Is a "Creative Dialogue" among World Civilizations Possible?

2016-06-29 Academic

"Spring 2012 Humanitas Colloquium"
Professor Fred Dallmayr Delivers a Special Lecture on "Confucianism and World Civilizations".

On June 4th, Professor Fred Dallmayr (Departments of Philosophy and Political Science, University of Notre Dame) gave a lecture on "Confucianism and World Civilizations" in the Grand Conference Hall of the Main Administration Building.

Professor Dallmayr pointed out that "Relations between cultures are not necessarily friendly; often there are non-relations such as isolationism or unilateralism, or even incomplete relations."

About isolationism, which tries to avoid contact with alien cultures in the hope of carrying on cultural traditions, Professor Dallmayr argued: "On the one hand, isolationism in emerging or weak societies can protect those societies from the destructive influences of alien civilizations; on the other hand, because of cultural stagnation and petrification, it could stifle the momentum of cultural reformation in those societies." On "unilateralism," which encourages a culture to dominate another, he pointed out that, despite the advantages of geopolitical expansion of influences and of acquiring extensive territories and natural resources, there is the risk of autistic self-enclosure caused by an atrophy of the ability to learn from others.

Professor Dallmayr maintained that "We cannot achieve cultural wholeness through neither isolationism nor unilateralism," and that "the most promising and advantageous means of interaction between cultures and civilizations are the dialogues between them." According to him, in the courses of dialogue cultures neither despise nor avoid one another; one way of life does not force itself on other cultures. Rather, learning is promoted through mutual examination and constructive criticism based on dialogues and questions, and wholeness is established in the process. Professor Dallmayr defined this process as "a dynamic feast between different cultures made by imaginative and creative recreation."

Reinterpretation of Confucianism and the Dialogue among Civilizations
Professor Dallmayr found what he thought was the ideal form of interactions between cultures in the "reinterpretation of Confucianism" raised by some of the pioneering scholars of the twentieth-century. What he paid special attention to is the "Manifesto for a Reappraisal of Sinology and Reconstruction" published in 1958.

Professor Dallmayr noted that "In contemporary, post-Revolutionary China, the ''politicized Confucianism'' maintained by several scholars is considered to be a political instrument for reformation in China as well as an ideological instrument against malicious Western cultural influences." He also stated that "Furthermore, politicized Confucianism has been promoted into a public or civil religion." Professor Dallmayr called this "a phenomenon in which cultural isolationism transforms itself into an imperial hegemony". He maintains that "Most scholars of Confucianism do not support this trend."

In contrast, Professor Dallmayr assessed that, the "Manifesto of 1958," signed by four leading East Asian scholars of Confucianism, Tang Juni (唐君毅), Zhang Junmai, Mou Zongsan (牟宗三), Xu Fuguan (徐復觀), "ventured towards a more balanced and dialectical approach by combining the indigenous traditions of China and the winds of change and openness from the West."

Professor Dallmayr explained, "the authors of this Manifesto criticized the arrogant attitude of the ''rationalistic'' scholars of the West" who look down on the cultural tradition of China, but they also urged the Eastern scholars of Confucianism to accept aspects of Western civilization and reinterpret and reconstruct traditional teachings in new ways."

Professor Dallmayr also said that "This Manifesto urged scholars and philosophers all across the world to reflect seriously on the teachings of all cultures and to carry on and continue to practice what is the best." He appraised that "the Manifesto of 1958 opened up a viable and promising course for Confucian thought and practice to take in the age of globalization."

"The Practice of jen (仁 benevolence) is the Sharing of Universal Values of Humanity"
Professor Dallmayr listed a set of ethical virtues, jen (仁 benevolence), li (禮 propriety), yi (義 righteousness), zhi (智 wisdom) as a fundamental teaching of Confucianism to keep in mind. Citing the Confucian scholar Du Weiming, he interpreted jen as a “living metaphor” in the sense that it is a metaphor for an ethical and properly humane way of life, explaining that its practice is a “continuous process of symbolic exchange realized through the sharing of communally cherished values with each other.”

Professor Dallmayr, emphasized that "what the virtue of jen means is a broad openness to others, opposed to self-enclosure or the narrow-minded celebration of self-identity” and emphasized that “in our age of globalization, this openness has to be extended in a cosmopolitan direction to cover all corners of the world.” Speaking of the need to “struggle to eliminate selfish or egoistic desires while at the same time extending one''s capacity for hospitality and receptivity to the horizons of the world,” he ended his lecture by quoting the Analects of Confucius: “To learn and at proper times to repeat what one has learned, is that not after all a pleasure? That friends should come to visit one from afar, is this not after all delightful?”

Professor Fred Dallmayr is widely respected as the world’s foremost political philosopher in the phenomenological and analytical tradition of German philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer.

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