Towards a co-creation of humanity: Reflections on identity construction and the ‘relational self

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Berlin, 25 April 2018 – Speakers at the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute (DOC RI) round table “Contexts of identity formation in the post-modern era: The impact of the ‘relational self’ on a true dialogue of civilizations” dealt with the questions of how identity and humanity are related to each other. In her introduction to the event, acting CEO Dr. Jiahong Chen outlined the historical context for the discussion by tracing the chronological changes of central domains of human history. She talked about the movement from the theological, the metaphysical, the humanitarian-moral, and finally to the economic domain. Dr. Chen went on to discuss the transition from modernisation to the postmodern era, and to the current globalised world. This elucidated the progress humanity has made and the challenges that have been encountered. It has taken human beings thousands of years to transform from the “I and Thou” relationship to “I and It” relations. What is currently missing is an authentic human being relationship between “I and You”, which will help create the development of co-humanity.

Through a dialogic approach, the participants discussed the true meaning of humanity’s innate ethical origins and internal subjectivity in which human spirituality is situated, cultivated, and developed. The self-motivated establishment of “subjectivity” must on the one hand open up one’s subjectivity to the external world, and on the other hand internalise the phenomenological world into one’s subjectivity. The former is the visible infinite expansion of the objective world, while the latter is the unending development of the subject’s realm of meaning.

From the other participants, Professor Christian Haerpfer introduced the first results from the 2017 World Values Survey on levels of identity. The results show that citizens link their cultural and civilisational identity with different territorial units like the local geographical territory of a city or village, region or county, nation, a particular continent, or the whole world.

Professor Edward Demenchonok explained that the context of identity formation and existence of ‘the self’ in the contemporary world can be characterised as a socioeconomic, cultural, environmental, and even anthropological crisis.

Professor Constantin Von Barloewen highlighted, that through globalisation, human identity and authenticity has been mixed – even lost – and this brings the question of whether we can have integral humanism in a time when materialism and economic prosperity are valued most highly.

Professor Fabio Petito argued that the resurgence of religion is linked to the renewed visibility of the concept of civilisation in post-Cold War political discourses: in fact, the resurgence of religions in world politics has to be read in the context of civilisations, defined in a fundamentally culturalist sense, reasserting themselves as strategic frames of references, not as direct protagonists, of international politics. According to Petito, we are witnessing an alignment between the emergence of a new multipolar world, civilisations as strategic frames of reference for international politics, and of multiple modernities.

“We are facing a kind of hermeneutic circle with a negative result: removal of the boundaries as a marker of ‘humanis’ leads to the risk society (uncertainty) and negative values, which ‘removes’ basic qualities of humanism related to positive values – moral principles and value systems,” explained Professor Kira Preobrazhenskaya.

In the future the big challenge that will face humans is the Artificial Intelligence (AI), according to Dr. Valery Znoev. He stated that it is impossible to predict the behaviour of conscious AI and anticipate its goals together with the means of their achievement. This presents humanity with the issue of safety in regards to such research and development.

DOC RI Associate Researcher, Heather Brown, spoke about various conceptualisations of identity and ‘the self’, from DeCartes’ dualistic notion, to Locke’s psychological continuity theory, and David Hume’s bundle theory. She then drew distinctions between Hume’s concept of ‘the self’ and the Buddhist concept of Anatman, or ‘no-self’. Brown went on to postulate that if humanity is able to conceptualise an ‘empty self’ that is void of ego, and to practice presence, focusing on each moment as it unfolds, then we are more likely to see how each human is inextricably linked to one another. This, she argued, could possibly be the first step to engaging in authentic dialogue on multiple levels.

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