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Relations Between Cultures

September 11 - November 10, 1986                             Washington D.C.





The difficulty of people of different cultures in living together would appear to be one of the major problems of our day. This is experienced in terms of language in Canada and Belgium; of religions in Ireland and India; of the colonial and Indian populations in Central and South America; of diverse ethnic groups and tribes in the Balkans and in Africa; and of the very diversified immigrant populations in North America, the Southern cone and elsewhere. In all these areas and most others besides, where people live in fairly close proximity to others from quite different cultures, the key to a life of personal dignity and social peace depends significantly upon one's ability, both as an individual and as a member of a group, to relate and be related to in a positive manner by those who are different.

The problem, of course, is not new; it echoes through ancient biblical narratives, as well as the accounts of the fall of the Roman empire. But some factors make it a particularly urgent problem in our day. First, where different tribes constituted essentially different nations which could live in relative juxtaposition to others, today this is no longer possible. The development of strong national entities has united the destiny of multiple peoples, for example in Yugoslavia or Nigeria, which the development of modern means of communication, production and commerce bind into an ever more intense interaction and interdependence. Hence, the possibilities of peace and progress now depend upon the ability of these different peoples to cooperate with and mutually promote those with whom their destiny has come to be intertwined.

Finally, the development in recent decades of greater sensitivity to the person and to one's group and cultural identity renders its recognition and promotion of new importance, just as its denial or repression is increasingly less tolerable. This underlines the need to come to a better understanding of the nature of cultural identities and symbol systems, of their significance, and of the possibilities of their positive interrelation. 




There is need then for a penetrating study of the nature of complementarity versus conflict as regards the relation between cultures. This must search out implications for the development of conditions which promote a positive realization and expression of cultural values in a way that is harmonious and complementary to those of others with whom we live.

This will require: (a) continued reflection, (b) by scholars from such different disciplines as philosophy, anthropology and politics, with an opportunity (c) to refine personal insights through writing, (d) to discuss the problem critically and in depth, (e) in its multiple dimensions, (f) and with persons from different cultures, (g) and in the light of such intensive discussion to draft and gradually shape a volume which reflects the discoveries of the group.

Important context for this work exists. The World Congress of Philosophy, in Montreal, 1983, focused upon culture. An extended regionally coordinated project of the International Society for Metaphysics and the Council for Research in Values and Philosophy, through multiple teams from the various cultural areas, is carrying out a detailed investigation of their cultural heritages and contemporary life. The Council has sponsored a related study of values and education by four teams, one of which worked in a seminar format in Washington in 1984 on Social Context and Values. 

As a result of such studies, a number of scholars from various parts of the world as well as persons deeply involved in such work in the United States will take part in this seminar on cultural conflict and harmony.





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