From Negotiation to Dialogue: Philosophical Reflections on Multicultural Confrontation
There is a widespread belief, supported internationally by UNESCO, that armed conflicts are likely to be provoked by societies affected by religious fundamentalism, tribalism or traditionalism. If war begins in the minds of men, UNESCO proclaims, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace should be constructed. Solving all prejudices and irrational beliefs, international scientific education appears now as the new solution to armed conflicts as well as the new approach to multicultural confrontation. Yet, the cost of this attitude in terms of the reduction of cultural diversity has largely been underestimated. Since the seventeenth century, when for the first time two cultures having the same origin, i.e. Protestants and Catholics, came in conflict with each other, several positions have been elaborated, ranging from radical skepticism to pragmatic dogmatism, from one-way domination to scientific syncretism. None of these positions, however, seems willing to adopt an attitude capable of respecting cultural diversity while actively learning from it. If tolerance is to be adopted, often the dialogue ends and the partied in opposition engage in bilateral negotiation. In contrast, if a common cultural ground is to obtained, often a universal scientific syncretism is invoked as a precondition. This paper aims at re-evaluating the role of dialectics by showing how the philosophical passage from negotiation to dialogue might help the relationship between two different cultures. If structured according to certain conditions a dialogue might help the participants to actively learn from each other while avoiding both the sterile reduction to pragmatic compromises and the risk of a universal syncretism.