Personal Reflection from Axial Civilization to Dialogical Civilization(excerpt)

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By  Du Weiming

Abstract: We all have in dialogues with family, friends, colleagues and even

strangers. However, the true philosophically meaningful empirical dialogue is a life state hard

to reach. My research began with Max Weber’s theory of modernity, extended to Karl Theodore

Jaspers’ theory on “Axial Civilization”, and simultaneously influenced by German “ the school of

Heidelburg” and Jurgen Habermas, the leader of the Frankfurt School. While studying in Harvard

University, I had the chance to make academic discussions with Mr. Habermas alone in Professor

Club. In the 1980s, it was lucky enough of me to make friends with Ewert Cousins who devotes his whole life to the research of “world spirituality”. Together we plunged into civilization dialogues,especially religion dialogues, for over 30 years. His meticulous devotion to work and professional ethics with great responsibility help to open all-typed and all-leveled dialogical space for students,intellectuals and culture research field. And moreover, I have also made continuous dialogues with Hans Kung who advocates “ the Universal Ethics ” for more than 30 years.

Key Words: in-depth communication; the school of Heidelburg; Jurgen Habermas; religion

dialogues; 30-year experience

Dialogue is one of the most common, common and most difficult ways of communicating between people. Every day, we have conversational conversations with family, friends, colleagues and even strangers, but the experiential dialogue with deep philosophical meaning is an unrealistic realm of life. I am very fortunate to have a lot of conversational experiences worthy of recollection in my life journey. I have had non-talking styles with my partners, classmates, teachers, juniors, and even first-time acquaintances, but they have content and an unforgettable conversation. The prerequisite for the dialogue is that both parties are interested, willing, and have time and place. I like dialogue, cherish dialogue, and know how difficult it is to talk to each other. Both sides must have several key qualities to create a good experience of dialogue: peace of mind, the art of listening, open mind and humility. Tolerance is the minimum requirement. It is impossible to establish any relationship without tolerance, but the tolerance relationship established only for the benefit is absolutely unsustainable. First, we must accept and acknowledge the existence of each other. Acceptance is passive, and recognition is active recognition. Israel and Palestine have been in a stalemate in the struggle for your life and death, and it has only recently been acknowledged that the existence of the other is an indescribable fact. With this level of awareness, it is possible to gradually elevate from a reluctance to a reluctant recognition. With recognition, it is possible to change from a passive acceptance of the other to an active and conscious recognition. Respect is not just acceptance and recognition, but also the value of understanding the existence of the other. Being able to appreciate the value of the other will only promote the mutual willingness to learn from each other. From tolerance to recognition, respect, reference and learning are cognitive processes and emotional identity. The mentality throughout this process is a sympathy for the “difference”. At the level of reason and feelings, we can understand the difference of the other. We cannot, do not even need to be dispelled and assimilated. Then a new vision is presented: the difference is fortunate. I am not a Christian, but I am a beneficiary of Christian theology. I am willing to share this experience. I say “individual” rather than “private.” Private feelings, such as anger, hatred, revenge, contempt, or self-blame in the diary, I certainly have no will and courage to make these private feelings known to the world. However, personal feelings (also known as “personal knowledge” by Michael Polyani) are quite different. This “personal knowledge” is transparent, open, arguable or justified, and can of course be negated or disproved. If I make a mistake in the field of personal knowledge, I will agree and correct it immediately. If someone tells me that there is a lack of proof or argument, I will sincerely thank you. Just because “individual” means the feeling of existence and the input of mind and body, I am responsible for my “personal” words and deeds.

I am very grateful to Kong Hansi for his “responsibility ethics” declaration for the Inter Action Council (the “action committee” composed of the leaders of the retired countries). But this seemingly reasonable declaration caused a great rebound in the Western media, which was not what Kong Hansi or the committee expected. It is not known that media that emphasizes human rights and freedom and democracy, such as Flora Lewis, a senior commentator in the New York Times in Paris, suspects that Li Guangyao’s active responsibility theory must be suspected of authoritarianism. Sure enough, when all the official representatives agreed to sign responsibility ethics in Bangkok, the international NGOs gathering in Bangkok categorically announced their opposition to the ethical declaration of responsibility, because the self-evident motive behind the failure to form this text is Criticize and even abandon human rights. Later, Kong Hansi and I talked about this matter. He was quite angry and angry, but he was deeply helpless.

In the 1980s, especially in the 14th month of the “West-West Center,” I developed two domains: Cultural China and Civilization Dialogue. The relationship between them is very close. If we look at the Chinese nation from a broad culture, the dialogue of civilizations (such as the establishment of a deep and trusting cultural consensus among the Han and Tibetan peoples) is an indispensable mechanism for constructing an open and pluralistic identity. However, civilization dialogue involves more fields in the context of cultural globalization, and the problems are more complicated. Peter Berger has hosted a large research project on the “culture” rather than the “economic” globalization. I participated in the preliminary consultation on the formation of problem awareness. He used the method of social science “thought experiment” to set up Weber’s hypothesis: cultural globalization and economic globalization are similar, all of which are homogenization processes that eliminate differences and tend to homogeneity. The obvious feature is the popularity of English, Hollywood blockbusters flooding the market, American pop songs sweeping youth culture, and the spread of Protestantism in Korea, China, and Africa. However, when he published his research results in Washington in 2002, the thesis published by the University of Oxford was titled Many Globalizations: Cultural Diversity in the Contemporary World (Multiple Globalizations: Cultural Diversity in Today’s World). At the press conference, he said frankly that the results of the research team’s survey in ten regions including Germany, the United States, Japan, India, China and Taiwan showed that the difference is far more clear than the convergence trend. We can use a few obvious phenomena to show that his judgment is correct: English is popular, but the strength of Spanish in the United States and the spread of Chinese in the world cannot be ignored. The momentum of Hollywood is unstoppable in the Chinese-speaking world, but in India. There is no room for development in the cultural circle; non-English pop songs are extremely popular in Latin America, the Middle East (including Israel), South Asia and East Asia; Mahayana Buddhism and Islam are spread around the world as much as Protestantism. These are enough to counteract the limitations and one-sidedness of Berg’s initial proposition.

In 2004, I was invited by the Chairman of the UNESCO Board of Directors, Wren Ambassador of Germany, and 58 representatives started a three-hour exchange from 10 am to focus on the theory and practice of civilized dialogue. At Harvard, I have never been absent from participating in a monthly seminar on historical religion and geopolitics hosted by Huntington. In this feast of thought that has lasted for more than a year, many of my relatives have gradually transformed from a Cold War mentality to a process of dialogue. In 2005, I and Ikeda made a one-and-a-half-year dialogue in the monthly magazine “Third Civilization” in Japan, and published a single book. He proposed the title “Culture: Conflict or Dialogue?” “, I suggest to change to “Civilization towards dialogue.” He agreed and added the subtitle: Philosophical Discourse of Peace Hope. In recent years, the frequency of my participation in such international conferences has increased. However, the second United Nations “Alliance of Civlizations” in Vienna was unique in 2013: I am the only keynote speaker and two special guests are my commentators. “From the axis civilization to the dialogue civilization” is not just a review but also a forward-looking one. I want to look into the future of human survival and development through a multi-level, multi-dimensional and diverse dialogue. We must transcend Feng Qi’s so-called “Ancient and Modern China and the West” debate and open the door to dialogue between tradition and modernity, science and religion, China and the West, and even between ethnicity, gender, language, intergenerational, class, country, region and faith.