Dialogues as form of intercultural philosophy (Heinz Kimmerle)

DIALOGUES AS FORM OF INTERCULTURAL PHILOSOPHY[1]

Heinz Kimmerle

 

 

1. Intercultural philosophy as dialogue-philosophy

 

Dialogues have proved to be a useful and adequate form of communication in the theory and practice of intercultural philosophy. Therefore, intercultural philosophy as it has been worked out up to now is dialogue-philosophy. Actually this work is aiming at dialogues among and between the philosophies of all cultures. Intercultural philosophy will only be truly achieved, when in principle the philosophies of all cultures do participate or at least can participate in these dialogues. It is inadequate, if philosophy is limited to Western cultures or to Western and Eastern cultures. The notion of philosophy is broadened and at the same time newly conceptualised in a sharp sense by the intercultural dimension of it. Each and every culture has its specific type of philosophy. That is the case, because in every culture situations come up, when its own existence is problematic, when it gets into conflict with its own traditional self-understanding. Dieter Senghaas says in his article: Intercultural philosophy in the world of today: ‘The big chance for a fruitful intercultural dialogue and therefore also for intercultural philosophy originates from the fact that all cultures more than ever before really get into a conflict with themselves and that they become self-reflective by that’.[2]

 This statement can also be rendered by saying that in every culture situations come up, in which its reasons of existence have to be ascertained, in which it has to be argued how in this particular culture and by it human existence is given shape so that the own community together with other communities and with nature can survive sustainably.

If we take this as a starting point of intercultural philosophy, that way of doing philosophy is something different from comparative philosophy. The latter type of philosophy has come up at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century, when important texts from ancient Indian and Chinese intellectual traditions were ‘discovered’ and translated into Western languages. In Germany before all Wilhelm August Schlegel and Wilhelm von Humboldt were engaged in this enterprise. Since that time at European universities Departments of Indology and Sinology were installed in which besides language and cultural studies also Indian and Chinese philosophies were treated, and compared with Western philosophy. Besides this regional limitation to Western and Eastern cultures the conception of comparative philosophy has also methodological limitations. Comparing different philosophies obviously is some external way of relating them to each other. To put the questions and lines of argumentation of different philosophies side by side, leads inevitably to an interaction between them. It will turn out that they share common positions and that there are certain differences between them. And, who would prevent philosophers from asking which position is true, respectively which position is more just in a given situation or which one is arguing less sharp or adequate with regard to that situation. Thus the conditions for intercultural philosophy come up from itself, as it were.

We find regional limitations of philosophy not only in comparative philosophy, but also on a broad scale in Western philosophical literature. In the Encyclopédie Philosophique Universelle, which has been initiated by UNESCO in 1990, the following distinctions are made: 1) Philosophie Occidentale (Western Philosophy), 2) Pensées Asiatiques (Asian Thoughts), 3) Conceptualisation des Sociétés Traditionelles (Conceptualisation in Traditional Societies).[3]  That means, the title ‘philosophy’ (in the singular form) is reserved for the Western world. The Eastern philosophies are characterised as ‘thoughts’ (in plural). In this connection not only India and China are mentioned, but also Japan. In a further step, again farther away from Western true philosophy, ‘traditional societies’ are referred to. Being traditional, they have a time lag with regard to the modern societies of the West. And they do not produce philosophy or at least thoughts themselves; they articulate the conceptual impact of their societal life in a later phase, often with the help of Western scholars. It is amazing how strongly Eurocentric prejudices are maintained in such an advanced project of UNESCO.

There is a presentation of comparative philosophy, which takes pain to open itself for other cultures than the Western and Eastern only. That is the ‘comparative model’ of the Belgian sinologist and philosopher Ulrich Libbrecht. This author develops a matrix of Chinese, Indian and Western philosophies, in which also all other philosophies can find a place. He describes himself his ‘starting point’ as ‘an equal treatment of all cultures with a written history’.[4] With this starting point, however, a limitation is given again, which cannot be justified. Who says that philosophy only exists in ‘cultures with a written history’? With regard to this question the philosophies of Sub-Saharan Africa form a test-case. Since about 50 years the philosophies of this part of the world, which have been handed down through the centuries primarily in oral traditions, have made themselves recognised in the worldwide international philosophical discourse.

When we decide to take the international recognition of the philosophies of Sub-Saharan Africa seriously, Libbrecht’s limitation becomes obsolete. In these cultures primarily written forms of communication and tradition did not exist before colonisation, if we leave aside a few exceptions, as for instance the Ethiopian culture. African philosophy, more in particular Sub-Saharan African philosophy has been introduced to the international philosophical forum, since a special section has been devoted to it on the World-congress of Philosophy at Düsseldorf in 1978. By recognising the existence of philosophy in cultures, which practice primarily oral forms of communication and tradition, methodologically an important step has been taken. This step means, in a final analysis, that there is no reason any more to deny that all human cultures have their specific type of philosophy, which deserves ‘equal treatment’.

Within the Western philosophical tradition we can refer to Socrates as a philosopher who did not write and who has introduced dialogue-philosophy. Therefore, this philosopher is relevant for our subject in a double way. It seems that both, primarily oral forms of communication and dialogue-philosophy, belong together. That does not mean to devaluate writing or to put it on a second rank. There is no doubt about the importance of writing for the development of cultures in general and for philosophy in particular. And also, by referring here to Socrates as a dialogue-philosopher, the importance of the principle of dialogues for philosophies in other cultures, for instance in the Indian Upanishads, is not estimated less in any way. I only want to say that in the Western tradition of philosophy Socrates’ teaching is one of the few examples of dialogue-philosophy. However, it is a quite powerful example, from which intercultural philosophy can learn.

In the following section, the Socratic way of leading conversations will be analysed. I will lean on Gernot Böhme’s interpretation of Plato and of the Socrates Type as a starting point for my own rather unconventional view on Socratic dialogues from an intercultural philosophical perspective.[5] At the same time this will be used as a stepping-stone to some other questions about intercultural philosophy as dialogue-philosophy. Such questions are: Which aspects belong to dialogues, especially to intercultural philosophical dialogues? What is the mutual relation between the partners in intercultural philosophical dialogues? Can this relation be determined as tolerant or is tolerance not enough, particularly if we take Socratic dialogues as a model? Could the relation between the partners in intercultural philosophical dialogues not better be described as one of respect or even as what is called in German ‘Achtung’?

 

 

2. Analysis of the Socratic way of leading philosophical conversations and of the mutual relations of the partners in these conversations

 

Socrates is a philosopher who has not written, but has been engaged in philosophical dialogues on the market-place of Athens about 2400 years ago. Preferably he has chosen beautiful young men as partners for his dialogues. And he has transformed the erotic relation between himself and the partners in the dialogues to a love for the truth or for searching the truth. He has been sentenced to death by the political authorities of the polis (city) of Athens because of seducing the youth, and he has voluntarily accepted this sentence, although he had the chance to escape. That is admittedly already almost all we know about his historical person. The Socrates Type, as he is known in the history of Western philosophy, is determined to a large extent by the written dialogues of Plato, in which in most cases Socrates is explaining Plato’s philosophical conceptions. When I try to sketch the principles of dialogue-philosophy on the basis of these written dialogues, I do not direct my attention primarily to their content, but to the method of dialogue-philosophy and to the mutual relations of the partners in the dialogues.

When the dialogues are written down, in which Plato renders his and Socrates’ philosophical conceptions, a decisive aspect of dialogue-philosophy, as Socrates had practised it, is no longer there in the full sense of the word. I am referring to the characterisation of truth ‘as an event’. Böhme stresses in his book Der Typ Sokrates (The Socrates Type) this event-character of the Socratic way of philosophising. He underlines that only therein the ‘unity of knowledge and person’, which is typical for philosophical knowledge since then, is expressed in an adequate way.[6] This is an essential aspect of philosophical knowledge, which does not come out in written texts in the same adequacy. Without discussing here the advantages and disadvantages of written philosophies, I want to mention that written documents of philosophy should try and bring to bear this aspect of dialogue-thinking in the context of writing, as Plato has done in his written dialogues. Besides that, written philosophies can and will search their own ways to do justice to the event-character of philosophical truth.

Socratic dialogues show in the first place, that philosophical knowledge is never possessed by one person alone. The way how Socrates has engaged in philosophical conversations makes clear that this knowledge before all unfolds itself, if the person who is leading the conversations uses all his or her competence to ask the right questions. Although he acknowledges this primary condition of Socratic dialogue-philosophy, Böhme describes these dialogues as ‘asymmetric’, insofar as the one who puts the questions, that is Socrates, is ranking higher than his partners. That means, according to Böhme, that Socrates is dominating the conversations. I see this in a different way. Böhme knows very well that in the play of questions and answers a so-called ‘Socratic inverse’ takes place. Socrates is and remains the one who puts the questions, but he insists on the statement that he does not know anything himself. If I understand this attitude correctly, it means that Socrates does not give himself a position, which is above, but one, which is below to those to whom he puts the questions and who have to search for answers. By this way of leading the conversations he tries to dismiss as much as possible the asymmetric relation, which comes up between him and his partners on account of his excellent and long experience in philosophical thinking. Therefore, his statement ‘I know that I do not know anything’ is not to be understood as the expression of an ironical attitude, but as the endeavour to create as much as possible equality between him and his partners in the dialogues.

Socrates’ art of leading conversation could then also not be explained as a certain ‘type of pedagogic’, but as a measure how to work together in finding answers to philosophical questions. In the dialogue Theaitetos, Socrates calls this procedure, as is well known, some kind of ‘maieutic’, that is a technique by which help is given to the birth of a child. However, not bodies are giving birth here, but souls. By the way how Socrates is asking his questions and how he critically is dealing with the answers, he makes sure that his partners ‘discover everything only by themselves’. Thus he can reach the aim that the knowledge, which is produced, has an intersubjective character and that it cannot voluntarily be made by one person, also not by Socrates. That is why he can say that helping with giving birth of clever and beautiful insights is not done by him alone, but ‘by God and himself’.[7]

In the exceptional cases, when Socrates himself presents philosophical conceptions, he does it in a way that makes clear that a type of knowledge is at stake, which surpasses the capacities of one person alone. He then presents his knowledge – and now indeed in an ironical attitude – as something which he has heard by chance from somebody or – in other cases – as a message which he has got from a priestess, a poet or an old sage. One just has to think of the famous speech about ‘eros’ in the dialogue Symposion, which Diotima had told him, a specially gifted person who could foresee the future.[8] Thus it becomes clear again, that true knowledge appears in the course of a dialogue, that it is arranging itself by using messages of such special persons and, before all, by the contributions of the different partners in the dialogues. As an example might serve the dialogue Kratylos, in which the question of language is under discussion. Is language the onomatopoetic imitation of real events and their acoustic appearance, is it the meaning, which is arbitrarily given to certain signs by convention, or is it the somehow mysterious process of giving names to persons and to things? Language is all of this, but not each of these meanings independently from the others, but all of them taken together.

The different partners are confronted with an ‘aporia’, when they understand that they cannot give ready or definitive answers. They come to a point where they are at a loss about their ability to give good answers at all. Therefore, Socrates compares himself also with a mosquito, whose stings interrupt the attitude of self-content, or with a kind of fish that hypnotises others by a trembling movement, which it performs in front of them. Finally, knowledge about a certain field is not the aim of the dialogues, but knowledge, which has to do with being good in the sense of being good for something, especially with the virtues and competence of a citizen of the polis. In other words, this aim is not knowledge as such, but a state of consciousness, a becoming conscious of oneself.

In his book Platons theoretische Philosophie (Plato’s theoretical philosophy), Böhme summarises the conception of dialogues as a way to knowledge in the following manner. On the one hand, ‘logon didonai’ takes place, that means giving reasons, when questions are answered, and, on the other hand, ‘apodechesthai’, receiving what is said by the partner in the dialogue. Receiving is not meant here in a passive sense. On the contrary, the receiving part, that is usually Socrates, is the properly active part. In his way of receiving, some kind of agreement is expressed, which makes a consensus between the different dialogue-partners possible. However, the knowledge, which is achieved by those procedures, could not also be presented as the systematic content of Plato’s philosophy. This would mean to misunderstand the playful and tentative character of this philosophy, which is always there, despite of all theoretical strictness.[9]

            One single dialogue is often just a special contribution to a certain problem. Other contributions to this same problem are added in other dialogues. In these cases different dialogues have to be taken into account at the same time and related to each other. This intertextuality of different dialogues has to be practised in a dialogical manner. What has to be taken into consideration when reading one dialogue, is also valid for the parallel reading of several dialogues. Thus Plato’s philosophy turns out to be a polylogue, which is a dialogue of dialogues.

            I have tried to make acceptable that the relationship between Socrates and his partners in the dialogues is not a relationship between a teacher and his disciples. It is rather a relationship between lovers, which is sublimated to the common love for searching the truth. During the conversation the superior position of Socrates is always inversed, because he insists on the statement that each and every knowledge, which might be achieved, does not come from him, but from his partners and that it is only there in acting out the dialogue. So his way of leading the conversations can be regarded as minimisation of a relation of power. That Socrates endeavours to give his partners an equal rank might be called an attitude of tolerance. Although a big difference in philosophical competence pertains, equality is assumed.

But it is possible to go further than tolerance in describing Socrates’ attitude towards his partners. It becomes obvious in the course of the dialogues that the partners are needed in the process of common search for knowledge. Therefore, it might be more adequate to say that Socrates respects his partners. The different roles remain: the partners have to give reasons when answering questions and Socrates actively and critically receives their arguments. Equal rank and different roles are there at the same time. Thus a tension is created which makes the dialogues be what they are.

When we consider that in these dialogues a relationship of love between Socrates and the beautiful young men who are his partners is transformed into common love for searching the truth, this relationship might deserve even another name than that of respect. For respect presupposes a certain cool distance between those, who have an equal rank and different roles. I would like to propose the Kantian concept of ‘Achtung’ for a better characterisation of this relation, although Kant uses this concept in a different context. With Kant ‘Achtung’ is an emotion, which accompanies an attitude that is governed by reason only. According to his use of this conception, emotion is not meant to occur between persons or partners in a conversation. It is introduced as an emotion of acting persons with regard to the ethical law. As such it becomes a motivation to moral action, which otherwise may not be influenced by any emotion or feeling whatsoever. As a rational emotion, ‘Achtung’ is the only emotion or feeling that can and may motivate morally good actions.[10]I get the impression that between Socrates and his dialogue-partners in the course of their conversations the relation of love is transformed to Achtung in the sense of a rational emotion.

 

 

3. Aspects of intercultural philosophical dialogues

When we look back at what is said up to now, taking together the theory and practice of intercultural philosophy as dialogue-philosophy on the one hand and the analysis of the Socratic way to lead philosophical conversations on the other hand, a number of aspects can be summed up, which are necessary if we want to speak of intercultural philosophical dialogues. It is a specific aspect of intercultural dialogues that it is guided by a methodology of listening (a). A second basic aspect is equality and difference at the same time (b). Thirdly, there has to be an openness with regard to possible results of these dialogues (c). Fourthly, we have to consider that not only rational and linguistic means, but also emotional ones or means, which are related to the bodies, are used to reach common understanding (d). Finally, it may help clarify this approach to a dialogical philosophy, if we investigate how it differs from the theory of discourses, which expects only contributions from the dialogue-partners that can also be found in general human rationality (e).

 

a) The methodology of listening

Listening is an important condition at the beginning and in the course of any dialogue.      It is a rule of politeness and an expression of my respect for the others that I listen to what they have to say. There is, however, a specific need of listening in intercultural dialogues. In this kind of dialogues listening has to be guided by a certain methodology. It is necessary to practise some kind of epoché, that means of keeping understanding in a provisional state. Listening and understanding are uncoupled in a certain sense. What I hear must not immediately be given a definite place in my horizon of understanding. It is advisable to listen twice or for a third time, before this place is determined. And also then I have to be prepared to change my mind in respect of what I thought to have understood. There are often too big differences in the horizons of understanding so that this special measure is necessary to get a specific meaning transported safely from one to another. Therefore I have stressed the methodology of listening for intercultural understanding already in my first book on African philosophy.[11]

Hans-Georg Gadamer has taught us that there is always some tentative procedure in the process of understanding. He used to explain this by referring to the poem ‘The Carpet’ of Stefan George. In this poem is described how it often takes quite a long time until the different lines in a woven carpet can be understood. After having looked at the carpet for a long time trying to understand how the lines belong together, there might come up understanding all on a sudden, when these lines form a picture for me. This process of searching for the meaning of what is expressed in a picture, in a text or in an oral piece of language has to be stretched in intercultural dialogues. The tentative aspect of understanding has to be sustained consciously in such an intercultural context. Otherwise misunderstanding might happen too often and too easily.

b) Equality and difference

It is a basic condition for dialogues that equality and difference do exist between the partners at the same time. In order to make a dialogue possible, the partners have to be equal in rank or to be made equal in rank because they engage in a common search for knowledge, and they have to act in different roles during the conservation and to defend conceptions of a different content.

The example of Socrates has shown us that the relation of dialogue-partners to each other is not described adequately by the concept of tolerance. There is no doubt about it that here and anywhere else tolerance is better than intolerance. But is it enough to say that the partners in a philosophical conversation tolerate each other? Does tolerance not always presuppose in some way or other a relation between those who have a higher position to others who have a lower one? If the person in a higher position decides not to make use this superiority, he or she is tolerant. In other words, it is tolerant to treat the other as if he or she were an equal, although he or she in fact is not.

Herbert Marcuse has made clear that tolerance in connection with a liberalist world-view can become ‘repressive’. He analyses the possibility of minorities in a liberal state in the period of an ‘advanced industrial society’ to realise their intention of ‘changing this society as a whole’. These minorities will be allowed to think like that, to discuss their issues, to speak about them in gatherings. This can be seen as an expression of tolerance. However, these minorities will turn out to be ‘harmless and helpless’ in front of a vast majority who resists a qualitative change of the society. The intention to realise such a change gets frustrated, because the activities, which are related to this intention, remain without any effect. Thus the tolerant attitude turns out to be repressive, which means that the possibility of political influence of the minorities is in fact excluded.

The analysis of Marcuse, which is related to the situation within the advanced industrial societies in the Western world, can be applied to the relations between these societies to less industrially developed countries in other parts of the world. In this context it can be noticed that the advanced industrial societies determine, in which way the less industrially developed countries can cooperate with these societies. The Western type of democracy with a multi-party-system and decision-making on the basis of majorities and the Western form of free-market-economy are prescribed to the less industrially developed countries where different, but not necessarily less democratic or economically free traditions in political and economic life prevail. If this attitude of the Western world deserves the name of tolerance at all, it certainly is ‘repressive tolerance’.[12]  

            In a similar way the mutual treatment of religions, which is given shape according to their own judgment, the form of dialogues can be critically examined. Do they rightly claim tolerance for that mutual treatment and if so, is tolerance in these cases enough? The relations between the religions are traditionally burdened by the claim of absolute truth, which is made by many of them. As we know, this has led in history to the fact that the vast majority of all wars have been religious wars. More recently can be noticed that the Christian denominations try to find to each other in the ecumenical movement and that manifold endeavours of different religions are undertaken to contribute to the maintenance of peace in the world. That is what the Catholic theologian Hans Küng has called the ‘double face of religion’.[13] If a Christian and a Buddhist, a Moslem and a Hindu or a Jew and a follower of Daoism decide to engage in dialogues with each other, mutual tolerance is not enough. Also if they do not give up their claim to possess the absolute truth or to be the only true religion in the world, they have at least to resign from the practice to send missionaries to each other’s areas or to make proselytes among the members of other religions.

            If we take Sub-Saharan Africa into consideration, the survey of great world religions, which Küng gives in his book Projekt Weltethos, should be extended by animism. The meaning of this religion for the ‘cultural landscape of this earth’ has not yet been understood by this author. Sub-Saharan Africa is a paradigm here for cultures, which do not have primarily written forms of communication and tradition, but which do share the conviction that all things in the human world and in nature have a soul and can become the dwelling place of spirits. The attitude of the great world religions, as they are listed by Küng, towards animism is moving only slowly from intolerance to tolerance, and only in some exceptional cases from tolerance to respect. The step from respect to Achtung, that is to this rational emotion, which is akin to love, still has to be expected from the future.

            In 2001 a manifest with the title Bridging the Divide has appeared. It has been initiated by Kofi Annan and among many others also Hans Küng has contributed to it. In this manifest I have found the following remarkable sentences: ‘Christianity and Jewish religion, Islam and Greek philosophy will remain to be important sources of wisdom, also for the coming centuries. Other ways of life as Hinduism, Jainism, Confucianism and Daoism are presently in the same way alive and will also in the future continue to blossom. Above that, scholars, but also politicians have realised, that forms of indigenous spirituality  – for instance on the African continent, in Shintoism, with the Maoris, in Polynesia, with the original population of the Americas, the Inuit, the Central-Americans, the original population of the Andes and of Hawaii – are also sources of inspiration for the “global village”’.[14]

            I will just remark shortly that in this text a similar scale of inequality can be noticed as in the above mentioned Encyclopédie Philosophique Universelle: a line is drawn from ‘important sources of wisdom’ in the Western and in the Semitic world to ‘other ways of life’ in the Far East, and then from there to a number of areas, where ‘also sources of inspiration’ have been discovered. The latter areas, in which primarily oral forms of communication and tradition prevail and which are to a great extent animistic, are named one by one without giving a common characterisation. However, I find it remarkable enough that here animism under the name of ‘forms of indigenous spirituality’ is listed together with the great world religions of the West, the Orient and the Far East. That is for the first time, as far as I know, an expression of tolerance with regard to this religion, which does belong to the great world-religions, not only on account of the number of its adherents.

            In Sub-Saharan Africa, especially in South Africa, another step is taken from tolerance in the direction to respect and Achtung by taking seriously the many mixtures of Christianity and Islam with indigenous animistic religions and by estimating positively the elements of animism in these syncretistic denominations. The South African theologian Gerrit Brand deals in his dissertation with the Debate on Salvation in African Christian Theology, in which a great number of African and Western authors is tackling this problem. Liberation Theology or ‘Black Theology’ on the one hand and ‘Theology of Inculturation’ on the other hand and finally the overcoming of this opposition are taken into consideration. In this way a positively critical estimation of traditional African thought for African Christian theology is inaugurated, although the criteria for a symbiosis of Christian and animistic beliefs or convictions is unilaterally determined by the documents of Christian revelation.[15]

c) Openness with regard to expected results

Dialogues only come up, if besides equality and difference a certain pre-understanding of the topic that has to be discussed is already there. It can also be formulated in a more cautious way that an envisaged topic must encounter a certain interest among the partners, which has not necessarily already to be clearly articulated. When a dialogue starts, it has to obey certain rules. It is, however, not bound to them in the sense of external procedures. These are rather rules of politeness, which do not exclude spontaneous actions and reactions. And it is important that the conversation is led in a way, which is oriented at reaching knowledge. The partners direct their intention primarily at the topic, which is under discussion. It is as it were the in-between, which connects them and also leaves them free in their respective standpoints.

            Martin Buber has presented deep analyses of this ‘in-between’ in his writings on the dialogical principle. He is dealing with dialogues between I and you, which is mediated by an instance in between both. This in-between is not voluntarily available, and the encounter, which is made possible by it, is experienced as a gift.[16] In intercultural philosophical dialogues, which are examined here, in most cases more than two persons are engaged. Therefore the in-between will be somewhat of a different kind compared to the encounter between I and you. It will probably be less intimate and also less intensive. Moreover we speak consciously of dialogues in plural, or as Franz M. Wimmer has put it of a ‘polylogue’, because intercultural understanding needs many and repeated applications of the ‘dialogical principle’.[17]

            Nevertheless it cannot be avoided that power relationships come into the play in dialogues of this type. These power relationships are based on age, energy, and competence of the partners, in addition to the ‘forceless force’ of the better argument, of which Aristotle speaks. Of course, in these dialogues arguments should be used as much as possible. But it must also be possible to be wrong or to be ashamed without bringing a dialogue to the end by that. The standpoints of the particular partners need not be justified in the view of a dominant discourse or generally accepted opinions. ‘If somebody means something at all, he or she always means something right’, Hans-Georg Gadamer once has said. The result of a dialogue is therefore not determined by the superior position of one or the other partners. It is also not a ‘fusion of horizons’, as Gadamer puts it.[18] The Socratic dialogues, as we find them in Plato’s works, can teach us, that the result of a dialogue appears in its being carried out.

            Just as in the Socratic way of leading philosophical conversations, openness for expected results presupposes in all dialogues to minimise the influence of existing power relationships. This is before all possible in philosophical dialogues and more in particular in intercultural philosophical dialogues, because they are structured by a common search for knowledge. What is practised in intercultural philosophical dialogues has direct political consequences. It includes the claim that other forms of intercultural communication in politics and economy or science and technology, which depart in a stronger way from existing power relations, have to be made more dialogical. I could also put in this way, that intercultural philosophical dialogues form a counter-instance to forms of intercultural communication which presuppose more strongly power relations.

            And it is part of the character of openness of dialogues, especially of intercultural philosophical dialogues, that there are elements of failing understanding within them. A dialogue is only what it is, if it can also fail. In those cases it is important that I respect the positions of the other even if I cannot give them a place in my own horizon of understanding. This respect is based on the fact that I trust my partner who has decided to lead a dialogue with me. Here again the attitude of Achtung comes into the play, which is more than tolerance and even than respect, which maintains a distance. On the other hand, respect and Achtung have their limitation, which is included in their definition: only those deserve respect and Achtung, who respect and practise Achtung themselves.

            Finally, it has to be clear that dialogues as form of communication are an approach to intercultural philosophy, which is conceptualised and offered by the Western side. This means at the same time that in these dialogues the openness is included to pass over to other forms of communication if these have proved to be more adequate. The attitude of Buddhist philosophy to strive after a transcendence of language could be mentioned here. But also in this connection the aim is not to step into absolute silence, but to make clear that in all language the meaning of the words remains incidental and determined by convention. In the Western history of philosophy we find a parallel to this attitude, if the difference of all language to the unutterable is stressed, as it is done in mystical traditions and also with contemporary authors as Gadamer, Wittgenstein, Lacan or Derrida.[19] So we do not have an alternative here to the dialogues, but another characteristic of what happens when they are carried out. Gadamer refers especially in this connection to ‘Plato’s art of dialogue’, which ‘always points into an open space’.[20]

            It is also interesting to draw the attention here to forms of conversation, which are practised in African communities. Ernest Wamba dia Wamba, a philosopher at the university of Dar es Salaam who comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, refers to ‘palaver’ and ‘mbongi’ as forms of decision-making by conversations as counter-examples to the debates in the parliaments of Western democracies. All members of a community participate in a ‘palaver’ or ‘mbongi’, not without differentiations, but in principal as equals. Each and every member has to give his opinion on the questions, about which decisions have to be taken, and ‘they talk until they agree’. These forms of conversation could be taken as examples for polylogues, that is to say for dialogues between many different partners. The preference for unanimity instead of being content with decisions based on the majority of the participating partners is motivated by the will to do justice also to the minorities.[21] This is relevant for political dialogues and debates in the West, and also for the power relations in philosophical dialogues. It can help to recognise disadvantages in Western ways of decision-making and, if possible, to overcome them.

d) Other than discursive-linguistic means of understanding

It is important for all dialogues that the participants are, as far as possible, bodily present, as in these cases there is quite a lot of pre-linguistic exchange. The face of the dialogue-partner qualifies him or her as such. Here I have to refer to Emmanuel Levinas who recognises ‘the authentic trace of the Other’ in the appearance of his naked face. The encounter with the face of the Other is prior to any teaching of a world-order, and it contains a direct ethical appeal. ‘This is an attitude, which cannot be derived from any category. That you cannot withdraw from your responsibility, that there is no hiding place of interiority, in which you might be able to retire, that you have to go forward without taking into account your own interest’, is the appeal of this encounter. By this the importance of the bodily presence of the partners in the dialogues is underlined. If it is not possible, it might help to imagine the faces of the others, with whom a dialogue is to be lead.[22]

            If somebody looks at another person, different reactions are possible. The looks of the dialogue-partners can meet positively, they can remain indifferent, or evade each other. Jean-Paul Sartre has shown that the ‘subject-other’ whom I do not just look at as an object, is phenomenologically and ontologically given to me by the ‘permanent possibility’ to be looked at by him. But as I look at the other primarily as an ‘object-other’, as some example of the human species, he looks at me in the first instance also not as a subject-other, but in an objectifying manner. This is, according to Sartre, the reason for the phenomenon of shame. ‘Shame … is the recognition that I really am this object, which the other is looking at and which he is judging’. Insofar as I experience myself as being looked at as a ‘subject-other’ Sartre describes this like Levinas does as ‘a presence of the other, which is world-transcendent’.[23]

Levinas finds, however, that Sartre ‘stops his analysis to early’ when he primarily works out ‘the violence-structure of the presence of the subject-other’ and thus is not able to say what the other means to me in an ethical sense.[24] In the situation of a dialogue, all the more if culturally more radically different Others will be our partners, Levinas’ approach will be especially helpful. But it will also be useful to recognise the difficulties, which arise from the objectifying looks of ourselves or of the Others. Also according to Sartre the human being ‘can transgress the objectifying look and win back his or her for-him-/herself existing subjectivity’. He insists, however, that ontologically ‘my object-I is … the condition of my being myself in front of the other and the being him-/herself of the other in front of me’.[25] This can be seen as the expression of a subject primarily directed at him-/herself, which is not so relevant in the situation of a dialogue.

Besides the encountering looks there are quite a number of other multi-sensorical mutual relationships between the partners of a dialogue. The gestures and the intonation, which accompany the oral speech, play a role in the process of understanding. They stimulate the attention and mediate emotional aspects of what is said, which can be very important. These are phenomena, which Hartmut and Gernot Böhme have characterised in their book as ‘the other of reason’. In this same book they are telling us also that these aspects of language need for their full understanding the psychoanalysis of Sigmund Freud. Thus they want to prepare another post-Kantian ‘concept of philosophy’, a ‘new concept of nature, body and imagination’.[26]

According to Gadamer, we need also go back in this connection to the tradition of rhetoric, which has been discredited too much by Plato. Rhetoric is the theory of the conditions, by which a speech gets more convincing power. It teaches how something what you say becomes more impressive for the listeners. Therefore it has to do with the relationships of power, which are also present in dialogues. Insofar it is important that the impact of Plato’s critique does not get lost. Rhetoric, if it understands itself well, ‘operates against the enchantment of consciousness by the power of speech’. In this way it is akin to critique of ideologies, which also helps to ‘unmask the “deception of language”’.[27]

Finally it is important to mention that gestures and other forms of body language are often different in different cultures. Special attention and again some kind of methodological cautiousness are necessary in this aspect of intercultural understanding.

 

e) The specific knowledge-increase in dialogues, especially in intercultural philosophical dialogues

By looking back to Socrates’ art of leading conversations we have seen that dialogues do justice to the character of truth as an event. None of the partners in a dialogue could produce the knowledge, which appears in a dialogue, on his or her own. Several persons who are engaged in a dialogue make the knowledge appear. They have something to tell each other, which everybody of them could not have told him-/herself. For each partner in the dialogue it is in the end unexpected what the others tell him, just because they are others and have other preconditions and perspectives for what they say. Insofar as the others come from another culture, their contribution to the dialogue will be all the more unexpected.

Bernhard Waldenfels makes clear that there are different ‘grades of strangeness’ and that it matters in this respect if a stranger comes from another culture. ‘Structural strangeness’ means more than ‘everyday or normal strangeness’; it can be caused by ‘intercultural differences of expression’. And structural strangeness is surpassed by ‘radical strangeness’, in which ‘we are confronted with events that not only call in question a certain interpretation, but the “possibility of interpretation” as such’.[28] Herfried Münkler and Bernd Ladewig also come to the result that ‘strangeness has certain grades’, which correspond to certain ‘grades of understanding’. In the most extreme cases ‘radical strangeness’ can come up, also if that is ‘seldom, if not impossible’ in our globally unifying culture.[29]

In intercultural dialogues it will be true in a special sense that the others tell me something, which I could not have told me myself by any means. Therefore, this type of dialogue justifies the expectation that a special knowledge-increase will be possible. There are a number of unsolved vital problems in the world of today, which have also important philosophical aspects. To come closer to a solution of these problems, all possibilities of gaining knowledge have to be used, and certainly also those of the special knowledge increase by intercultural philosophical dialogues.

In a last step of my argumentation, I want to delimit this aspect of intercultural philosophy from the ‘basic assumptions of the conceptions of democracy and lawful state in the theory of discourse’, which departs from universalistic preconditions and comes to a certain manner how ‘the other is comprised’.[30] Already in his Theory of Communicative Action, Jürgen Habermas refers to a universalistic instance, not of the contents of reason, but of the ‘procedures of reason’. According to this conception, nobody can evade the claim of validity of reasonable arguments, because everybody who tries it, will have to use reasonable arguments for that.[31] This principal direction in the determination of certain basic concepts leads in the ‘theory of morals and of law’ to a universalism, which is nevertheless ‘highly sensitive for differences’.

Habermas wishes to show that in accordance with his basic concepts the ‘equal respect for everybody … covers not only people of the same kind, but also the person of the other as other’. However, he maintains his conception that the other has to articulate his or her otherness on the basis and with the means of the universally valid democratic lawful state, because this type of state is based on the principle of decision-making by using reasonable arguments. In this way he wants to meet the challenges of multiculturalism.

His approach, however, does not do justice to the structural or radical strangeness of the other. It amounts to the fact that I prescribe the other that he or she has to share with me my way of reasonable argumentation. This means obviously that the other cannot tell me anything, which I as a person of reasonable arguments could not have told me myself. Different to this position, I would like to insist on the radical or at least structural strangeness of the other. In intercultural philosophical dialogues those radical others are members of cultures, which do not know primarily written forms of communication and tradition.

It is remarkable that Habermas speaks of ‘respect’ for the other, more precisely of ‘equal respect for everybody’. In the framework of his conception tolerance would have been enough, if I see it correctly. For the other can argue for his otherness only under the conditions, which are those of my way of reasonable argumentation. This is also already expressed in the formulation of ‘equal respect for everybody’, which makes every other equal to me and my way of reasonable argumentation. Real respect for the other presupposes more of the specific openness, of which we have shown that it is an essential aspect of dialogues.

 

Prof.dr.dr.h.c. Heinz Kimmerle has studied philosophy, theology and German literature at the universities of Tübingen, Bonn, and Heidelberg. He has taught philosophy at the Ruhr-University Bochum and Erasmus University Rotterdam. As a visiting professor he has given lectures at the University of Nairobi in Kenya, the University of Ghana at Legon/Accra, the University of Venda in South Africa, and the University of South Africa (UNISA) at Pretoria. UNISA has conferred on him an honorary doctorate in literature and philosophy. His main fields of research, in which he has published regularly, are Schleiermacher and the history of hermeneutics, Hegel and the history of dialectics, Derrida and the philosophies of difference, and intercultural philosophy, especially African philosophy.


[1] A first version of this text has been written in German for a conference on ‘Tolerance in the Context of Interculturality and Globalisation’ at the Department of German and Russian of the University of Mumbai in March 2002. The title was: ‘Sollen wir Partner im Dialog tolerieren und/oder achten?’ (Should we tolerate our partners in dialogue or respect them?) It is published on the website www.kimmerle.nl. The German version has been worked out more in detail and is submitted for publication with Rodopi Editions (Amsterdam/New York) and Verlag Traugott Bautz (Nordhausen). I am glad to offer an English version for a book, which is prepared in honour of Anton Houtepen with whom I have discussed problems of intercultural philosophy and theology during many years, when we have shared an office at Erasmus University Rotterdam. Quotations from originally German texts are translated by me, HK.

[2] Senghaas, Dieter, Zivilisierung wider Willen. Der Konflikt der Kulturen mit sich selbst, Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp 1998, 27-49, see 48.

 

[3] Published under the direction of André Jacobs, Vol. I-IV, 1990-1998.

[4] Libbrecht, Ulrich, Inleiding. Comparatieve Filosofie I. Opzet en ontwikkeling van  een comparatief  model, Assen: Van Gorcum 1995; II. Culturen in het licht van een comparatief model, Assen: Van Gorcum 1999, see vol. I, 16.

[5] I will refer especially to the books of Böhme, Gernot, Der Typ Socrates, Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp 1988 and Platons theoretische Philosophie, Stuttgart/Weimar: J.B. Metzler 2000.

[6] Böhme, Der Typ Sokrates, 131, see for the following text 132-141.

[7] Plato, Theaitetos, 150 a-d.

[8] Plato, Symposion, 201 c-d.

[9] Böhme, Platons theoretische Philosophie, 100-109.

[10] Kant, Immanuel, Kritik der praktischen Vernunft (1788), in: Kants Werke. Akademie Textausgabe, Berlin: De Gruyter 1968, vol V,  71-89.

 

[11] Kimmerle, Heinz, Philosophie in Afrika – afrikanische Philosophie. Annäherungen an einen  interkulturellen Philosophiebegriff, Frankfurt/M.: Campus 1991, 8.

 

[12] Marcuse, Herbert, ‘Repressive Toleranz’, in: R.P. Wolff/B. Moore/H. Maruse, Kritik der reinen

Toleranz, Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp 1965,  91-128,  see 105.

[13] Küng, Hans, Projekt Weltethos, Munich/Zürich: Piper 1990, 98-103, see for the following section 159-160.

[14] The title of the German translation, from which I am quoting, is: Brücken in die Zukunft. Ein Manifest für den Dialog der Kulturen, Frankfurt/M.: S. Fischer 2001, 51.

[15] Brand, Gerd, Speaking of a Fabulous Ghost. In Search of Theological Criteria, with Special Reference

to the Debate on Salvation in African Christian Theology, Frankfurt/M. a.o.: Peter Lang 2002.

[16] Buber, Martin, Das dialogische Prinzip, Heidelberg: Lambert Schneider 1962.

[17] Wimmer, Franz M., ‘Polylog der Traditionen im philosophischen Denken’, in: R.A. Mall/N. Schneider

(eds), Ethik und Politik aus interkultureller Sicht, Amsterdam/Atlanta, GA: Rodopi 1996, 39-54.

[18] Gadamer, Hans-Georg, Wahrheit und Methode. Grundzüge einer philosophischen Hermeneutik, Tübingen: Mohr (Siebeck) 1961, 359-360.

[19] Schlieter, Jens, Versprachlichung – Entsprachlichung. Untersuchung zum philosophischen Stellenwert

der Sprache im europäischen und buddhistischen Denken, Cologne: edition chora 2000, 276-279.

[20] Quotation from a letter sent to the author of this text by Gadamer in January 2001.

[21] Wamba dia Wamba, Ernest, ‘Beyond Elite Politics of Democracy in Africa’, in: Quest. An

International African Journal of Philosophy VI,1 (1992), 28-42.

[22] Levinas, Emmanuel, Die Spur des Anderen. Untersuchungen zur Phänomenologie und Sozialphilosophie,

Freiburg/Munich: Alber 1983, 225-235, see also for the following section.

[23] Sartre, Jean-Paul, Das Sein und das Nichts. Versuch einer phänomenologischen Ontologie, translated from

French by T. Koch, Reinbek n. Hamburg: Rowohlt 1991, 463, 471 and 485.

[24] Olschanski, Reinhard, Phänomenologie der Mißachtung. Studien zum Intersubjektivitätsdenken Jean-Paul

Sartres, Bodenheim: Syndikat 1997, 76-82.

[25] Olschanski, 83-85, Sartre, 511.

[26] Böhme, Hartmut & Gernot, Das Andere der Vernunft. Zur Entwicklung von Rationalitätsstrukturen am Beispiel

Kants, Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp 1983, 24.

[27] Gadamer, ‘Rhetorik, Hermeneutik und Ideologiekritik’, in: Hermeneutik II. Ergänzungen, Tübingen: Mohr (Siebeck) 1986, p. 232-250, see 236-237 and 241.

[28] Waldenfels, Bernhard, Topographie des Fremden. Studien zur Phänomenologie des Fremden I, Frankfurt/M.:  Suhrkamp 1997, 35-37.

[29] Münkler, Herfried/Ladewig, Bernd, ‘Einleitung’, in: H. Münkler/K. Meßlinger/B. Ladewig (eds), Die

Herausforderung durch das Fremde, Berlin: Akademie Verlag 1998, 12-23, see 23.

[30] Habermas, Jürgen, Die Einbeziehung des Anderen. Studien zur politischen Theorie, Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp 1997, 7-9, see also for the following section.

[31] Habermas, Theorie des kommunikativen Handelns, Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp 1981, vol 1, 44-71.

 

Heinz Kimmerle

1. Intercultural philosophy as dialogue-philosophy

Dialogues have proved to be a useful and adequate form of communication in the theory and practice of intercultural philosophy. Therefore, intercultural philosophy as it has been worked out up to now is dialogue-philosophy. Actually this work is aiming at dialogues among and between the philosophies of all cultures. Intercultural philosophy will only be truly achieved, when in principle the philosophies of all cultures do participate or at least can participate in these dialogues. It is inadequate, if philosophy is limited to Western cultures or to Western and Eastern cultures. The notion of philosophy is broadened and at the same time newly conceptualised in a sharp sense by the intercultural dimension of it. Each and every culture has its specific type of philosophy. That is the case, because in every culture situations come up, when its own existence is problematic, when it gets into conflict with its own traditional self-understanding. Dieter Senghaas says in his article: Intercultural philosophy in the world of today: ‘The big chance for a fruitful intercultural dialogue and therefore also for intercultural philosophy originates from the fact that all cultures more than ever before really get into a conflict with themselves and that they become self-reflective by that’.[2]

 This statement can also be rendered by saying that in every culture situations come up, in which its reasons of existence have to be ascertained, in which it has to be argued how in this particular culture and by it human existence is given shape so that the own community together with other communities and with nature can survive sustainably.

            If we take this as a starting point of intercultural philosophy, that way of doing philosophy is something different from comparative philosophy. The latter type of philosophy has come up at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century, when important texts from ancient Indian and Chinese intellectual traditions were ‘discovered’ and translated into Western languages. In Germany before all Wilhelm August Schlegel and Wilhelm von Humboldt were engaged in this enterprise. Since that time at European universities Departments of Indology and Sinology were installed in which besides language and cultural studies also Indian and Chinese philosophies were treated, and compared with Western philosophy. Besides this regional limitation to Western and Eastern cultures the conception of comparative philosophy has also methodological limitations. Comparing different philosophies obviously is some external way of relating them to each other. To put the questions and lines of argumentation of different philosophies side by side, leads inevitably to an interaction between them. It will turn out that they share common positions and that there are certain differences between them. And, who would prevent philosophers from asking which position is true, respectively which position is more just in a given situation or which one is arguing less sharp or adequate with regard to that situation. Thus the conditions for intercultural philosophy come up from itself, as it were.

            We find regional limitations of philosophy not only in comparative philosophy, but also on a broad scale in Western philosophical literature. In the Encyclopédie Philosophique Universelle, which has been initiated by UNESCO in 1990, the following distinctions are made: 1) Philosophie Occidentale (Western Philosophy), 2) Pensées Asiatiques (Asian Thoughts), 3) Conceptualisation des Sociétés Traditionelles (Conceptualisation in Traditional Societies).[3]  That means, the title ‘philosophy’ (in the singular form) is reserved for the Western world. The Eastern philosophies are characterised as ‘thoughts’ (in plural). In this connection not only India and China are mentioned, but also Japan. In a further step, again farther away from Western true philosophy, ‘traditional societies’ are referred to. Being traditional, they have a time lag with regard to the modern societies of the West. And they do not produce philosophy or at least thoughts themselves; they articulate the conceptual impact of their societal life in a later phase, often with the help of Western scholars. It is amazing how strongly Eurocentric prejudices are maintained in such an advanced project of UNESCO.

            There is a presentation of comparative philosophy, which takes pain to open itself for other cultures than the Western and Eastern only. That is the ‘comparative model’ of the Belgian sinologist and philosopher Ulrich Libbrecht. This author develops a matrix of Chinese, Indian and Western philosophies, in which also all other philosophies can find a place. He describes himself his ‘starting point’ as ‘an equal treatment of all cultures with a written history’.[4] With this starting point, however, a limitation is given again, which cannot be justified. Who says that philosophy only exists in ‘cultures with a written history’? With regard to this question the philosophies of Sub-Saharan Africa form a test-case. Since about 50 years the philosophies of this part of the world, which have been handed down through the centuries primarily in oral traditions, have made themselves recognised in the worldwide international philosophical discourse.

            When we decide to take the international recognition of the philosophies of Sub-Saharan Africa seriously, Libbrecht’s limitation becomes obsolete. In these cultures primarily written forms of communication and tradition did not exist before colonisation, if we leave aside a few exceptions, as for instance the Ethiopian culture. African philosophy, more in particular Sub-Saharan African philosophy has been introduced to the international philosophical forum, since a special section has been devoted to it on the World-congress of Philosophy at Düsseldorf in 1978. By recognising the existence of philosophy in cultures, which practice primarily oral forms of communication and tradition, methodologically an important step has been taken. This step means, in a final analysis, that there is no reason any more to deny that all human cultures have their specific type of philosophy, which deserves ‘equal treatment’.

            Within the Western philosophical tradition we can refer to Socrates as a philosopher who did not write and who has introduced dialogue-philosophy. Therefore, this philosopher is relevant for our subject in a double way. It seems that both, primarily oral forms of communication and dialogue-philosophy, belong together. That does not mean to devaluate writing or to put it on a second rank. There is no doubt about the importance of writing for the development of cultures in general and for philosophy in particular. And also, by referring here to Socrates as a dialogue-philosopher, the importance of the principle of dialogues for philosophies in other cultures, for instance in the Indian Upanishads, is not estimated less in any way. I only want to say that in the Western tradition of philosophy Socrates’ teaching is one of the few examples of dialogue-philosophy. However, it is a quite powerful example, from which intercultural philosophy can learn.

            In the following section, the Socratic way of leading conversations will be analysed. I will lean on Gernot Böhme’s interpretation of Plato and of the Socrates Type as a starting point for my own rather unconventional view on Socratic dialogues from an intercultural philosophical perspective.[5] At the same time this will be used as a stepping-stone to some other questions about intercultural philosophy as dialogue-philosophy. Such questions are: Which aspects belong to dialogues, especially to intercultural philosophical dialogues? What is the mutual relation between the partners in intercultural philosophical dialogues? Can this relation be determined as tolerant or is tolerance not enough, particularly if we take Socratic dialogues as a model? Could the relation between the partners in intercultural philosophical dialogues not better be described as one of respect or even as what is called in German ‘Achtung’?

2. Analysis of the Socratic way of leading philosophical conversations and of the mutual relations of the partners in these conversations

Socrates is a philosopher who has not written, but has been engaged in philosophical dialogues on the market-place of Athens about 2400 years ago. Preferably he has chosen beautiful young men as partners for his dialogues. And he has transformed the erotic relation between himself and the partners in the dialogues to a love for the truth or for searching the truth. He has been sentenced to death by the political authorities of the polis (city) of Athens because of seducing the youth, and he has voluntarily accepted this sentence, although he had the chance to escape. That is admittedly already almost all we know about his historical person. The Socrates Type, as he is known in the history of Western philosophy, is determined to a large extent by the written dialogues of Plato, in which in most cases Socrates is explaining Plato’s philosophical conceptions. When I try to sketch the principles of dialogue-philosophy on the basis of these written dialogues, I do not direct my attention primarily to their content, but to the method of dialogue-philosophy and to the mutual relations of the partners in the dialogues.

            When the dialogues are written down, in which Plato renders his and Socrates’ philosophical conceptions, a decisive aspect of dialogue-philosophy, as Socrates had practised it, is no longer there in the full sense of the word. I am referring to the characterisation of truth ‘as an event’. Böhme stresses in his book Der Typ Sokrates (The Socrates Type) this event-character of the Socratic way of philosophising. He underlines that only therein the ‘unity of knowledge and person’, which is typical for philosophical knowledge since then, is expressed in an adequate way.[6] This is an essential aspect of philosophical knowledge, which does not come out in written texts in the same adequacy. Without discussing here the advantages and disadvantages of written philosophies, I want to mention that written documents of philosophy should try and bring to bear this aspect of dialogue-thinking in the context of writing, as Plato has done in his written dialogues. Besides that, written philosophies can and will search their own ways to do justice to the event-character of philosophical truth.

            Socratic dialogues show in the first place, that philosophical knowledge is never possessed by one person alone. The way how Socrates has engaged in philosophical conversations makes clear that this knowledge before all unfolds itself, if the person who is leading the conversations uses all his or her competence to ask the right questions. Although he acknowledges this primary condition of Socratic dialogue-philosophy, Böhme describes these dialogues as ‘asymmetric’, insofar as the one who puts the questions, that is Socrates, is ranking higher than his partners. That means, according to Böhme, that Socrates is dominating the conversations. I see this in a different way. Böhme knows very well that in the play of questions and answers a so-called ‘Socratic inverse’ takes place. Socrates is and remains the one who puts the questions, but he insists on the statement that he does not know anything himself. If I understand this attitude correctly, it means that Socrates does not give himself a position, which is above, but one, which is below to those to whom he puts the questions and who have to search for answers. By this way of leading the conversations he tries to dismiss as much as possible the asymmetric relation, which comes up between him and his partners on account of his excellent and long experience in philosophical thinking. Therefore, his statement ‘I know that I do not know anything’ is not to be understood as the expression of an ironical attitude, but as the endeavour to create as much as possible equality between him and his partners in the dialogues.

            Socrates’ art of leading conversation could then also not be explained as a certain ‘type of pedagogic’, but as a measure how to work together in finding answers to philosophical questions. In the dialogue Theaitetos, Socrates calls this procedure, as is well known, some kind of ‘maieutic’, that is a technique by which help is given to the birth of a child. However, not bodies are giving birth here, but souls. By the way how Socrates is asking his questions and how he critically is dealing with the answers, he makes sure that his partners ‘discover everything only by themselves’. Thus he can reach the aim that the knowledge, which is produced, has an intersubjective character and that it cannot voluntarily be made by one person, also not by Socrates. That is why he can say that helping with giving birth of clever and beautiful insights is not done by him alone, but ‘by God and himself’.[7]

            In the exceptional cases, when Socrates himself presents philosophical conceptions, he does it in a way that makes clear that a type of knowledge is at stake, which surpasses the capacities of one person alone. He then presents his knowledge – and now indeed in an ironical attitude – as something which he has heard by chance from somebody or – in other cases – as a message which he has got from a priestess, a poet or an old sage. One just has to think of the famous speech about ‘eros’ in the dialogue Symposion, which Diotima had told him, a specially gifted person who could foresee the future.[8] Thus it becomes clear again, that true knowledge appears in the course of a dialogue, that it is arranging itself by using messages of such special persons and, before all, by the contributions of the different partners in the dialogues. As an example might serve the dialogue Kratylos, in which the question of language is under discussion. Is language the onomatopoetic imitation of real events and their acoustic appearance, is it the meaning, which is arbitrarily given to certain signs by convention, or is it the somehow mysterious process of giving names to persons and to things? Language is all of this, but not each of these meanings independently from the others, but all of them taken together.

            The different partners are confronted with an ‘aporia’, when they understand that they cannot give ready or definitive answers. They come to a point where they are at a loss about their ability to give good answers at all. Therefore, Socrates compares himself also with a mosquito, whose stings interrupt the attitude of self-content, or with a kind of fish that hypnotises others by a trembling movement, which it performs in front of them. Finally, knowledge about a certain field is not the aim of the dialogues, but knowledge, which has to do with being good in the sense of being good for something, especially with the virtues and competence of a citizen of the polis. In other words, this aim is not knowledge as such, but a state of consciousness, a becoming conscious of oneself.

            In his book Platons theoretische Philosophie (Plato’s theoretical philosophy), Böhme summarises the conception of dialogues as a way to knowledge in the following manner. On the one hand, ‘logon didonai’ takes place, that means giving reasons, when questions are answered, and, on the other hand, ‘apodechesthai’, receiving what is said by the partner in the dialogue. Receiving is not meant here in a passive sense. On the contrary, the receiving part, that is usually Socrates, is the properly active part. In his way of receiving, some kind of agreement is expressed, which makes a consensus between the different dialogue-partners possible. However, the knowledge, which is achieved by those procedures, could not also be presented as the systematic content of Plato’s philosophy. This would mean to misunderstand the playful and tentative character of this philosophy, which is always there, despite of all theoretical strictness.[9]

            One single dialogue is often just a special contribution to a certain problem. Other contributions to this same problem are added in other dialogues. In these cases different dialogues have to be taken into account at the same time and related to each other. This intertextuality of different dialogues has to be practised in a dialogical manner. What has to be taken into consideration when reading one dialogue, is also valid for the parallel reading of several dialogues. Thus Plato’s philosophy turns out to be a polylogue, which is a dialogue of dialogues.

            I have tried to make acceptable that the relationship between Socrates and his partners in the dialogues is not a relationship between a teacher and his disciples. It is rather a relationship between lovers, which is sublimated to the common love for searching the truth. During the conversation the superior position of Socrates is always inversed, because he insists on the statement that each and every knowledge, which might be achieved, does not come from him, but from his partners and that it is only there in acting out the dialogue. So his way of leading the conversations can be regarded as minimisation of a relation of power. That Socrates endeavours to give his partners an equal rank might be called an attitude of tolerance. Although a big difference in philosophical competence pertains, equality is assumed.

            But it is possible to go further than tolerance in describing Socrates’ attitude towards his partners. It becomes obvious in the course of the dialogues that the partners are needed in the process of common search for knowledge. Therefore, it might be more adequate to say that Socrates respects his partners. The different roles remain: the partners have to give reasons when answering questions and Socrates actively and critically receives their arguments. Equal rank and different roles are there at the same time. Thus a tension is created which makes the dialogues be what they are.

            When we consider that in these dialogues a relationship of love between Socrates and the beautiful young men who are his partners is transformed into common love for searching the truth, this relationship might deserve even another name than that of respect. For respect presupposes a certain cool distance between those, who have an equal rank and different roles. I would like to propose the Kantian concept of ‘Achtung’ for a better characterisation of this relation, although Kant uses this concept in a different context. With Kant ‘Achtung’ is an emotion, which accompanies an attitude that is governed by reason only. According to his use of this conception, emotion is not meant to occur between persons or partners in a conversation. It is introduced as an emotion of acting persons with regard to the ethical law. As such it becomes a motivation to moral action, which otherwise may not be influenced by any emotion or feeling whatsoever. As a rational emotion, ‘Achtung’ is the only emotion or feeling that can and may motivate morally good actions.[10]I get the impression that between Socrates and his dialogue-partners in the course of their conversations the relation of love is transformed to Achtung in the sense of a rational emotion.

3. Aspects of intercultural philosophical dialogues

When we look back at what is said up to now, taking together the theory and practice of intercultural philosophy as dialogue-philosophy on the one hand and the analysis of the Socratic way to lead philosophical conversations on the other hand, a number of aspects can be summed up, which are necessary if we want to speak of intercultural philosophical dialogues. It is a specific aspect of intercultural dialogues that it is guided by a methodology of listening (a). A second basic aspect is equality and difference at the same time (b). Thirdly, there has to be an openness with regard to possible results of these dialogues (c). Fourthly, we have to consider that not only rational and linguistic means, but also emotional ones or means, which are related to the bodies, are used to reach common understanding (d). Finally, it may help clarify this approach to a dialogical philosophy, if we investigate how it differs from the theory of discourses, which expects only contributions from the dialogue-partners that can also be found in general human rationality (e).

a) The methodology of listening

Listening is an important condition at the beginning and in the course of any dialogue.      It is a rule of politeness and an expression of my respect for the others that I listen to what they have to say. There is, however, a specific need of listening in intercultural dialogues. In this kind of dialogues listening has to be guided by a certain methodology. It is necessary to practise some kind of epoché, that means of keeping understanding in a provisional state. Listening and understanding are uncoupled in a certain sense. What I hear must not immediately be given a definite place in my horizon of understanding. It is advisable to listen twice or for a third time, before this place is determined. And also then I have to be prepared to change my mind in respect of what I thought to have understood. There are often too big differences in the horizons of understanding so that this special measure is necessary to get a specific meaning transported safely from one to another. Therefore I have stressed the methodology of listening for intercultural understanding already in my first book on African philosophy.[11]

            Hans-Georg Gadamer has taught us that there is always some tentative procedure in the process of understanding. He used to explain this by referring to the poem ‘The Carpet’ of Stefan George. In this poem is described how it often takes quite a long time until the different lines in a woven carpet can be understood. After having looked at the carpet for a long time trying to understand how the lines belong together, there might come up understanding all on a sudden, when these lines form a picture for me. This process of searching for the meaning of what is expressed in a picture, in a text or in an oral piece of language has to be stretched in intercultural dialogues. The tentative aspect of understanding has to be sustained consciously in such an intercultural context. Otherwise misunderstanding might happen too often and too easily.

b) Equality and difference

It is a basic condition for dialogues that equality and difference do exist between the partners at the same time. In order to make a dialogue possible, the partners have to be equal in rank or to be made equal in rank because they engage in a common search for knowledge, and they have to act in different roles during the conservation and to defend conceptions of a different content.

            The example of Socrates has shown us that the relation of dialogue-partners to each other is not described adequately by the concept of tolerance. There is no doubt about it that here and anywhere else tolerance is better than intolerance. But is it enough to say that the partners in a philosophical conversation tolerate each other? Does tolerance not always presuppose in some way or other a relation between those who have a higher position to others who have a lower one? If the person in a higher position decides not to make use this superiority, he or she is tolerant. In other words, it is tolerant to treat the other as if he or she were an equal, although he or she in fact is not.

Herbert Marcuse has made clear that tolerance in connection with a liberalist world-view can become ‘repressive’. He analyses the possibility of minorities in a liberal state in the period of an ‘advanced industrial society’ to realise their intention of ‘changing this society as a whole’. These minorities will be allowed to think like that, to discuss their issues, to speak about them in gatherings. This can be seen as an expression of tolerance. However, these minorities will turn out to be ‘harmless and helpless’ in front of a vast majority who resists a qualitative change of the society. The intention to realise such a change gets frustrated, because the activities, which are related to this intention, remain without any effect. Thus the tolerant attitude turns out to be repressive, which means that the possibility of political influence of the minorities is in fact excluded.

The analysis of Marcuse, which is related to the situation within the advanced industrial societies in the Western world, can be applied to the relations between these societies to less industrially developed countries in other parts of the world. In this context it can be noticed that the advanced industrial societies determine, in which way the less industrially developed countries can cooperate with these societies. The Western type of democracy with a multi-party-system and decision-making on the basis of majorities and the Western form of free-market-economy are prescribed to the less industrially developed countries where different, but not necessarily less democratic or economically free traditions in political and economic life prevail. If this attitude of the Western world deserves the name of tolerance at all, it certainly is ‘repressive tolerance’.[12]  

            In a similar way the mutual treatment of religions, which is given shape according to their own judgment, the form of dialogues can be critically examined. Do they rightly claim tolerance for that mutual treatment and if so, is tolerance in these cases enough? The relations between the religions are traditionally burdened by the claim of absolute truth, which is made by many of them. As we know, this has led in history to the fact that the vast majority of all wars have been religious wars. More recently can be noticed that the Christian denominations try to find to each other in the ecumenical movement and that manifold endeavours of different religions are undertaken to contribute to the maintenance of peace in the world. That is what the Catholic theologian Hans Küng has called the ‘double face of religion’.[13] If a Christian and a Buddhist, a Moslem and a Hindu or a Jew and a follower of Daoism decide to engage in dialogues with each other, mutual tolerance is not enough. Also if they do not give up their claim to possess the absolute truth or to be the only true religion in the world, they have at least to resign from the practice to send missionaries to each other’s areas or to make proselytes among the members of other religions.

            If we take Sub-Saharan Africa into consideration, the survey of great world religions, which Küng gives in his book Projekt Weltethos, should be extended by animism. The meaning of this religion for the ‘cultural landscape of this earth’ has not yet been understood by this author. Sub-Saharan Africa is a paradigm here for cultures, which do not have primarily written forms of communication and tradition, but which do share the conviction that all things in the human world and in nature have a soul and can become the dwelling place of spirits. The attitude of the great world religions, as they are listed by Küng, towards animism is moving only slowly from intolerance to tolerance, and only in some exceptional cases from tolerance to respect. The step from respect to Achtung, that is to this rational emotion, which is akin to love, still has to be expected from the future.

            In 2001 a manifest with the title Bridging the Divide has appeared. It has been initiated by Kofi Annan and among many others also Hans Küng has contributed to it. In this manifest I have found the following remarkable sentences: ‘Christianity and Jewish religion, Islam and Greek philosophy will remain to be important sources of wisdom, also for the coming centuries. Other ways of life as Hinduism, Jainism, Confucianism and Daoism are presently in the same way alive and will also in the future continue to blossom. Above that, scholars, but also politicians have realised, that forms of indigenous spirituality  – for instance on the African continent, in Shintoism, with the Maoris, in Polynesia, with the original population of the Americas, the Inuit, the Central-Americans, the original population of the Andes and of Hawaii – are also sources of inspiration for the “global village”’.[14]

            I will just remark shortly that in this text a similar scale of inequality can be noticed as in the above mentioned Encyclopédie Philosophique Universelle: a line is drawn from ‘important sources of wisdom’ in the Western and in the Semitic world to ‘other ways of life’ in the Far East, and then from there to a number of areas, where ‘also sources of inspiration’ have been discovered. The latter areas, in which primarily oral forms of communication and tradition prevail and which are to a great extent animistic, are named one by one without giving a common characterisation. However, I find it remarkable enough that here animism under the name of ‘forms of indigenous spirituality’ is listed together with the great world religions of the West, the Orient and the Far East. That is for the first time, as far as I know, an expression of tolerance with regard to this religion, which does belong to the great world-religions, not only on account of the number of its adherents.

            In Sub-Saharan Africa, especially in South Africa, another step is taken from tolerance in the direction to respect and Achtung by taking seriously the many mixtures of Christianity and Islam with indigenous animistic religions and by estimating positively the elements of animism in these syncretistic denominations. The South African theologian Gerrit Brand deals in his dissertation with the Debate on Salvation in African Christian Theology, in which a great number of African and Western authors is tackling this problem. Liberation Theology or ‘Black Theology’ on the one hand and ‘Theology of Inculturation’ on the other hand and finally the overcoming of this opposition are taken into consideration. In this way a positively critical estimation of traditional African thought for African Christian theology is inaugurated, although the criteria for a symbiosis of Christian and animistic beliefs or convictions is unilaterally determined by the documents of Christian revelation.[15]

c) Openness with regard to expected results

Dialogues only come up, if besides equality and difference a certain pre-understanding of the topic that has to be discussed is already there. It can also be formulated in a more cautious way that an envisaged topic must encounter a certain interest among the partners, which has not necessarily already to be clearly articulated. When a dialogue starts, it has to obey certain rules. It is, however, not bound to them in the sense of external procedures. These are rather rules of politeness, which do not exclude spontaneous actions and reactions. And it is important that the conversation is led in a way, which is oriented at reaching knowledge. The partners direct their intention primarily at the topic, which is under discussion. It is as it were the in-between, which connects them and also leaves them free in their respective standpoints.

            Martin Buber has presented deep analyses of this ‘in-between’ in his writings on the dialogical principle. He is dealing with dialogues between I and you, which is mediated by an instance in between both. This in-between is not voluntarily available, and the encounter, which is made possible by it, is experienced as a gift.[16] In intercultural philosophical dialogues, which are examined here, in most cases more than two persons are engaged. Therefore the in-between will be somewhat of a different kind compared to the encounter between I and you. It will probably be less intimate and also less intensive. Moreover we speak consciously of dialogues in plural, or as Franz M. Wimmer has put it of a ‘polylogue’, because intercultural understanding needs many and repeated applications of the ‘dialogical principle’.[17]

            Nevertheless it cannot be avoided that power relationships come into the play in dialogues of this type. These power relationships are based on age, energy, and competence of the partners, in addition to the ‘forceless force’ of the better argument, of which Aristotle speaks. Of course, in these dialogues arguments should be used as much as possible. But it must also be possible to be wrong or to be ashamed without bringing a dialogue to the end by that. The standpoints of the particular partners need not be justified in the view of a dominant discourse or generally accepted opinions. ‘If somebody means something at all, he or she always means something right’, Hans-Georg Gadamer once has said. The result of a dialogue is therefore not determined by the superior position of one or the other partners. It is also not a ‘fusion of horizons’, as Gadamer puts it.[18] The Socratic dialogues, as we find them in Plato’s works, can teach us, that the result of a dialogue appears in its being carried out.

            Just as in the Socratic way of leading philosophical conversations, openness for expected results presupposes in all dialogues to minimise the influence of existing power relationships. This is before all possible in philosophical dialogues and more in particular in intercultural philosophical dialogues, because they are structured by a common search for knowledge. What is practised in intercultural philosophical dialogues has direct political consequences. It includes the claim that other forms of intercultural communication in politics and economy or science and technology, which depart in a stronger way from existing power relations, have to be made more dialogical. I could also put in this way, that intercultural philosophical dialogues form a counter-instance to forms of intercultural communication which presuppose more strongly power relations.

            And it is part of the character of openness of dialogues, especially of intercultural philosophical dialogues, that there are elements of failing understanding within them. A dialogue is only what it is, if it can also fail. In those cases it is important that I respect the positions of the other even if I cannot give them a place in my own horizon of understanding. This respect is based on the fact that I trust my partner who has decided to lead a dialogue with me. Here again the attitude of Achtung comes into the play, which is more than tolerance and even than respect, which maintains a distance. On the other hand, respect and Achtung have their limitation, which is included in their definition: only those deserve respect and Achtung, who respect and practise Achtung themselves.

            Finally, it has to be clear that dialogues as form of communication are an approach to intercultural philosophy, which is conceptualised and offered by the Western side. This means at the same time that in these dialogues the openness is included to pass over to other forms of communication if these have proved to be more adequate. The attitude of Buddhist philosophy to strive after a transcendence of language could be mentioned here. But also in this connection the aim is not to step into absolute silence, but to make clear that in all language the meaning of the words remains incidental and determined by convention. In the Western history of philosophy we find a parallel to this attitude, if the difference of all language to the unutterable is stressed, as it is done in mystical traditions and also with contemporary authors as Gadamer, Wittgenstein, Lacan or Derrida.[19] So we do not have an alternative here to the dialogues, but another characteristic of what happens when they are carried out. Gadamer refers especially in this connection to ‘Plato’s art of dialogue’, which ‘always points into an open space’.[20]

            It is also interesting to draw the attention here to forms of conversation, which are practised in African communities. Ernest Wamba dia Wamba, a philosopher at the university of Dar es Salaam who comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, refers to ‘palaver’ and ‘mbongi’ as forms of decision-making by conversations as counter-examples to the debates in the parliaments of Western democracies. All members of a community participate in a ‘palaver’ or ‘mbongi’, not without differentiations, but in principal as equals. Each and every member has to give his opinion on the questions, about which decisions have to be taken, and ‘they talk until they agree’. These forms of conversation could be taken as examples for polylogues, that is to say for dialogues between many different partners. The preference for unanimity instead of being content with decisions based on the majority of the participating partners is motivated by the will to do justice also to the minorities.[21] This is relevant for political dialogues and debates in the West, and also for the power relations in philosophical dialogues. It can help to recognise disadvantages in Western ways of decision-making and, if possible, to overcome them.

d) Other than discursive-linguistic means of understanding

It is important for all dialogues that the participants are, as far as possible, bodily present, as in these cases there is quite a lot of pre-linguistic exchange. The face of the dialogue-partner qualifies him or her as such. Here I have to refer to Emmanuel Levinas who recognises ‘the authentic trace of the Other’ in the appearance of his naked face. The encounter with the face of the Other is prior to any teaching of a world-order, and it contains a direct ethical appeal. ‘This is an attitude, which cannot be derived from any category. That you cannot withdraw from your responsibility, that there is no hiding place of interiority, in which you might be able to retire, that you have to go forward without taking into account your own interest’, is the appeal of this encounter. By this the importance of the bodily presence of the partners in the dialogues is underlined. If it is not possible, it might help to imagine the faces of the others, with whom a dialogue is to be lead.[22]

            If somebody looks at another person, different reactions are possible. The looks of the dialogue-partners can meet positively, they can remain indifferent, or evade each other. Jean-Paul Sartre has shown that the ‘subject-other’ whom I do not just look at as an object, is phenomenologically and ontologically given to me by the ‘permanent possibility’ to be looked at by him. But as I look at the other primarily as an ‘object-other’, as some example of the human species, he looks at me in the first instance also not as a subject-other, but in an objectifying manner. This is, according to Sartre, the reason for the phenomenon of shame. ‘Shame … is the recognition that I really am this object, which the other is looking at and which he is judging’. Insofar as I experience myself as being looked at as a ‘subject-other’ Sartre describes this like Levinas does as ‘a presence of the other, which is world-transcendent’.[23]

            Levinas finds, however, that Sartre ‘stops his analysis to early’ when he primarily works out ‘the violence-structure of the presence of the subject-other’ and thus is not able to say what the other means to me in an ethical sense.[24] In the situation of a dialogue, all the more if culturally more radically different Others will be our partners, Levinas’ approach will be especially helpful. But it will also be useful to recognise the difficulties, which arise from the objectifying looks of ourselves or of the Others. Also according to Sartre the human being ‘can transgress the objectifying look and win back his or her for-him-/herself existing subjectivity’. He insists, however, that ontologically ‘my object-I is … the condition of my being myself in front of the other and the being him-/herself of the other in front of me’.[25] This can be seen as the expression of a subject primarily directed at him-/herself, which is not so relevant in the situation of a dialogue.

            Besides the encountering looks there are quite a number of other multi-sensorical mutual relationships between the partners of a dialogue. The gestures and the intonation, which accompany the oral speech, play a role in the process of understanding. They stimulate the attention and mediate emotional aspects of what is said, which can be very important. These are phenomena, which Hartmut and Gernot Böhme have characterised in their book as ‘the other of reason’. In this same book they are telling us also that these aspects of language need for their full understanding the psychoanalysis of Sigmund Freud. Thus they want to prepare another post-Kantian ‘concept of philosophy’, a ‘new concept of nature, body and imagination’.[26]

            According to Gadamer, we need also go back in this connection to the tradition of rhetoric, which has been discredited too much by Plato. Rhetoric is the theory of the conditions, by which a speech gets more convincing power. It teaches how something what you say becomes more impressive for the listeners. Therefore it has to do with the relationships of power, which are also present in dialogues. Insofar it is important that the impact of Plato’s critique does not get lost. Rhetoric, if it understands itself well, ‘operates against the enchantment of consciousness by the power of speech’. In this way it is akin to critique of ideologies, which also helps to ‘unmask the “deception of language”’.[27]

            Finally it is important to mention that gestures and other forms of body language are often different in different cultures. Special attention and again some kind of methodological cautiousness are necessary in this aspect of intercultural understanding.

e) The specific knowledge-increase in dialogues, especially in intercultural philosophical dialogues

By looking back to Socrates’ art of leading conversations we have seen that dialogues do justice to the character of truth as an event. None of the partners in a dialogue could produce the knowledge, which appears in a dialogue, on his or her own. Several persons who are engaged in a dialogue make the knowledge appear. They have something to tell each other, which everybody of them could not have told him-/herself. For each partner in the dialogue it is in the end unexpected what the others tell him, just because they are others and have other preconditions and perspectives for what they say. Insofar as the others come from another culture, their contribution to the dialogue will be all the more unexpected.

            Bernhard Waldenfels makes clear that there are different ‘grades of strangeness’ and that it matters in this respect if a stranger comes from another culture. ‘Structural strangeness’ means more than ‘everyday or normal strangeness’; it can be caused by ‘intercultural differences of expression’. And structural strangeness is surpassed by ‘radical strangeness’, in which ‘we are confronted with events that not only call in question a certain interpretation, but the “possibility of interpretation” as such’.[28] Herfried Münkler and Bernd Ladewig also come to the result that ‘strangeness has certain grades’, which correspond to certain ‘grades of understanding’. In the most extreme cases ‘radical strangeness’ can come up, also if that is ‘seldom, if not impossible’ in our globally unifying culture.[29]

            In intercultural dialogues it will be true in a special sense that the others tell me something, which I could not have told me myself by any means. Therefore, this type of dialogue justifies the expectation that a special knowledge-increase will be possible. There are a number of unsolved vital problems in the world of today, which have also important philosophical aspects. To come closer to a solution of these problems, all possibilities of gaining knowledge have to be used, and certainly also those of the special knowledge increase by intercultural philosophical dialogues.

            In a last step of my argumentation, I want to delimit this aspect of intercultural philosophy from the ‘basic assumptions of the conceptions of democracy and lawful state in the theory of discourse’, which departs from universalistic preconditions and comes to a certain manner how ‘the other is comprised’.[30] Already in his Theory of Communicative Action, Jürgen Habermas refers to a universalistic instance, not of the contents of reason, but of the ‘procedures of reason’. According to this conception, nobody can evade the claim of validity of reasonable arguments, because everybody who tries it, will have to use reasonable arguments for that.[31] This principal direction in the determination of certain basic concepts leads in the ‘theory of morals and of law’ to a universalism, which is nevertheless ‘highly sensitive for differences’.

            Habermas wishes to show that in accordance with his basic concepts the ‘equal respect for everybody … covers not only people of the same kind, but also the person of the other as other’. However, he maintains his conception that the other has to articulate his or her otherness on the basis and with the means of the universally valid democratic lawful state, because this type of state is based on the principle of decision-making by using reasonable arguments. In this way he wants to meet the challenges of multiculturalism.

            His approach, however, does not do justice to the structural or radical strangeness of the other. It amounts to the fact that I prescribe the other that he or she has to share with me my way of reasonable argumentation. This means obviously that the other cannot tell me anything, which I as a person of reasonable arguments could not have told me myself. Different to this position, I would like to insist on the radical or at least structural strangeness of the other. In intercultural philosophical dialogues those radical others are members of cultures, which do not know primarily written forms of communication and tradition.

            It is remarkable that Habermas speaks of ‘respect’ for the other, more precisely of ‘equal respect for everybody’. In the framework of his conception tolerance would have been enough, if I see it correctly. For the other can argue for his otherness only under the conditions, which are those of my way of reasonable argumentation. This is also already expressed in the formulation of ‘equal respect for everybody’, which makes every other equal to me and my way of reasonable argumentation. Real respect for the other presupposes more of the specific openness, of which we have shown that it is an essential aspect of dialogues.

Prof.dr.dr.h.c. Heinz Kimmerle has studied philosophy, theology and German literature at the universities of Tübingen, Bonn, and Heidelberg. He has taught philosophy at the Ruhr-University Bochum and Erasmus University Rotterdam. As a visiting professor he has given lectures at the University of Nairobi in Kenya, the University of Ghana at Legon/Accra, the University of Venda in South Africa, and the University of South Africa (UNISA) at Pretoria. UNISA has conferred on him an honorary doctorate in literature and philosophy. His main fields of research, in which he has published regularly, are Schleiermacher and the history of hermeneutics, Hegel and the history of dialectics, Derrida and the philosophies of difference, and intercultural philosophy, especially African philosophy.


[1] A first version of this text has been written in German for a conference on ‘Tolerance in the Context of Interculturality and Globalisation’ at the Department of German and Russian of the University of Mumbai in March 2002. The title was: ‘Sollen wir Partner im Dialog tolerieren und/oder achten?’ (Should we tolerate our partners in dialogue or respect them?) It is published on the website www.kimmerle.nl. The German version has been worked out more in detail and is submitted for publication with Rodopi Editions (Amsterdam/New York) and Verlag Traugott Bautz (Nordhausen). I am glad to offer an English version for a book, which is prepared in honour of Anton Houtepen with whom I have discussed problems of intercultural philosophy and theology during many years, when we have shared an office at Erasmus University Rotterdam. Quotations from originally German texts are translated by me, HK.

[2] Senghaas, Dieter, Zivilisierung wider Willen. Der Konflikt der Kulturen mit sich selbst, Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp 1998, 27-49, see 48.

 

[3] Published under the direction of André Jacobs, Vol. I-IV, 1990-1998.

[4] Libbrecht, Ulrich, Inleiding. Comparatieve Filosofie I. Opzet en ontwikkeling van  een comparatief  model, Assen: Van Gorcum 1995; II. Culturen in het licht van een comparatief model, Assen: Van Gorcum 1999, see vol. I, 16.

[5] I will refer especially to the books of Böhme, Gernot, Der Typ Socrates, Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp 1988 and Platons theoretische Philosophie, Stuttgart/Weimar: J.B. Metzler 2000.

[6] Böhme, Der Typ Sokrates, 131, see for the following text 132-141.

[7] Plato, Theaitetos, 150 a-d.

[8] Plato, Symposion, 201 c-d.

[9] Böhme, Platons theoretische Philosophie, 100-109.

[10] Kant, Immanuel, Kritik der praktischen Vernunft (1788), in: Kants Werke. Akademie Textausgabe, Berlin: De Gruyter 1968, vol V,  71-89.

 

[11] Kimmerle, Heinz, Philosophie in Afrika – afrikanische Philosophie. Annäherungen an einen  interkulturellen Philosophiebegriff, Frankfurt/M.: Campus 1991, 8.

 

[12] Marcuse, Herbert, ‘Repressive Toleranz’, in: R.P. Wolff/B. Moore/H. Maruse, Kritik der reinen

Toleranz, Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp 1965,  91-128,  see 105.

[13] Küng, Hans, Projekt Weltethos, Munich/Zürich: Piper 1990, 98-103, see for the following section 159-160.

[14] The title of the German translation, from which I am quoting, is: Brücken in die Zukunft. Ein Manifest für den Dialog der Kulturen, Frankfurt/M.: S. Fischer 2001, 51.

[15] Brand, Gerd, Speaking of a Fabulous Ghost. In Search of Theological Criteria, with Special Reference

to the Debate on Salvation in African Christian Theology, Frankfurt/M. a.o.: Peter Lang 2002.

[16] Buber, Martin, Das dialogische Prinzip, Heidelberg: Lambert Schneider 1962.

[17] Wimmer, Franz M., ‘Polylog der Traditionen im philosophischen Denken’, in: R.A. Mall/N. Schneider

(eds), Ethik und Politik aus interkultureller Sicht, Amsterdam/Atlanta, GA: Rodopi 1996, 39-54.

[18] Gadamer, Hans-Georg, Wahrheit und Methode. Grundzüge einer philosophischen Hermeneutik, Tübingen: Mohr (Siebeck) 1961, 359-360.

[19] Schlieter, Jens, Versprachlichung – Entsprachlichung. Untersuchung zum philosophischen Stellenwert

der Sprache im europäischen und buddhistischen Denken, Cologne: edition chora 2000, 276-279.

[20] Quotation from a letter sent to the author of this text by Gadamer in January 2001.

[21] Wamba dia Wamba, Ernest, ‘Beyond Elite Politics of Democracy in Africa’, in: Quest. An

International African Journal of Philosophy VI,1 (1992), 28-42.

[22] Levinas, Emmanuel, Die Spur des Anderen. Untersuchungen zur Phänomenologie und Sozialphilosophie,

Freiburg/Munich: Alber 1983, 225-235, see also for the following section.

[23] Sartre, Jean-Paul, Das Sein und das Nichts. Versuch einer phänomenologischen Ontologie, translated from

French by T. Koch, Reinbek n. Hamburg: Rowohlt 1991, 463, 471 and 485.

[24] Olschanski, Reinhard, Phänomenologie der Mißachtung. Studien zum Intersubjektivitätsdenken Jean-Paul

Sartres, Bodenheim: Syndikat 1997, 76-82.

[25] Olschanski, 83-85, Sartre, 511.

[26] Böhme, Hartmut & Gernot, Das Andere der Vernunft. Zur Entwicklung von Rationalitätsstrukturen am Beispiel

Kants, Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp 1983, 24.

[27] Gadamer, ‘Rhetorik, Hermeneutik und Ideologiekritik’, in: Hermeneutik II. Ergänzungen, Tübingen: Mohr (Siebeck) 1986, p. 232-250, see 236-237 and 241.

[28] Waldenfels, Bernhard, Topographie des Fremden. Studien zur Phänomenologie des Fremden I, Frankfurt/M.:  Suhrkamp 1997, 35-37.

[29] Münkler, Herfried/Ladewig, Bernd, ‘Einleitung’, in: H. Münkler/K. Meßlinger/B. Ladewig (eds), Die

Herausforderung durch das Fremde, Berlin: Akademie Verlag 1998, 12-23, see 23.

[30] Habermas, Jürgen, Die Einbeziehung des Anderen. Studien zur politischen Theorie, Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp 1997, 7-9, see also for the following section.

[31] Habermas, Theorie des kommunikativen Handelns, Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp 1981, vol 1, 44-71.



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