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S. Pannerselvam

Reflections on Culture and Its Implicit Value

On William Sweet & Hu Yeping (eds.): To the Mountain: Essays in Honour of Professor George F. McLean

A Philosopher in the Service of Humanity

William Sweet /
Hu Yeping (eds.):
To the Mountain: Essays in Honour of Professor George F. McLean.
Fu Jen Catholic
University Press,
viii, 424 pages
ISBN 986-7587-17-0
book cover
Fu Jen Catholic University Press
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1 To the Mountain is a presentation of essays in honour of George F. McLean, who has been of immense service to the philosophical community over the past four decades. Like a rishi, he performs his philosophical activity with selfless service. McLean, the author of 15 books and more than 100 edited volumes, occupies a unique position among philosophical scholars. The Council for Research in Values and Philosophy, under his guidance, has been bringing out volumes on Cultural Heritage and the Foundations of Social Life, representing different cultures of the world.
2 The present volume, edited by William Sweet and Hu Yeping, contains contributions by world-renowned authors from different regions of the globe – Asia, Africa, Europe, North America and Central and South America.

Views from Asia

3 In his paper, »Pluralistic Culture Versus Cultural Pluralism«, Tran Van Doan (Taiwan) argues against cultural pluralism by saying that there are category-mistakes in the post-modern approach which prescribes cultural pluralism. He further says that there is a misapplication of the categories of the exact sciences to the human sciences. The pluralistic culture is guided by reason, the author claims. He examines the principle of participation supported by Thomas Aquinas and the principle of communion supported by Gadamer, and shows how they help in the fusion of horizons to the pluralistic culture.
4 In the paper, »Openness to the Other in Chinese Philosophy«, Vincent Shen (Canada) speaks in favour of the principle of openness and generosity to the other. He applies this principle in the religious understanding of Zhu Xi, who talks about the concept of Ultimate Other. This principle of Other is universalisable according to the author. The openness to the other should lead to the Ultimate Other.
5 In his brilliant paper, »The Advaita View of Death and Immortality«, R. Balasubramanian (India) explains how immortality is attainable in this very life. He asks the question whether death is an extinction of the human being. His analysis shows that the word »empirical self«, which refers to man, is the combination of both matter and mind. The real, he says, is that which remains all the time and which is not subjected to sublation at any time.
6 Kiriti Bunchua (Thailand) is in search of Thai identity in philosophy in his short, but interesting paper. He claims that there is a real and authentic Thai philosophy hidden in the bosom of the Thai tradition. The Thai way of truth is as follows: »Ten hearings are less credible than one seeing, and ten seeings are less credible than one touching, and ten touchings are still less credible than one testing.« (116).
7 In the paper, »In Defense of Communitarianism«, Warayuth Sriwarakuel (Thailand) deals with the issue of whether democracy should necessarily be based on liberalism. He examines the views of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau to show their limitations. The author thinks that liberalism cannot make people to see the state or society as a living community. Keeping Charles Taylor in the background, Sriwarakuel argues that democracy should be based on communitarianism where there is a respect and care for the other. The author shows that the Habermasian understanding of ideal speech situation can serve as a guide for us in this instance.

European Standpoints

»There is an image for this in the Book of Isaiah. It is that of the many peoples, each proceeding along its own way marked out by its own culture, but all converging toward the Holy Mountain in which God will become All in all.«

George F. McLean
8 In »Universality and Culture«, Jean Ladrière (Belgium) discusses how there are two levels of truth – the partial and the authentic. The author explains the role of symbols in cultural life. He further says how the notion of historicity, which is the characteristic structure of the Dasein, is important. Though culture belongs to historicity, it finds its possibility through history. In philosophy, there is a universal space for different cultures. Ghislaine Florival (Belgium) presents a paper on Levinas, »Du sens de la mort: la vie«.
9 The paper »Be Popper to Information« examines three terms, ›knowledge‹, ›information‹ and ›information-based society‹. The author, Nicholas Lobkowicz (Germany), analyses the classical definition of knowledge and puts forth the question, »Which information may contribute to our knowledge?« The presupposition of a passage from information to knowledge is based on two facts: (a) we cannot achieve knowledge without being, at least in principle, willing to consider a piece of information that contradicts our assumptions, and (b) error is not shameful but a possible step towards truth (178).
10 Plamen Makariev (Bulgaria), in his paper »Cultural Rights and Deliberative Democracy«, suggests that the importance of cultural rights, which include ethics, religion, and democracy, is prominent in today's society. The concept of ›politics of recognition‹, coined by Charles Taylor, is even more relevant and useful. The author rightly says that minority rights could be justified by means of rational arguments within a public discussion between free and equal parties (185). Deliberative democracy harmonises differences by rational arguments. The author shows that Rawls in Political Liberalism explains how cultural rights can be justified by means of public deliberation.
11 Yuriy M. Pochta (Russia), in »Narrative Methodology and the Analysis of Islamic Society in the Philosophy of History« uses the post-modern methodology to understand Islamic society. He explains how postmodernism recognises differences. By rejecting the absolute truth, post-modernism accepts the local culture and tradition. Post-modernism helps overcome Eurocentrism in the study of Islam. The author explains the need for Western society to be retold the history of Islamic society through post-modernism, and examines the current challenge of Islam in Russian society.
12 The notion of cause in the backdrop of the thought of Aristotle, Kant and Russell is the main focus of Edward Alam (Lebanon) in »Philosophical and Scientific Challenges to the Traditional Concept of Causality«. He says that since the two World Wars, philosophy as well as science have dealt with what has gone wrong with advanced civilisation.

Some Perspectives from North America

13 In »The Lustrous Power of Beauty«, Kenneth J. Schmitz (Canada) examines the notion of beauty basically from the standpoint of Thomas Aquinas and Kant. He observes that clarity, harmony and integrity are the three features of beauty. He longs for human perfection and for being able to work towards a better developed human community.
14 William Sweet's (Canada) paper, »Contemporary Culture and Appeals to Human Rights«, argues in favour of the rights of man in respect of human dignity. He examines different theories of rights, starting from the mediaeval period to the present. The question »What are the challenges to the rights of man?« is the focus of the paper. It is interesting to note that according to Sweet, for a discourse on rights to be and remain viable, there must be a clear conception of the person – of the person's nature, dignity and autonomy, and of the person's moral and social responsibilities (264).
15 Robert P. Badillo (USA / India), in »McLean's Millennial Vision in the Light of Rielo's Genetic Metaphysics«, deals with genetic metaphysics propounded by Fernando Rielo, a contemporary metaphysician who believes that the genetic conception of the person can be shown by the sacredness of human life. He applies the Binity relation, i.e., two personal beings in a state of immanent intrinsic complementarity, to understand the Absolute Subject.

Africa and Latin America

Though the volume contains various subjects of philosophical interest, most of the papers focus on one important central theme, culture and its implicit value. 16 The African understanding of culture, religion and science is depicted by Kwame Gyekye (Ghana) in »Culture, Religion, and the Pursuit of Science: The African Experience«. He explains how culture is a social heritage and a learned behaviour. Culture, according to the author, is dynamic and not static and science operates in the cultural framework. A second perspective from Africa is presented by Sémou Pathé Guèye (Senegal) in his paper »La philosophie à l'épreuve de son monde«. Latin American voices are Juan Carlos Scannone (Argentina), with his paper »El lenguaje de la religión y sus variaciones según Paul Ricoeur«, and Enrique Dussel, with his reflections on »Deconstruccion del Concepto de ›Tolerancia‹ (de la Intolerancia a la Solidaridad)«.
17 The volume contains eighteen interesting articles, as well as a preface by William Sweet, and two approaches to the philosophy of George F. McLean by Hu Yeping (USA) and Yu Xuanmeng (China). It also contains a bibliography of McLean's work. This is undoubtedly a thought-provoking volume. Though it contains various subjects of philosophical interest, most of the papers focus on one important central theme, culture and its implicit value. Thus, the central focus lies in interpersonal understanding which is possible by intercultural understanding. This volume, produced on the occasion of McLean's 75th birthday, will be a useful reference point for those who are interested in philosophy, culture and values. The book is a definite contribution to human knowledge.
polylog: Forum for Intercultural Philosophy 6 (2005).
Online: http://lit.polylog.org/6/rps-en.htm
ISSN 1616-2943
external linkSatya Nilayam: Chennai Journal for Intercultural Philosophy 7 (2005), 128-132.
Author: S. Pannerselvam, Chennai (India)
© 2005 Author & polylog e.V.
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