The Problem

The requirements of growth, regional as well as world wide, make it especially important to comprehend the nature and relation of various cultures. If this is true regarding distant places, it is the more true of the multiple cultures which constitute a particular region and which shape the interaction of its peoples, each with their lives and hopes.

In recent times this need has become particularly urgent due to the extensive transformations taking place within each culture. In the last 30 years developments have produced many new nations and catalyzed changes in others. These may be:

Political: in response to the need for leadership in changing times and even in newly defined na tional entities;

Social and economic: in response to the desire to provide better sustenance and a more just social order; and

Educational: in response to the need to comprehend and employ scientific, industrial and social techniques.

Above all what is excruciatingly problematic is how to develop these new structures in a way that remains true to, finds its strength in, and even promotes the traditional culture which articulates the particular self_understanding and values of a people. In this lies a new and urgent challenge proper to the philosophers. Their response will require, not merely occasional general conferences, but a continued team effort in order to think through the various facets of the issue and to evolve adequate vision for their own societies and cultures.


A response to this problem must have a number of characteristics.

1. It must focus, not merely upon the structures as articulated by the various sciences, but upon the resources and techniques of the humanities, especially of philosophy, in order to reach into the culture and its values, to articulate their transformation where needed, and to enable them to shape new structures.

2. It must promote the efforts of the philosophers situated in the midst of the present transformations to work together in seminar teams to analyze the facets of the problem, to discover the new implications of their culture's values, and to envision the contribution of these in evolving structures. This continued cooperation in teams seems required for the development of vision that is at once true to one's perennial cultural vision and responsive to new needs.

3. It must assist them to cooperate: (a) with other teams in their region to develop and test, through probing mutual evaluation a more ample vision in response to their region's most pressing needs, and (b) with other regions to draw more richly upon resources in their patrimony of philosophy and upon techniques developed for work on current cultural change. In this the approach must be inductive in order to draw on the cumulative vision of all peoples in their common effort to articulate the deep vision needed for life in these times.

Goals and Means

The goal of this project is to elaborate regionally, cooperatively, and inductively philosophical vision which articulates the cultural heritages of the many peoples in a way that responds to their evolving structures and the urgent needs of their contemporary social life.

The means toward this end include the following.

1. Continuing seminars by teams of approximately eight philosophers. Each team is located at a university center and is focused on a particular topic related to the general issue chosen by the region. Thus, for example, the five teams in India are working, respectively, upon the following themes as the key issues on which they see that they must make a special contribution to help their country into the 21st century:

(a) Person;

(b) Community;

(c) The Impact of Science and Tech nology;

(d) Spiritual Values; and

(e) Pluralism.

In Africa 10 teams are envisioned (see chart on p. 160 below). Other sets of teams are similarly at work or in the process of organization on the other continents (see p. 159 below).

2. The aim of each seminar team, composed of philosophers with diverse but complementary competencies, is to write a volume made up of coordinated chapters each by a single participant writing on his or her aspect of the topic. Through probing mutual critique in a series of regular team meetings the volumes attain a unity which, respecting the professional responsibility of each philosopher for his or her chapter, transcends what any single thinker or set of individuals could achieve working in isolation.

3. The participants in the seminars include also younger philosophers in order to promote their development through intensive professional interaction with more mature philosophers experienced in thinking with professional rigor on profound issues of current urgency.

4. An annual meeting of representatives of seminar teams in a region, where feasible, enables all to draw mutually upon the work being done in the other seminars and to contribute their critique. Participation in still more general meetings will enable participants to contribute to the work of philosophy in other regions and to draw therefrom, constituting thereby a general inductive flow of insight from the seminar teams.


The overall structure includes regional projects on the various continents.

1. Afri ca:




2. Americas and Europe:

Central America

Latin America

North America and Western Europe

Eastern Europe

3. Asia:

East Asia

South Asia

Southeast Asia

Each regional project is directed by a committee consisting of the directors of its seminar teams, which in turn designates its own coordinator(s).

These teams are presently at various points, from organization and planning the structure of their volume to final work on their manuscript. The above list of the themes of the Indian teams and the following chart of themes of the African teams indicate concretely the direction of this work.



Teams of Philosophers:


1. Senegal:

Religious cultures and national life


4. Ibadan/

Ife/ Lagos



7. Cameroon:

Ethics and social life


10. Uganda:


2. Ivory Coast:



5. Nsukka:


8. Kinshasa


11. Kenya:


3. Ghana:

Person and community

6.Port Har-




12. Tanzania






1. Volumes: Each seminar in a period of approximately two years will bring to press a 300 page volume on the subtopic of the general regional issue which it has undertaken to investigate.

2. Composite Reports: The essence of each of these volumes will be drawn together in a 50_page composite report on the work of the region's seminars for broad distribution to leaders in education, journalism, government and social services throughout the area in order to enable the coordinated efforts of these philosophers to contribute to the development of the social life of the region.

3. These composite reports with the five in_depth monograph studies on which they are founded will be made available to philosophers and other scholars and cultural leaders in other continents.

ISM Series: Studies in Metaphysics

In addition to the above and as a separate but convergent effort, the RVP is supporting the publication of the International Society for Metaphysics (ISM) series, "Studies in Metaphysics," which constitutes part of the background of the above project. These are the volumes of studies developed by three successive series of international ISM meetings. The themes emerged gradually in the course of these philosophical discussions and reflect the deepening awareness of the "person" to a new sensibility of persons in community or "society," and thence to the creativity of people interacting consciously or personally with others, namely their "culture." The list of these volumes, being co-published by the ISM and the University Press of America follows.