PHILOSOPHY IN AN AGE OF CRISIS:
CHALLENGES AND PROSPECTS
We are pleased to present the third, last-but-one collection of writings devoted to the problem of PHILOSOPHY IN AN AGE OF CRISIS: CHALLENGES AND PROSPECTS. Like its predecessors, this collection is part of the International Society for Universal Dialogue legacy.
Philosophy in its maximalist design has two complementary tasks. First, it is to present reality in its entirety and seek after its essence, not the individual features of objects, events, etc. Therefore, it has to “break through” the particularity of single events and objects to reveal their common base, i.e. the deepest level on which their reality is constituted. Secondly, it is to evaluate the existing human world and formulate visions for its future, mainly by forwarding ideas and values which initiate moral, social and cultural change, and the most radical of all: civilisationalchange. These two tasks—the recognition of the essence of reality and projecting change in the human world—are connected, because philosophy’s projects, ideas and normative undertakings mainly stem from its criticism of the existing human world and emerge in thought processes aimed at eliminating those of this world’s elements which are considered negative (morally, socially or otherwise evil, destructive, etc.). Philosophy’s reflection on the status quo of the human world and strivings to eradicate its endangering flaws effect in visions of global transformation and/or change in its individual spheres. Whereas intellectual forays into the fundaments of reality base on the anticipative evaluation of reality’s various aspects and phenomena; explaining reality contains a normative element, visible, for example, in decisions about the validity of certain aspects and the invalidity of others.
Philosophy’s critical observations and visions of transforming the existing world are distanced—detached from individual features and events, the illusion of commonness, individual viewpoints and individual values. Moreover, they are impartial and abstract, which is connected with the contentual sophistication and conceptual hermeticity of philosophical discourse. Inthese three aspects—detachment, impartiality and abstractness—philosophy’s struggles with the world are superior to similar undertakings outside of philosophy, especially to ideological narratives or, most frequent today, crypto-ideologies “disguised” as objective and impartial. This last type of discourse is incessantly present in the indoctrinating content of the mass media and the ever-more-numerous “ideological” monographs and essays, where the ideological load is concealed under a veneer of adequately manipulated scholarlyerudition.
The above-mentioned basic attributes of philosophy—its distance from contingency and commonness and its impartiality and abstractness—are often held to exemplify its remoteness from the world and hermetic enclosure in an “ivory tower.” However—as the philosophical legacy shows when seen in a proper light—the isolation theorem is a myth propounded by laymen who misunderstand philosophy and fail to see its all-pervading power to analyse, evaluate and form reality. In some countries today there are tendencies to brand philosophy as invalid and outdated, or “modernise” it into a shallow intellectual discourse with ideological traits, into one more way of shaping collective and individual awareness according to someone’s needs, values, interests or desires. An alternative proposal is to unite philosophy with religion as in medieval Europe, which de facto means its subordination to religion. In Poland such ideas are forwarded by conservative groups linked to and/or in control of the academic world. Such and related ideas aim to curb collective awareness, as truly open wisdom which creates new ideas in intellectual freedom would banish the defenders of the world’s present status quo to its peripheries.
Philosophy’s hermetic conceptuality and content, its abstract character and non-commonness by no means distance it from the real human world. To the contrary.
The above-reviewed approach to philosophy’s nature and tasks gave the ground for the International Society for Universal Dialogue project entitled PHILOSOPHY IN AN AGE OF CRISIS: CHALLENGES AND PROSPECTS. Dialogue and Universalism’s cyclic presentations of its findings base on the belief that philosophy today should pose an intellectual challenge to the main problems in the world’s crisis-torn regions. Its task is to identify them and propose ways of resolving them in a bid to reverse today’s adverse trends.
The present civilisational crisis (visible, among others, in overpopulation, constant warfare, economic globalisation, the unappeased voracity and increasing rapacity of capitalism, migration, the climate crisis, mounting social inequalities, the extinction of ethnic cultures, the revaluation of moral standards and the emergence of new lifestyle trends) is accompanied by radical civilisational change, because humanity has simultaneously entered the information technology era, the era of the posthumanum and a time of deep change in the transcendental sphere: in art, science and religion.
These changes and the mounting civilisational crisis are visible in all the spheres of the human world. They have deprived humans of the mainstays which until recently determined their existence. In consequence, the present condition of the world appears to humans as chaotic, full of turbulence and without a stable foundation (also in the axiological sense). Human awareness is marred by a deluge of post-truths, which in reality are falsehoods propounded in someone or other’s interest. The aim of education today is not to deepen human awareness or enable the broadest-possible fulfilment of human life, but to make humans into efficient crypto-slaves of postmodern society, cogwheels incapable of revolt who uncritically accept the status quo.
Philosophical reflection is more vital during crisis and civilisational change that in stable times. Whether they realise it or not, humans desire to know the sense of their lives, and for this they need orientation in the world and the possibility to fall back on clearly-defined values and ideas, which function as guidelines and co-form the human identity. The earlier values, ideas and world-views disappeared when crisis undermined the foundations of the recently existing world. Philosophy reconstructs them or constructs them anew, thus enabling humans to cope with present and future reality.
The present issue of Dialogue and Universalism contains a section devoted to dialogue, reflections on the transformation of modern art into a socially-committed field, and several essays which investigate new phenomena in the today’s human world.
Dialogue and Universalism Editor-in-Chief
Renat Apkin, Emily Tajsin
ECOPHILOSOPHY AND THE PROBLEM OF MONITORING HAZARDS
There is a strong interconnection between the social and environmental spheres. The efforts of monitoring and forecasting of disastrous events can illustrate benefits and threats of technicization and science. In ecophilosophy the forecasting of hazards is today extremely needed. It is not about creating theoretical unified structures or practical return to holistic harmony of a primordial man with nature. It is about, as Félix Guattari once held it, the complexity of the relationship between humans and their natural environment. Though the desired maintenance of the conflict between industrial society and natural systems now seems impossible, we still can start moving towards it: theoretically, by developing eco-philosophical ideas, and practically, monitoring and forecasting catastrophes and disasters, to protect human life and health and, as eco-philosophers would say, keep land usable for human purposes. The topic of the earth-quakes forecast today is more in demand than ever.
Keywords: ecophilosophy, nature, technology, science, disaster, earthquakes.
Renat Apkin: Kazan State Power Engineering University, Krasnoselskaya, 51, Kazan, Russia
Emily Tajsin: Kazan State Power Engineering University, Krasnoselskaya, 51, Kazan, Russia
Martha C. Beck
CONSERVATIVE WOMEN: BRIDGING DIVIDES THROUGH MEANINGFUL DIALOGUE
In response to the rise of conservative women, the author engaged in a long and meaningful Socratic dialogue with two self-identified conservative women. The paper describes the conversation (approved by participants), then analyzes it according to various political trends, Jungian and other psychological theories, the author’s dialecti- cal teaching methodology, the value of a traditional liberal arts education and the failure of the intellectual elite in the past 50 years to create and sustain meaningful friendships with fellow citizens from all social sectors and educational levels. Athenian democracy also degenerated into authoritarianism because of the professional elite’s corruption and/or detachment.
Keywords: Socrates, virtues, Carl Jung, liberal arts, MacArthur Foundation, APA, elite education, Robert Putnam, Alexis de Toqueville, promiscuity, Martha Nussbaum, John Dewey, religion, Krista Tippett, Sherlan Nuland, William Dershowitz.
Affiliation: Lyon College, Batesville, Arkansas.
Chidozie Chukwuokolo, Victor O. Jeko
A HERMENEUTIC UNDERSTANDING OF DIALOGUE AS A TOOL FOR GLOBAL PEACE
The problem of threat to international politics and global peace has undermined the effectiveness of the power of dialogue. The world seems to be in the condition of will to power derivable from the mutually assured destructive (MAD) tendencies. Is it possible to extend global peace? How can this be achieved? In this paper, we posit that dialogue is a fundamental medium for conflict resolution and peaceful coexistence in a diverse world. We contend that monologue in international politics understood in terms of might is right undermines the effectiveness of dialogue and often leads to violent conflicts within and between countries. Our world today is at a crossroads. Dialogue, however, foregrounds the medium of conflict resolution and the social consciousness of human communication. We present a hermeneutic understanding of dialogue that follows from relevant works of Hans Georg Gadamer and Jurgen Habermas. This paper espouses the power of dialogue as a basis for the normative foundation of an emancipated social global order. The dialogical sequence has a cobweb of social interconnectedness and the ethics of global peace. We present a literal and philosophical understanding of dialogue and a contextual understanding of dialogue within the hermeneutic tradition.
Keywords: Hermeneutics, dialogue, global peace, communicative action, language
Chidozie Chukwuokolo: Department of Philosophy and Religion, Ebonyi State University, Abakaliki, Ebonyi State.
Victor O. Jeko: Department of Philosophy University of Benin, Edo State.
HEALING IN THE CHTHULUCENE: BECOMING BEYOND HUMAN WITH MEDICINAL PLANTS
The term “Anthropocene” is frequently used to refer to the present planetary epoch, characterized by a geological signature of human activities, which have led to global ecological crises. This paper probes at what it means to be human on earth now, using healing as a concept to orient humanity in relation to other species, and particularly medicinal plants. Donna Haraway’s concept of the “Chthulucene” is used as an alternate lens to the Anthropocene, which highlights the inextricable linkages between humans and other-than-human species. Healing can be viewed as a type of embodied orientation or engagement with the world, which has the potential to reach across boundaries of the skin, blur distinctions between self and other, and allow for both transpersonal and trans-species reconciliation. I focus my attention on Indigenous Shipibo healing rituals, and Shipibo concepts of healing that integrate humans within the ecosystem, and traverse species boundaries through communication with and embodiment of plant spirits. These healing rituals offer ways of coming into being within an ecology of selves—both internal and external, human and non-human—through listening and lending voice. I explore the potential for healing and ritual to work as a form of porous resistance through the internal blurring of binaries and hierarchical structures.
Keywords: Anthropocene, Chthulucene, ecosystem, medicinal plants.
Affiliation: Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, University of California, Berkeley, 130 Mulford Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA.
Marie Pauline Eboh
PHILOSOPHY IN AN AGE OF CRISIS: CHALLENGES AND PROSPECTS
Crisis means “decisive moment,” a dangerous time when action must be taken to avoid a complete disaster. In the digital age, the influx of information is extremely rapid. Many people lack the wisdom and prudence to process data correctly and to take timely moral decisions. Too much information is driving people crazy as increase in knowledge goes with an upsurge in crime rate, particularly cybercrime. This historic period is an era of multiple crises, especially crisis of human values, particularly moral ones. What is so special about the crisis of this age? Why does increase in knowledge not correspond to a rise in civility and economic power for all? Is knowledge no longer empowering? Can humans co-exist in tranquility without moral values? This paper will critically reflect on the concerns raised, the challenges and prospects of the digital age, ask seminal questions and proffer invaluable solutions. And also assert the functional role of philosophy, which is needed in order to stem the moral and social crises of the information age.
Keywords: Digital age, information technology, cybercrime, crisis, human values, philosophy.
Affiliation: Rivers State University, Port Harcourt, P.M.B. 5080, Nigeria.
E-mails: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
THE CONTEMPORARY ANTITHESIS BETWEEN ART AND BEAUTY
This article examines the antecedents and background of the antithesis between art and beauty. It also considers if this confrontation, typical in modern aesthetics, provides necessary conceptual categories to comprehend the situation of art in the communication era, characteristic of a generalised aesthetisation. Departing from the ideas posed by Yves Michaud, Mateu Cabot, Didi-Huberman and Mario Perniola, the author dismantles the false opposition between art and beauty; she proposes a strategy to avoid an antithetical position and exhorts the readers to recover a different experience from beauty.
Keywords: beauty, art, antithesis, kalliphobia.
Affiliation: Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú.
William H. Harwood
THE CANARY IN THE GOLD MINE: ETHICS, PRIVACY, AND BIG DATA ANALYTICS
This paper offers a sketch of the complicated conflicts which arise—and metastasize seemingly daily—in the era of Big Data. Given the public’s ubiquitous-yet-ostensibly- voluntarydatasurrender,andindustry’subiquitous-yet-ostensibly-anodynecollectionof the same, inaction is not an option for any near-just society. By revisiting the philosophical basis for Panoptic apparatus (via Bentham and Foucault), sketching the tumultuous history of US contract law trying to protect the public from itself (from Lochner to Carpenter), and comparing existing industry codes for similarly-situated—read: terrifyingly invasive—fields (e.g., physicians, therapists, attorneys, accountants), the paper will provide a preliminary framework for identifying and confronting the galaxy of problems associated with data analytics.
Keywords: Computer and information ethics, contract law, critical data studies, data ethics, privacy, surveillance.
Affiliation: Missouri State University, 901 South National Avenue, Springfield, MO 65897 USA.
THE ORDER OF BODY. THE EMBODIED SUBJECTIVITY AS A QUASI-UNIVERSAL FOUNDATION OF DIALOGUE?
This text focuses on the possibility of acquiring universal knowledge (especially about values) by individual subjective consciousness as determined both corporeally and culturally. Along with the appearance of the “question” of the cultural Other (and with the cultural relativism as its other side) the attempts of European philosophers to establish a kind of a universal sphere—intellectual basis for an intercultural dialogue—became more intensive, but still often limited by their relation to the values and ideas of the only one culture. In other words, the attempts to search the community of human kind in an intellectual sphere often led to the universality being the “universalized particularity” (Wallerstein), maintained by the empty signifiers (Laclau). But there is also another philosophical tradition, in which the “universality” of ideas, concepts or values is being perceived as a quasi-universality or pluri-versality, mediated by human organic and cultural interactions, and is being derived rather from “beyond”—from the condition of embodiment—than from “above,” the pure intellectual cognition. I focus on three instances of moving from the order of body towards the quasi-universal values: on Bartolomé de Las Casas’s posing a problem of the universal values in the context of intercultural dialogue, on Michel de Montaigne’s reflections on human nature and Walter Mignolo’snaturalistic foundation of the comparative studies. I chose these examples, because they offer a clear and expressed attempt to reformulate the very idea of possible universality in the context of the desired intercultural dialogue, but within the optics of the embodied subjectivities.
Keywords: Universality, embodied subject, connectors.
Affiliation: Institute of Philosophy, Sociology and Journalism, University of Gdansk, Jana Bazynskiego 8, 80–309 Gdansk, Poland.
Omotáyo Ayodèjì Oládèbó
GLOBALIZATION AND THE QUESTION OF AFRICAN CULTURAL IDENTITY: A DEFENSE OF COMPLEMENTARISM
This paper engages in the debate between cultural modernists and cultural traditionalists concerning the importance of cultural fidelity as faced by African people via globalization and its alleged homogenizing tendency. Central to this debate is the issue of cultural truths and its use, that is, development. The paper therefore argues that African peoples do not need to “essentialize” their cultures. This is because the “truths about reality” with which they intend to employ in this quest for development are not exclusive to any particular cultural society. The implication of the foregoing is the paper’s insistence that Africans adopt a complementarist attitude in their determination for cultural fidelity. It maintains that this attitude will make Africans avail themselves of ideas from elsewhere. Ultimately, the paper posits that this new disposition of Africans to their cultures and those of non-African societies will set her beleaguered states on a solid developmental trajectory.
Keywords: Globalization, complementarity, cultural essentialism, cultural identity, Africa.
Affiliation: University of Ibadan, 200284, Ibadan, Oyo state, Nigeria.
Pablo Oyarzun R.
WAYS TO DEAL WITH CONTINGENCY VIOLENCE AND DIALOGUE
In this paper contingency is estimated as an essentially identifying trait of the (modern) world emerging from the radical upheavals of the late 18th century and the beginnings of the 19th century. If contingency is the mark of the (modern) world as world, the question arises how human beings should, or merely could deal with it. For the purpose of discussing this issue, the usual alternative of violence and dialogue is considered. Nevertheless, the intention is not merely to oppose violent to rational conduct. Taking recourse to two authors who had a particularly acute sense of contingency, Heinrich von Kleist and Paul Celan, the aim of this paper, on the one hand, is to discuss a concept of violence that is not merely instrumental, nor attributable to merely subjective intentions, but that has the significance of the principle of overcoming contingency by way of absolutely forcing order or absolutely renouncing to it. On the other hand, it involves discussing a concept of dialogue that is essentially different to what may be called the institution of Western dialogue, characterized by the disembodiment of the word, and therefore to suggest the concept of a radically embodied dialogue as a way to positively deal with contingency.
Keywords: Contingency, violence, dialogue, language, body.
Affiliation: University of Chile. Las Encinas 3370, Ñuñoa, 7850000 Santiago, Chile.
THE DIGITALIZATION OF LIFE: A GENEALOGY OF THE BODY-MACHINE
The metaphor of machine has been very fertile throughout modernity: it served not only to think but also to design strategies for intervening objects as diverse as cities and the solar system, going through such basic institutions as the school or the factory. The human body also was caught in this movement that insists on identifying all life with some sort of mechanism. Even though that gesture has remained current since the beginning of industrialism, it has suffered significant alterations, especially in recent decades. We will attempt to unravel some senses of the historical transformations that are reconfiguring the fusion of life and machines, in synch with the rapid advances of digital technology.
Keywords: Machine, fusion of life and machines, digitalization
Affiliation: Universidade Federal Fluminense (UFF), Rua Professor Marcos Waldemar de Freitas Reis, s/n. Bloco A, 4o andar, São Domingos – Niterói/RJ, CEP: 24210-201 Rio de Janeiro, Brasil.
Muk Yan Wong
EMOTION AS A LANGUAGE OF UNIVERSAL DIALOGUE
Despite globalization and the rapid development of information technology, cross-cultural dialogue did not become any easier. The physical and non-physical confrontations are intensified by the differences in basic values and interest of cultures, which can be seen by the increasing number of wars, extreme localism, and mistrust between people. Rationality, which has long been regarded as the best and the only common language among different cultures, fails to facilitate communication and collaboration. Rationality’s limitation was revealed among others in Alasdair MacIntyre’sWhose Justice? Which Rationality? Unlike what ancient Greek philosophers suggested, thereis not a single type of supreme rationality that everyone will and should follow. The only consensus perhaps is about the instrumental rationality suggested by Max Weber, which is futile in promoting cross-cultural dialogues as it addresses the various means rather than the ends of different cultures. In this paper, I argue that emotion is a better language for universal dialogue than rationality in two senses. First, the psychologists and anthropologists provide solid evidence to prove that certain emotions are basic and universal among all human beings. For instance, based on his study of facial expression of the Fore people in Papua New Guinea, Ekman (2003) proposed that anger, fear, surprise, disgust, sadness, and happiness are six basic emotions that are universally shared. Other evidence includes studies conducted by Tomkins (1962), Arnold (1960), and Frijda (1986). These basic emotions might serve as the foundation of cross-cultural dialogue because we are evolved to understand the causes and expressions of these emotions in others despite the cultural and social differences. Second, unlike instrumental rationality that focuses solely on how to achieve one’s end, certain emotions are non-egocentric by nature. For instance, compassion is “another-oriented emotion elicited by and congruent with the perceived welfare of another person” (Batson 1991). Chinese philosophy expresses a similar idea with the aid of the concept of Ren, which is the essence of human being, according to Confucianism. Love is another non-egocentric emotion that is constituted by care and concern of the well-being of one’s beloved for his or her own sake. That is, I love you not because loving you makes me happy, instead, it is because loving you makes you happy. Such non-egocentric emotions (other examples include sympathy, empathy, trust, etc.) might encourage and motivate cross-cultural dialogue despite the conflict of interest between cultures. While facing multi-faceted contemporary problems and crisis, we do not lack rational and intelligent solutions. We lack mutual understanding, reciprocal tolerance, and sustainable collaboration. The role of emotion in establishing a platform of cross-cultural dialogue should not be overlooked.
Keywords: Emotion, universal dialogue, cross-cultural dialogue, rationality.
Affiliation: Department of Social Science at Hang Seng University of Hong Kong.
QUALITY AND LIFE. A THESIS ON THE ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE
With the swift development of technology, the distance among people’s hearts surprisingly becomes further and further. Residents living in the congested cities feel more lonely than those who inhabit countryside. The mass media makes them consider everything at hand stereotyped. They parrot their designated work again and again, without passion or enthusiasm. Hence facing these social predicaments and interior struggle, Robert M. Pirsig embarks on a trip to cross America by motorcycle, in order to gain spiritual epiphany and freedom. Therefore, he finds quality is the panacea that may solve the present problems. Quality has a long history, which is closely analogous to Plato’s goodness. Quality is one, just as the supreme spirit in the Buddhist Upanishad whose universe and ego are identical. However, modern technology lacks of oneness, so that each time touching it, people only feel cruel and ugly since both the creator and the owner do not have the sense of identity for their innovative or possessive things. The injection of quality into technology may break through the difficulties resulting from the traditional method of dichotomy for the reason that quality spurs technology to melt nature and human’s soul, creating something that exceeds the two. This thesis aims to probe the meaning of quality and the account of modern crisis caused by the absence of quality. The last part points out how to reconcile the conflict between human’s value and technological needs, so as to achieve the ultimate goal that enhances people’s happiness.
Keywords: Quality, life, technology, fragmentation.
Affiliation: Institute for Transcultural Studies (ITS) of Beijing International Studies University (BISU), no. 1
Dingfuzhuang Nanli, Chaoyang District, Beijing, 100024, China.