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Invitation to an International Conference

The Dialogue of Cultural Traditions: Global Perspective


Istanbul University

Istanbul, Turkey

August 8-9, 2003






The work of the Council is to identify issues in need of philosophical research, to bring together the competencies need to study an issue, and to publish the results of their work. This effort has resulted in the publication of over 100 studies which are available in complete text, both on the web at www.crvp.org and in 350 university libraries worldwide.


Held on the occasion of the quinquennial World Congress of Philosophy this conference provided an occasion for over 100 participants from 20 nations to draw upon the work done in the many regions of the world, subject it to intensive mutual debate and critique, and develop onward planning. The work was intensive in order to fit into two full days. This report will describe the program and business meeting, outline future planning and extend an invitation to ongoing participation.




1.   Opening:


The conference was opened by three short statements by: Cetin Bolcal, Vice Rector of Istanbul Kultur University which provided the venue, Prof. Safak Ural, Chairperson of the Philosophy Department of Istanbul University, who served as local organizer, and Prof. George F. McLean for the RVP.


The work of the first morning was centered on three keynote speakers who introduced the challenge of intercultural relations each from their distinctive horizon: Prof. Z. Golobovic from the Balkans, Prof. S. Gueye from Africa, and Prof. V. Shen from Asia. Each was followed by over a half hour of discussion so active that it was necessary to suspend the debate before all could speak.


2.    Panels: This served as a perfect preparation for the main work of the conference as a true meeting and exchange of minds. This consisted in 8 particularly vibrant panel discussions, each with an average of 50 participants. These intensive two hour sessions were fora in which all could speak in response not only to the proposals of the panellists, but to all who joined in the discussion. The themes were:


Panel A. Ways of Thinking (Epistemology) and of Interpreting (Hermeneutics);

Panel B. Person and Community: Rights and Duties; and Cultural Foundations for Civil Society;

Panel C. Global Horizons: Pluralism and Tolerance; and Hegemony vs Dialogue; and 

Panel D. Ethics: Aesthetics and the Bases of Values in Multiple Cultures; and Implications for Issues of Environment and Public Service.


3.      Regional Caucuses: 


One session consisted of three concurrent regional caucuses focused respectively upon Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe. These explored ways of effectively working together in the future. 


What has been most distinctive of the work of the Council and of this conference has been the inversion of horizons. In the past work in philosophy had been derivative of Western  Graeco-Latin cultural roots as mediated through the modern British, French or German traditions. Now, as we enter into a period of intensive and inclusive global interchange, philosophy becomes conscious of the cultural roots and formation of human insight. This makes it possible for all civilizations to bring their contribution to the process of philosophical reflection in a dynamic that is less top down as in the past, than from the bottom up. This is less restricted by modern abstractive rationalism, and builds on the many cultural traditions as bearers of the rich lived experience and creativity of all peoples of the world.


The challenge of the RVP has been to evolve a structure which will enable this process through:


(a) the development of local university teams for reflective dialogue applying cultural heritages to the concrete issues; 

(b) providing for mutual critique between the teams in a region in order to focus and test their insights; and in turn 

(c) joining the regional work in yet broader continental unions as integral units of the global RVP network. The regional caucuses made it possible to delineate the development of three major philosophical unions for Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe and the Balkans respectively.


The task ahead will be to develop on the part of the local teams the sense of working together as integral parts of this structured RVP network on the emergence of philosophy from culture. This will require (a) methodological awareness in the local teams, (b) regular meetings between them on a regional basis, (c) meetings of the continental union as the occasion presents itself, and, of course, (d) the quinquennial meeting of all on the occasion of the World Congress.


The elements for this are already extensively in place as the result of the RVP’s 25 years of building cooperation in philosophy. This is reflected in the 15 to 20 volumes done by each of the 4 sets of teams in, e.g., Eastern Europe, China, Islam, and Africa. There is need now to make the lines of cooperation clearer and more conscious, to generate a greater sense of the local and global cooperation which is ever more needed in this new age. This work is now under active construction on the various continents and will be reported on progressively as it evolves.




The concluding session consisted of reports from the eight panel sessions divided into four thematic groups: Prof. Tran Van Doan (Taiwan) for Panel A; Prof. William Sweet (Canada) for Panel B; Prof. Ghazala Irfan (Pakistan) for Panel C; and Prof. Ouyang Kang (China) for Panel D. To this was added the reports of the regional caucuses, some of which had met a second time. A number of senior philosophers were then called upon to indicate the significance of these new developments against the backdrop of their life time of work in philosophy; these speakers included Prof. S.R. Bhatt (India), Prof. V. Cauchy (Canada), Prof. T. Imamichi (Japan).


The final words were by Prof. Faruk Akyol, Assistant Chair of Philosophy of Istanbul University, and Hu Yeping, Assistant Director for Operation of the RVP.




Following the above program a brief business meeting was attended by the members of the Council present and the area directors, and was open to all interested parties. This was brief not only because of the pressure of time, but because the entire conference had constituted an extended process of searching out the needs and planning responses in philosophy. The agenda included:


1. Report on activities for the last 5 years. This had been presented to all participants in the form of a 150 page book presenting a description of: (a) the RVP and its mission, (b) the pattern of its team research, (c) the annual 10 week seminars and the list of their participants, (d) the work on moral education, (e) the 50 conferences held during that period, and (f) the 110 books published by the RVP resulting from the team research and conferences. This report was discussed and approved with note being made of the need to redevelop the work in the Spanish speaking world, which had been intensive earlier.


2. Plans for the future which had been developed in the regional caucuses and presented in the concluding session were formally approved for implementation. A significant member of offers had been made to develop local teams, regional meetings or structural elements for the larger unions such as print and/or electronic journals on the RVP website (www.crvp.org).


3. Membership of the Council was renewed, special note being made of deceased of Council members Paulus Gregorius and H.-G. Gadamer.


The Academic Board:


M. Avani, Tehran

S.R. Bhatt, Delhi

V. Cauchy, Montreal

K. Gyekye, Legon

Pham Minh Hac, Hanoi

T. Imamichi, Tokyo

J. Ladriére, Louvain

F. Miro Quesada, Lima

H. Nasr, Tehran/Washington

A.        Nysanbaev, Almaty

P. Ricoeur, Paris

K.L. Schmitz, Toronto

V. Shen, Taipei/Toronto

Tang Yijie, Beijing

M. Zakzouk, Cairo





From the above it is clear that the many years of work by the RVP is bearing fruit. The Council was born as an action committee to implement a cooperative philosophical response to the needs emerging in the transition in the post colonial world of the 60s and 70s, in Eastern Europe in the 80s, in China in the 90s, and in Islam and the global meeting of cultures and civilizations in the new millennia. This resulted in a network of productive research teams in the different parts of the world, which together have produced the over 100 studies published in the RVP series “Cultural Heritage and Contemporary Change”. The organization has been intentionally loose in order to generate a base that is not controlled by a central idea, but reflective of the concerns and aspiration of each of the many peoples and their cultural traditions. The conference in Istanbul demonstrated the potential of the creative interaction of these teams founded on the intensive cooperative work done by the local teams and published by the RVP.


This emerging importance of the global perspective suggests that in the next 5 years emphasis should be given to the dialogue between these many cultural traditions as to both structure and dynamic.


(a) Structure: developing the levels of cooperation in themselves and as parts of the larger whole: first the local teams; second a sense of collaboration with other teams on a regional basis; and third the participation of these regional units as integral components of larger continental unions: e.g., an Asian Philosophical Union, an African Philosophical Union, etc. All three levels constitute the integrating global network which has been under development by the Council for Research in Values and Philosophy for the last 30 years and enable insight generated on the basis of local cultural awareness to percolate upward and outward on a true global scale.


(b) Thematic: The structural development is called for by a more fundamental thematic need which emerged in the panel discussions. These evolved the philosophical formulation of the dilemmas we face in our times and demonstrated the creative potential of cooperative interchange between cultural traditions for responding conjointly thereto. The reports on the panel discussions, as well as the complete texts of the papers submitted by November 15, 2003, which will appear as the proceeding should constitute a synthetic invitation, rather than analytic disjunctions or deductive imperatives, for the path ahead.




The interest of philosophers from over 20 countries participating in the conference in Istanbul, the need to develop consciousness of engagement in a coordinated, multicultural project for newly global times, and the urgency of the philosophical issues revealed by the panel discussions: all suggest the need to develop a mode of continuing information and cooperation among philosophers at the different parts of the network.


In view of this it is important that those interested in being associated with the work of the Council’s teams, regions and unions, in order to play a productive role therein and to know of their outcomes, should identify themselves by returning the brief form below. As associate members of the Council (without dues), it will be possible to receive continuing information on interested scholars, projects and opportunities in their region, to make recommendations, and to take part in the RVP research teams, conferences and annual 10 week Washington seminars. Those interested are invited to fill in and return to cua-rvp@cua.edu the following essential information.




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