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Invitation to an International Conference

The Dialogue of Cultural Traditions: Global Perspective


Istanbul University

Istanbul, Turkey

August 8-9, 2003


1. Introduction

The conference will be held just prior to the World Congress of Philosophy and will provide a unique opportunity to engage philosophically the deeper issues of cultural interchange in our time. Through dialogue across cultures it will search for ways to render the process of globalisation more humane. 

 The conference will build on the over 100 volumes in the RVP series, “Cultural Heritage and Contemporary Change,” produced by teams of philosophers from all parts of the world. It will enable mutual critique of work done, determine work that is now needed, and plan responses through regional and global cooperation in philosophy. This constitutes a new direction for philosophy, namely, from the ground up and with the participation of all peoples, as is appropriate for the new multicultural and global context.

In sum, this conference will:

(a) ask how the emerging awareness of one’s own and others’ cultures can enrich and advance philosophy;

(b) draw on the work done, but rather than going back to what has been written, draw that forward for facing the new and emerging contemporary challenges;

(c) look to the cultures of the different regions of the world, but rather than remaining in any one, bring these diverse horizons together in order to spark new insight; and

(d) seek to evoke thereby the needed ongoing team research and publication in philosophy.

2. Challenges and Goals

The new millennium calls philosophers to go beyond the abstract rationalist dichotomies of modernity; they look with new insight into their lived cultural heritages for resources with which to humanize and enrich modern technological and social progress, and to enable these to promote rather than supplant the riches of their cultural identities and traditions. This search is enlivened, but also made more complex by the economic, political and informational effects of globalisation.  

If these effects are to be liberating rather than coercive, philosophy is needed as a dialogical partner to help define a key issue of the 21st century, namely, the interface between the plurality of cultures and civilizations in the ongoing process of globalisation. The philosopher’s historic search for unity in diversity, recast in today's language, can contribute much to this burning issue. Its task is to deepen the search in each tradition for the prospects of dialogue in which each cultural identity is respected, protected and promoted, while being called to respond from its resources to urgent shared needs. 

Unfortunately, while all the world can now see satellite images of the global whole, increasingly this would seem to be dominated by more sophisticated forms of economic, political and cultural  manipulation, verging on coercion. Yet, if infused with interdependence and solidarity, the process of globalization could be the dawn of new opportunities. For these to be realized there is need for dramatically new ways of thinking in terms both of the whole in which all are related and of the responsive subjectivity by which values are shaped, freedom is exercised, and hope is generated. Dialogue that is global—open and circular—is needed in the present intercultural context; such conversation, not clash, is the philosopher's trade. 

 Through such thinking what is personal can become more social, and what is global more humane; ethics can thereby be enriched by the cumulative cultural experience of the many peoples; and civilizations can be more dialogical in an aesthetic context marked by harmony and beauty. This is the real challenge to philosophers in our day. Such a conversation is most urgent, practical, and filled with promise; this conference is concerned to shape and refine that conversation. 

3. Structure and Methodology 

A. Opening Session: Three keynote addresses, with accompanying discussion, will open the philosophical horizons to this new global dialogue of civilizations: 

- beyond economics and politics, culture as the humane dimension of globalization;

- human dignity and the making of a just world order, North and South; and

- the diversity of cultures and the possibilities of cultural interchange vs cultural hegemony. 

B. Thematic Discussions: In four concurrent discussions, each initiated by short overviews to introduce key issues, participants will examine specific philosophical dimensions of the global relations between cultures:  

- epistemology: new ways of the thinking and interpreting in terms of the whole: epistemology and hermeneutics;

- person and community; rights and duties; cultural foundations for civil society and cooperation between peoples;

- globalization as the new integrating context for contemporary life; pluralism and tolerance; dialogue vs hegemony;

- ethics: the bases of values in multiple cultures and their implications for issues of the environment and of public service. 

 Drawing on the world wide RVP series of studies this conversation will emerge from the ground up, rich with contributions of the many cultural contexts. It will seek: to identify present challenges and move on to chart new paths for work in philosophy; to understand how cultural traditions as pertaining to the essence of life as human are not closed and opposed, but open and related; and to envisage how global cooperation in philosophy can promote, their creative thrust.

C. Regional Strategies:  Two sessions of the conference will be dedicated to regional planning. These will enable participants from the particular parts of the world from their own cultural horizons: to assess their philosophical situation, to analyze their needs and prospects, and to plan together ongoing research, meetings, and publications. These ideas will be presented in a plenary session in order to benefit from cross-cultural critique and invite cooperation on a global scale.










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