Dialogue and Universalism

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1/2020

PHILOSOPHY IN AN AGE OF CRISIS:

CHALLENGES AND PROSPECTS

PART IV

 

EDITORIAL

   This Dialogue and Universalism issue contains the fourth and last part of the PHILOSOPHY IN AN AGE OF CRISIS: CHALLENGES AND PROSPECTS research series. The studies it includes were initiated by the International Society for Universal Dialogue (ISUD); a large proportion of the results were delivered at the 12th ISUD World Congress in 2018, Lima, Peru. The authors were mainly ISUD members but—this has to be underlined—not only. As earlier such undertakings, and in keeping with ISUD’s mission, this was an open project to which philosophers who are not ISUD members were also invited. This open approach—with full respect for binding academic values and criteria— enriches the ISUD legacy and helps the Society to avoid seclusion and ossification. Free access to the project for thinkers from all parts of the world and diverse philosophical schools has brought to the fore yet another element which conditions philosophy—its embedding in the cultural and social specifics of the societies the participants originate from. Thus, philosophy is anchored in non-global lifeworlds and, alongside its mission to create universal and holistic conceptions, also addresses the concrete. Contrary to appearances there is no contradiction here if we consider universality not a simple synthesis of particularity (that which is concrete, not general) but as a set of universal essential features and essences concealed in the concrete.

   The term “crisis” in the title refers both to the crisis of the human world and humanity, and the crisis in philosophy. In the case of the first, one could some- what cynically say that humanity has stood in crisis almost permanently, at least when it comes to the dissonances between its ideals and their attainment. Humanity has never come closer to an ideal condition, nor even to one most humans could accept as satisfying. It has always been plagued by insufficiency and failure, has never attained the ideal of universal happiness, freedom and wellbeing, nor has introduced into life any other attributes of a world that could be described as non-defective and free of hatred and evil. Moreover, the ideals which define wellbeing have been and remain debatable and diverse—both in philosophy and in common sense.

   Nonetheless, despite the irremovable misery of the human condition, previous crises have been local and temporary, partly related to the natural, biological life conditions of humans as “beings burdened by shortage” (Arnold Gehlen’s concept), and partly caused by human-independent circumstances like natural disasters, epidemics, and the shortage of necessary commodities. Many past crises also had social roots, and in this case were usually the effect of group’s claims to dominate over others—culturally, politically, economically, religiously, and most often in all these spheres at once.

   Civilisation’s current crisis differs from its predecessors in that it is global, which means it penetrates to all the spheres of the human world and all its geographical regions. Exclusively responsible for it are humans and the way they run the world, especially their omnipresent drive towards various kinds of domination, especially—allegedly in compliance with a Biblical command—their conceited strivings to subordinate nature to their will. This crisis is spreading and there seem to be no solutions to it in immediate sight, because the damage done to our planet, the only habitat we have, is irreversible. Humanity is proceeding towards self-annihilation, and while doing so is also falling into a mounting spiral of status quo tussles driven by ignorance, stupidity and self- ishness. It is no coincidence that the conception of post-truth (related to the well-known Marxian concept of false consciousness) has gained such popularity: it addresses one of the more significant attributes of today’s world.

   The present crisis is an urgently important, priority-status challenge for philosophy. The first step in any rational action against it is to investigate its basic structure, sources, and the deepest mechanisms that make it spread. This is a task for philosophy, whose mission is to diagnose on a broader and deeper level than the empirical sciences. Another good side—or, more proudly, advantage—of philosophy is that, unlike the sciences, it addresses the sphere of values and poses itself normative tasks. This is important, because a breakdown of values is one of the main reasons behind the crisis, as well as one of its main driving forces and one of its main effects. The present issue of Dialogue and Universalism and the three preceding issues examine the crisis in its various aspects, as well as give insights into its roots.

   The second field of interest covered by the PHILOSOPHY IN AN AGE OF CRISIS: CHALLENGES AND PROSPECTS project was the dual crisis in philosophy. First, as it is well-known, there is the identity crisis philosophy has been suffering under for some time now, caused by, first, the relegation from it metaphysics and then transforming some philosophical fields into empirical sciences. In the early 20th century psychology and sociology have been separated from philosophy; more recently the cognitive sciences have forwarded such attempts with regard to the philosophy of the mind, and even epistemology.

   Faced with the disintegration of its traditional operational field, philosophy must redefine itself. One of the two leading meta-projects today, that is, the transformation of philosophy into a study field focused on language and its meanings (the original programme of analytical philosophy, philosophical hermeneutics and postmodernism) appears to be too minimalistic to ensure philosophy the rank of a fundamental field, a guardian of rationality and in a specific sense a foundation of all knowledge. Whereas the second meta-project, that is, striving to naturalise philosophy is in its radical version destructive for philosophical autonomy because it puts philosophy in a secondary position to science. On one side, it is difficult to imagine contemporary philosophy in isolation from science, as purely speculative, non-rational, mystical, etc., but, on the other, the presence of science in philosophy must be restricted both in scope and character in order to preserve the latter’s autonomy. In sum, today philosophy offers different ideas of the nature of philosophy, a variety of programmes and sets of issues that are considered philosophical.

   Secondly, philosophy is in a crisis caused by the fact that it is less and less understood, respected, or even accepted by society. For many utilitarian, technically-minded intellectuals—to say nothing of the man in the street—philosophy is an anachronous, unnecessary and at the same time, paradoxically, often in- comprehensible domain. Therefore, alongside internal problems with its own identity, philosophy must also struggle with a negative external image and strivings to marginalise it. Today philosophy must prove its worth and importance for a humanity which is lost, unable to define itself and the sense of its world and which is deprived of both axiological guidelines and salvaging visions of the future.

   This issue of Dialogue and Universalism presents philosophy as it is today: without one clear status or a consistent programme, it investigates current major social, political, anthropological and others issues, and also returns to the philosophical past which still seems to provide lasting inspiration for the present world.

Małgorzata Czarnocka

Dialogue and Universalism Editor-in-Chief

 

 

ABSTRACTS

 

Necip Fikri Alican

RAWLS’S JUSTIFICATION MODEL FOR ETHICS: WHAT EXACTLY JUSTIFIES THE MODEL?

   This is a defense of Rawls against recent criticism, ironically my own, though it is also a critique insofar as it addresses a problem that Rawls never does. As a defense, it is not a retraction of the original charges. As a critique, it is not more of the same oppo- sition. In either capacity, it is not an afterthought. The charges were conceived from the outset with a specific solution in mind, which would have been too distracting to pursue in the same article. This is that solution. It also highlights the problem.

   The original charges were that Rawls’s decision procedure for ethics does not justify his own moral principles, namely his principles of justice, and that the underlying prob- lem may well keep the decision procedure from justifying any moral principles whatso- ever, or at least any normatively useful ones. The underlying problem was, and still is, the model’s inherent universalism, which is built into the decision procedure through design specifications precluding relativism, yet only at the cost of limiting the relevant moral principles to generalities that are already widely accepted, thereby rendering the procedure at best redundant and very likely vacuous as an ethical justification model.

   These difficulties are manifested in the work of Rawls as the dogmatism of champi- oning a distinctive conception of justice, a liberal one as he himself calls it, through a justification model that is too universalistic to permit such a bias and possibly also too universalistic to permit any substantive conclusions at all. The solution contemplated here is to position the decision procedure as a dynamic justification model responsive to moral progress, as opposed to a static one indifferent to such progress and equally open to all moral input, thus removing the inconsistency between the universalistic design and any distinctive or controversial principles, including the ones Rawls himself rec- ommends, so long as they are consistent with moral progress.

Keywords: Rawls, ethical justification, moral reasoning, principles of justice, moral progress.

Affiliation: Washington University in St. Louis, USA.

E-mail: necipalican@gmail.com

 

Robert Elliott Allinson

THE PROBLEM OF THE EXTERNAL WORLD IN RENÉ DESCARTES, EDMUND HUSSERL, IMMANUEL KANT AND THE EVIL GENIUS: A PERENNIAL PROBLEM FOR PHILOSOPHERS?

   The need to prove the existence of the external world has been a subject that has concerned the rationalist philosophers, particularly Descartes and the empiricist philos- ophers such as John Locke, George Berkeley and David Hume. Taking the epoché as the key mark of the phenomenologist—the suspension of the question of the existence of the external world—the issue of the external world should not come under the do- main of the phenomenologist. Ironically, however, I would like to suggest that it could be argued that the founder of the phenomenological school of thought, Edmund Husserl, also did not avoid the question of the existence of the external world. What I would like to suggest further is that Immanuel Kant grants himself illicit access to the external world and thus illustrates that the question of the external world is vital to the argument structure of the first Critique.

Keywords: the existence of the external world, Descartes, Hume, Kant, Husserl, phenomenology.

Affiliation: Soka University of America, 1 University Drive, Aliso Viejo, CA 92656, USA.

E-mail: rallinson@soka.edu

 

Mitchell Atkinson III

PARSIMONY AND ONTOLOGICAL CONTROL: QUINE AND WITTGENSTEIN ON THE SIZE OF THE WORLD

   In this paper, I argue that philosophers, while developing ontologies, can be classed as misers or profligates. I develop the categories of ontological miserliness and ontolog- ical profligacy and supply explanatory examples. I explore the theoretical motivation of both misers and profligates in terms of thought-time and inquiry scope. In brief, misers prioritize thought-time over inquiry scope; vice-versa for profligates. I examine the extent to which conservation of thought-time is an active concern for misers and provide a miserly taxonomy for ontologies; ontologies may be cheap, expensive or impossible. I argue that profligates countenance the generative character of the ontological enterprise at the expense of exclusion and limitation. The works of Willard Van Orman Quine and Ludwig Wittgenstein provide canonic examples of miserly and profligate ontologies. I argue that Quine is an ontological miser par excellence, and that Wittgenstein is profligate in his later period and evinces an intermediate position in his early period. Finally, I discuss the theoretical stakes involved in this entire discussion, pro- vide brief contemporary examples, and explore the extent to which the distinction be- tween miserliness and profligacy is illusory.

Keywords: Ontology, Quine, Wittgenstein, miser, profligate.

Affiliation: Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences, 00-330 Warszawa (Warsaw), ul. Nowy Świat 72.

E-mail: atkinson.mitchell@gmail.com

 

Kevin M. Brien

TOWARD A CRITICAL SYNTHESIS OF THE ARISTOTELIAN AND CONFUCIAN DOCTRINES OF THE MEAN

   This paper is the second phase of a project that was begun more than three years ago. The first phase culminated in the publication of a paper working toward a critical appropriation of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. Therein Aristotle famously argues that human wellbeing (eudaimonia) is constituted by “activity of the soul in accordance with moral and intellectual virtue.”2 This earlier paper brought into focus all the main lines of Aristotle’s theoretical web in the N. Ethics: including the nature of the soul, intellectual virtue, moral virtue, etc. That paper went on to give a developed critique of Aristotle’s theoretical web, and against that background it argued for a very different way of thinking about intellectual virtue, and it prepared the ground for different ways of thinking about moral virtue. This current paper explores the various conceptual un- derstandings of “the mean” in Aristotelian and in Confucian thought. It begins with an explanatory sketch of “the mean” as understood in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, and then in a second section goes on to explore “the mean” as presented in classical Confu- cianism. The third section of this paper offers some reflections oriented toward a tenta- tive formulation of a modified conception of “the mean” as it might be construed from a humanistic Marxist perspective.

Keywords: Aristotle, Confucius, emotion, focus-field, harmonious balance, human wellbeing, intellectual virtue, justice, moral virtue, reason, ren, the mean, thought.

Affiliation: Washington College, Chestertown MD 21620, USA.

E-mail: dogenlight@gmail.com

 

Jonathan O. Chimakonam

ARE DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES TRANSFORMING HUMANITY AND MAKING POLITICS IMPOSSIBLE?

   My question in this paper is whether digital technologies transform humanity and make politics impossible. Digital technologies, no doubt, are revolutionary. But I argue that what they have done in the Post-Cold War era are: (1) to further contract the spaces between politicians and the people; (2) transform actors from subjects to objects, such that we may in addition to social identities, talk about digital identities; (3) relocate the public sphere from squares to ilosphere where individuals are granted enormous expres- sive powers but at the same time become vulnerable to large scale manipulations; (4) and escalate the tools of politics. My argument will be that digital technologies in a subtle way are transforming humanity in the digital space and that this might have costly moral consequences not only in politics generally but specifically in liberal de- mocracy. However, I will contend that this transformation of humanity does not make politics impossible; it only escalates it with troubling consequences like those we saw in the 2016 American presidential election.

Keywords: digital era, digital technologies, ilosphere, politics, human relationship.

Affiliation: University of Calabar, Cross River State; Etagbor, PMB 1115, Nigeria; University of Pretoria, Lynnwood Rd, Hatfield, Pretoria, 0002, South Africa.

E-mail: jonathan.okeke@up.ac.za

 

Stanisław Czerniak

AROUND RICHARD MÜNCH’S ACADEMIC CAPITALISM THEORY

   The author reviews the main elements of Richard Münch’s academic capitalism the- ory. By introducing categories like “audit university” or “entrepreneurial university,” the German sociologist critically sets today’s academic management model against the earlier, modern-era conception of academic work as an “exchange of gifts.” In the sociological and psychological sense, he sees the latter’s roots in traditional social lore, for instance the potlatch ceremonies celebrated by some North-American Indian tribes and described by Marcel Mauss. Münch shows the similarities between the old, “gift ex- changing” model and the contemporary one with its focus on the psycho-social funda- mentals of scientific praxis, and from this gradually derives the academic capitalism conception. He concludes with the critical claim that science possesses its own, inalien- able axiological autonomy and anthropological dimension, which degenerate as capitalism proceeds to “colonise” science by means of state authority and money (here Münch mentions Jürgen Habermas and his philosophical argumentation).

   The author also offers a somewhat broader view of Münch’s analyses in the context of his own reflections on the problem.

Keywords: Academic capitalism, audit university, entrepreneurial university, pot- latch, gift exchange, prestige, subject identity, anthropology of science.

Affiliation: Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences, 00-330 Warszawa (Warsaw), ul. Nowy Świat 72.

E-mail: stanislaw.l.czerniak@wp.pl

 

Dávid Kollár, József Kollár

THE ART OF SHIPWRECKING: THE INFORMATION SOCIETY AND THE RISE OF EXAPTIVE RESILIENCE

   We argue that the epistemological, ontological, locality and social structure of the world have undergone radical changes over the last decades. The greatest riddle of the information age is whether we can domesticate the “unstable chaos” to “productive anarchy.” We argue that this results in the appreciation of the creative use of the “we do not know that we know” type of knowledge that we conceptualize as exaptive resili- ence. We briefly clarify the difference between exaptation and adaptation, and we com- pare the concept of adaptive resilience with that of exaptive resilience. Our results will show that the effectiveness of complex systems in the information age depends on the capacity of adaptive and exaptive resilience.

Keywords: Information society; epistemology, ontology, exaptive resilience; adaptive resilience.

Affiliation:

Dávid Kollár — Sociology Department, Pázmány Péter Catholic University,

Szentkirályi u. 28, 1088 Budapest, Hungary. E-mail: kollaardavid@gmail.com

József Kollár — University of Pécs, Applied Ontology Research Group, Rákóczi út 1,7100 Szekszárd, Hungary.

E-mail: kollarjozsef@gmail.com

 

 Henryk Krawczyk, Andrew Targowski

A UNIVERSAL THEORY OF WISDOM. A MIND-ORIENTED APPROACH

   The purpose of the paper is to synthesize the issues of human wisdom in terms of minds which create knowledge-based judgment. We form a transdisciplinary, big-picture view of the wisdom of humans. Findings: Wisdom is the right judgment and choice in the context of the art of living. Practical implications: Wisdom can be devel- oped within the set of minds. Social implications: To pursue wisdom in thinking and action, one must extend education to embrace more knowledge and practicing gaining better skills in decision-making. Originality: This approach offers a new understanding of the wisdom of humans, which cannot be identified as a synonym of knowledge.

Keywords: Wisdom, humans, mind, decision-making, knowledge.

Affiliation:

Henryk Krawczyk — Centre of Informatics, Tri-city Academic Supercomputer and Network (CI TASK) and the Center of Competence Smart Transdisciplinary Knowledge Services (CC STOS), Poland.

E-mail: hkrawk@pg.edu.pl

Andrew Targowski — Western Michigan University, USA.

E-mail: andrew.targowski@wmich.edu

 

Andrey I. Matsyna

“NATURAL WORK” AS SELF-CAPABILITY: REMAINING HUMAN IN THE ERA OF TURMOIL. IN MEMORY OF GRIGORY SAVVICH SKOVORODA

   A great wandering humanist philosopher, enlightener and outstanding poet Grigory Savvich Skovoroda’s work pertains to a difficult period in the life of the 18th century Eastern Ukraine. Against the background of growing injustice and evil, the decline of spiritual values, an authentic practical philosophy of individual opposition to a self- serving world steeped in vice was born. Skovoroda’s philosophy completely lacks the intention to consider proprietary interests as the driving force of human development. Its key principle of human development is self-examination within one’s own energy- activity-object-related space. The call for self-examination from the perspective of the authentic idea of “natural work” is revealed dynamically as the process of bringing the objective world into harmony with the nature of an individual. “Natural work” is a pro- cess of individual’s constant creative self-overcoming on the ascent to subject identity; total communion of man with the universal whole.

Keywords: Natural work, self-transcendence, overcoming, the metaphysics of over- coming, the culture of overcoming, thingness, energy circuit.

Affiliation: Department of the Faculty of Eurasia and the East of Chelyabinsk State University, 129 Bratiev Kashirinykh st., 454001 Chelyabinsk, Russian Federation.

E-mail: matsyna@inbox.ru

 

Brian Mooney, Damini Roy

POLITENESS AND PIETAS AS ANNEXED TO THE VIRTUE OF JUSTICE

   “Politeness” appears to be connected to a quite disparate set of related concepts, in- cluding but not limited to, “manners,” “etiquette,” “agreeableness,” “respect” and even “piety.” While in the East politeness considered as an important social virtue is present (and even central) in the theoretical and practical expressions of the Confucian, Taoist and Buddhist traditions, (indeed politeness has been viewed in these traditions as central to proper education) it has not featured prominently in philosophical discussion in the West. American presidents Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and George Washing- ton all devoted discussion to politeness within the broader ambit of manners and eti- quette, as too did Erasmus, Edmund Burke and Ralph Waldo Emerson but on the whole sustained philosophical engagement with the topic has been lacking in the West. The richest source for philosophical investigation is perhaps afforded by the centrality of the concept of respect in Immanuel Kant.

   However in this paper we will instead draw on the writings of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas to defend the centrality of “politeness” as an important and valuable moral virtue. Starting with an analysis of the broader Aristotelian arguments on the virtues associated with “agreeableness,” namely, friendliness, truthfulness and wit I will argue that “politeness” should be thought of as an important moral virtue attached to social intercourse (and by extension the vice of impoliteness). I then move to identify an even broader and more important account of politeness, drawing on the work of Aquinas, as intimately connected to the notion of pietas (piety) as a fundamental part of the virtue of justice.

Keywords: politeness, pietas, justice, Aristotle.

Affiliation:

Brian Mooney — School of Creative Arts and Humanities, Darwin University, Darwin NT 0909, Australia.

E-mail: brian.mooney@cdu.edu.au

Damini Roy — Charles Darwin University, Darwin University, Darwin NT 0909, Australia.

E-mail: Damini.roy@gmail.com

 

Omer Moussaly

THE LESSONS OF GRAMSCI’S PHILOSOPHY OF PRAXIS

   For many intellectuals, including the philosopher Cornelius Castoriadis, the historical destiny of Marxism-Leninism has discredited the philosophy of praxis. It can no longer serve as a source for radical political thought. Analyzing the theoretical contribu- tions of the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci, we argue that a renewal of Marxism is both possible and needed. After more than forty years of neoliberal capitalism, a revital- ized Marxism can contribute to the critique of contemporary forms of economic exploitation and statist domination. We propose that it is the concepts developed by Castoriad- is that need to be translated and adapted to this reformed philosophy of praxis.

Keywords: Antonio Gramsci, Cornelius Castoriadis, hegemony, Marxism, philosophy, praxis.

Affiliation: Philosophical Foundations of Justice and Democratic Society (UQAM), 405 Rue Sainte- Catherine Est, Montréal, QC H2L 2C4, Canada

E-mails: moussaly.omer@gmail.com

 

Shuang Zhang

CRITIQUE OF CAPITAL IN THE ERA OF GLOBALIZATION

   Globalization does not only embrace economy, but also politics, culture, climate, military affairs, and so on. Its most important aspect is capital; the concept of capital is the key to analyzing and understanding the today world. Today capital has turned from primitive accumulation into “accumulation by dispossession,” extending its ruling logic to all fields and levels of the world. What we should do is to minimize the capitalist ruling logic in globalization; the very globalization is an imminent trend.

Keywords: Globalization, capital, capitalist ruling logic.

Affiliation: Harbin Engineering University, 145 Nantong Rd, Nangang District, Harbin, Heilongjiang Province, China.

E-mail: zeldazs@163.com


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