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William Sweet


The Dialogue of Cultural Traditions: a global perspective William Sweet President, Canadian Philosophical Association Professor of Philosophy Director, Centre for ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: William Sweet

The Dialogue of Cultural Traditions a global
  • William Sweet
  • President, Canadian Philosophical Association
  • Professor of Philosophy
  • Director, Centre for Philosophy, Theology and
    Cultural Traditions
  • St Francis Xavier University, Canada

  • Lecture 1
  • General Introduction and Methodology
  • What does it mean to have a dialogue of cultural
  • What is a global perspective?
  • Definitions/descriptions of concepts

Introduction and Methodology
  • I. The theme/purpose of the course
  • what are the prospects for encounter and dialogue
    on matters central to life together
  • - i.e., on
  • a) ways of living (ethics, values, and politics)
  • b) ways of meaning (metaphysics, ideologies?,
  • c) ways of knowing (reasoning, experience,
    insight, intuition)

Introduction and Methodology
  • all are central aspects of culture
  • practical issues they concern doing, acting,
  • also theoretical issues
  • theories underlie, orient, and correct our
  • these practices and theories have been challenged
    and criticized

Introduction and Methodology
  • more specific aim
  • focus on ways of living
  • some recent issues in ethics and political
    philosophy, in light of a number of recent
  • discussion is difficult because of disagreement
  • incapable of proof
  • diversity of approaches
  • diversity of cultural, religious, historical, and
    philosophical traditions

Introduction and Methodology
  • 3 questions
  • what are some of the major positions on issues of
    ethics and political philosophy today?
  • what are some of the challenges raised against
    these positions?
  • is there any way of responding to these

Introduction and Methodology
  • there is an answer
  • involves dialogue
  • also involves understanding the nature, place,
    and function of culture and tradition
  • ethics and political philosophy
  • other areas as well, such as
  • the nature of the person,
  • also epistemology, etc.

Introduction and Methodology
  • therefore, my conclusion
  • a dialogue about matters of ethics, values, and
    politics requires retaining a place for culture
    and traditions

Introduction and Methodology
  • Method
  • - primarily this course is an attempt to answer
    some questions
  • - combine analytical, phenomenological, and
    hermeneutical approaches
  • - lecturing method open

What does it mean to have a dialogue of cultural
  • T. S. Eliot, Notes Towards the Definition of
    Culture, London Faber and Faber, 1948.
  • Leslie Armour, Culture and Philosophy in
    Philosophy, Culture, and Pluralism, ed. William
    Sweet, Aylmer, QC Editions du scribe, 2002.
  • Matthew Arnold, Culture and Anarchy,
  • Terry Eagleton, The Idea of Culture (Blackwell,

What does it mean to have a dialogue of cultural
  • Culture and Pluralism in Philosophy, in
    Philosophy, Culture, and Pluralism, ed. William
    Sweet, Aylmer, QC Editions du scribe, 2002.
  • Philosophy, Culture, and the Future of
    Tradition in Dialogue between Christian
    Philosophy and Chinese Culture, (ed. Paschal Ting
    and George F. McLean), Washington, DC Council
    for Research and Values in Philosophy, 2002
  • "Globalization, Philosophy and the Model of
    Ecumenism," in Philosophical Challenges and
    Opportunities of Globalization, (ed. Oliva
    Blanchette, Tomonobu Imamichi, George F. McLean),
    Washington, DC Council for Research and Values
    in Philosophy, 2001.

What does it mean to have a dialogue of cultural
  • not clear simply raise some questions (in no
    particular order)
  • What are cultural traditions, culture, and
  • What is such a dialogue?
  • What assumptions / presuppositions are being
    made, about
  • - the role and value of dialogue, culture, and
  • - why we talk about this theme at all

What is a global perspective?
  • Not a single perspective above all local
  • Not (just) a summary of how dialogue occurs
    around the world, using different perspectives
  • Not (just) an approach in the age of
  • Rather, how dialogue can be carried out at a
    global level

Some definitions/ descriptionsWhat is culture?
  • 1. Background conceptually
  • what is the dialogue across cultures about, if it
    isnt culture?
  • Is it just what is there?

Some definitions/ descriptionsWhat is culture?
  • 1. Background conceptually
  • what is the dialogue across cultures about, if it
    isnt culture?
  • Is it just what is there?
  • No
  • if it is,
  • Why is this important?
  • Why should anyone care?
  • everything does not tell us much
  • This does not mean high culture, but the high
    water mark of culture

What is culture?
  • Background the philosophical study of culture
  • diversity and richness of world cultures are
    better known
  • in the English-speaking world, few have written
  • compare with earlier centuries / other parts of
    the world
  • Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805), On the Aesthetic
    Education of Man in a series of letters
  • Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803), Reflections
    on the Philosophy of the History of Mankind
  • Georg Simmel (1858-1918), Philosophische Kultur
    gesammelte Essais

What is culture?
  • Background the philosophical study of culture
  • Since 1950 in sociology, history, and literary
  • Ernest Gellner, Culture, Identity, and Politics
    (1987), Nations and Nationalism (1983)
  • Fredric Jameson, The Cultural Turn selected
    writings on the postmodern (1998) Theory of
    Culture lectures at Rikkyo (1994)
  • Edward W. Said, Culture and Imperialism (1994)
  • Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures
    selected essays (1973)
  • Terry Eagleton, The Idea of Culture (2000).

What is culture?
  • Background the philosophical study of culture
  • some signs of change in contemporary
    Anglo-American philosophy
  • particularly studies of pluralism and
  • Kwame Anthony Appiah, In My Fathers House
    Africa in the Philosophy of Culture (1992)
  • Morton White, A Philosophy of Culture the case
    for holistic pragmatism (2002).

Definitions of culture
  • some 164 different senses of the term
  • Culture A Critical Review of Concepts and
    Definitions (1952), Alfred L. Kroeber and Clyde
  • Culture . . . is that complex whole which
    includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law,
    custom, and any other capabilities and habits
    acquired by man as a member of society.
  • Edward Burnett Tylor, Primitive culture
    researches into the development of mythology,
    philosophy, religion, art, and custom (1871).

Definitions of culture
  • Matthew Arnold (1822-1888)
  • Poet, educator, literary critic, government
  • Culture and Anarchy, 1869
  • culture "contact with the best which has been
    thought and said in the world"
  • Culture has its origin in the love of
    perfection it is a study of perfection Chapter
    1, 3

Definitions of culture
  • the notion of perfection as culture brings us to
    conceive it a harmonious perfection, a
    perfection in which the characters of beauty and
    intelligence are both present, which unites 'the
    two noblest of things,' which Arnold calls,
    following Jonathan Swift sweetness and light.
  • Thus, culture has one great passion, the passion
    for sweetness and light (Ch. 1, 31)

Definitions of culture
  • T.S. Eliot, Notes Towards the Definition of
    Culture (1948)
  • culture is what the anthropologists mean the
    way of life of a particular people living
    together in one place,
  • but culture cannot altogether be brought to
    consciousness and the culture of which we are
    wholly conscious is never the whole of culture
  • Therefore, an elite is necessary to bring about
    a further development of the culture in organic

Definitions of culture
  • Max Weber (1864-1920)
  • the concept of culture is a value-concept.
    Empirical reality becomes "culture" to us because
    and insofar as we relate it to value ideas.
  • Objectivity in Social Science and Social
    Policy. 1904 in The Methodology of the Social
    Sciences, 1949. Pp. 49-112
  • example of money why do pieces of paper have

Definitions of culture
  • Alfred Schutz (1899-1959)
  • culture is that which is "taken for granted by a
    given social group at a certain period of its
    historical existence"
  • "TS Eliot's Theory of Culture"

Definitions of culture
  • Samuel P. Huntington (1927-)
  • civilization and culture both refer to the
    overall way of life of a people, and a
    civilization is a culture writ large. They both
    involve the values, norms, institutions, and
    modes of thinking to which successive generations
    in a given society have attached primary
  • The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of
    World Order (London Simon Schuster, 1996), p.

Definitions of culture
  • Gong Qun
  • Culture is the living space and living field of
    human beings
  • Contains objective (material) elements in it,
    such as churches, temples and so on.
  • But also institutions, rules, moralities,
    conventions or customs.
  • What is fundamental is value

Definitions of culture
  • Gong Qun (continued)
  • In H. Rickerts eyes, value is the root of life
    without value, we are not alive. In other words,
    without value, we would no longer have desire and
    action because value gives us direction for our
    will and action.
  • H. Rickert, System der Philosophie I (Tubingen,
    1921), p. 120.

Definitions of culture
  • Our definition
  • culture - a collection of representations or
    ideas shared by and pervasive through a group of
  • - a set of dominant ideas.
  • Bernard Bosanquet, The Reality of the General
    Will, International Journal of Ethics, IV
    (18931894), p. 311

Presuppositions of culture
  • 1. Is a culture something that we can isolate and
    observe at a precise point in time?
  • Or is culture a dynamic notion, that is
    characterised by a telos or purpose?

Some questions
  • 2. Can we speak of cultures or traditions if
    everything is changing?
  • 3. Can a culture have unity?
  • 3a. What about multiculturalism, the plurality of
    cultures, sub-cultures?
  • what is meant by truth and objectivity?
  • John Searle on multiculturalism
  • Richard Rorty

Some questions
  • 4. Is culture a dynamic notion, characterised
    by a telos?
  • Jean Ladrière culture as a dynamic, processional
    unity a convergence of different perspectives
    towards an eschaton
  • 5. Does it make sense to talk of culture in a
    more general way of culture as such in the
    contemporary world?
  • Is there a grand narrative?
  • Can there be any principles at all?
  • is the alternative relativism?
  • is there any possibility of cross-cultural norms?

Some questions
  • 6. Is culture just a social construction?
  • 7. Is individual (personal) identity possible
    without culture?

The place and value of culture
  • What does culture provide?
  • - culture gives us a language and values.
  • i) a general conception of the good,
  • ii) a notion of public reason (usually exhibited
    in liberal societies in the notion of the rule of
  • iii) a context for political and ethical choice
  • - culture influences the material environment in
    which such questions are raised
  • economic production permits the creation of goods
    and the opportunities for leisure

The place and value of culture
  • culture gives us a notion of meaningful order.
  • cultures give us a discourse set limits to what
    we can express, how we can express it, etc.
  • cultural belonging is a basic value

The place and value of culture
  • Will Kymlicka and John Rawls cultures have value
    but not fundamentally morally valuable
  • (cultures are of value simply as part of an
    individuals plan of life, and all are equally
    valuable) (the externalist view)
  • others say
  • a culture is a mode of mutual recognition and is
    a context in which individuals pursue their own
    long-term projects
  • a culture can impose obligations on its members
  • some cultures may be superior to others
  • (e.g., based on the extent to which it allows
    individuals to be social agents, to show
    solidarity, to show loyalty towards the
    community, and so on)

The place and value of culture
  • Culture also provides for the possibility of
  • provides or imposes a discourse
  • culture sets up the problems that philosophers
  • influences the material environment and the
    opportunities for leisure (in which philosophy is
  • tells us what counts as philosophy (as distinct
    from history and religion)
  • no reason to believe that the same culture will
    give birth to similar philosophies. (e.g.,
    Heideggerian phenomenology, the Christian
    existentialism of Karl Jaspers, and Moritz
    Schlicks logical empiricism)

The place and value of culture
  • influences in what language philosophical
    questions are expressed and answered
  • Examples
  • political philosophy in the United States
  • cultures in another philosophical contexts (e.g.,
    western culture in relation to Indian philosophy,
    or in relation to African thought).
  • cultures may lead philosophers to ignore other
  • philosophy is not the prisoner of culture

What are traditions?
  • definition
  • - ambiguous various kinds
  • - political (e.g., liberal), ethical, religious

What are traditions?
  • Alasdair MacIntyre (1929- ), After Virtue (1981
    1984), ch 3
  • A living tradition ... is an historically
    extended, socially embodied argument, and an
    argument precisely in part about the goods which
    constitute that tradition. Within a tradition the
    pursuit of goods extends through generations,
    sometimes through many generations.
  • ... the history of a practice in our time is
    generally and characteristically embedded in and
    made intelligible in terms of the larger and
    longer history of the tradition through which the
    practice in its present form was conveyed to us
    the history of each of our own lives is generally
    and characteristically embedded in and made
    intelligible in terms of the larger and longer
    histories of a number of traditions (AV, 222).

What are traditions?
  • an inherited, established, or customary pattern
    of thought, action, or behavior (as a religious
    practice or a social custom) that has a
    continuity in social attitudes, customs, and
    institutions. I.e., practices (Merriam-Webster
    Online Dictionary)
  • TRADITION is something present in, but also
    greater than, individuals that, arguably, both
    transcends and has a claim on them.
  • tradition is normative.

Role of tradition
  • 1. tradition determines our moral practices
  • at the root of our morals
  • our morals and moral norms were originally
    determined by tradition (e.g., religious or
    cultural tradition).
  • For example
  • Christianity - Jesus of Nazareth / Matthew
    (517-18). Jesus says
  • (17) Think not that I have come to abolish the
    law or the prophets I have come not to abolish
    them but to fulfil them. (18) For truly, I say to
    you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an
    iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all
    is accomplished.

Role of tradition
  • For example
  • Karl Marx
  • turned Hegel on his head
  • taken Hegels dialectical idealism, and turned it
    into a dialectical materialism
  • in place of the Hegelian notion of Mind or
    Spirit, Marx substituted the material
    world--specifically, the economic relations of
    human beings.

Role of tradition
  • 2. necessary for knowledge to be possible.
  • to understand, we need to relate it with our past
  • --vocabularies, stories, patterns of thought or
    ways of thinking, self-understanding,
    understanding of others
  • legal, philosophical, and religious practices,
    are either traditions or are embedded in

Role of tradition
  • 3. Linguistic, cultural, religious, and other
    traditions, are valuable
  • put the present in a context
  • 4. gives the unity to (a) human life.
  • an individual is not just a part of different
    narratives and engages in different practices,
    but is also a part of traditions.
  • Provides a definition of the good life for man
  • 5. tradition is inescapable.

Tradition and other issues
  • 6. Is tradition dynamic?
  • 7. A clear relation of tradition to culture
  • Cultures and communities--be they political,
    cultural, or religious--are defined by their
    normative character, that is, by their values

Tradition and other issues
  • Problems
  • - the restriction of individuality and the
    exercise of autonomy or freedom.
  • - traditional morals and morality are backward
    looking and conventional
  • - tradition (e.g., religious or cultural
    tradition) is conservative, unimaginative,
    monolithic, inward looking, overly reluctant to
    and intolerant of change, ethnocentric or
    parochial, unworkable, and sometimes simply

What is dialogue?
  • Greek d?? (diá,through) ?????
  • A reciprocal exchange or conversation between 2
    or more persons

What is dialogue?
  • philosophy as dialogue
  • - Plato Socratic dialectic
  • - Rigveda dialogue hymns and the Indian epic
  • - Augustine and Boethius
  • - middle ages and the practice of disputatio
  • - Arabic philosophers
  • - Malbranche
  • - Berkeley
  • - Hume
  • - Buber
  • - Mikhail Bakhtin

What is dialogue?
  • various models of dialogue
  • there is communication
  • 1. foundationalist/essentialist (Plato, Aquinas)
  • 2. wide reflective equilibrium (Rawls, Daniels)
  • 3. ecumenism interreligious dialogue
  • 4. fusion of horizons (Gadamer, Habermas,

What is dialogue?
  • presuppositions of dialogue
  • interests, values, and ideas are shared
  • mutual recognition
  • dominant ideas (also make culture and tradition

What is dialogue?
  • the aim, purpose, and value of dialogue
  • Truth aysymptotic
  • - expressing the infinite
  • Action and cooperation with others
  • Understanding oneself

What is dialogue?
  • the place and value of dialogue
  • in general
  • today
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