually respectful relationships between different cultures as equal subjects with equal rights. According to Heinz Kimmerle, intercultural dialogue emphasises the equality of dialogue partners, openness to any possible outcome, a variety of ways of communication that are not only verbal-discursive and an ability to listen to and learn from participants in the dialogue (2002, pp. 12, 80–6). It stands for emancipation from domination and rejects any kind of centrism – Eurocentrism, Americentrism, Afrocentrism, Sinocentrism, etc. It lays the groundwork for enhancing communication and relationships of solidarity and collaboration.
The subject of interculturality is increasingly discussed within several academic disciplines as a means to explore theories of the origins of cultures and their mutual relationships, including the problems of multicultural societies. For instance, the field of ‘intercultural philosophy’ studies philosophy from an intercultural perspective. This new orientation is attracting the attention of researchers and is now reflected in a growing number of publications, international conferences and seminars.
Intercultural studies brings to the fore some age-old debates on the subject of relativism, particularly regarding the existence of universals. For some philosophers, the notion of the ‘intercultural’ seems to be incompatible with philosophy as universal knowledge. However, the adherents of interculturality strive to develop a broader and more pluralistic conceptualisation of philosophy, viewing philosophy itself as culturally embedded while still dealing with perennial questions and aiming to give universally valid answers.
In keeping with Bahtkin’s conceptualisation of dialogism, Franz Wimmer admonishes philosophers to search for alternatives to traditional monological thinking through the study of interrelations between various traditions (not only dia-logical,,between two, but poly-logical, among many): ‘Problems of philosophy can and ought to be made clear by way of interculturally oriented polyligues’ (1998, p. 1).
Philosophers from various countries have contributed to the development of intercultural philosophy. Their works represent various perspectives and theoretical positions, in many respects overlapping or complementing each other and forming a creative, polyphonic interaction. Researchers distinguish between two main models of intercultural philosophy: one is the ‘intercultural- interreligious’ paradigm – as elucidated by Raimon Panikkar, the world-renowned philosopher, theologian and mystic – and the other is the ‘intercultural- liberational’ paradigm – as developed by Fornet-Betancourt (Vallescar, 2000).
Panikkar grew up in Spain, the son of an Indian father and a Spanish mother. He argues for the necessity of dialogical interrelations among various cultures as a necessary condition for solving the problems of the contemporary world. A proponent of interreligious dialogue, Panikkar’s general approach was to view issues in the world through the eyes of two or more traditions. His in-depth knowledge of both the Western and Eastern philosophical and spiritual traditions allowed him to engage in an interphilosophical and interreligious dialogue between different traditions and beliefs. He tried to connect religion and philosophy as important factors in many cultures.
The running thread of Panikkar’s works is the idea of relationship, what he terms radical ‘relationality’ or ‘relativity’. He coined the term ‘cosmotheandric’ to refer to his conception of the threefold unity of all reality, meaning that God, human beings, and nature are linked in a symbiotic relationship. In culture, ‘radical relativity’ means the primordial interconnection of all human traditions. This implies that persons have the capability, despite their ‘otherness’, to communicate their experiences and understandings to one another through dialogue. Since an effective discourse presupposes a common set of beliefs and values (a shared symbol system) within a tradition and across traditions, Panikkar focuses on the symbolic discourse in interfaith encounter or ‘dialogical dialogue’.
Panikkar discusses the relation between dialectical dialogue and dialogical dialogue, which are ‘two intertwined moments of the dialogical character of the human being’ (1999, p. 30). The difference is that the first is about objects, while the second is a ‘dialogue among subjects aiming at being a dialogue about subjects’ (p. 29). The starting point for dialogical dialogue is the intra–personal dialogue by which one consciously and critically appropriates one’s own tradition. One also needs to be open to others’ traditions, without prejudice or premature judgments, and to have a desire to understand them. The inter-personal dialogue focuses on the mutual testimonies of those involved in the dialogue. It presupposes a certain trust in the other qua other, ‘considering the other a true source of understanding and knowledge’ and cultivating ‘the listening attitude toward my partner, the common search for truth’ (p. 31). Others have their own experiences, which, through dialogue, produce new intellectual productivity. Dialogical dialogue assumes that reality is not given once and for all, but rather ‘it is continually creating itself’ (ibid., p. 31).
In dialogical dialogue there is always a place for the diversity of opinions; this leads to recognising both difference and what we have in common, producing mutual fecundation. As such, it is not merely an abstract, theoretical dialogue – a dialogue about beliefs – but primarily a ‘total human encounter’ of persons, involving not only minds but also hearts. This relationship of human beings emerges in the actual praxis of the dialogical dialogue. Ethically, the will to dialogue is incompatible with the will to power, for any intention ‘to convert, to dominate, or even to know the other for ulterior motives, destroys the dialogical dialogue’. The dialogical dialogue is a deep-reaching human dialogue in which one seeks collaboration with the other for mutual realisation, since wisdom consists of being able to listen to and understand the other (ibid., p. 31).
Dialogue is absolutely necessary for humanity, and interreligious dialogue plays an important role. Dialogue challenges many of the commonly accepted foundations of modern culture and brings hope for change. Panikkar argues that ‘to restore or install the dialogical dialogue in human relations among individuals, families, groups, societies, nations, and cultures may be one of the most urgent things to do in our times threatened by a fragmentation of interests that threatens all life on the planet’ (ibid., p. 32).
Intercultural philosophy draws our attention to the cultural embededness of philosophical thinking. Examining the cultural contexts of philosophy has serious implications. It introduces a new perspective in our understanding of what philosophy is, of the history of philosophy and of its present role in society. This transformation of philosophy, based on intercultural dialogue, is so significant that Fornet-Betancourt considers it to be a new paradigm. Whether this is so in Thomas Kuhn’s sense, only time will tell. However, the term ‘paradigm’ is useful as a working hypothesis. First of all, it denotes revolutionary changes in the theoretical framework for understanding philosophical questions in light of the fundamental role of culture in the development of philosophy. Second, it contextualises intercultural philosophy as the next step in a sequence of paradigms, which represent the dialectics of tradition and innovation in the historical development of philosophy. Intercultural philosophy is situated above the rationalism and subjectivism of modernity, above the limitations of analytical philosophy, and is an alternative to the nihilism of postmodern philosophers. It is in tune with the existing critique of scientism and the professionalisation of philosophy as well as with the call for a pluralistic, community-oriented and culturally rooted style of philosophising.
A philosophy that accepts intercultural dialogue as a context of its reflection enters into a process of transformation that requires it to reconstruct its history, its methods and forms of articulation. Fornet-Betancourt asserts the necessity of reviewing Eurocentric philosophical historiography and, based on the reconstruction of the history of ideas in Africa, Asia and Latin America, of creating a new view of the history of philosophy. He criticises any philosophical claims to universality. The universalistic pretension of European ethnocentrism was a type of self-proclaimed universality. As Fornet-Betancourt writes, ‘in this sense, the criticism is perfectly applicable to any other type of universality – whether African, Asian or Latin American – which would be the result of a monocultural proclamation’ (2001, p. 166). He views intercultural communication as a possible means to transition from abstract universality to concrete and historical universalities. Intercultural dialogue creates conditions that allow a philosophy to reach a genuine universality, because it arises from shared communication between the different cultural universes of humanity.
Intercultural philosophy focuses on the situation of culture and its creator – the human being – in today’s globalised world. Cultures are viewed as evolving and interrelated and as a product of human creativity. Concurrently, homogenisation and other problems cultures are facing in the process of globalisation are epiphenomena of the drama of the human individual in a dehumanised world.
Enrique Dussel, Fornet-Betancourt and other Latin American philosophers approach globalisation as a philosophical problem, focusing on the human subject. They place human beings and human life at the center of their analysis as criteria by which to judge the positive and negative effects of globalisation. Assuming this position ‘from the human perspective’, one can reflect on the meaning these processes have for human beings. This offers the researcher the chance to diagnose the social, cultural and ecological effects of globalisation on human life. It challenges the view of an individual as a passive object in the forces of globalisation and explores humankind’s opportunities to influence these processes and take control of the future.
The renewed concept of the subject as an alternative to postmodern ‘anti-humanism’ has been developed by Fornet-Betancourt. The modern concept of the subject is obsolete. However, ‘the rumors about Man’s death were greatly exaggerated’, and he must be rediscovered and newly understood by a new philosophy. The author also criticises the anthropological consequences of the universalisation of the neoliberal economic system – its inhumanity. He considers the ideas of the critical, ethical, humanistic philosophical tradition as the basis for developing a bold new concept of the subject. He aims at a philosophical understanding of a real human being, of multidimensionality, historicity and creativity. The new concept presents not an abstract incorporeal subject, reduced to reflectivity, but rather includes materiality and contingency as essential dimensions. This approach is rooted in the ideas of living subjectivity, as developed by Martin Heidegger and Jean-Paul Sartre, and in the Hispanic philosophy of Miguel de Unamuno, José Ortega y Gasset and Xavier Zubiri. The author develops the concept of a free, conscious and active subject, able to reason critically and to act in order to mold the self and transform society.
Fornet-Betancourt demonstrates the importance of the role of culture in society. For him, culture is not just an artistic heritage or an issue of the inner life of an individual; rather, it plays an extremely important public role as a sphere of social creativity and organisation and as the centre of a life-world. This essential social function of culture is undermined by the processes of globalisation. The expansion of the neoliberal economic model results in the transformation of the world in its own image, erasing cultural and other differences and homogenising the planet (the author calls it a ‘new crusade’). Humankind, with its cultures, is no longer a subject but is instead a mere object in this globalising process: an object that suffers the uncontrolled expansion of an economical system that usurps the material bases of cultures. As a result, the cultures of humankind are losing their materiality – their own ‘territory’ where they can proceed effectively in the modelling of society according to their own values and goals. Thus, cultures remain excluded and unable to play their vital role in forging the socio-economic, political and ecological future of humanity.
In contrast to historicism and techno-economic determinism, Fornet-Betancourt develops the concept of an open history, which is a result of the activity of social groups, movements and other historical subjects and contains many possibilities. The neoliberal ‘model’, predominant in our time, is not necessarily the best or the only possible model. In the variety of cultures Fornet-Betancourt sees a real basis for different life-worlds and historical alternatives. He develops the idea of interculturality (la interculturalidad) as an alternative to globalisation.
The transformation of philosophy is possible only in the context of dialogue, which requires certain economic and socio‑political conditions: thus the transformation of philosophy requires adequate social changes. This connection engages philosophy in the transformation of society; moreover, philosophy must play a significant role in promoting this process. Intercultural dialogue occurs in a historical context – the political, economic and other conditions that determine the range of activities of cultures as well as the relationship of the cultures with themselves and with others.
The idea of intercultural dialogue is used by Fornet-Betancourt not only as a criterion for the critique of the negative consequences of globalisation but also as a ‘regulative idea’ in creating an alternative to it. Each culture has the right to the necessary material base for its free development. Thus, intercultural dialogue becomes ‘an instrument of the cultures for their struggle to have their own worlds with their specific values and goals’ (2000, p. 85). This intercultural dialogue creates a new framework for philosophical reflection. It breaks the image of world homogeneity and affirms the plurality of cultures that represent various visions of the world. It shows that the present historical world, shaped by globalisation, is not limited by its formal, technical and structural contextuality. It is challenged by intercultural dialogue as an alternative program for the communication of cultures. There is the homogeneous influence of globalisation, but on the other hand, there is also the plurality of many cultural worlds in which the diversity of humankind is reflected.
First of all, human beings have the right to their own cultures. While globalisation is standardising the world, cultures are maintaining the differences and plurality of worldviews. In contrast to globalisation, which promises ‘one world’ by imposing the high price of the reduction and equalisation of the different, interculturality implies a new understanding of universality as a dialogue of cultures. Culture is not only a realm for the cultivation of the plurality of worldviews and mutual respect among them; the plurality of cultures presupposes their interrelation and dialogue. Interculturality also serves as a guideline for the concrete realisation of the plurality of real worlds. It requires the reorganisation of the world order in such a way that it will guarantee fair conditions for communication between cultures as worldviews that will materialise in the real world.
Fornet-Betancourt sees interculturality as the basis for an economic, political and social movement to organise an ecumenical union of nations and cultures. Such a movement will universalise tolerance and coexistence. The author calls it a ‘concrete universality’, which grows from the grassroots, recognises the particular, the Other, and unites people in the common goal of making life possible for everybody. This is not the same universality claimed by the mono-cultural Eurocentric philosophy. Instead, intercultural philosophy promotes dialogue between the contextual worlds by maintaining the tension between the universal and the particular. This universality emerges through the praxis of communication, reciprocal translation and mediation of one’s own world of experiences and references. This universality presupposes the liberation and realisation of all cultural universes. Fornet-Betancourt summarises the proposed alternative as a renewal of the ideal of universality as the praxis of solidarity between cultures.
The philosophy of interculturality reminds people that history and the future are not predetermined, and that they are the subjects forging the future. Culture can help people in liberating the world and history from the dictatorship of the currently predominant model. While globalisation is standardising the world and presenting just one future, interculturality wants to make possible a plurality of alternatives. Which of these futures will become more or less universalised is an issue that must be decided by means of intercultural dialogue. Cultures are realms of human freedom, creativity and realisation. This freedom is also presented as the historical possibilities of innovation and transformation. Intercultural philosophy orients us in this search for an alternative, finding its inspiration in ‘a creative continuation of the tradition of critico-ethical humanism as an open tradition which transmits the principle of subjectivity as a driving force of the foundation of society which champions community and coexistence, and in which everybody lives in harmony at peace with their neighbor and with nature’ (Fornet-Betancourt, 2001, p. 115).
The Emerging Diversity of Philosophical Cultures: From Ethnocentrism to Inter-Philosophical Global Dialogue
Cultural diversity manifests itself in philosophy not only via theories, but also in the practice of Latin American, African and Afro-American scholars creating culturally embedded philosophies. Issues of identity and intercultural relations are addressed by Latin American, African, African-Caribbean and African-American as well as other emerging philosophies. These emerged in the form of the philosophical self-consciousness of ex-colonial nations and minorities, challenging Eurocentrism and striving for the creation of their own thought in order to help their quest for cultural identity and independent socio-cultural development. In the search for their originality or ‘authenticity’, they turned their focus to national culture. However, an emphasis on cultural originality, if exaggerated or not balanced by any recognition of other cultures, can lead to nationalism and ethnocentrism. The challenge to philosophical thought on race, gender, ethnicity, national cultures and civilisations is the reconciliation of difference with commonality and diversity with unity. Dialogue is the best means of achieving this goal.
These and other ‘Third World’ philosophies are the original phenomena of contemporary philosophical thought. These philosophies, striving for development and recognition, face a twofold task: on the one hand, they challenge Western-centrism and, in the search for their originality or authenticity, turn their focus to their own cultural traditions. On the other hand, their further development requires them to interrelate with other philosophical traditions and to elaborate their intercultural dimensions. In the historical development of these philosophies, they show the tendency to evolve from ethnocentrism to more openness to the ideas of cultural diversity and dialogue. The struggle between the ‘centrist’ tendency and the dialogical, intercultural tendency is present in the tendency to evolve from initial ethnocentrism to professional philosophy, and then to more critical self-reflection and openness to intercultural dialogue. This tendency is studied and enhanced by intercultural philosophy.
3.1. Latin American Philosophy and North-South Dialogue
Latin American thinkers made a unique contribution to the idea of interculturality. Not only did they long ago address the relevant issues related to multiculturality, but they also created in practice a new, original type of culturally embedded thought – Latin American philosophy. Continuing this tradition, they are currently developing the ideas of intercultural philosophy from the perspective of Latin America and other regions of the underdeveloped South, applying them to the philosophical North-South dialogue in search of a solution to global problems.
In the middle of the nineteenth century, Juan Bautista Alberdi declared that it was necessary for Latin America to develop its own philosophy, adequate to its particular needs. This was the first challenge to the Eurocentric view of philosophy, and the project of creating Latin American philosophy became a long-term goal for philosophers from many different countries. This philosophy was developed by the generations defined as ‘founders’, ‘smiths’ [craftpersons or forjadores in Spanish], ‘professional philosophers’ and ‘philosophers of liberation’. Latin American philosophy was baptised by fire: a hot debate ensued during the 1950s and 60s regarding the question of its existence or even the possibility of developing such a philosophy. This debate brought to the fore the problem of the interrelationship between the culturally specific and the universal in philosophy. For some philosophers, the notions Latin American, African or intercultural philosophy seemed to be incompatible with philosophy as universal knowledge. Some Latin American authors exaggerated the culturally specific as opposed to the universal. Other Latin American thinkers criticised such excesses of ethnocentrism as ‘tropicalism’. They also criticised ‘abstract universalism’. They developed a broader and more pluralistic concept of philosophy as embedded in certain cultural and philosophical traditions while dealing with perennial questions and aiming to give universally valid answers. This ‘decentralised’ the image of philosophy and paved the way for the development of African and Asian philosophical thought. ‘Third World’ philosophies served as the basis for postcolonial theories.
In the early 1970s, Latin American philosophy of liberation and theology of liberation became influential in the region and well known worldwide. In his philosophy of culture, Leopoldo Zea argued that the question of the culture of each nation is specific to its people and should not presuppose any external criteria. Dussel developed his ethics of liberation, which addresses the needs of the people in Latin America and other ‘Third World’ regions. Arturo Roig contributed to the philosophical analysis of the ‘other’. During the 1980s, liberation thought evolved from confrontation to dialogue and has contributed to the development of planetary macro-ethics.
Since the late 1980s, Latin American philosophers have actively participated in the development of intercultural philosophy and in the North-South philosophical dialogue. The first German-Latin American Ethics Session in Buenos Aires took place in 1985. It was the beginning of a series of seminars in response to the need for an intercultural dialogue in philosophy, which would help to overcome the traditional dominance of Eurocentric discourse. The program of dialogue was coordinated by Raúl Fornet-Betancourt. Two main ethical currents came to the fore and were selected for further dialogue: discourse ethics and the philosophy of liberation, represented respectively by Karl-Otto Apel and Enrique Dussel. The first seminar, entitled ‘Philosophy of Liberation: Foundations of Ethics in Germany and Latin America’, took place in 1989 in the Catholic Academy of the Archdiocese of Freiburg. This seminar was a crucial step in the clarification of the strategy and the realisation of the project of intercultural dialogue. It was novel in that it was organised with the clear intention of comparing and confronting these two currents, which represent two philosophical models and are culturally different due to their origins. The second seminar on the theme of ‘Discourse Ethics and Ethics of Liberation’ and took place in Mexico City in 1991, in the Metropolitan Autonomous University (Iztapalapa) and the National Autonomous University of Mexico. These seminars soon evolved into the International Congresses of Intercultural Philosophy, which are held on a regular basis. The most recent XI International Congress of Intercultural Philosophy took place on 17–20 September 2015 in Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic. Its general theme was ‘Traditions of Formation, Spirituality, and University: Toward Intercultural Transformation of University Education’. Philosophers from many countries in the world participate in these congresses.
Latin American philosophy of liberation evolved from the tenets of cultural identity toward ethical and political themes. This philosophy contributes to a critique of hegemonic globalisation from historical, cultural and ethical perspectives. This theme is presented in debates about ‘a philosophy of Latin American history’ (Leopoldo Zea), ‘civilisation and barbarism’ (Arturo Roig) and ‘dependence and liberation’ (Enrique Dussel, Juan Carlos Scannone, Osvaldo Ardiles, Horacio Cerutti-Guldberg, Raúl Fornet-Betancourt). They show that globalisation is carrying out the main assumptions of Eurocentrism and Western cultural and economic hegemony. Analysing the economically centred technocratic concept of globalisation, they reveal its ideological function as a justification of neoliberal policy. Dussel indicates that globalisation is not just our century’s phenomenon, but rather a historical process that started with colonisation and modernity (1996, pp. 51–3).
Fornet-Betancourt applies the principles of intercultural philosophy to Latin American philosophy and sketches some ideas for its transformation on the basis of an intercultural imperative. This task requires a radical self-criticism and the dissolution of the predominant logocentric and mono-cultural image of philosophy. It is also necessary to broaden the horizon of our thinking and use various sources for the interpretations of reality and of life itself. Among these sources are the indigenous and Afro-American traditions, with ‘their symbolic universes, their imaginatories, their memories and rituals’ (Fornet-Betancourt, 2001, p. 269).
Latin American philosophers have developed their critique of globalisation as homogenising and destroying the unique cultures and socio-economic forms of life of indigenous peoples. This critique is developed from two theoretical perspectives: postcoloniality and interculturality. These two approaches interrelate and complement each other. While postcolonial theories advanced by intellectuals from ‘Third World’ countries expand the postmodern critique of modernity and Eurocentrism from the perspective of colonial difference, ideas of interculturality developed by theorists from both the ‘First’ and ‘Third’ worlds are focused more on cultures and the possibilities of their serving as the basis for creating an alternative to the homogenising forces of globalisation.
Walter Mignolo demonstrates the preeminence of Latin American thought in developing the philosophical basis for a systematic critique of colonialism and Occidentalisation (2011). He proposes a comparative and philological methodology and a pluritopic hermeneutics as an approach for the radical rethinking of cultural differences, of the Other as a subject to be understood and of the understanding subject itself. Zea, Dussel, Roig and other Latin American philosophers show that the postmodern concept of the ‘end of history’ is an apology for the status quo. They emphasise that the Latin American nations, burdened with stinging socio-economic problems, do not want to ‘close history’ and that liberation remains their purpose.
Among the various aspects of the analysis of globalisation, the works of the Latin American philosophers are distinguished in developing an ethical approach to globalisation. They ground the ethical criteria philosophically in order to evaluate the controversies of globalisation. This ethical perspective provides us with a holistic view of these phenomena and enables us to evaluate them from the point of view of humanity and its vital interests. These ethical criteria serve as the basis for the critique of the negative effects of current globalisation, which aggravates the ecological crises, underdevelopment and other global problems. At the same time, the idea of the meta-ethics of humanity developed by Latin American and other contemporary philosophers serve as the normative basis for the solution of these problems and the search for positive alternatives to current globalisation.
Arturo Roig developes the concept of ‘emerging morals’ (la moral emergente) as an alternative to the dominant ethics associated with rational egoism and hegemonic globalisation. The emergent morals serve as the foundation of the principles related to the category of human dignity. Human dignity is negated by the neoliberal ‘discourse of necessities’ that follows the ‘forms of satisfaction’ typical of a consumerist society. By contrast, for most of the ‘Third World’ population, necessities are related to survival. The concept of human rights is understood in relation to necessities, as a whole complex of the political, social and economic rights that would guarantee a decent human life for everybody on the planet.
Enrique Dussel, in his Ethics of Liberation: In the Age of Globalization and Exclusion (2013), develps a concept of ‘material ethics’ that is life-enhancing. The reproduction and growth of human life is the main criterion of truth (both theoretical and practical), since it is the absolute condition of the possibility of human existence. This criterion is internal to each culture and allows it to establish a dialogue on the basis of the universality of the value of human life. The ethics of liberation provides a conceptual framework for addressing the issues of underdevelopment and other global problems.
Based on this ethics, Dussel sketches a prolegomena for a future political philosophy. He discusses diverse aspects and spheres of politics, especially its ethics and the three implicit normative principles of politics: the material principle; the formal democratic or normative principle and the principle of feasibility. The ethical imperative (production, reproduction and the development of human life in community) must be implemented for all humanity by ‘planetary macropolitics’. Analogously, the politico-material principle commands that all organizations or institutions ‘have as their purpose the production, maintainance, and enhancement of the immediate lives of the citizens of the political community, in the last instance of all humanity’ (Dussel 2008, p. 60). Politics should take responsibility for the preservation of the biosphere, i.e., the ecological environment of human existence. The reproduction of human life must be considered also in its economic and cultural aspects. Dussel warned of the potentially catastrophic consequences of an economic system in which the majority of humanity finds itself deep in poverty.
On this basis, he formulates the critical principles of a politics of liberation and develops a concept of ‘critical politics’. It starts with the victims of any political system, who are excluded from the system, whose claims are ignored and whose basic needs are not satisfied: ‘It is by starting from the negativity of needs – for some dimension of life or for democratic participation – that the struggle for recognition is frequently transformed into demand-based mobilization, which do not await justice as a gift of the powerful but rather seek it as an autonomous achievement of the movements’ (2008, p. 71).
Critical politics affirms the other, which is the source of the political. Without the other there is no politics, when politics is defined as the possibility of continued existence and coexistence, of surviving and flourishing with others. A politics of liberation is a politics of alterity, a politics of life with others and for others, which is proclaimed from the underside of homogenising neoliberal globalisation, from the victims of unfettered capitalism, ecocide and genocide. It asserts that it is necessary to take responsibility for the current and future effects of political action. Critical politics should propose a positive alternative to the existing political, economic and educational systems. Thus from the struggles for recognition of those excluded from the system there emerges a new system of rights.
The critical aspect of Dussel’s analysis, unmasking the myths of ‘progress’, demonstrates that the politics and ideology of the status quo have no future and that fundamental structural changes are needed if humanity wants to respond constructively to the socio-economic and global challenges of today’s world. However, Dussel is critical of the traditional view of this problem in terms of the opposition between ‘reform’ and ‘revolution’ (as it has been framed in the debate within the Marxist tradition since the early twentieth century). Both of these terms became loaded with confusing connotations. It is worth noting that the term ‘revolution’ can be used by radicals not only from the left but also on the right, e.g., as ‘neoconservative revolution’. Right-wing extremism frequently masks itself as ‘revolution’.
As an alternative, Dussel uses the term ‘transformation’ – that is, transcending existing institutions or even transforming the entire institutional system. This transformation, whether in its partial or radical forms, is profound and visionary in its scope: in approaching the solutions to social and global problems, it focuses on their root causes and is oriented toward substantive changes in existing institutions and in the system as a whole.
As an alternative to the existing system, transformation is teleologically oriented toward the ideal of a new society or even a new civilisation. It is better identified by what it is not, and Dussel provides some characteristics of such a society via negativa: it should be free from social class divisions and class domination, from capitalist exploitation and from the self-perpetuating power of state bureaucracy. In a positive way, he describes it as ‘a new political system in a new, ecologically sustainable, transcapitalist and transmodern civilization’ (2008, p. 113).
The new global situation requires a new mentality and a new political culture based on democratic relations and dialogue. An international dialogue regarding the problems of contemporary society and the future of humanity is possible only if it is based on a universally accepted moral framework and ethical principles. The idea of a meta-ethics of humanity, as developed by Latin American and other contemporary philosophers, serves as the philosophical framework for a discussion about issues of globalisation. Their search for the foundation of a universally valid ethics is in keeping with the quest for a rationally grounded universal normative basis for the solution of contemporary global problems.
3.2. African Philosophy in Dialogue with Its Cultural Heritage
The ex-colonial nations’ quest for national consciousness stimulated the development of African philosophy. In addition to its unique features, it shares certain features of Latin American and other ‘Third World’ philosophies. African philosophers pay special attention to the restoration of the original national cultures, the development of which was interrupted by colonisation. This goal is important because African philosophy is viewed as culturally embedded. Thus, regaining authentic African culture is key to developing a unique African philosophy.
Kwame Anthony Appiah, currently Professor of Philosophy at Princeton University and son of the late Ghanaian intellectual Joe Appiah, writes that despite Africa’s diversity, Africans share many common problems of development. These differences should be approached in a positive way and celebrated: ‘Africans can learn from each other, as, of course, we can learn from all of humankind’ (1992, p. 26). Further, ‘because the intellectual projects of our one world are essentially everywhere interconnected, because world cultures are bound together’, we can talk about ‘one race to which we all belong’ (ibid., p. 27). One of the manifestations of African philosophy was the attempt to explore the conceptual world of Africa’s traditional culture, called ‘ethnophilosophy’. In critically evaluating this debate, Appiah proposes several conditions for a desirable ‘critical ethnophilosophy’ (1997, p. 28). He believes that ‘African philosophy can illuminate the currently important question – raised, as we said, in the works of Cavel, Rorty, and West – of the relations between philosophy and culture elsewhere’ (1993, p. 133).
The Kenyan Dismas A. Masolo, in his books on African philosophy, examines its history, trends and impact as well as its future role. He argues that works of African philosophers teach us that ‘all philosophy, not just African philosophy, is embedded in culture by virtue of the observation that philosophical problems stem from and are part of how philosophers consciously and critically live the cultures of their times’ (2010, p. 50). At the same time, he is concerned about the repressive practices of culture (ibid., p. 122). He analyses the tension between the freedom and the authority of society, with its communalistic orientation. His books address topics such as the relevance of philosophy for cultures that are still largely based on traditional values and the meaning of philosophy to cultures and individuals.
The Ghanian Kwasi Wiredu, in his several books on African philosophy, raised some fundamental questions about the interrelation between culture and philosophy, cultural universals and particulars and intercultural philosophical dialogue. He highlights the importance of ‘cultural traditions of thought’ (1980, p. 24) and the crucial role of language in shaping them. He addresses important themes, such as the relationship between academic philosophy and Africa’s indigenous culture. This contributes to a better understanding of the cultural embeddedness of philosophy as well as the enlightening role of philosophical reasoning regarding cultural diversity and intercultural relationships. Wiredu’s works have attracted critical attention from American scholars, followed by his response to these criticisms, thus sparking an intercultural dialogue.
In the postcolonial situation, the main motivation of African philosophy has been a quest for self-definition – a search for identity. The intense debate about what constitutes African philosophy is itself a substantive philosophical issue that calls for a comprehensive rethinking of traditional philosophical fundamentals. Recognition of the cultural roots of philosophy leads to rethinking the concept of philosophy itself as well as the history of philosophy.
Wiredu views philosophy as culturally embedded. He also discusses the relationship between emerging African philosophy and European (and other) philosophies. Colonial nations were characterised by an asymmetry of power; it was one-way imposition of the colonisers’ canon. Postcolonial African philosophy’s search for authenticity and its own voice leads some philosophers to focus on African traditions of thought as opposed to European philosophies, while others have continued to uncritically imitate European philosophy. In contrast to these extremes, Wiredu represents a balanced tendency among those philosophers who are looking for a critical and creative approach to philosophical thought, whether in Africa or abroad, aiming to find what is valid in different philosophical traditions. He champions intra- and intercultural communication and philosophical dialogue.
According to Wiredu, the task of African philosophers should be ‘to try to liberate ourselves’ (1996, pp. 4–5) from a colonial mentality as far as is humanly possible. He suggests the following imperative for African philosophical research: ‘There is need, first, to bring out the true characters of African traditional philosophy by means of conceptual clarification and reconstruction and, second, to try to find out what is living or fit to be resurrected in the tradition’ (2004, p. 11). ‘As exemplars, Wiredu explores with analytic rigor the philosophical prepossessions of some concepts and aspects of the Akan language and culture.
In philosophy, conceptual decolonisation involves two tasks. One is the critical task of avoiding, through a critical conceptual self-awareness, the unexamined assimilation of the conceptual frameworks embedded in the foreign philosophical traditions that have had an impact on African thought. Another is the positive task of exploring ‘the resources of our own indigenous conceptual schemes in our philosophical meditations on even the most technical problems of contemporary philosophy’ (Wiredu, 1996, p. 136). The fundamental concepts of philosophy are the most fundamental categories of human thought. However, ‘the particular modes of thought that yield these concepts may reflect the specifics of the culture, environment, and even the accidental idiosyncrasies of the people concerned’ (ibid., p.137). The cultural embeddedness of any philosophy will influence its concepts. The claims of any philosophy to universality should not be accepted uncritically. Wiredu does not leave out any classic concept traditionally analysed by philosophy (reality, being, existence, truth, knowledge and mind, to name only a few).
As a believer in the universality of reason, Wiredu holds that the positive impact of this process of decolonisation and of conceptual rethinking and elucidation will also be of interest to non-African thinkers and will reverberate far beyond the African continent because, in the interrelated world, ‘any enlargement of conceptual options is an instrumentality for the enlargement of the human mind everywhere’ (ibid., p. 144). Through critical reflection on the concepts of various Western philosophies, along with suggestions from other cultures (as, for example, those of the East), ‘we can combine any indigenous philosophical resources to create for ourselves and our peoples modern philosophies from which both the East and the West might learn something’ (1995, p. 21). Conceptual decolonisation is a task common to all post-colonial regions in developing their authentic philosophical thoughts and a search for identity. It is a challenge faced by African, Latin American and other ‘Third World’ philosophies.
Wiredu also addresses cross-cultural comparisons of conceptions in philosophy. Conceptions in different philosophies evince language-specific features. But are these compatible across cultures and languages? Is there a common ground for mutual understanding? Starting by answering these questions, he then moves on to the more general problem of intercultural communication and dialogue. He explores the ‘interplay of conceptual universals with semantic particulars in intercultural discourse’ (1996, p. 7). He views the strategy for the development of African philosophy as twofold: the restoration of traditional philosophical thought and the creative assimilation of the achievements of Western (and other) philosophical currents in dialogue with them. To achieve the first task, he argues for the value of the particular features of African and other culturally embedded philosophies, reflecting the unique characteristics of their languages and cultures. For the second, he emphasises the importance of recognising the universal dimension of all cultures as the common ground for intercultural relationships and inter-philosophical dialogue. In his theory, he tries to walk a fine line between particular and universal and find a proper balance between them.
Moreover, Wiredu believes that all of humanity shares certain basic rational attributes and that the exploration of their role for human understanding is paramount for a cross-cultural philosophy. He discounts claims about alleged incompatibility between the perspectives of universalism and particularism. The possibility of cultural universals is predicated on their humanity. Prima facie, cultures differ from one another; but on a more fundamental level, as expressions of a common humanity, they manifest and share important common principles. In any culture, there are elements of both particularity and universality. However, cultural particulars are accidental. Wiredu stresses that the universals of culture are what define the human species and holds that cultural relativism obstructs intercultural dialogue (ibid., p. 20). His conceptualisation of communication applies to both intra- and intercultural communication.
Wiredu also addresses the problem of the translatability of language. He argues that in principle, all human languages are inter-learnable and inter-translatable. Given their inter-translatability, no limits can be set to either intra- or intercultural communication (ibid., p. 26). It is worth noting that Wiredu’s concept resonates with Mikhail Bakhtin’s idea that dialogism is a constitutive characteristic of the language as such. Along with the presupposition of conceptual universals, intercultural and even intracultural communication also presupposes the existence of enough commonality of cognitive criteria for the rationality of those intimations to be assessed from the point of view of an alien culture. Recalling Bakhtin, culture can be better understood from the viewpoint of another, foreign culture: ‘it is only in the eyes of another culture that foreign culture reveals itself fully and profoundly’ (Bakhtin, 1986, p. 7).
Philosophy’s critical role is to clarify concepts and their genuine meaning. Wiredu is critical of the abuse of universals by neo-colonial ideologies, which impose such alleged universals (which are rather pseudo-universals and ‘home-grown particulars’) upon other peoples (1996, p. 2). He asserts that this is a false and unphilosophical form of cultural universalisation, nothing more than a manifestation of cultural ethnocentrism. He asserts that fallible conceptions of universals, both cognitive and ethical, should not be confused with the very idea of universals itself: ‘judicious claims of universality imply only that contending adults can, in principle, discuss their differences rationally on a basis of equality, whether inside identical cultures or across them’ (ibid., p. 31). He suggests a respectful, dialogical approach to these matters through rational discourse (ibid., p. 2).
3.3. African-American Philosophy in Dialogue with African and Afro-Caribbean Philosophies
In the United States, many ethnic minorities, such as persons of African descent, search for their identities by researching the cultural roots of their ancestors. In conjunction with that project, African-Americans have developed African-American philosophy.
Cornel West, in his reflection on philosophy as the love of wisdom, writes that a quest for wisdom requires us ‘to be open to the voice, viewpoint, and vision of others’ (2011, p. 25; emphasis in original). Earlier, he wrote: ‘Afro-American philosophy is the interpretation of Afro-American history, highlighting the cultural heritage and political struggles, which provides desirable norms that should regulate responses to particular challenges presently confronting Afro-Americans’ (2008, p. 11; emphasis in original).
According to West, African-Americans are confronted by two interrelated challenges: those of self-image, or the issue of self-identity related to culture; and those of self-determination, related to the political struggle for a better life. He emphasises the fundamental role of culture with regard to Afro-American self-understanding. In historical African-American traditions, West distinguishes the vitalist, rationalist, existentialist and humanist traditions, which represent various responses to the challenges of self-image and self-determination. He considers the most promising of the four types to be the humanist tradition, which ‘extols the distinctiveness of Afro-American culture and personality’ (ibid., p. 13; emphasis in original).
In developing African-American philosophy, its theorists reconstruct the tradition of thought. They have taken a broad, intercultural perspective, turning their attention to African cultures, seeking insights from their original roots to inform their philosophy. This resonates with the efforts of African and Afro-Caribbean intellectuals from different countries who are developing the broader Africana philosophy, which focuses on the African Diaspora.
Like African philosophy, which seeks its foundation in indigenous African culture and traditions of thought combined with modern philosophical techniques, African-American thinkers view their philosophy as culturally embedded – both rooted in culture and, at the same time, contributing to its development. African-American philosophers born and educated in the United States, within its cultural milieu, thus being natively ‘American’, at the same time seek to inform their unique philosophy by seeking their African cultural roots. This biculturalism opens a space for creative intercultural dialogue.
Since the 1990s, this interaction among the threads of Africana philosophy has been invigorated by a number of intellectuals from Africa who have immigrated to the United States to work at universities, doing research, participating in conferences and publishing in this field. These immigrants have gained new socio-cultural experiences, which may broaden their view of their native cultures from an outside perspective. Conversely, they bring new dimensions to the cultural palette of their new country of residence. The presence of these intellectuals in the United States brings a new perspective to theorising about race, culture, identity and intercultural relationships, which are at the center of African-American philosophy, but which have been ignored by mainstream analytical philosophy. Thus, they can critically evaluate their native cultures ‘from an outside perspective’, and they can evaluate American culture from their own cultural perspective – as others. From their position of the outsideness of their ethnicity, as bilingual and bicultural intellectuals, an intercultural thought has emerged. This cultural ‘being in between’ and engagement of diverse worldviews poses challenges, but these challenges can be mitigated. It can also be stimulating for philosophical reflection and for critically rethinking some established views on cultural diversity and interculturalism. These intellectuals contribute to attempts to create a new type of theorising with a ‘border epistemology’ that goes beyond the Western canon and allows for the emergence of new thought from the perspective of minorities, immigrants, refugees, etc.
3.4. Inter-Philosophical Dialogue under the Umbrella of Africana Philosophy
Philosophical dialogue between the intellectuals of Africa and of the African Diaspora has a long history. When African-American philosophy began to gain influence in North American universities in the 1990s, it attracted Afro-Caribbean philosophers. Among the philosophers related to the African Diaspora in the Caribbean and now working at universities in the United States are Jamaican-born Lewis R. Gordon (of African-Jewish descent), Professor of Philosophy and Africana Studies at the University of Connecticut, Storrs; Montserrat-born Paget Henry (Antiguan), Professor of Sociology and Africana Studies at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island; and Jamaican Charles W. Mills, John Evans Professor of Moral and Intellectual Philosophy at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois.
The collaboration between African-American and Afro-Caribbean philosophers, as well as some other diasporic philosophers from Central and South America, has contributed to a diasporic Africana philosophy, which receives much attention today. The articulation of the Africana tradition of thought demonstrates important, previously ignored aspects of cultural diversity and interculturality. For some, Africana thought includes black thought, but not exclusively. Others regard Africana and black as creolised or mixed cultural categories. These have also been combined with other designations of mixture, such as borders or temporal displacement.
Lucius Outlaw elaborated the concept of Africana philosophy as early as 1996 in his On Race and Philosophy. He characterises Africana philosophy as a ‘metaphilosophical, umbrella-concept’:
The notion of ‘Africana philosophy’ is of very recent origin but is being taken by increasing numbers of professional philosophers who are African or of African descent, and by others who are not. ‘Africana philosophy’ is very much a heuristic notion – that is, one that suggests orientations for philosophical endeavors by professional philosophers and other intellectuals devoted to matters pertinent to African and African-descended persons and peoples. (2004, p. 90)
In this view, African, African-American and Afro-Caribbean philosophies are construed as the components of Africana philosophy. Lewis R. Gordon writes, ‘Africana philosophy is a species of Africana thought, which involves theoretical questions raised by critical engagements with ideas of Africana cultures and their hybrid, mixed, creolized forms worldwide’ (2008, p.1).
The geographical scope covered by Africana thought includes North America, Central and South America and the Caribbean. It is also characterised as ‘an area of philosophical research that addresses the problems faced and raised by the African Diaspora’ (ibid., p.13). It addresses the issues of culture, race, identity, modernity, colonisation, oppression and struggles for emancipation.
Within this broadly defined field, Gordon considers African-American philosophy as ‘an area of Africana philosophy that focuses on philosophical problems posed by the African Diaspora in the New World’ (ibid., p. 69). This broadens the concept of African-American philosophy beyond the United States, meaning ‘the modern philosophical discourse that emerges from the disaporic African community, including its Francophone, hispanophone, and lusophone forms’ (ibid., p. 69). African-American philosophers engaged in dialogue with intellectuals of African descent from the Caribbean and Central and South America thus embody a metaconcept of ‘Africana philosophy’, which connects African philosophical thought with that of the African Diaspora in the Americas.
These areas of research are also the areas of dialogue and collaboration of philosophers with different cultural backgrounds. The interplay of the issues of culture and race sets some of the themes for theorising about the identity of Africana philosophy. It also determines to some degree the locus of this philosophy, that is, how this philosophy positions itself in the spectrum of contemporary philosophical currents – its affinity with some and its distance from others.
Some of the challenges of the philosophy of culture are explored by Gordon, using an approach he calls ‘dialectical, psychoanalytical, and existential’. This leads to problematics of (1) theoretical philosophical anthropology, (2) freedom and liberation, and (3) metacritiques of reason (2010, p.198), which he addresses in developing his alternative, ‘theory in black’. He approaches issues of race and culture from the perspective of Africana existential philosophy. Existential questions concerning freedom, identity and liberation through a focus on the human condition permeate black thought. In contrast to the postmodern thesis of the ‘death of subject’, he revitalises existential phenomenology and demonstrates its importance in developing a new humanities and a new social theory. Gordon’s work bridges the European existentialist tradition and Africana existential thought. He indicates that this was a theme of ‘the various dialogical encounters between twentieth century Africana theorists and European and Euro-American theorists’ (2000, p. 7). He notes that Jean-Paul Sartre ‘serves as a link between Richard Wright and Franz Fanon’ (p. 9).
African-American and Afro-Caribbean philosophers have undertaken a critical ‘de-construction’ of the deformation (double consciousness) that accompanied the racialisation of African identity. Paget Henry explored the positive alternative of the reconstruction of self-formation (2000). His approach consists of bringing together ‘phenomenological and discursive strategies, as well as insights drawn from the Caribbean philosophical experience’ (2003, p. 48). As he states, philosophy is a rationally oriented discourse, but this does not negate its cultural embeddedness. Paget focuses on the discursive processes vital to the formation of these philosophies.
Henry notes a recent trend in the evolution of African-American and Afro-Caribbean philosophies as they become more open to other intellectual traditions. They are also engaged with Euro-American pragmatism and various European philosophies. He also points out the necessity of engaging in more systematic dialogues with indigenous Americans and Indo-Caribbean philosophies. Both indigenous Americans and people of African descent have been victims of the phenomenological and discursive invisibility, and neither has been able to see the other’s philosophies. ‘Hence’, Henry concludes, ‘the urgent need for dialogue’ (ibid., p. 63). The importance of dialogue has been stressed by other authors as well (see, for example, Vest, 2005).
Africana philosophy has made a positive impact on contemporary African philosophy. African philosophers give credit to African-American philosophers for supporting the emergence of ‘conversational philosophy’ in Africa since the late 1990s. Jonathan Chumakonan, a Nigerian-born logician, characterises conversational philosophy as a ‘critical conversation among practitioners’ and a theoretical evaluation of the thoughts of other African philosophers (2015, p. 28).
A journey in the search for identity leads not toward the ultimate discovery of an absolute ‘core’, but rather moves philosophy into the realm of polyphonic interrelations of living thought. We can see traces and possibilities of these interrelations. The dialogue or polylog of African-American, African-Caribbean and African philosophies can be considered as inter-cultural relations, given the originality of each tradition, and at the same time as intra-cultural relations of participants under the Africana ‘umbrella’. Each of these philosophies is engaged with various currents of European philosophy, which can also be viewed as inter-cultural relations. Thinking in more general terms of culturally embedded unities or ‘families’ of philosophies, such as Africana or European, they represent interrelations among large cultural types or traditions of thought. The borders identifying each of these philosophies and their constellations on all levels are not absolute, but rather historically conditional, alterable and transparent. New ideas frequently emerge on the borders or in the border zones ‘in-between’ philosophical currents. Each of these philosophies shines with its own internal light of wisdom and with the reflected light of other philosophies. The possibility of each of them developing as a part of the multidimensional and dynamic network of interrelations derives its potential from being ultimately embedded in the all-embracing philosophical culture of humanity.
3.5. Discussions on Interculturalism in Canada
Quebec is a Francophone province within Canada’s Anglophone majority. The differing views of these two groups regarding cultural diversity and integration have resulted in debates between advotates of ‘multicultualism’ and ‘interculturalism’. For example, Charles Taylor, the Canadian philosopher and Professor at McGill University in Montreal, in his influential article ‘The Politics of Recognition’ (1994), approached the issue of multiculturalism from a philosophical perspective. He characterises the emergence of a modern politics of identity as premised upon an idea of ‘recognition’. People do not form their identities ‘monologically’, without an intrinsic relationship to others; rather, we are ‘always in dialogue with, sometimes in struggle against, the things our significant others want to see in us’ (ibid., p. 33). Taylor invokes Bakhtin’s conception of dialogism, focusing on the relationship between the identity of an individual or a group and its recognition within society. For him, a sense of socio-cultural self-esteem emerges not only from personal identity, but also in relation to the group in which this identity is developed (ibid., p. 25).
This ‘politics of recognition’ has sparked vivid discussions. In a more recent publication, Taylor (2012) explains the rationale behind the shift toward interculturalism and its heuristic advantages. In comparing the concepts of multiculturalism and interculturalism in Canada, he argues that the difference between the two is not so much a matter of the concrete policies dealing with diversity and integration, but rather concerns the ‘stories’ about the situation as viewed from the perspective of Anglophone Canada under the rubric of multiculturalism versus the perspective of Francophone Quebec, which is referred to as interculturalism.
At the same time, Taylor points out the tension around the semantic distinction between the two terms: with the dual goal of recognising difference and achieving integration, the prefix ‘multi’ points toward diversity, while ‘inter’ places a greater emphasis on integration (2012, p. 417). Interculturalism is preferred in the case of Quebec, where integration is a more complex goal than in the rest of Canada, because it takes place in French rather than in English. Quebecers view Canada as a dual country, including both a Francophone and an Anglophone society, each integrating immigrants in their own manner. Interculturalism envisions the regaining of historical identity as a process in which all citizens would have an equal voice and no one would have a privileged status. Viewing immigrants according to the dichotomy of us and them reflects underlying fears that ‘they’ may change ‘us’ (ibid., p. 420).
Taylor argues that interculturalism also ‘suits better the situation of many European countries’ (ibid., p. 420). Fears around multiculturalism stoke hostility toward immigrants, which, in turn, fuels their alienation and anger, leading to a dangerous spiral. Taylor sees the only remedy as ‘successful enactments of the intercultural scenario’ (ibid., p. 421). This requires more open and collaborative policies; it means that members of the majority mainstream seek out leaders and members of the minorities and work together to resolve the conflicts. Such a collaborative relationship requires the elaboration of a more inclusive culture of interaction.
Philosophers from Quebec provide new insights into the negotiation and management of the diversity of national minorities in complex democratic contexts. Much debate has been generated recently over the means of accommodation and empowerment of minority groups and nations and the advancement and enrichment of pluralism and intercultural dialogue. Alain-G. Gagnon, Professor of Political Science at Quebec University in Montreal, examines the ways in which minority nations have begun to empower themselves in a global environment, which is increasingly hostile to national minorities. In comparing conditions in Quebec, Catalonia and Scotland, he argues that self-determination for these nations would be best achieved through intercultural engagement and negotiation within the federal system, rather than through independence movements. He argues that autonomy need not be seen as closing oneself off to the Other, but rather as a voluntary and consensual mechanism of enfranchisement.
Gagnon focuses on Francophone cultural heritage in order to maintain the minority culture and counterbalance the negative impact of ‘American cultural imperialism and Anglo-homogenization’ on minority communities (2014, ch. 2). According to him, current approaches to the management of diversity and to national emancipation are limited in scope. He recommends two novel ways of accommodating national minorities in their quest for formal recognition and autonomy: one is the empowerment of individuals and groups to engage in the public life of their nation through active citizenship; the other is through expanded forms of intercultural dialogue and cooperation among religiously, culturally and linguistically diverse citizens. In contrast to multiculturalism, the intercultural model of managing diversity rejects the notion of juxtaposing groups and instead encourages cross-cultural dialogue and the responsible functioning of the political community. The enshrinement of interculturalism derives from the need of all democratic polities to promote active citizen engagement and political participation (ibid., ch. 3). In Quebec, interculturalism in recent years has contributed to the promulgation of active citizenship.
The sociologist and historian Gérard Bouchard, Professor at Quebec University at Chicoutimi, was a co-chair, along with Charles Taylor, of the Consultation Commission on Accommodation Practices Related to Cultural Differences (CCAPRCD), created in February 2007 by the government of Quebec. They co-authored the commission’s report (2008), which marked a milestone in the international discussion of how a diversified society can become both integrated and egalitarian.
In Interculuralism: A View from Quebec (2015), Bouchard offers his general conception of interculturalism in the context of Quebec. Its analysis is relevant to those cases where the cultural majority is also a minority in its outside environment (e.g., Catalonia, Scotland, Wales). In some aspects, it is also relevant to the United States and some Western European countries that, in recent years, have been dealing with immigration issues. He also defends his conception against its various critics.
Bouchard offers the following definition: ‘Interculturalism, as a form of integrative pluralism, is a model based on a search for balance that attempts to find a middle ground between assimilation and segmentation and that, for this purpose, emphasizes integration, interactions, and promotion of a shared culture with respect for rights and diversity’ (Ibid., p. 32). He views interculutralism as one of the models of ‘management of ethnocultural diversity’ (along with multiculturalism, the melting pot, republicanism, assimilationism, etc.). Interculutralism shares some elements with other models, such as recognition, pluralism and reasonable accommodation, while its own articulation stresses relationships, dialogue and balance. He relates these models to five major paradigms, which represent different types of societies: diversity, homogeneity, bi- or multipolarity, mixité and duality (ibid., pp.18–20).
Bouchard’s analysis combines both cultural and civic aspects of multiculturalism. He mentions several distinctive components that characterise interculturalism with respect to other models of diversity management. As a global model for social integration, interculturalism takes shape principally within the duality paradigm, in which diversity is conceived and managed as a relationship between a cultural majority (described as ‘foundational’) and minorities, including immigrants. The duality paradigm does not create this divide; rather, it draws attention to already existing majority/minorities relationships and the tensions associated with them. The cultural majority or ‘founding culture’ can feel anxiety in the face of ethnocultural minorities perceived as hostile to the majority traditions and values, which fosters resistance to integration. Likewise, minorities fear for their own values and cultures and experience uncertainty about their future. This reflects the intersection of two sets of anxieties, which can fuel reciprocal mistrust and tensions. This model attempts to address these problems and ease the us/them relationship in order to prevent it from lapsing into conflict and ethnicism.
Interculturalism seeks to care for the future of the majority culture as much as that of minority cultures, and in this sense, it is essentially a search for conciliation. The tension underlying this duality can be corrosive and result in various forms of discrimination from the majority group. On the other hand, the duality paradigm ‘feeds a critical awareness’ by making such forms of discrimination more visible and reminding everyone of the need for dialogue and concerted adjustments. (ibid., pp. 24, 26).
Furthermore, interculturalism brings to the fore the power struggles underlying intercultural relationships. The duality paradigm ‘gives high visibility to a fundamental power relationship and consequently focuses attention on its visible abuses’ (ibid., p. 39). Ruling powers may be inclined to exercise their advantage in socio-cultural decisions at the expense of minorities. In this asymmetry, ‘the effectiveness of intercultural dialogue is limited by power relationships, practices of discrimination, exclusionary measures and social inequalities’, hence ‘a call for social change’ (ibid., p. 44).
At the heart of interculturalism is the integration of diverse coexisting traditions and cultures. Using the term ‘integration’ – which, due to the recent controversies in Europe, is associated with imposition and assimilation and not respectful of diversity – Bouchard stresses that it is devoid of any assimilationist overtone, but rather has voluntary and inclusive meaning in the intercultural model: ‘In accordance with North American sociological tradition, the concept of integration designates the set of mechanisms and processes of socialization through which social bonds, along with their symbolic and functional foundations, are constituted’ (ibid., p. 41). These processes engage all citizens; they operate on individual and institutional levels, and along economic, social, and cultural dimensions. As Bouchard writes, ‘the best means to counteract the discomfort that some can feel when faced with a stranger is not to keep their distance, but to come together to destroy false perceptions and to facilitate the stranger’s integration into the host society’ (ibid., p. 43).
In contrast to assimilation, interculturalism advocates a particular type of pluralism defined as ‘integrative pluralism’ (ibid., p. 5). It pays more attention to the social dimension of integration, addressing the themes of inequalities, power relationships, discrimination and racism. It also includes the political dimension, which is necessary for the implementation of a policy for the management of ethnocultural diversity. In the spirit of interaction and integration, interculturalism favors the idea that beyond ethnocultural diversity, there are elements of a common culture (or a national culture) beginning to take shape. A common culture is made up of three closely interwoven, ever-changing threads: ‘the majority culture, the minority cultures, and the shared culture’ (ibid., p. 47). Of the distinctive components of interculturalism, Bouchard writes,
To sum up, interculturalism is basically characterized by an embrace of pluralism as an ethics of cultural encounter, the vision of ethno-cultural realities as structured by a majority/minorities relationship (cf. the duality paradigm), an emphasis on integrations (through policies of social and economic inclusion and a dynamic of interaction) and a strong concern for the societal level (development of a common culture). (2013, p. 98)
As we have seen, Bouchard’s view of intercultuaralism ‘from Quebec’ was produced within the context of Francophone Canada. He ponders how to preserve the French culture in Quebec ‘as a small Francophone nation and as a minority culture on the continent’ in the face of Anglophone Canadian culture (2015, p. 58). He makes several suggestions in this respect, such as promiting French as the common, official language; teaching the Francophone past in the history courses; etc. His claim for the recognition of the majority culture as a founding component may ease the fears of the French-speaking populists, who perceive minorities and migrants in Quebec as a challenge to their traditional culture (ibid., p. 23). Many majority communities may find this claim reassuring. Ironically, however, if such a claim were used by the Anglophone majority of Canada, it would be disadvantageous for Francophone Quebec as a minority. Dominant cultures are already in an advantageous position over minority cultures. Moreover, the merits of each culture depend on its achievements and its role in society, which cannot be decided politically or administratively.
This claim may, in certain lights, run counter to the principle of formal equality between individuals, groups and cultures, as Bouchard acknowledges. Nevertheless, he expresses scepticism with respect to ‘the ideal (often professed but achieved nowhere) of the cultural neutrality of the state’ (ibid., p. 50). Some critics think that insistence on a particular language may be seen ‘as somewhat partial’ (Cantle, 2012, p. 154). At the same time, Bouchard warns against abusive extensions of the majority culture. He suggests that in the cultural sphere, immigrants and members of minorities should be made more visible in the media and public institutions. The curricula of schools and universities should be designed to promote pluralism, mutual knowledge and interculturalism. He advocates efforts to teach both the official language of the host society and the languages of origins of minorities and immigrants (Bouchard, 2015, pp. 34, 79).
Bouchard tries to respect the fine line between the interests of the Francophone majority in protecting their culture from fragmentation and the interests of minorities in preserving their cultural identities from assimilation. Interculturalism is a search for balance, aiming to develop ‘a third way’ between fragmentation and assimilation. In contrast to more polarising tendencies, ‘interculturalism is an approach conceived around bridges, relationships, and arbitrations’ (ibid., p. 58). While fostering respect for diversity, interculturalism encourages interactions and exchanges in a spirit of conciliation and reciprocity. Bouchard sees the advantage of interculturalism, in comparison to multiculturalism and other models, as being best suited to ‘the double objective of unity and respect for diversity’ and ‘to learn[ing] to live together in a spirit of respect for our differences’ (ibid., p. 56). The overall goal of interculturalism is ‘to manage the relationship between the majority and minorities in a way that is in accordance with human rights and pluralism, with a view of promoting dialogue, mutual understanding, and reapproachment’ (ibid., p. 154).
The issues of language, faith, history and ‘core values’ as addressed by interculturalism represent some fundamental concerns about cultural identity. As Ted Cantle wrote in his analysis of interculturalism, these are ‘very similar issues to those described by Bouchard, which again touch upon underlying and more fundamental concerns, could be created in most other Western nations, though the precise nature of issues will vary from country to country’ (2012, p. 203).
Dialogue as an Alternative to Domination
Bakhtin wrote, ‘Dialogic relationships…are an almost universal phenomenon, permeating all human speech and all relationships and manifestations of human life – in general, everything that has meaning and significance’ (1984, p. 40). Thus dialogic relationships are constitutive of human personality itself. Philosophy also illuminates the ontological status of dialogue, characterising ‘being’ as shared co-being (co-existence) with others. Philosophy stresses the constitutive fundamentality of dialogue for us as human beings. As Fornet-Betancourt put it:
Dialogue is an appeal to our humanity…Much more than merely part of the human condition, dialogue is the primordial substance from which human beings – with corresponding ambivalence – develop their humanity and discern their situation in the world. Succinctly stated, a dialogue is what sustains the very nature of our humanity. (2012, p. 41)
Dialogical relationships are also necessary to keep society from falling apart and are a condition and an indispensable means for progression toward a more peaceful and harmonious world. In this sense, we can say that dialogue should be the norm. Dialogism as the norm should be broadly recognised by both the scholarly community and the ‘reasoning public’ for ways of thinking and in relationships on all levels – from intersubjective and social to intercultural and inter-civilisational. In its normative role, dialogism can serve as the standard for the evaluation and critique of existing relationships within a socially-culturally diverse world. It can also serve as a regulative principle in the ennoblement of human relationships.
The problems and dilemmas facing contemporary humanity can be understood in terms of the Bakhntinian contrast between the one-dimensional, monologic world of stereotypes and authoritarian dicta and the pluralistic, dialogic world of creative thinking, recognition of others as equals, personal moral responsibility, shared co-existence and an openness toward the cultural-historical creativity of individuals. In the contemporary world, facing social and global problems and conflicts, this realisation of the dialogical potential of culture is a condition of possibility for the progressive development and perhaps even survival of humanity.
However, the realisation of this norm (like other universal notions, such as human rights) faces many obstacles. Obviously, the reality of today’s world falls far short of this dialogical ideal. Nevertheless, this reality does not diminish the normative value of the regulative principle. It rather demonstrates the magnitude of the civilisational problem and the task facing humanity, and should thus be an additional reason for mobilising human intellectual and creative resources for finding ways toward a dialogical transformation of society and the world order.
As we have seen in the previous section, progressive philosophers are taking a critical and at the same time constructive approach in promoting (even counterfactually) the ideas of dialogue in a conflicted world. In the area of global inter-philosophical dialogue, for example, Enrique Dussel addresses the problem of dialogue among cultures and among culturally embedded philosophies within a broad historical and global perspective. As he states, ‘a dialogue between the philosophy of the North and that of the South is necessary, but still does not exist in a true sense’ (2014, p. 21). In analysing the causes for this deficiency, he points out both historically inherited and recent obstacles, such as the asymmetrical situation of the participants, which obstruct equality in dialogue. As he writes,
The Eurocentric or Western-centric views are still predominant in contemporary philosophy. For many Western philosophers, Eurocentrism (sometimes inadvertent) underpins their belief in the universality of their philosophical views, causing them to underestimate or ignore other philosophical traditions. On the other hand, philosophers from non-Western regions frequently fall into the trap of a Eurocentric prejudice if they don’t know the history of philosophy in their own countries, and instead limit themselves merely to commenting on and interpreting the works of European philosophers. Some of them may fall into the opposite trap of ethnocentric fundamentalism. (ibid., p. 21)
As a solution, he suggests strategies for changing this pattern and engaging in critical self-reflection to overcome Eurocentric or other ethnocentric limitations of viewpoints and become more open-minded regarding cultural diversity and dialogue with the other as equals: ‘Only under these conditions – within an ethical framework of the relationships of symmetry, respect, and openness to truth – can a dialogue between the philosophy of the North and that of the South truly begin’ (ibid., pp. 21–2).
Dussel also addresses the problem of ‘liberation from philosophical coloniality’. He points out the necessity of fostering a dialogue among philosophers from the countries of the global South, which have many problems in common, and he formulates the main philosophical themes for this South–South dialogue: ‘A key priority for the initial stages of development of a network of philosophies of the South should be study, debate, exposition, and publication of histories of philosophy in each of our countries, continents, and regions’ (ibid., p. 34).
This does not entail an ethnocentric fundamentalism, but rather means combining proficiency in the regional tradition of the South with the knowledge of the latest achievements of European or North American philosophy in order to be able to contribute creatively to new philosophical reflections. ‘Philosophers of the South are uniquely situated to reflect critically on the ethical, political, anthropological, ontological, and epistemological dimensions of our realities’ (ibid., p. 35). The contemporary philosophies of the South should aim for well-founded argumentation and relevance to their own realities so as to contribute to the global inter-philosophical dialogue. ‘In this manner, the community of philosophers of the center will ‘learn’ about new themes, with new methods, within the framework of a dialogue enriched by new participants’ (ibid., p. 35)
4.1. The Historical Contradiction between Dialogue and Domination
Philosophers are analysing the root causes of the problem of the lack of dialogue at a time when it is most needed. Philosophical reflection on the theme of dialogue in the context of a world permeated by conflicts raises questions regarding the conditions of the possibility – or impossibility – of dialogue itself. A philosophy of dialogue analyses the existential and historico-cultural conditions under which we practice dialogue.
The historico-cultural conditions reflect not only the progressive achievements of humankind, but are also marked by the contradictions of history, stemming from capitalist exploitation, the ‘will to power’ and domination. These have been extensively analysed from various perspectives within the traditions of Marxism, critical theory, existentialism, liberation philosophy, postmodern and postcolonial thought.
These conditions and their negative effects contradict the dialogic nature of human beings, but we internalise and reproduce them, as manifested in conflicts throughout history. The realisation of human dialogism is taking place in the context of historical conditions that hinder it. In other words, these global conditions show the historical contradiction between dialogue and domination. ‘Only in the light of this historical contradiction between dialogue and domination can we understand how fragile and how much in peril is dialogue or, more exactly, human beings themselves as dialogic beings’ (Fornet-Betancourt, 2012, p. 43).
Philosophers detect the root cause of the conflicted character of the contemporary world in the calculative ‘instrumental reason’ that became predominant in the modern period. Its economic-political consequences included colonialism and new forms of exploitation and alienation. Postcolonial thought characterised modernity as the history of epistemological and political violence and the exclusion of the other. The consequences of this continue to tear apart our world today, generating conflicts, violence and wars. The humanistic tradition presents an in-depth critique of this calculative reason and its objectivising instrumentalisation of the world. Heidegger developed a critique of the instrumentalisation of humanity’s proper thinking and the ‘enframing’ of modern technology that reveals the world only insofar as it is a thing to be used, a ‘standing-reserve’ (1977, p. 287). In line with Heidegger’s critique of technology, the philosophers of the Frankfurt School developed a critique of the instrumentalisation of reason under the guise of civilisational modernity. According to Adorno and Horkheimer, because the Western Enlightenment has become ‘totalitarian’, the world has become intelligible to humankind only insofar as to make its multiple forms calculable: ‘Now that self-preservation [of humanity] has been finally automated, reason is dismissed’ (Adorno and Horkheimer, 2002, pp. 24–5). Not only is reason dismissed, but reason itself becomes subsumed under calculative or instrumental reason. This type of reason and technology become a means of control, domination and exploitation, and their abuse threatens the survival of humanity.
Colonialism, in conjunction with Eurocentric ideology, became the only basis for interpreting the world and its history and culture, thus oppressing other, ‘barbarian’ cultures and forcibly silencing the other. The exclusion of the other was the negation of communication, for there is no dialogue without the other as an interlocutor. Centuries of the systematic destruction of cultural diversity and silencing the word of the other resulted in ‘the loss of the word’ or ‘mutism’ (Fornet-Betancourt, 2012, pp. 46–7).
This lack of dialogical relations and communication underpins existing social relations, and it is explicitly manifested in the attitude toward the other – those considered minorities, foreigners, migrants or outsiders. This hidden (or masked by hypocritical ‘political correctness’) exceptionalism and discriminatory attitude toward the other is a deeply rooted cause of many conflicts in the contemporary world. Thus the critical task of philosophy is to demonstrate ‘the immanent irrationality in the historical relations of our world’ and to argue that ‘the prevailing mutism is a real “dead end”’ (Fornet-Betancourt, 2012, p. 48).
Furthermore, philosophy should critique domination in all of its manifestations, such as asymmetries of power, hegemonic pretenses, the marginalisation of the traditional cultures of minorities and developing countries and the social exclusion of a large part of the world’s population. Constructively, philosophy should incorporate the ‘culture of reason’ into public opinion and show ‘the path of dialogue as the only reasonable alternative leading toward the true humanization of history’ (ibid., p. 48).
4.2. Asymmetries of Power versus a Dialogue of Equals
The political aspect of the obstacles hindering dialogue is in general characterised as asymmetries of power. This has various manifestations in the domestic and foreign policies of states as well as in international relations. In the twenty-first century, asymmetries of power took an unprecedented form in the sole military superpower in a unipolar world aiming for global hegemony.
Currently, the military preponderance and hegemonic policy of the sole superpower is perceived as a threat by nations that do not want to be dominated; this provokes their defensive reaction. Facing a threat to their security, they try to counter the policy. It triggers counter-alliances, a geopolitical competition, and the arms race, increasing the risk of war. But the real alternative will be not for the dominating power to change hands, but for a world free from any hegemonic domination.
Hegemonic domination based on force is in principle incompatible with dialogic relationships. Unilateral actions are an affront to multilateral actions of nations regarding world affairs. Hegemonic domination contradicts the principles of the sovereign equality of nations, enshrined in the UN Charter and international law. This sovereign equality is the sine qua non condition of the mutually respectful relations that form the basis for the beginning of dialogue. The principle of sovereign equality is a condition for dialogical and collaborative relationships, which are so necessary in today’s world in order to solve – or at least mitigate – escalating global problems. US hegemonic policy as imperial dicta is anti-dialogical. As Hans Köchler stated,
in the era of globalization, only a multipolar world order is compatible with peaceful co-existence among a multitude of cultures and civilizations. Sovereign equality of states should be complemented by sovereign equality of cultures and civilizations if ‘culture wars’ – that always in history have carried the risk of ‘perpetual’ conflict – are to be avoided. (2015)
US foreign policy is characterised by attempts at the ‘hegemonic capture’ of universalistic notions, such as ‘human rights’ or ‘democracy’. The same can be said of the notion of ‘dialogue’. Official declarations about the preference for ‘diplomacy’ contradict the actual threat or use of force in relations with other nations. This can be called ‘a dialogue at gunpoint’. Instead, nations should struggle for sovereign equality. This also includes cultural sovereignty – the protection of their own unique cultures from homogenising globalisation and from the imposition of the cultural and ideological stereotypes of the dominant superpower.
In this paper, we have seen that dialogical philosophy grounds dialogue as a comprehensive phenomenon permeating all manifestations of human life and relationships, from the intersubjective to the social and the intercultural. Dialogical relationships are constitutive of human personality itself and sustain the very nature of our humanity. Dialogism is a fundamental characteristic of language. Consequently, the various forms of dialogue related to language (including a dialogue of cultures) bear this dialogic property, which is immanent in language. The actual dialogue takes place among individuals or groups as representatives or bearers of different cultures; thus expressions such as ‘dialogue of cultures’ or ‘dialogue of civilisations’ are metaphors, which are nevertheless heuristically and conceptually rich and very useful for describing the mutually enriching influence of cultures and civilisations.
Analysis holds that the concept of dialogue has a normative status and transformative potential in today’s world. It can serve as the standard for the evaluation and critique of existing relationships. It can also serve as a regulative principle in social transformation and the ennoblement of human relationships. Dialogical philosophy offers an alternative to the existing world of domination and hegemonic globalisation. In contrast to the concept of the clash of civilisations, it stands for dialogue among civilisations.
In this paper, we have explored the theme of dialogue among cultures, and in particular dialogue among philosophical cultures, as well as its grounding in intercultural philosophy. The analysis of emerging philosophies, such as Latin American, African, African-American and other culturally embedded philosophies, demonstrates their tendency to evolve from ethnocentrism toward more openness and finally to inter-philosophical dialogue. An inter-philosophical global dialogue can serve as the epistemological and ontological foundation for intercultural and inter-civilisational dialogue.
The notion of ‘civilisation’ as it is used in the World Public Forum Dialogue of Civilizations (WPF) is broader than the specific notion of ‘culture’. According to Vladimir Yakunin, ‘civilization is conceived of as the totality of independent forms of historical development, which have arisen in a particular national-territorial area’ (2012). (Above civilisations, the higher level of generalisation would be humanity or humankind.) Civilisation is not limited to its cultural aspect, but also includes socio-politico-economic characteristics. Within this hierarchy, cultures and civilisations are interrelated. The purpose of the WPF is to assert the plurality of existing civilisations (in contrast to the hegemonic pretensions of Western civilisation to represent the whole of humanity) and to promote dialogical relationships within each civilisation as well as between civilisations. In this respect, the goal is similar to that of adherents to philosophical concepts of cultural diversity and dialogical relationships among cultures.
This similarity is even clearer given that the dialogue of cultures refers not only to local or minority cultures, but also in a broader sense to world cultures or religions, which are somewhat close to or overlap with certain civilisations. Therefore, the theoretical approaches and methodologies developed in dialogical philosophy and intercultural philosophy can be useful when we talk about the cultural aspects of the dialogue of civilisations, the cultural dialogue between civilisations or inter-cultural and inter-civilisational dialogue.
At the same time, these theoretical approaches could be creatively applicable to other aspects of civilisations and their interactions, such as social, political and economic aspects. Consider that the problem of diversity or difference, which is so striking in many cultures, is also in one way or another relevant in social, political and economic arenas. Culture is a part of the system of society as a whole. Proponents of intercultural dialogue frequently mention that the dialogical relationships achieved between cultures can and should be expanded as a ‘model’ for political and social arenas in order to transform those relationships from confrontational into more peaceful, amicable and collaborative forms. Of course, freeing oneself from stereotypes or prejudices regarding other cultures through education or tourism is much easier than transforming political or economic patterns, which are related to the vested power and material interests of individuals and groups. Nevertheless, this transformation is necessary, because intercultural dialogical relationships cannot succeed without the adequate transformation of social, political and economic relationships. A confrontational foreign policy or wars unleashed by extremist leaders can burn all the bridges of good relationships built by the long and tireless efforts of the proponents of dialogue.
The theorists of interculturality, in exploring the conditions necessary for a dialogue of cultures, logically move toward the social, political and economic contexts of practicing dialogue. The term interculturality is used to characterise not only the culture of philosophy, but also of pedagogy and politics. Therefore, interculturality refers to various relationships within the complex system of societies and even beyond, toward relationships among nations. All of this demonstrates a clear common purpose with the aims of the WPF Dialogue of Civilisations.
The concept of a dialogue of civilisations, asserting a plurality of civilisations, orients us toward the study of intra-civilisational and inter-civilisational relationships with the aim of fostering dialogue (Dallmayr, 2013; Köchler, 2015; Tu, 2014; Tu & Ikeda, 2011; Yakunin, 2012). At the intra-civilisational level, studies should pay attention to dialogues between social groups, ethnic communities, cultures and religions within a certain civilisation, considering their specificity. At the inter-civilisational level, the study of the dialogue of cultures and the dialogue of religions (which sometimes overlap) should focus mainly on how they are manifested in the specificity of each civilisation in its relationship with other civilisations.
The consistent implementation of dialogical relationships at all levels – intersubjective, social and cultural – implies a deep transformation of society, culture, economy and ways of thinking. In this manner, some philosophers convey their hope for the deep transformation of the whole current world civilisation into an alternative one – a ‘dialogical civilisation’. This notion does not deny the plurality of existing civilisations, but rather asserts a radical change through an all-embracing, comprehensive cross-cultural and cross-civilisational implementation of the principles of dialogical relationships. This means the implementation of dialogical relationships in a socially and culturally diverse world – across social and ethnic groups, communities, states, cultures, religions and civilisations. In contrast to homogenising, hegemonic globalisation, the very conception of dialogical civilisation already presupposes both diversity and dialogical relationships among all inhabitants of this new human world. The conception of dialogical civilisation can serve as a framework for embracing all of this dialogical content.
Philosophy grounds dialogism, including the conceptions of the dialogue of cultures, the dialogue of civilisations and dialogical civilisation. Dialogical philosophy has elaborated a specific vision of human beings and society as guided by principles of dialogue and communication. Dialogue is essential for our humanity, and the realisation of this dialogical potential is expected in all areas and at all levels of human activity – from inter-subjective to inter-cultural and inter-civilisational. Accordingly, human consciousness is dialogical and participative. Human thinking is also dialogical through the use of language. Dialogism is a fundamental characteristic of language. Human cognition is also dialogic. Individuals share their personal lived experience in communication with each other. The human personality is formed in the actualisation of its dialogical relation to the other. Thus the human person and its inner world have social dimensions. Dialogue is foundational to all human interaction. This philosophy offers a dialogical conception of culture as a creative universe. It also asserts the principles of democracy and universal participation as the essential basis of society.
In analysing the main principles of dialogical philosophy, Horujy concludes: ‘Indeed, the described principles of dialogical philosophy can be considered as a kind of theoretical basis of dialogical civilization, which lets us see its nature and its main properties’ (2012, p. 2). The conception of dialogical civilisation provides a heuristically fruitful framework for approaching the issues of cultural diversity and collaborative coexistence in our interrelated world. The enhancement and cultivation of the dialogue of cultures and the dialogue of spiritual traditions is crucial for the advancement of a dialogical civilisation.
This paper points toward several ideas that could be subjects for further consideration for the WPF Dialogue of Civilizations in its forums and research projects:
1) to focus on the theme of dialogue and to study the theoretical and practical aspects of dialogue and their ramifications;
2) to study dialogical relationships as a system at all levels – from interpersonal and social to intercultural and inter-civilisational;
3) to study the dialogue of civilisations creatively and make use of intellectual and theoretical resources from different fields of dialogical thought – studies in the areas of intercultural philosophy, theories of the dialogue of cultures and the dialogue of religions;
4) to study ideas of dialogue in a broad context of humanistic thought and in relation to the philosophy of nonviolence and the planetary ethics of co-responsibility;
5) to consider the role of dialogism as the basis for the transformation and revitalisation of the humanities;
6) to assert the importance and normativity of dialogue, to disseminate this idea through conferences, online information and publications, and to encourage its practical implementation in education (e.g., Socratic dialectic in its contemporary forms) as well as in cultural and other activities;
7) to highlight the transformative power of dialogue, to use dialogism in its normative role as the standard for the evaluation and critique of existing relationships in a socially and culturally diverse world, to unmask the asymmetry of power, domination and other conditions that hinder a dialogue of equals and to analyse the problem of the Other – minorities, immigrants, refugees, etc.;
8) to constructively use dialogism as a regulative principle in the amelioration of society and ennoblement of human relationships and to highlight the positive experiences and practices of dialogical relationships and provide recommendations for their implemenation in areas of culture, education, governance, political deliberation, etc.;
9) to highlight the intrinsically personal, human dimension of dialogical relationships at all levels – from intersubjective and social to intercultural and inter-civilisational, with both the individual and humanity as a whole at the center of this comprehensive analysis;
10) to creatively develop the heuristic potential of dialogical philosophy for the grounding and development of the conception of a new, dialogical civilisation in the face of – and as a peaceful, just and humane alternative to – the dehumanising impact of the current civilisation, which is based on competition, the struggle of strategic interests and domination.
Prof. Edward V. Demenchonok
Professor of Foreign Languages and Philosophy
Fort Valley State University, USA
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 This expression was used in Bakhtin’s Toward a Philosophy of the Act, where, in explaining the concept of my non-alibi in Being, he wrote about ‘a non-fused yet undivided (nesliiannoe i nerazdel’noe) affirmation of myself in Being’ (1993, p. 41). Sergey Averintsev, in his comments about this passage, wrote, ‘unconfusedly and inseparably (nesliianno i nerazdel’no) are words in which, in the dogmatic definition by the Fourth Council of Chalcedon (451 CE) the relation of the divine and human natures in the one person of Jesus Christ is described’ (2003, p. 454n45).
 A more detailed analysis of Bakhtin’s dialogical philosophy can be found in my chapter ‘Bakhtin’s dialogism and current discussions on the double-voiced word and transculture’ (Demenchonok, 2016).
 A system of the basic principles of interreligious dialogue was formulated by the theologian Paul Tillich, who argued for ‘not conversion, but dialogue’ (1962). Philosophical anthropology, which highlights the personal nature of dialogism, is helpful in finding ways toward dialogue, even in such a complex and difficult area as interreligious dialogue.
 The dialogue of civilisations is an upper level of this system, and its comprehensive study should also include all other levels of dialogue – among cultures, religions, social groups, political and professional associations, etc.
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