Past Issues



Culture and Dialogue, Vol. 7, No. 1, 2019, pp. 1-114

Editorial: Dialogue and Creativity


Culture and Dialogue 7.1 focuses on “Dialogue and Creativity.” Publishing an issue on a theme that pertains to “creativity” may, for some, appear to be simply a rehash of all-too-familiar debates. It is perhaps less common to understand creativity within the dynamics of the dialogue and from different angles, whether in the sciences or the arts, whether in terms of its forms or its dynamics, its temporality or instrumentality, its metaphysical or ethical dimensions, or, simply, in terms of its historical condition or renewing nature. 

Creativity may be exemplary of a rule that cannot be formulated, or, to put it in a less morally-loaded fashion, creativity may just be the renewing of worlds that do make sense to us. Creativity, therefore, is not in-nihilo. Of course not. Nor is it destructive. Or else, we should use another word. It may be destructive of the world it inexorably leaves behind, but this would already be a shift in interpretative focus. Perhaps it would be truer to say that creativity is an emptying movement that departs from the already-known, the self as we know it, the recognisable world with its laws and order; creativity leaves behind the very traditions and cultural values of all kinds that make it possible. Not only is history a necessary component of creativity, but for anyone to envisage its possibility one needs to make oneself available to the past and what has already been established. Creativity cannot therefore be ex-nihilo. Neither ex-nihilo nor in-nihilo. Creativity thus involves a double emptying movement, which—as one can easily anticipate—characterises the very nature of the dialogue: an availability to the formed world that metamorphoses into an availability to the world in formation. Creativity is therefore in essence ethical, and creative non-sense is no creativity at all. The genius artist or, rather, to avoid using a word this time as historically loaded as controversial in contemporary Western thought, the creative artist is the one who manages to almost encapsulate these two emptying movements with their respective temporal orientations into a single brush-stroke, word-stroke, sound-stroke, or body-stroke. Creativity in art becomes almost a-temporal and therefore eternal. It is the unfolding of the worldly scroll; the breath whose ethical essence owes to its nearing eternity; a virtually non-dual energy that conflates the emptying movements towards two poles, those of the formed world and the world to be formed. In this sense, creativity is not phenomenal but kinetic. Or, rather, as soon as one thinks of creativity as a phenomenon, one has already crystalized it as unidirectional appearing, with an origin and an end.

Needless to say, creativity can also be found in the sciences, whether natural or social. Where, in art, creativity pertains to the very kinetic relation between the poles, in the sciences the same creativity in its principle is used in order to retrieve worlds and foresee new paradigms. The scientist requires the same ability to negotiate a double emptying movement: in this case to both absorb from the known reality and withdraw from the already known in order to explain the un-known. The dialogical principle is that between the scientist and the reality at stake. Creativity is of course fundamental for both the sciences and the arts, but the aims and the methods are different. In the former, creativity is used as means to retrieve the poles, to explain and to know them, and as such it remains temporally oriented; in the latter, creativity nears eternity because it is not experienced instrumentally. Thus, it may make sense to qualify creativity in the arts as being, from one angle, “disinterested” and therefore close to being temporally un-oriented.

All essays in this journal issue address in different ways from different perspectives and in different relevant fields what is at stake in the dynamics of creativity. John Pauley analyses the “the conditions for creativity” in a particular form of human activity, i.e., conversation, and does so by highlighting the “constant tension between the regime of the status quo and the possibilities intrinsic to creativity.” Rudi Capra reflects on the dynamics of creativity in the Chan pedagogy of the Song era, through the use of gongan literature, and in ‘particular ritual dialogues between masters and students’ as evidenced in the Chan Buddhist text Blue Cliff Record (碧巖錄). John Baldacchino, inspired by the thought of playwriter Dario Fo, discusses and advocates a form of creativity found in a dialogical pedagogy – a “weak pedagogy” – that enacts irony and satire, and that “refuses to provide solutions presumed on measurement, certainty or finality.” Colleen Fitzpatrick explores an aspect of creativity that is embedded in the reciprocal, complementary relationship between painting and mindfulness, a conception that she argues can be traced in Mikel Dufrenne’s phenomenology of aesthetic experience, as well as in Buddhist thought. Joshua M. Hall considers creativity in choreography through the lens of Cornelius Castoriadis’ conception of imagination and time that he elaborated in his The Imaginary Institution of Time and “Time and Creation.” In choreography “society’s time reworks itself into the poetic text to which it dances.” Finally, Åsa Andersson in Observations of Lightness offers an example of what is nowadays known as creative writing, in other words creativity at work through temporal variations, shifts, cuts and returns as enacted in the narration.

I am most grateful to my editorial colleagues, Martin Ovens, Loni Reynolds and Erika Mandarino, as well as to Robert Clarke for his book review; all the Editorial Board members of the Journal; the anonymous reviewers who lent on good will their scholarship and expertise to improve the standard of essays; and, needless to say, all the contributors to this issue on “Creativity and Dialogue.” The next theme of the Journal will be “Culture, War and Sovereignty” (Volume 7, Number 2, 2019) – doubtless another topical and thrilling, albeit sensitive, challenge ahead!

                                                                                                                                                   Gerald Cipriani

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                                                                                                                                                                           Culture and Dialogue, Vol. 6, No. 2, 2018, pp. 119-255

Editorial: Dialogue, Culture and Globalisation


Volume 6 Number 2 of Culture and Dialogue reflects on different facets and causes of the phenomenon of globalisation from a variety of theoretical perspectives, case studies and spatiotemporal contexts. In this sense, the selection of essays is in part a continuation of the roundtable that was organised on the same topic on the occasion of the Twentieth International Congress of Aesthetics, Seoul 2016.

Globalisation has pervaded all aspects of our lives in many parts of the world. The phenomenon is obviously not only economic and technological; globalisation has affected human and cultural relationships, identity formations, and our ability and willingness to be attentive to our fellow human beings and the places of our worlds. Globalisation has generated particular forms of cultural practices and the ways we perceive and interpret them. But beyond the simple realisation of such mutations, the question is whether cultural experience, be it existential, religious, political or aesthetic, can still be the guarantor of authentic human relationships, genuine intercultural encounters, or dialogical renewing, offering thus a fruitful mode of redemptive resistance against the forces that may soon plunge us into the existential catacombs of globalisation. 

What are the ethical and existential implications of cultural experience in globalisation? As we all know, the formulation of the socio-economic roots of globalisation can be traced back to Marx and Engels’ Manifesto of the Communist Party (1888): 


            "The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. …The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere… Subjection of Nature’s forces to man, machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam-navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, canalisation of rivers, whole populations conjured out of the ground…"

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

Manifesto of the Communist Party, 1888


For this passage to read like an authentic premonition, we simply have to replace the word “bourgeoisie” with “global class.” Marx clearly saw the link between globalisation and socio-economics. But globalisation has many different facets and causes. Beside the spheres of international relations, economics, or socio-politics, globalisation is impacting our modes of existence as persons, how we relate to each other, to our communities and environments, in other words, to the place that contributes to shaping our very selves.

While remaining wary of making any value judgement, UNESCO highlights the relational nature of globalisation in the following way:


            "Globalisation is the ongoing process that is linking people, neighbourhoods, cities, regions and countries much more closely together than they have ever been before. This has resulted in our lives being intertwined with people in all parts of the world via the food we eat, the clothing we wear, the music we listen to, the information we get and the ideas we hold… The process is driven economically by international financial flows and trade, technologically by information technology and mass media entertainment, and very significantly, also by very human means such as cultural exchanges, migration and international tourism. …While globalisation is not a new process, it has accelerated rapidly since World War II, and is having many effects on people, the environment, cultures, national governments, economic development and human well-being in countries around the world."



Of course, globalisation thus presented can be seen to have many positive effects on humanity. Poverty reduction, for instance, is what some would consider to be the most noticeable and worthwhile achievement of globalisation. According to a 2013 United Nations report based on empirical scientific research, poverty in the developing world has drastically decreased in the past couple of decades.


                "The world is witnessing a epochal ‘global rebalancing’ with higher growth in at least 40 poor countries helping lift hundreds of millions out of poverty and into a new ‘global middle class’. Never in history have the living conditions and prospects of so many people changed so dramatically and so fast."

UN report, 2013


Global trade, networking, assistance, and cooperation are all factors that are improving, for example, education, medical treatments, accommodations and infrastructures of all kinds – in other words what makes life possible, bearable, and even enjoyable. Globalisation has also proved to foster creativity even if, from another angle, it is often associated with the platitude of standardisation.

The invention of new techniques of representation, expression and communication by global partners has given its specific shape to contemporary creativity. Moreover, the simple fact that globalisation has enabled the kind of intercultural exchanges that would have been unthinkable just fifty years ago has also fostered creativity in our visions and interpretations of the world. The question is whether those significantly positive sides of globalisation can be sustained without begetting poisonous effects. Evidence suggests that it cannot. The challenge, then, is to find the means to accommodate, limit, or channel these negative forces so that the world can regenerate a sense of livable harmony.            

Globalisation is, indeed, like the ancient Greek concept of the pharmakon; it can have the effects of a remedy or a poison. Globalisation understood as an acceleration of exchanges in the wake of economic fluxes, or as a virtual nearing of worlds through transportation and information technologies, generates a poison by offering a remedy. For example, easiness and affordability of global movement offers a favourable ground for terrorist attacks, the spread of diseases, pollution, or, at a cultural level, the vanishing of entire communities and their traditions, their languages, their value-systems. Or, the very techniques we invent for our own good to improve efficiency, practicality, life-expectation, access to commodities and lodging, can exhaust the earth beyond control. 

One thing is certain is that, in spite of its ability to remedy the many ills of humankind, globalisation unavoidably also poisons the relational aspect of life with profound implications on our modes of existence. Globalisation is affecting many layers of life, albeit in different ways. It takes different shapes depending not only on the geographical location, but also on the historical period and the cultural environment. To develop a sense of “global being” is obviously not the same in today’s East Asia, postcolonial Africa, or in the postmodern West. However, if the sense of global being varies depending on time and place, one of the increasingly universal effects of globalisation is the pervasion of a form of “unavailability” at all levels of the human sphere. The human species is in danger of evolving towards dialogical impairment. In the cultural spheres of the contemporary world, the symptoms of this impairment are countless. We are nowadays increasingly experiencing a “casual formalism of the here-and-now” whereby meaning becomes “un-earthed” with the effect that notions such as authorial horizon, memorial field, authentic place and even cultural identity begin to look irrelevant if not anachronistic. 

In the late 1970s, theorists such as Jean-François Lyotard named the “postmodern condition” what was at the time perceived mainly as a Western phenomenon. In all evidence, the phenomenon is now becoming global. Unlike with “postmodernity,” a term that can only be applied to cultures that did at some stage experience modernity, the nature of globalisation is to spread values and practices beyond historical and geographical boundaries.

In globalisation, cultural experience broadly understood becomes akin to attending things “as such,” creating thus a culture of the spectacle that disregards the author speaking as person, silences the voice of history, overlooks the gathering nature of memory, or ignores the “place” of cultural and identity formations. All these are symptoms of a phenomenon doubtless fostered by both the electronic revolution, whether in communication, information, or transportation, and the mishandling of socio-economic systems that use technology as means for reckless increases in productivity. The “global subject” can no longer afford to devote the necessary time to dwell at a particular place, or be available and therefore attentive to otherness. The global subject relates to things, locations and even persons here, now, and “as such,” without taking the time to attend the worlds within which things, locations and persons dwell. 

Interestingly the Western world has, in the name of Exotic Reason, historically and traditionally associated attitudes and practices that pay attention to the “such-ness” of things with so-called “oriental” cultures, in particular with Taoism and schools of Buddhism such as Chan or Zen. To say the least, suggesting any similarities between the cultural experience of things “as such” in the context of globalisation and “oriental” conceptions of the “suchness” of things may sound incongruous. Indeed, the alleged similarities are only formal. There are, in fact, profound ethical differences. 

The “disinterestedness” of cultural experiences of things “as such” within the context of globalisation does not share the same existential ethos as the “self-less” perceptual experience of the suchness of things as described in areas of East Asian thought. In fact, cultural disinterestedness in globalisation smacks of, in many ways, the nihilistic undertone that runs through Western postmodern culture. Disinterestedness in Western postmodernity can be read as a rejection of established values and ideas of authenticity and origins. Admittedly, what was in Western postmodern thought and culture a historical reaction against traditional metaphysics and belief-systems based on power-driven, reifying representation and narratives has, on the scale of globalisation, lost its legitimate element of scepticism. What remains is a mode of cultural experience whose disinterestedness stands in sharp contrast with anything ethical – in the relational sense of mutually determining cultural formations. Such is the true dialogical impairment in globalisation, provided that we accept that the dialogue constitutes a fundamental basis for all modes of cultural formation. 

The list of examples of such impairment is endless. When I sit on the train, I see a digital message being displayed above the door of the compartment telling me that I am welcome, and I soon discover that the train is also wishing me a safe journey. But who is speaking? I perceive the message as such – a message that is hardly indexical of anyone behind. In fact, the message as perceived is only indexical of the absence of a speaking person. We may argue that it is the very nature of signs to be removed and therefore abstracted from the sender or designator, and that the same principles equally applies to paleolithic cave paintings as well as Chinese oracle bones’ scripts. The principle remains the same but the phenomenon has drastically intensified because of speed, movement and exchanges, to the point of making us lose sight of the world, the place, or the person speaking through such or such perceptual experience. Or, how often do we hear musical logos – especially, tellingly, in hotels’ lifts – that epitomise so much that formalism of the here-and-now that they have been stripped of their humaneness or of the worlds they once expressed. How often do we eat fruits and vegetables that are not seasonal? How often do we wear clothes whose materials feel like the flat texture of net surfing rather than the fabrics of local colours and places? And, how much of our mode of thought has mutated into mono-global thinking?  

We may argue, like the UNESCO report, that contemporary globalisation is simply intensifying a phenomenon that has, after all, always existed. The problem, though, is that a mutation in degree can be such that it becomes a mutation in kind – and globalisation as we experience it today is begetting problems unknown to those who experienced trade, communication, transportation, and culture in earlier times and smaller spaces. Take the example of virtual reality, which allows us to experience worlds as if they were real, that is, as if there was hardly any deferring between their image and their in-itself to the point of being blurred; hence, a phenomenon that no other civilization experienced ever before. There can only be a sense of the virtual for the one who also has a sense of reality, be it world, place, person, or whatever entities. The acceleration of globalisation is blurring the distinction between virtual and real to such an extent that, one day, these categories may become existentially irrelevant – indeed a formalism of the here-and-now, with all its load of ethical problematics.

In the aesthetic field, for instance, such blurring removes the relational dimension that is so fundamental for the experience to remain what Eric D. Hirsch once called “an affair of persons” in his Validity in Interpretation (1967) when explaining what it means to understand a text. Should not all cultural experiences remain an affair between us as persons and worlds, places, and indeed other persons? There is a sense that contemporary globalisation, regardless of all its unquestionable positive developments, is not offering the most favourable conditions for this ethical fundamental to be fully preserved.

The metaphysics, ethics and aesthetics of globalisation can be appraised in an array of different ways, and each contribution in this journal issue is in this sense a wonderful illustration. Josef Boehle opens the discussion by suggesting, expounding, and justifying a “universal type of encounter between persons,” which he names “Trialogue.” What Boehle calls the “Trialogue model” not only reinterprets Martin Buber’s dialogical thinking, but it also overcomes the “confines of Abrahamic traditions” and Western Enlightenment conception of selfhood. The two following essays also consider relational issues, but within a specific globality, namely, the context of Nigeria. As a response to the problem of “deficit of national cohesion” stemming from “ethno-religious pluralism,” Ronald Olufemi Badru proposes a model that would positively integrate “the essentials of the self culture and the other culture.” Badru calls this relational model “the Third culture.” In a similar vein, Philip Ogo Ujomu and Anthony I. Bature’s essay reinterprets the well-known African ethical philosophy of Ubuntu as a model whose principles of humaneness, compassion and dignity could well address Nigeria’s value crisis at the source of much of its social disorder, conflicts and degradation. But relational issues in whatever global contexts can also have an aesthetic dimension. The subsequent two essays by Xiaomeng Ning and Wei Hsiu Tung address relational values and globality in very different ways within the field of aesthetics. Ning reflects on the concept of “famous painting” from Tang Dynasty art historian Zhang Yanyuan’s Record of Famous Paintings of All Dynasties (847 CE). By analysing both the value-related and historicist criteria that allow for the elaboration of such a concept Ning shows that no matter how global the claim for being “famous” can be, it is “embedded” within the specificity of a particular space and time – in this case, painting in the Tang Dynasty. Tung’s essay equally addresses relational aesthetic values, albeit in a more anthropological manner and in the context of Taiwan (Plum Tree Creek and Togo Village). The essay brings to light how “social practice art” that involves not only artists but also community people in specific projectscan, against the effects of globalisation, “regenerate an everyday life aesthetics” that fosters awareness of  “the environmental specificity of local culture, history and geography.” 

As usual, all my gratitude goes to my editorial colleagues, Martin Ovens, Loni Reynolds, Erika Mandarino who has been newly appointed as Manuscript Editor, Robert Clarke for all the book reviews he has produced, all the Editorial Board members for their continuous support and trust, as well as all the generous anonymous reviewers. And needless to say, my words of thanks must also go to the contributors for accepting so diligently our editorial work. The next issue of Culture and Dialogue (7.1, 2019) will be on the topic of “Dialogue and Creativity.”

Gerald Cipriani

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                                                                                                                                                                           Culture and Dialogue, Vol. 6, No. 1, 2018, pp. 1-118

Editorial: Eastern and Western Thought in Dialogue

Volume 6 Issue 1 of the Journal is partly based on the outcomes of a 2016 one-day conference organised at National University of Ireland, Galway on the theme of “In Dialogue: Eastern and Western Thought.” Other contributors have brought in additional perspectives to what had already been a very enriching debate.   

Everyone familiar with the works of the great thinkers of the dialogue will be aware that the dialogue is not about exchanging opinions or worldviews for the sake of confirming or, even worse, consolidating one’s sense of self or identity. The dialogue is a renewing process whereby selves accept and enact the fact that their formation becomes meaningful, and therefore identifiable, through mutual emptying. Metaphysically, this means that selves and identities owe their existence partly to the way they relate to otherness. Of course, it is dangerously naïve to think that this relational matter of fact justifies a politics of alterity, and there is no shortage of examples throughout history and within our contemporary world. But it is equally injudicious to develop an ideology of sameness, for the extraordinarily rich, complex, and ever-evolving interplay between differences and similarities is the stuff of meaning and, by extension, culture. Ethically, the life, validity and relevance of the process of the dialogue depend on all parties’ good disposition and ability to function according to a sense of recovered or potential balance between selves, identities and cultures; we should bear in mind that the mutating nature of the interplay between differences and similarities creates, from time to time and by nature, imbalance or blurring at the source of suffering or boredom. Needless to say, in various ways, all these issues feature attempts at bringing cultural worlds in relation to each other, whether by cognising, comparing between, entering into, or dialoguing with such worlds. And the idea of bringing Eastern and Western thought into dialogue is no exception.

The idea starts from a questionable premise: that there are such things as Western and Eastern traditions of thinking as unique and recognisable entities, implying therefore a degree of homogeneity in the way we perceive each of them. The same applies to cultures in general or any identified phenomenon, principle, substance and so on. In fact, the same can be said about any entities in the universe that are identified as such. From one angle, the premise can be easily challenged: establishing a dichotomy between two allegedly homogeneous wholes such as Eastern and Western cultures can only smack of subjectivity, artificiality and even self-interest. For instance, on which basis do we decide what is “western” or “eastern,” and for whom? However, when we begin to think in terms of conditions that allow us to make sense of and therefore identify the heterogeneity of entities, whatever they are, we soon realise that homogeneity is an equally constitutive element. There are no such things as differences if not considered on the plane of similarities; vice versa, there must be a unifying factor in order to discern differences. Overlooking the nature of the interplay between the two is the cause of much misunderstanding when it comes to considering worldviews, traditions and cultures. Neither cultural generalisations nor nominalism and its blind belief in the sole existence of particulars is satisfactory. To discern particulars is conditional upon the existence of a general unifying field, which, in turn, depends on particulars to operate. There are no such things as Eastern and Western thought if they are not considered within the interplay between similarities and differences.

Nishida Kitarô tells us something similar when he states in his I and Thou (私と汝, 1932) that “[t]he I and the thou cannot be directly bound together; they are reciprocally united by means of the external world.” He gives the example of language or writing as a means external to entities seeking to relate to each other, which at the same time allows those entities to be “reciprocally united.” What Nishida calls the “external world” is, seemingly paradoxically, the field or place of similarities shared between self and otherness, which precisely guaranties the possibility of differences. In other words, for different entities to be recognised as such they must share something in common – a universal such as language or writing – which, far from being some kind of fictional generality or abstraction, has at the same time a very concrete reality. This “concrete universal,” to borrow Hegel’s wording, is no more than the interplay between similarities and differences. Ways of understanding universals obviously have a very long history in world thought. Universals vary depending on the scale and the concrete, differential particular to which they relate, be they spatial or temporal, geographical or historical, metaphysical or ethical, and so on. In fact, there are as many universals as there are particulars: that is, an infinity.

Understanding the interplay between universals and particulars, or similarities and differences, is essential when suggesting the idea of a dialogue between relevant “entities.” At the simple interpersonal level, one’s identity takes shape as a configuration of differential features precisely from within the field of similarities shared with the other’s identity. At the inter-natural level – that is, when human beings relate to what is commonly called the natural environment – the laws of biophysics partly constitute the shared field that enables the human mind to identify and recognise chaotic sense-data as a configuration in the name of nature. At the inter-cultural level, looking at a tradition of thought that, from the perspective of the philosophy of being, seems to put more emphasis on emptiness is, of course, only possible if the two traditions share a common field. The same applies to differentiating traditions that put more emphasis on systemic thinking, reason or criticality from traditions that convey thinking in a more decentring, embodied, or descriptive fashion. There must be a unifying field that enables us to distinguish between philosophical insight in narratives, analyses, descriptions, reasoning, and so on. Again, Nishida gave the simple example of language as a necessary universal amongst others that makes the distinction between “I and thou” possible. 

The possibility of a dialogue between Eastern and Western thought is therefore conditional upon the existence of unifying fields, for example, the common concern to give accounts of thinking processes at work in relation to the worlds from which they step out, or of which they are part, or within which they are thrown. Unifying fields are fundamental when it comes to establishing or recognising entities, whatever these may be, as other than ourselves. And failing to understand the interplay between universals and particulars can open the door to legitimate accusations of, for example, orientalism when attempting to define or work out Eastern cultures and traditions of thought as opposed to Western ones. 

One of the best-known and most virulent critics of Western orientalism is Edward Said, whose celebrated book Orientalism (1978) analyses Western discourses on what they labelled “the Orient.” Said’s argument was not about redeeming the image of oriental cultural practices and values that were, in the best case, preserved as something exotic in the Western eye, or, in the worst case, squashed under the order of colonialism; what Said suggested was questioning the very existence of the Orient as a cultural identity because it was allegedly a Western construction. What he reacted against was the will to control embedded in the West’s perspectival representation of the East. This explains what may be called his cultural nihilist stance against orientalism as a mode of representation of the Orient as otherness. This also means that Said’s cultural nihilism was justified in context only; in other words, insofar as Western representations of the Orient smacked of authority at work in particular historical periods and geographical locations. To put it differently, when Western representations of the Orient (or, simply, representations of non-Western cultures and traditions) ignore the unifying field by constructing images of the other as a means for the end of confirming the distinct Western self, then, orientalism – or alterism – needs to be deconstructed for the sake of becoming aware of the motivations, interests, desires and wills at work. Indeed, the cultural self must become aware of the extent to which what it projects onto “the other” constructs the identity of this other. Orientalism is certainly a radicalism that seeks to identify differences by turning a blind eye on similarities. It is as such very questionable. But there is also the danger of falling into the kind of nihilism that reduces whatever identity to the effect of a one-sided construction that would otherwise be unsubstantial in itself.

Bringing cultural traditions East-West into dialogue thus rests on a premise that could be problematic regarding the validity of its identity claim. Beside the issue of ignoring the very unifying field that makes differences identifiable, as in the case of orientalism, there is also the related issue of the possibility of and justification for identifying cultural traditions, including philosophies, as if they were homogenous wholes. In fact, this issue applies to all entities that we attempt to identify and, indeed, all cultural configurations. How can we possibly identify a philosophical tradition as being either Eastern or Western, given the richness and variety of practices, interpretations and customs within the respective traditions? What is Western philosophy in itself? What is Western culture in itself? Said’s stance against orientalism suggested that, because of the hybridity of any cultural tradition not only across space but also across time, there was not such a thing as the so-called Orient in itself. If we follow this line of thought the same scepticism could then be applied to Western culture itself, to any cultural identity, to the identity of persons, to nature itself, to atoms and the universe. Of course and again, Said’s criticism of orientalism was directed against the cultural caricatures formulated across sections of Western culture, literature and politics – and his point was that the cultural differences were established in the image of the Western self instead of providing a true understanding of the variety and richness of oriental culture, which would, in fact, paradoxically disprove the existence of “the Orient” as a recognisable entity. 

Another example of validity in cultural scepticism could stem from the very question: what is authentic East-Asian philosophy and thought? Is it to be found in Confucianism? Taoism? Mohism? Legalism? Buddhism? Shinto? Is it to be located in the way Western philosophy ended up being reinterpreted and even “inculturated” in East Asian traditions? We can even keep asking the same type of questions by changing our plane of identity-quest by reducing the distance between the interpreter and the interpreted entity at stake. Where do we historically pin down Confucian philosophy? In Confucius’ Analects? In the works of Mencius, Xunzi, or Dong Zhongshu? In the Confucian Revival or Neo-Confucianism of medieval China that responded to Buddhism and Taoism? Just as there are temporal factors at work when validating an identity quest, there are also, amongst many others, spatial factors such as physical geographies. Where is Confucianism “truer”? In continental China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, or Vietnam? For many, these questions are irrelevant, just as it would be irrelevant to caricaturise Western and Eastern thought in a way that ignores the unifying field as well as the richness and complexity of entities, phenomena and trends whose recognisable identities are relative to time and space. Dichotomous conceptions encapsulated by Thorsten Pattberg speak for themselves: “The East-West dichotomy is a philosophical concept of ancient origin claiming that the two cultural hemispheres, East and West, developed diametrically opposed, one from the particular to the universal and the other from the universal to the particular; the East is more inductive while the West is more deductive. Together they form an equilibrium...” (The East-West Dichotomy, 2009). 

Any such East-West dichotomous thinking suffers from long distance and wide space, so to speak, in its self-reflexive accounts. Alan W. Watts, in the 1950s, depicted Western thought as being obsessed by the task of controlling by means of “reason” – controlling the to-be-known as much as controlling the knowing subject. The problem for Western thought was, as a result, its own ability and drive to control the environment as much as controlling itself. What Watts wanted us to believe was that, in the West, “‘to know’ really means to control; that is, to see how events may be fitted to consistent orders of words and symbols so that we may predict and govern their course.” (Essays and Lectures, 1953). Watts obviously put in the same bag the philosophical practices that run from Classical Greece to the nineteenth century. A tradition that, for him, could only end up in confusion and philosophical dead-ends simply because we cannot factually separate ourselves from the environment that we try to control, be it by means of reason. De facto, from the nineteenth century on Western philosophy – be it existentialism, phenomenology, poststructuralism, or reflections on language – did pay attention to the inexorability of our belonging to the world we seek to understand and the degree to which the subject plays a part when portraying such a world. For Watts, however, the point is to highlight contrasts with so-called oriental philosophies – Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism – which in his eyes appear to be “far less concerned with controlling the world,” finding quite absurd this idea of a universe dominated by human beings and nonsensical the notion of “conscious ego.”

Distinguishing ways of handling embodiment when it comes to philosophical practice becomes therefore an identity device used to label what is allegedly essentially Western, as opposed to essentially Eastern. Other identity devices include the belief in the idea of an already-created world waiting to be represented by the human mind; or the idea of a world as a matrix in a constant state of becoming of which human being is a very small part and within which knowledge and representation develop. The list is endless, and one does not need to be an expert in all of these philosophical and cultural traditions to realise what is at stake.   

If working out, establishing, and recognising identity trends East-West or any identity for that matter are questionable exercises, it is so only insofar as we ignore that validity in identification and therefore generalisation is relative to time and space, amongst others albeit fundamentally, and, again, to the unifying field that brings together the identifying self and the identified other. 

Tzvetan Todorov rightly pointed out that rejecting not only the validity but also the possibility of generalising from particulars and individual practices – in other words adopting a radical form of cultural nominalism – would prevent knowledge or even awareness of other cultures, values, practices and trends. In fact, such scepticism would prevent the very possibility of a form of renewing inter-cultural communication that rests on a dynamics of interplay between similarities and differences. The problem is not the formulation of identities, categories, essences, or general characters, but the lack of reflexivity when it comes to formulating, establishing and recognising the other’s identity. For example, the more spatiotemporal distance there is between the identifying self and the identified other, the more the act of identification says about the perspective of the identifying self. Above all, the problem is not the formulation of identities but what we do with them and for what purpose. The orientalist who focuses on differences by ignoring the unifying field between self and other not only precludes an ethical understanding of the other – an understanding that shows attentiveness to the other in all its hybridity and mutations – but also, and perhaps more fundamentally, the orientalist prevents the possibility of mutual cultural renewal. It is on the basis of an awareness of the rich and complex renewing interplay between differences and similarities at work when relating to entities seemingly outside of ourselves – the unfamiliar or the strange – that the relevance of the practice of the dialogue should be understood. This renewal is a relational movement that makes up the fullness and emptiness of cultural identity.

One philosophical movement that is both an example of such a dialogue – in this case with the Western philosophical tradition – and, on another level, a counter-example as a form of monologue that uses the discourse of authentic identity for instrumental reason, is the Kyoto School. Of course, just as Western orientalists run into problems when providing a homogenous picture of Eastern thought, cultures and traditions, there is in itself no justification for portraying monochromatically the different philosophies that come under the name of the Kyoto School. However, it can hardly be ignored that several members of the Kyoto School, including Nishitani Keiji, attempted to articulate a conception of authentic Japanese-ness derived from an alleged typical Asian conception by the name of “emptiness,” which found its completion in Zen Buddhism and whose sources could be traced back to Mahayana. Beside the fact that a good deal of historicity is needed to understand the reasons behind this motivation – i.e., to counter-balance in the first half of the twentieth century the overwhelming impact of Western culture, values, thought, philosophy of being and substance as well as the West’s own modern counter reaction in the form of subversive nihilism – the very attempt to focus on the concept of emptiness as an essential difference is to ignore the unifying field; it basically amounts to turning orientalism upside down. Whether historicity is a legitimate justification for such a motivation unavoidably sparked heated debates between neo-Marxist critics of the Kyoto School and philosophers such as Graham Parkes, who qualified the motivation “a putative fascism.” Then, the other side of the Kyoto School is truly dialogical: its constant drive to enter in conversation with philosophical traditions from other parts of the world (such as French metaphysics, British empiricism, German idealism, Marxism, or phenomenology) through the lens of their own traditions (be they Buddhist, Taoist or Confucian) leading to renewed dynamics of similarities and differences – something that the West has never truly undertaken, apart from a few isolated cases. After all, as Bret W. Davis puts it, “Only Westerners have the apparent luxury – which may in fact all too easily become an intellectual blindfold – of ignoring other traditions of thought” (Japanese and Continental Philosophy, 2011). Perhaps, then, we would be wise to simply bear in mind that, in Hinduist thinker Swami Krishnananda’s words, “[k]nowledge is neither Western nor Eastern, but universal” (Studies in Comparative Philosophy, 2016) – a universality that is the very condition for the possibility of difference and therefore renewal.  

There is of course an array of ways of understanding and handling the interplay between cultural differences and similarities; some are descriptive, others are critical, some are comparative, and others are hermeneutical or more dialogical. The contributors to this journal issue offer a great variety of both topics and methods. In whatever case, they all engage in their own ways with the topic of Eastern and Western thought in dialogue.

Tiziano Tosolini reflects on the concept of time in specific aspects of Japanese cultural practices from the philosophical perspective of the theories of Mircea Eliade, Arnold van Gennep and Victor Turner, with particular reference to rites, celebrations and festivals. Tanehisa Otabe’s “An Iroquois in Paris and a Crusoe on a Desert Island” shows how one of the greatest Western philosophers, Immanuel Kant, saw in the figure of the non-Western alleged savage the ability to be genuinely critical of “civilised” Western societies and their moral standards. Anne Cheng’s “Is the Dialogue of Cultures a Contemporary Myth?” brings back the question of orientalism by questioning the alterist premise that still motivates particular types of comparative studies; those that, for example, locate the essence of Chinese philosophies in Ancient China in comparison with “the wise men of Ancient Greece.” Wangheng Chen offers a comparative study from within the tradition of Chinese aesthetics. His “interpretative encounter” between Taoism and Confucianism expounds the interplay at work between similarities and differences by focusing on “three fundamentals of Chinese aesthetics: beauty, feeling of beauty, and artistic image.” Kanchana Mahadevan reflects on the topicality of a dialogue between Michel Foucault’s and Partha Chatterjee’s interpretations of Kant’s conception of “Enlightenment” in order to provide a better understanding of the condition of women within the context of colonised India and its aftermath. Another mode of encounter between two traditions of thought is Martin Ovens’ “Resemblance, Resonance and Reconstitution.” Ovens uses a phenomenological approach to describe aspects of Śaṃkara’s Advaita Vedānta and “creative scepticism” sourced in Pyrrhonism in order to discern “possible and potential relationships between them.” Finally, the journal issue ends with a book review by Robert Clarke of Lin Ma and Jaap van Brakel’s Fundamentals of Comparative and Intercultural Philosophy (2016).

As ever, my words of gratitude go to all the authors of this issue for their tremendous contribution to the field of intercultural philosophy and the debate about the possibility and relevance of the dialogue between traditions of thought. I would also like to express all my thanks to our editorial team, members and anonymous reviewers without whom Culture and Dialogue would not survive. Finally, we are very pleased to announce that Erika Mandarino from Tulane University, in New Orleans, has joined our team as Manuscript Editor. Her appointment comes in effect for the publication of Volume 6 Issue 2, which will focus on “dialogue and globalisation.” 

Gerald Cipriani


HISTORY AND DIALOGUE                                                                                                                                           Purchase

                                                                                                                                                                           Culture and Dialogue, Vol. 5, No. 2, 2017, pp. 155-256


Volume 5 Issue 2 of Culture and Dialogue is devoted to the theme of “history and dialogue,” that is, to particular ways of relating to a more or less distant past for the sake of understanding and renewal.                     

Gone are the days of naivety that made world history follow the course of Reason or other totalising teleological ideals. Gone should be the days that reduce history to logical orders based on causation that could be worked out, for example, by imagining counterfactuals. Should history, then, amount to subjectivity alone or, for that matter, inter-subjectivity? Such a radicalism could be equally ethically unbalanced. Historical truth is neither reality nor interpretation. Historical truth has a physicality permeated by the singularity of the onlooker, with various degrees of emphasis depending on the physical intensity or the subjective will. A war, for example, imposes itself as historical tragedy because of, among other factors, the physical harm caused and the space and time it takes. But even in such a case, the significance of a war calls for subjective interpretation, which inevitably carries its load of moral values, political judgements and other motivations. The nexus between physical reality and interpretative singularity at the heart of historical truth is, needless to say, immensely complex and takes different shapes depending on physical and cultural circumstances. There is, however, a mutually creative determining dynamics at work between the physicality of historical truth and its interpretation, as if the former empties the latter, which, in turn, establishes the significance of an event by projecting values onto it or analysing causal relationships outside of itself. In this sense, the physical reality of historical truth is the place of the interpreting subject as much as the latter is the place of the former, as paradoxical as it may sound. The historian who looks at a human predicament is already shedding a new light on his or her conception of what constitutes such a reality. Vice versa, each time the reality looks in the eyes of the historian, interpretation takes place and is renewed. Such is the dialogical nature of historical truth. 

The selection of essays of the current issue reflects in one way or another the dialogical nature of historical truth, either through analyses of particular case studies or in general terms. Laura Candiotto offers an example of how a particular form of dialogical quest – the Socratic dialogue – can be used to avert the tragedies that have partly shaped the history of humanity and, more specifically, the rise of Nazism. The dialogue is then akin to “political action” in the face of history and toward a more human future. Elisa Freschi, Elise Coquereau and Muzaffar Ali reflect on the way Daya Krishna incorporated in his own philosophy some dialogical features of classical Indian philosophy and on the subsequent impact on contemporary Indian philosophy. Arup Jyoti Sarma reappraises the question of historical understanding and, in particular, Hans-Georg Gadamer’s idea of dialogical “play” at work in interpretative experience. Natan Elgabsi offers an expository account of a neglected aspect of the work of historian Marc Bloch on the nature of “historical understanding” and the possibility of “understanding other worlds in their own terms.” Dimitri Spivak closes the discussion by highlighting or, for many of us, recalling the centrality of the idea of intercultural dialogue within the UNESCO and with particular relevance to “cultural heritage,” its possibilities, and its difficulties. 

As the Editor in Chief of Culture and Dialogue, I would like to express my thanks to my editorial colleagues, Martin Ovens, Loni Reynolds and Robert Clarke, all the Editorial Board members for their continuous support and trust, as well as all the generous anonymous reviewers whose scholarship and expertise are of the essence to guarantee the academic standard of the Journal. Finally, my words of gratitude equally go to the contributors who accepted so diligently our editorial work. This is also a form of understanding that is part of the dialogical “play.”

Gerald Cipriani



155-156        Editorial: History and Dialogue       

                      Gerald Cipriani 

157-172        Socratic Dialogue Faces the History: 

                      Dialogical Inquiry as Philosophical and Politically Engaged Way of Life        

                      Laura Candiotto 

173-209        Rethinking Classical Dialectical Traditions: 

                     Daya Krishna on Counterposition and Dialogue        

                     Elisa Freschi, Elise Coquereau and Muzaffar Ali 

210-222        Self-Other Relationship, History and Interpretation: A Gadamerian Perspective       

                     Arup Jyoti Sarma 

223-241        The Ethical Presupposition of Historical Understanding: 

                      Investigating Marc Bloch’s Methodology        

                      Natan Elgabsi 

242-252        Dialogue and Heritage in the Cultural Strategy of unesco: A Brief Overview        

                     Dimitri Spivak 

Book Review

253-255        Carl Seelig, Walks with Robert Walser (trans. Anne Posten)      

                     Robert Clarke 




Guest Co-Editor: Kinya Nishi (Konan University, Japan) 
Bilingual Issue English-Japanese
Culture and Dialogue, Vol. 5, No. 1, 2017, pp.1-6

It is with great sadness that we learned that our Honorary Member Tzvetan Todorov passed away on the 7th February 2017. Professor Todorov had been supportive of the Culture and Dialogueproject from the outset. As a historian, philosopher, aesthetician, and literary critic he witnessed and reflected upon many of the good and bad things our modern world offered – and continues to offer. In one way or another the nature and possibility of the dialogue was always for him a central question to address, should we take the time and the trouble to think of how to bring out the best in the human condition. One thing that the cycles of life cannot take away from us is learning from the spirit of the dialogue that Tzvetan Todorov conveyed. The cruelty of death will never prevent us from transmitting to our fellow human beings what he called “that fragile legacy, those words that help us live a better life.”  

            Faithful to this spirit we are devoting Volume 5 Issue 1 of the Journal to the theme of “culture and the environment,” following an international forum that we organised back in the summer 2015 at Etchigo-Tsumari Art Field, near Niigata, Japan. This is a uniquely bilingual, English-Japanese issue, and, speaking here as the Editor in Chief of the Journal, we are most honoured that Kinya Nishi, Professor of Aesthetics and Philosophy at Konan University, Kobe, accepted our invitation to be our Guest Co-Editor. 

            Only in the relatively recent past has humanity felt worldwide the growing urge to rethink the way we relate to the environment. The human environment has been deeply affected by socio-economic factors of all kinds, by new techniques to maximize information and transportation efficiency, and by the need to be more competitive than our fellow human beings in order to survive (at least in market-oriented societies). The built environment has very much embodied these mutations through architecture and urban developments, impacting thus on human relationships as never before and using natural resources perhaps past the point of no return. Whether the environment is human, built or natural, there is, it seems, a vital need to re-establish the dialogue between usand it

            Etchigo-Tsumari Art Field is a worldwide known site that endeavours not only to preserve but also foster and renew the dialogue between ourselves and our environments; it is a site where, at best, art, local communities and nature mingle into each other for a more considerate relationship with and renewed understanding of our environments. 

            On the occasion of the Triennale 2015 a group of scholars from different horizons gathered at a forum organised on-site and entitled “In-Dialogue: Culture and the Environment” to present and exchange ideas about the different ways culture relates to the environment, whether human, built, or natural. The forum was endorsed by the International Research Group for Culture and Dialogueand the Japanese Society for Aesthetics

            Above all, we are indebted to Etchigo-Tsumari Art Field founder and organiser Fram Kitagawa and, in particular,curator Rei Maeda.Without her the forum, the visits and all the exchanges that took place with local people, artists and participants would not have been possible. The students who helped run the forum equally deserve special praise. A special thanks must likewise go to Mami Aota for the efforts she put into translating the abstracts of the presentations into Japanese, and to Hiroshi Yoshioka, Kinya Nishi, and Amiko Matsuo for providing instantaneous translation – an ever-perilous exercise. Finally and worthy of notice for what has nowadays become a rarefied form of human agency, all invited speakers accepted to take part and contribute on good will: Amiko Matsuo (California State University), Wu Mali (National Kaohsiung Normal University), Brad Monsma (California State University), Hiroshi Yoshioka (Kyoto University), Laura Fisher (The University of Sydney), Wei Hsiu Tung (National University of Tainan), Kinya Nishi (Konan University), Clélia Zernik (École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts de Paris), andMami Aota (The University of Tokyo).

            Whether in relation to Etchigo-Tsumari Art Field, other similar projects in environmental and community art, or simply more universally from philosophical, anthropological, or sociological perspectives, topics presented and discussed at the forum spanned cultural identity, memory, communication, place, creativity, and economic factors – all of which are vital ingredients for the survival of communities.  These burgeoning ideas make up the core of the present issue of Culture and Dialogue.

            Echigo-Tsumari Art Field was therefore more than a simple opportunity to exchange ideas about the environment, be it natural, built, or human, and environmental issues. The site is an appeal that calls for a response: it has given us the opportunity to reflect on how art makes us become aware of what is at stake when we relate to our environment – and how to improve such a relationship. In their own way all contributors are addressing such issues, whether in relation to Etchigo-Tsumari Art Field, other artistic residencies and community art practices, or simply through the lenses of literature and philosophy.

            In his opening essay Kinya Nishi addresses the evolution of the perception of nature in Japan from the perspective of literature and, in particular, Matsuo Basho’s poetry. The three following essays focus specifically on the aesthetics of Etchigo-Tsumari Art Field:Amiko Matsuo discussesFram Kitagawa’s conception of “cultural revitalization through the visual arts”; Brad Monsma offers an interpretation based on ideas of “assemblage” and “agency”; Carmela Cucuzzella and Paul Shrivastava highlight the regenerative and developmental dimension of Etchigo-Tsumari Art Field. From a different geographical and cultural perspective Laura Fisher addresses similar environmental issues at the crossroad between aesthetics, anthropology and ecology by considering two art projects set in Australia: Sugar vs the Reef?and The Yeomans Project. Mami Aota closes the discussion by reminding us of the relevance of the beautiful when it comes to considering the natural environment; the question of whether our aesthetic appreciation of nature pertains to artistic beauty becomes therefore fundamental. We are also welcoming a topical book review by John Rippey on Fram Kitagawa’s Art Place Japan: The Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale and the Vision to Reconnect Art and Nature(trans. Amiko Matsuo and Brad Monsma, 2015). 

            This bilingual issue in English and Japanese would not have seen the light of day without the tremendous work of our translators: Masanobu Matsuo and Izu Matsuo; graduate students Rie Kodera (Kyoto University), Mami Aota (The University of Tokyo), and Eiko Mitsunaga (Kyoto University).     

            Finally and as ever, we would like to thank our editorial team and all our Board members for the vital support and encouragements they give to the Journal.


                                                            Gerald Cipriani and Kinya Nishi











 したがって、越後妻有アートフィールドは、自然であれ造られたものであれ環境や環境問題に関して単に意見交換をおこなう好機という以上のものであった。その現場は、応答を求める一つの呼びかけであったのだ。我々が環境に関わるときに問題となるものを芸術がいかにして意識させてくれるか、またその関係をより良いものにするにはどうしたらよいか、そうしたことを反省する機会を、この現場が与えてくれたのである。寄稿者は —— 越後妻有アートフィールドに関わるもの、他のアート・イン・レジデンスやアート実践に関わるもの、さらに文学や哲学のレンズを通して論じるものなど —— それぞれの仕方で、こうした問題にアプローチしている。

 冒頭のエッセイにおいて、西欣也はとりわけ松尾芭蕉の文学の観点から日本における自然知覚の変容を扱っている。これに続く3本のエッセイは、越後妻有アートフィールドの美学に特に注目している。松尾亜実子氏は「視覚芸術による文化的再生」という北川フラム氏の考え方を論じている。ブラッド・モンスマ氏は、「集合体」および「主体」という概念に基づいた解釈を与えてくれる。カーメラ・ククゼラ氏とポール・シュリヴァストラヴァ氏は、越後妻有アートフィールドの再生的・開発的な側面を強調している。これとは異なる地理と文化上の視点から、ローラ・フィッシャー氏は、「サトウ対サンゴ?」および「ヨーマン・プロジェクト」という、オーストラリアで実施された二つのアート・プロジェクトを考察することで、美学と人類学と生態学の交わる点における環境の問題を扱っている。一連の論考の締めくくりとなる青田麻未氏の論文は、自然環境を考える際の「美しいもの」の重要性を思い起こさせてくれる。自然の美的観照が芸術美にも適合するのかどうかという問いが、そこでは根元的な意味を持つ。また我々は、ジョン・リッピー氏が本誌に売ってつけの書評(北川フラム著、松尾亜実子、ブラッド・モンスマ訳『アート・プレイス・ジャパン ——越後妻有アート・トリエンナーレそして芸術と自然を再びつなぐための思想』、2015年)を寄稿されたことを喜びとしたい。





西 欣也


日本語訳:西 欣也


INTERPRETATION AND DIALOGUE                                                                                                                   Purchase
Culture and Dialogue, Vol. 4, No. 2, 2016, pp. 223-224


Volume 4 closes with an issue on “dialogue and interpretation.” The Latin etymology of the word, interpretari, already contained elements of what we usually mean nowadays by interpreting something: clarifying, explaining, understanding, or even translating. Of course, interpretation also came to designate the transmission, expression, or embodiment of meaning found in messages of all kinds; the artist can interpret the world as much as the musician a piece of music or the actor a play. To interpret, in other words, is not always about ascribing meaning to something at a distance; it can also be about incarnating the meaning of the world, a musical piece, or a play. Depending on schools of philosophy, cultures and historical periods, emphases have fluctuated between the objective, subjective, and experiential natures of interpretation. Each of these different emphases has been determined by how the interpreter relates to the interpreted and, needless to say, by the ethical validity individuals, communities, systems, ideologies, cultures, or periods see in the act of interpretation. In any case, whether interpretation incarnates the revelation of being or attempts to retrieve the alleged original meaning of messages or the true nature of things; whether interpretation is a means by which the interpreter expresses his or her subjectivity or relives the experience of the world of the interpreted, interpretation is inherently relational. In that sense, interpretation is not only an essential element of conscious life; it shapes the way we relate to worlds, whether in space or time, whether human or natural. By doing so, interpretation shapes self and worlds. I interpret therefore we are. The relevance of “interpretation” as a theme to Culture and Dialogue is therefore self-evident: the act of “inter-preting” involves “between-ness.”

Each contribution in this issue of the Journal discusses, analyses, describes, or provides examples of the fundamental of interpretative “between-ness” at work. Nicholas Davey’s opening essay draws critically from Hans-Georg Gadamer’s conception of the “in-between” to formulate an understanding of hermeneutics as practice “between faith and reason.” Laura Di Summa-Knoop discusses a form of “missing dialogue” between contemporary art and philosophy by focusing on three interpretative aspects of artistic experience today: its “enactive accounts,” the “ethical content of artworks,” and the influence of “the art market” on artistic appreciation. Alexander Naraniecki bridges science and art by showing how Karl Popper’s “later writings on evolutionary epistemology and theory of objective knowledge” can renew our understanding of artistic creativity. Inspired by Krishnachandra Bhattacharyya’s “improvisations” from his reading and understanding of classical Indian texts and thought, Daniel Raveh provides an example of interpretative “in-between” at work by “interfering creatively” with Milan Kundera’s novel Slowness through the lens of poets and thinkers from ancient and contemporary India alike. Jonathan Day questions the relevance of Immanuel Kant’s account of judgement of beauty to understand the inherently ineffable nature of aesthetic experience as found in interpretative practices such as Zen writing, composition, musical improvisation and jazz. The two last essays of this issue of the Journal explore in different ways the metaphysics and ethics of translation as interpretation. Yong Zhong provides a detailed analysis of how the concept of “discourse” was introduced and translated into Chinese. The ensuing problems of interpretative inadequacy, Zhong argues, can only be addressed by adopting “an informed strategy” when it comes to translating such Western critical cultural concepts in the Chinese language. Validity in types of interpretation is also what Takeshi Morisato tackles by introducing the thought of Kyoto School philosopher Miki Kiyoshi on translation and understanding in the context of modern Japan. Morisato also offers the first English translation ever of Miki’s text “Disregarded Translation.” Finally, Robert Clarke reviews the recent publication of another form of interpretative journey, that of Stephen Pax Leonard in The Polar North: Ways of Speaking, Ways of Belonging (2014).

As usual, I would like to thank again my editorial colleagues, Martin Ovens and Loni Reynolds, as well as all the scholars who accepted to review the contributions that make up this issue, and the members of the Board for their continuous patience, support and trust. 

Gerald Cipriani



223            Editorial

                            Gerald Cipriani

          225            Hermeneutics: Between Faith and Reason
                            Nicholas Davey  

          246            Art Today and Philosophical Aesthetics: A Missing Dialogue
                             Laura T. Di Summa-Knoop 

          263            Karl Popper on the Unknown Logic of Artistic Production and Creative Discovery
                            Alexander Naraniecki 

          283             A Short Improvisation on Milan Kundera's Slowness
                             Daniel Raveh 

          301             Jazz, Kant and Zen: The Philosophy of Improvisation
                             Jonathan Day 

          317             Becoming Equivalent: Tracking the Chinese Renditions of “Discourse”
                             Yong Zhong 

          338              Miki Kiyoshi and Interpretation: An Introduction to “Disregarded Translations”
                              Takeshi Morisato

          349              Book Review
                              Stephen Pax Leonard, The Polar North: Ways of Speaking, Ways of Belonging   
                              Reviewed by Robert Clarke


CULTURE, SCIENCE AND DIALOGUE                                                                                                                    Purchase

Guest Editor: Martin Ovens (University of Oxford)                                                                                                                                                         

Culture and Dialogue, Vol. 4, No. 1, 2016, pp. 1-2


Culture and Dialogue was launched in 2011, at the time of the Arab Spring and the devastating tsunami in Japan. Both events reminded us in different ways of how hope and reality are the cornerstones of both suffering and the happy life. They were also telling reminders of the extent to which suffering and happiness are the forms of our relationship to otherness, be it our fellow human beings or nature. In other words, the states we live in or that we see are relational forms whose existence depends thus on a sort of movement of vacuity embedded (or not) with ethical concerns – a  mutual emptying that lets the appearance of things. This movement can be found and nurtured in the dialogue. 

From the outset, Culture and Dialogue has aimed to show and discuss the different relational forms such a movement of vacuity could take within specific fields such as culture, philosophy, religion, or politics. The Journal originally intended to be inter-disciplinary with “dialogue” as topic or method of investigation defining its identity. In point of fact, a substantial number of submissions came from philosophy, and it became increasingly obvious that the scope of the Journal would have to be redefined in terms of “cross-cultural philosophy and arts.” More than a simple semantic exercise, this new description reflects the cross-cultural philosophical emphasis while leaving the door open for inter-disciplinary approaches. Unquestionably, this requalification is giving a more direct and specific indication of what the journal is all about: a forum for researchers from philosophy as well as other disciplines, who study cultural formations dialogically, through comparative analysis, or within the tradition of hermeneutics.        

Volume 4 Number 1 is a special issue that focuses on the theme of “culture, science and dialogue.” Martin Ovens, from the University of Oxford, enthusiastically accepted the invitation to be the Guest Editor of this issue. His Introduction provides an insightful explanation of the various ways science and culture can be dialogically related as evidenced by each contribution: Masato Mitsuda explores how Zen and mathematics relate to each other through the work of renowned Indian mathematician Rāmānujan. Paul Ernest shows the extent to which mathematics is pervaded by cultural values such as human imagination and dialogue. Rossella Lupacchini demonstrates how “artificial perspective” in the visual arts embodies the ideal character of Euclidean geometry. Anne Silk stresses the importance of bearing in mind that observable phenomena, scientific knowledge and culture are intrinsically related to each other. Michael Johnson, by reflecting on the limits of knowledge, equally shows the close relationships between imagination, culture, technology, and the laws of physics. Martin Sahlén’s insistence that “good” models of the universe favoured by modern scientific cosmology are conventionally chosen binds the sciences and culture together. Elías Manuel Capriles brings the discussion to a different dialogical level by relying on the Mahāyāna Buddhist conception of epistemological delusion to explain how modern science has inexorably begotten a “deadly ecological crisis.” Stephen R. Palmquist justifies the dialogue between “opposing perspectives” by referring to Kant’s critical philosophy and the “mind-body problem.” Finally, Yvonne Greene provides us with “a new perspective on a very ancient and much misunderstood subject”: astrology – a subject that has, perhaps, always dialogically oscillated between belief and science.

Our words of thanks must go to Martin Ovens for his wonderful selection of essays; each of our contributors for bringing us to unknown territories and shaking our certainties; and of course our editorial team without whom the Journal would not run, in particular Rachel Coventry and David Beirne for the editorial assistantship they provided for this special issue.

Gerald Cipriani


1                Editorial
                            Gerald Cipriani

          3                Introduction: Culture, Science and Dialogue
                            Martin Ovens  

         25               Zen, Mathematics, and Rāmānujan: Uncommon Links 
                            Masato Mitsuda

         48               Values and Mathematics: Overt and Covert
                            Paul Ernest

         83               Ways of Abstraction – Artistic Vision and the “Ideality” of Mathematics
                            Rossella Lupacchini

         113             The Physics of Belief and the Beautiful Brain
                            Anne Silk  

         143             The Limits to Knowledge                       
                            Michael Johnson

         152              Which is the Best Model of the Universe?
                             Martin Sahlén

         170              Buddhist Epistemology and Western Philosophy of Science –
                             Toward a Synthesis Responding to the Current Predicament of Humankind
                             Elías Manuel Capriles 

         194              Kant’s Perspectival Solution to the Mind-Body Problem – 
                             Or, Why Eliminative Materialists Must Be Kantians
                             Stephen R. Palmquist 

         214              Astrology: Beyond Belief
                             Yvonne Greene


IDENTITY AND DIALOGUE                                                                                                                                       Purchase
Culture and Dialogue, Vol. 3, No. 2, 2013, pp. 1-2


Volume 3 Number 2 of Culture and Dialogue focuses on the theme of “identity and dialogue.” The question of identity formation is a very sensitive one, very often because it is misunderstood or intentionally misused. The idea of identity is too frequently used as a political weapon for cultural domination. In other circumstances, however, it can simply be a means for recognition and therefore for survival under the threat of the dominant culture. Thus, the difficult question is not so much What is identity? but rather What should we do with identity? Or, to put it in more philosophical terms, Shouldn’t questions appertaining to the metaphysics of identity give way to questions about its ethical condition? In a sense, identity is no more than a device that enables us to come close to perceiving the unperceivable, the in-itself of things, or, simply, the inner self. We assume that this perceptual device is as identical as one can possibly imagine to the inner nature of things or the inner self of persons. Hence, the too often misguided argument against any attempt to work out what identity is: as inner selves and things in-themselves cannot be grasped since they are no more than forms of motivation, desire, or will – the argument goes – it is pointless to seek to pin identity down. Still, if identity amounts indeed to no more than wrapped up emptiness, life without identity amounts to emptiness without form – in other words, meaninglessness. There is no inner nature of identity, only lenses that enable us to see more clearly what is in-itself blurred or unsubstantial, what is felt density or dilation, or, even further, emptiness. In actual facts, the only possible in-itself is emptiness, and human beings have found different ways to handle the matter. The worst-case scenario shows individuals, groups, or even nations impose their own lenses onto others to be seen more clearly, or simply for everyone to identify the same thing. The alleged wonders of cultural identity as such for the sake of particularity, homogeneity, or communicative harmony become the will to power at work, thus ignoring the mutually enriching relational dynamics between Self and Otherness. This is where metaphysics becomes irrelevant and gives way to ethics. To use cultural identity as a means for an end is always the symptom of an unbalance between differences. Opulence and survival become, in this case, the two poles of the struggle for identity – the latter very often ensuing from the former. In any respect, what human beings have been capable of in the course of history for the sake of identity is quite baffling. The drive has been either to achieve sameness, or else to preserve uniqueness – in many cases with destructive effects. There is no meaningful life without identity, but unless we understand that the existence of identities depends on our ability and willingness to be renewed from each other, in dialogue, there will be coercion, intolerance and conflicts. Needless to say, this dialogical way needs time to be learned and practised, an increasing challenge for all of us in a techno-world where speed and forgetfulness leave little room for memory, protension, and therefore attentiveness.

This number of Culture and Dialogue brings together a variety of essays addressing issues of identity with concrete examples and from different perspectives, be they art, philosophy, politics, religion, gender, or ethnic studies. All essays describe and question the relational element at work in identity formation within different cultural contexts, such as Japan, America, Corsica, Mongolia, Norway, Australia, Italy, and Ireland. Hiroshi Yoshioka offers a topical critique of what lays behind the fashionable self-portrait of Japanese cultural identity as Cool Japan in all its uniqueness. Sandra Wawrytko addresses the sensitive issue of gun culture in American identity by resorting to Mahāyāna Buddhist conceptions of failed interconnectedness. Dominique Verdoni discusses cultural identity formation with particular reference to the Corsican language and literature against the background of more dominant or regulating cultures. Angelika Böck shows how art practice can disclose the processes involved in any attempts to represent otherness, including when different groups such as Mongolian herders, Sami singers, and Australian Aboriginal hunters use other cultural codes and perspectives. Francesca Pierini critically reflects upon culturally biased ways Anglo-American literature has traditionally portrayed Italian culture – an orientalised imagined identity. The selection of essays closes with Hannah Hale’s study on a very specific aspect of gender identity formation: how eating and drinking habits shape the development of masculinities within a community of students. All essays, in one way or another, disclose how identity formation is conditioned by, or emerges from, relationships between self and otherness, inside and outside, or minor and dominant cultures. As paradoxical as it may seem, the more we relate to each other the more identity becomes an issue.

I would like to thank all the contributors to this number on identity and dialogue for the richness of their interpretations and for the variety of perspectives they have brought in. I am also grateful for their responsiveness and reliability, two increasingly rarefied human characteristics. Furthermore, the Journal is pleased to welcome our new Assistant Editors, Loni Reynolds and David Beirne, as well as our new Copy Editor, Rachel Coventry. As the Journal grows in strength and size more support is naturally needed; our new editors have kindly accepted to offer their help, thus adding to the precious expertise that our existing Editorial Assistant, Jon Shaw, is already providing. The work that our editorial team as a whole has already achieved for this particular number – whether in the form of critical comments, suggestions, corrections, or formatting – can only be praised.

Gerald Cipriani


1                Editorial
                            Gerald Cipriani

          3                After “Cool Japan”: A Study on Cultural Nationalism
                            Hiroshi Yoshioka 

         13               American Identity and American Gun Culture: A Buddhist Deconstruction
                            Sandra A. Wawrytko

         29               Cultural Production in the Corsican Language: An Identity Field in the Making 
                            Dominique Verdoni

         37               Portrait as Dialogue: Exercising the Dialogical Self               

                            Angelika Böck

         53               Anglo-American Narratives of Italian Otherness and the Politics of Orientalizing Southern                         
                            Francesca Pierini                                                                                                                           

         71               “Manly” Drinks and Secretive Cooks: On the Development of Students’ Gendered            


                            Hannah Hale                                                                                                                                                                      


SPECIAL ISSUE:  RELIGION AND DIALOGUE                                                                                       Purchase

Guest Editor: Cosimo Zene (SOAS, University of London)            

Culture and Dialogue, Vol. 3, No. 1, 2013, pp. 1-2


Vol.3, No.1 of Culture and Dialogue is a Special Issue in many ways.

This issue marks the takeover by a new publisher. Because of contractual constraints and practical reasons the decision was made to continue our journey with Cambridge Scholars Publishing, whose great enthusiasm foreshadows a bright future for the journal. Our words of thanks, however, must also go to Airiti Press without which the journal would not have seen the light of day. We are indebted to Airiti Press for having invested into the launch of a new journal, with all the risks entailed, and for their dedicated hard work. We are most grateful for this. 

The Journal was officially launched in March 2011 and has since produced four issues, all of which focusing on a particular facet of dialogical practice within the field of culture, be it philosophy, art, or politics. Forthcoming issues will offer platforms to explore how dialogue impacts on the shaping of identity, aesthetic meaning, and historical significance. One issue will also de devoted to how dialogue manifests itself in language. This brings us to autumn 2015, after which other pressing themes will, no doubt, be proposed and treated.         

In whatever case, the thread remains the cultural forms of dialogue; many of us know how critical ignorance about the nature of the dialogue can be, in all fields, at all levels. Argentinian poet Antonio Porchia once wrote that “To be someone is solitude.” Any self-felt genius or world-leading mortal will identify with this. The solitude at stake is that of the one who fails to link with others, or an Other, by denying the possibility to relinquish some of him or herself. In fact, the true someone is never alone; the true someone never leads. This is the message Culture and Dialogue is striving to convey, express, or analyse in its various forms across the humanities, the arts, and the social sciences. Beside, the Journal has always sought, when possible, to preserve a certain spirit of writing in addition to academic rigour and creativity – a spirit that is undeniably fading in the midst of the publish or perish ethos adopted by advanced techno-capitalist systems of education in some parts of the world.

Vol.3, No.1 is a Special Issue devoted to the theme of “religion and dialogue.” Cosimo Zene, of the School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London, kindly accepted our invitation to be the Guest Editor, and our words of thanks must first go to him. Cosimo has managed to bring together a range of outstanding essays of which the Journal can only be proud. To various degrees and in different ways all essays discuss dialogue and religion, or show dialogue at work in religious studies. We are most grateful to all the authors who generously contributed to this Special Issue and therefore to the life of the Journal; in alphabetical order, T.H. Barrett, Stephen Chan, Jan-Peter Hartung, Sîan Hawthorne, Catherine Heszer, Tullio Lobetti, Theodore Proferes, and Cosimo Zene.

Finally and as ever, many thanks to our Assistant Editor, Jon K. Shaw, for the great work he did, his attention to detail, and above all his reliability.

Gerald Cipriani


              1               Editorial
                           Gerald Cipriani

           3              Introduction   
                           Cosimo Zene

         10              Deqing and Daoism: A View of Dialogue and Translation from Late Ming China   
                           Tim H. Barrett

        23                Dialogue with a Devious Divinity: Sovereignty, Kinship, and Kṛṣṇa’s Ethics in the


                            Theodore Proferes

         48               Freak, not Sage: An Exploration into Freakishness in Modern Jewish Culture        
                            Catherine Hezser

         69               The Limits of the Dialogical: Thoughts on Muslim Patterns of In- and Exclusion   
                            Jan-Peter Hartung

         91             Trauma, Dislocation, and Lived Fear in the Postsecular World: Towards a First                                                                
                            Methodological Checklist
                    Stephen Chan

       104               The Pietas of Doubt: Dialogue, Consciousness and Weak Thought  
                            Tullio Lobetti

       122                An Outlaw Ethics for the Study of Religions: 
                             Maternality and the Dialogic Subject in Julia Kristeva’s “Stabat Mater”
                             Sîan Hawthorne

       147                The Challenge of Critical Dialogue and the Study of Religions         
                             Cosimo Zene


POLITICS AND DIALOGUE                                                                                          

Culture and Dialogue, Vol. 2, No. 2, 2012, pp. 1-4



“We have a double responsibility: to explore the consequences of a radical nihilism, and to try to recover the nostalgia for unity, justice, and earth. On the whole, more artistic and philosophical effort has been spent on the first, and too little on the second.”

    Thus spoke Ralph Harper in The Seventh Solitude (1965). Whether the plague of radical nihilism has affected us equally all over the world is obviously questionable; whether there have ever been unity and justice in this world also remains to be seen. But there is some truth in Harper’s saying. Insofar as we understand unity as a binding in the making between differences and not as a totality of sameness; insofar as a just world means a place where we do all we can to eradicate absolute suffering; and insofar as to recover the nostalgia for earth means to be attentive again to what we belong, then, yes, there is perhaps nothing wiser than to acknowledge that we do have that responsibility. 

    In a democracy of some sort it is not only up to politicians and decision makers to create the right conditions that guaranty responsible freedom. Those who believe – or are made to believe – in a Guide who holds the key to resolving the problems of a broken world, injustice and the environment are either dangerous actors or innocent victims. The history of humanity and the present world are unfortunately replete with such examples. It is for each of us to act concretely by way of an innocence that overcomes the horror of the self and yet lets the person breathe; it is for each of us to find ways of channeling those energies without destroying the place where we live. No individual or politician has the power to create the best of all possible worlds. To believe so is simply to misunderstand what it means to be a person who lives in a community. The best of all possible worlds, as Vladimir Jankélévitch once wrote in Le Pardon (1967), is the least bad. It must be a world made for better things; it must be a world where people relate to each other as persons willing to relinquish part of themselves to be enriched by otherness; it must be a world where communities learn from each other, not in order to preserve themselves, but to be renewed by what will no longer be perceived as unwelcome or even simply unfamiliar. Needless to say, one of the conditions for such a world in the making is mutual trust, which itself very much depends on how life in the community is organized, or how communities are made to relate to each other. This is the stuff of political life to which, in an ideal world, every single person should be given the chance to contribute without fearing the diktat of correctness or being subdued by coercive force in whatever form and at all levels.

    The theme of Vol. 2 No. 2 is “politics and dialogue.” All essays touch upon political life from different angles and in different ways, directly or indirectly. Sadly, before the issue was released we lost one of our highly esteemed contributors, Goutam Biswas. Professor Biswas served as Dean of the School of Philosophy at Assam University, India. He was a renowned scholar of Rabindranath Tagore and Martin Buber, and was indeed well aware of what dialogue can do to improve existence, let alone preserve it. He was acquainted with Buber’s translator Maurice Friedman who, in a sad coincidence, also died in the autumn of this year. Goutam Biswas was also aware of the need to develop understanding across the narrow boundaries to which academic disciplines, be it philosophy, anthropology, or the arts, are too often confined. His Art as Dialogue, published in 1996, is certainly a major contribution in the field. The essay that he kindly wrote for the journal reminds us with great insight of the centrality of “dialogicality” when it comes to envisioning knowledge of humans by humans, including in the “realm” of socio-politics. Overlooking the way we relate to other people, communities, or even civilizations, can indeed lead to misunderstanding or, in the worse case, conflict.

    Günter Wohlfart’s lecture text shows the way by bringing face-to-face interpretations of peace and war from different philosophical horizons. Neither Immanuel Kant’s idea of “eternal peace” nor Heraclitus’ conception of war as “father of things” will save us from the predicament caused by conflicts. Neither “all-too-good pacifism” nor “outright bellicosity” is the way forward. Rather, we should learn how to relate to the “enemy” without fighting, as Sunzi’s Art of War suggests; a sharp topical lesson for international politics to bear in mind. 

    If it is clear that naïve pacifism can in the long run pave the way for more destruction and misery, the question of whether installing the ethos of dialogue by force could be justified in communities that do not have such a tradition is far from being straightforward. In other words, interventionism may not always be the best means for the good cause. And as far as political dialogue is concerned, the reasons may be historical, cultural, or even civilizational. What Yingchi Chu and Horst Ruthrof show in their essay is that “obstacles to the emergence of political dialogue in China” are not only due to the practice of the political regime of the time; they also and more profoundly find their origin in the cultural tradition of Confucianism and its belief in some form of obedience and normativity. Moreover, this rich essay raises the complex issue of the cultural justification of political practices that are un-dialogical.

    Acceptability or condemnation of practices in the name of universal value or cultural customs is precisely one of the fundamental issues that Ian Fraser addresses in his powerful critique of Amartya Sen’s interpretation and use of Adam Smith’s “impartial spectator” as moral regulator. Whether privileging the universalizing “distant voices” of conscience or “cultural relativism” is a question that cannot be answered by either “one-sidedness” or “ambivalence.” A better world, Fraser suggests, would be one where people listen to those “distance voices” … “but not to the detriment of a dialectical interplay between the different forms of the spectator.” This is perhaps what may be called a dialogical conscience that would be attentive to cultural particularities through constant questioning and self-questioning for the sake of our “common humanity.”

   The relational element is also at the heart of Nicole Hassoun’s and David B. Wong’s proposal for a better understanding and handling of cultural formations. They highlight a real problem that has too often shaped politics and therefore the ways cultures are seen. The decision to preserve a culture on the basis of some obscure (or too simplistic) idea of immutable and authentic essence is indeed a monological conception of culture that is generally politically motivated by self-interest, in other words for the wrong reasons. Hassoun and Wong acknowledge that, in the context of globalization, efforts to preserve particular cultures “against threats” can be justified. But it is equally vital to recognize that “the boundaries and the content of culture can and do change over time.” Their idea of “cultural conservation” does justice to motivations and elements that can be both internal and external to a particular culture. The concrete examples discussed offer wonderful evidence of how dialogical understanding can contribute to the “conservation” of cultures in formation.

    Lastly, I would like to thank all the authors who have made this issue of Culture and Dialogue possible and who have indeed creatively contributed to the conservation of the journal. As ever, many thanks to our Assistant Editor Jon K. Shaw for his faithful commitment as well as to our Copy Editor, Anita Chen, and the team at Airiti Press. Each of us has the responsibility to keep the dialogue alive, not for its own sake, but for a better life.

Gerald Cipriani


              1                 Editorial
                            Gerald Cipriani

           5               I and Thou – Philosophical Anthropology and Dialogicality in the Human Realms
                            Goutam Biswas

         23               Eternal Peace – Eternal War:  Some  Remarks on Kant, Heraclitus and Sunzi
                            Günter Wohlfart

         31               Cultural Obstacles to Political Dialogue in China
                            Yingchi Chu and Horst Ruthrof

         51               Distant Voices: Amartya Sen on Adam Smith’s Impartial Spectator
                            Ian Fraser

         73               Sustaining Cultures in the Face of Globalization
                            Nicole Hassoun and David B. Wong



Culture and Dialogue, Vol. 2, No. 1, 2012, pp. 1-2


          Vol. 2 No. 1 marks the first year anniversary of Culture and Dialogue. The number focuses on art, a world that is dialogical par excellence, even though, from time to time, forgetfulness justifies reminders.

        Artistic experience can be seen in many ways to be an affair of appeals and responses. The words of the poet or the sounds of the musician emerge from the invisible backgrounds of history, culture, and society to resonate both against and with the world of the one who is willing to listen. This resonance is the response that throws light on the words and sounds whose worlds become thereby apparent. In this sense, dialogue is the place of artistic experience. Even more, dialogue is what makes history, culture and society appear in a slightly different way each time the work of art calls for our readiness to be transformed by it. This availability, however, comes at a price; Nicholas Davey suggests in Unquiet Understanding (2006) that what we should be willing to risk in becoming open to each other, and therefore to other worlds, also implies that we accept to put ourselves in a difficult position. This is indeed a fundamental condition for dialogue to be a renewing experience. But for dialogue to remain healthy, it must rely on a principle of reciprocal freedom and trust – the only shields against coercion and meaninglessness. Moreover, some have seen in dialogue nothing but a good will hiding a disguised form of instrumental reason. This is perhaps the crux of the misunderstanding, for the prose of the world is the voice of dialogue.

           The resonance at stake is first expressed in Sonia Weiner’s essay that brings into dialogue Daya Krishna’s alternative conception of knowledge against postmodern trends and Vikas Swarup’s novel Q & A, published in 2005. Weiner’s insightful study shows how the thinker’s reflection can speak through the writing of the novelist, and vice versa. The second essay by Robert Clarke describes with beautiful words how a non- dual conception of dialogue between theory and practice can depict the flowing stream of artistic creativity. Feng Su’s study on cloud imagery in the Mao Zedong era offers another revealing example of the vital need to understand the creative nature of dialogue – and the way it can be manipulated by ideology – in this case between painting and historical tradition. Paul Gladston’s idea of polylogue between international postmodern thought and Chinese contemporary culture proves with impressive scholarship how multiple dialogical resonances do not need to degenerate into a cacophony of meaningless relativism. Erkki Huovinen puts forward in sharp conceptual terms the innovative idea of dialogical anthropology of art that allows for the human significance of art to emerge from the interfaces between artists and their worlds. Finally, Giuseppe Patella reminds us in critical terms how relevant the dialogical openness is between cognitive cultural practices – including aesthetics – in contemporary life.

            My words of thanks go to all the authors who have generously accepted to contribute to this number as well as to our Assistant Editors, Anne-Marie McManus and Jon K. Shaw, and to our Copy Editor, Anita Chen, for all the painstaking work they have done. Lastly, I am indebted to Nicholas Davey without whom I would have never discovered the spirit of dialogical hermeneutics.

Gerald Cipriani


1              Editorial

                Gerald Cipriani


3               Dialogue as Art – Reading Vikas Swarup’s Q & A with Daya Krishna 

                 Sonia Weiner

15            Play It Again Schumann – Towards a Non-dual Conception of Theory and Practice in           


                Robert Clarke

33            Restricted Dialogue – On the Interpretation of Cloud Imagery in the Mao

                Zedong Era (1942-1976)

                Feng Su

53            Problematizing Contemporaneity – Towards a Polylogue between International             

                Postmodernist and Chinese Contemporary Art Theories

                Paul Gladston

81            Dialogical Anthropology of Art

                Erkki Huovinen

107          Aesthetics, Culture, Dialogue

                     Giuseppe Patella          


PHILOSOPHY AND DIALOGUE                                                                                                

Culture and Dialogue, Vol. 1, No. 2, 2011, pp. 1-3


This second issue of Culture and Dialogue focuses on philosophy. The principle of the Journal is that each issue will approach “dialogue” from different cultural perspectives. Issue No.3 will consider the role played by dialogue in art, followed by issues on religion, politics, and education. This brings us to September 2013 and subsequent issues will likely reflect on dialogue within the fields of science, language, and environmental studies. More specific themes could equally be included in the future such as dialogue and cinema, power, or cultural identity.

        From a philosophical standpoint, any suggestion that such an undertaking inexorably smacks of essentialism is simply too grotesque for words. There is no attempt at building an ideology of dialogue as if the ability to grasp its essence could bring some kind of salvation. Any idea of promised land of dialogue would lead to disillusions, frustrations and ultimately conflicts – in other words, precisely the opposite to what the practice of dialogue strives to achieve. Each time the Journal gives authors the chance to publish on the topic of dialogue or to write in a dialogical fashion, we become more aware of what dialogue can do as well as of its limitations. Each time dialogue takes place it leaves a trace that contributes to the shaping of what some might call the essence of dialogue. The essentialist, on the contrary, is the one who does not want to accept that essences ought to be thought in retrospect. The essentialist is the one who thinks in terms of essences prior to looking at their traces. The essentialist does not see that the concrete particularity of the trace is a place that allows essences to manifest themselves, implying constitutive reciprocity by the same token. Far from being innocent, the essentialist does not allow the trace to renew the essence that is thought to be sempiternal. In other words, the essentialist seeks to preserve what is wrongly seen as the immutable universal dimension of essences to which individuals should be subsumed. Like all practices in the making dialogue does not follow a guide; nor does it seek to impose itself by shouting Listen to me! I know where to go! The life of dialogue is about meeting, as it was for Martin Buber.

        As the Editor of the Journal I cannot obviously speak for our contributors, but one thing is certain: each contribution is part of a working field without immutable fences. Each contribution does not tell us which way to take, but rather shows us how to find a way to a better life in a world made of differences and similarities. Clearly, the way of dialogue can take an infinite number of shapes as evidenced by the rich variety of contributions. This is not to suggest that those instances of dialogue taking place from different spatial and temporal perspectives are inexorably aimed at a synthesis of identification enabling us to work out some apodictic awareness of dialogue. Far from being a dice-throw, this method would run against the dialogical spirit of the Journal.

      The opening essay of this issue by Hans Köchler highlights one of the fundamental problems that the international scene faces with the “civilizational paradigm.” A true dialogue between “civilizations” should rest on principles of equality, dialectics and mutuality, instead of mere self-affirmation sourced from “civilizational nostalgia.” Above all, Köchler’s acute argument locates the possibility of “co-existence” precisely in reciprocal curiosity and engagement. It is this kind of understanding of dialogical relationship that is undoubtedly lacking at the levels of persons, communities, nations and civilizations.

        Engaging with different cultures is precisely what Helen Verran and Michael Christie have undertaken with Yolnu Aboriginal Australians. Their way of research is fundamentally dialogical in the sense that “doing difference” through togetherness is what precedes concept formation. A garma philosophical dialogue lies at the root of their empirical enquiry and the marvellous story that starts the essay, far from being anecdotal, embodies the truly postcolonial spirit at work. If there was a hopeful counterexample of what Köchler argues against, we might find it in this essay.

        Questions of civilizational identity are obviously at the core of what justifies dialogical approaches. By reflecting on “what it means to be an American today” through powerful albeit delightful images such as the “salad bowl” and the “tomato soup,” Peter Atterton discloses the fundamental problems that stem not only from the “originating violence” supposedly justified for the sake of a “social contract,” but also from monological orientations whose self-affirmative nature is equally and paradoxically justified on the basis of democratic principles. We are then brought to reflect on the idea of the “melting pot” and on the possibility of healthy co-existence that can indeed only rest on reciprocal engagements, whether within America or with the outside world.

        At the same time, Katerina Reed-Tsocha warns us in sharp conceptual terms that “conversation of mankind” as radically conceived by Richard Rorty is bound to defeat its allegedly liberating purpose. Interestingly, the ensuing “anti-essentialist and anti- foundationalist” radicalism that Reed-Tsocha describes as “missed potential” in Rorty’s proposition echoes in may ways what was previously suggested as regards to essentialism and the quest for apodicticity: they all run in different ways against the spirit of dialogue. Inevitably, they prevent meaningful “interdisciplinary exchange” of the kind that engages with – instead of ignoring or in the worst case destroying – boundaries such as those left by “historicities.” In other words, they prevent conceptual renewal through dialogue.

        Thorsten Botz-Bornstein gives us another telling example of what the concreteness of dialogical approaches can do. As a European “outsider,” if I may say so, Botz-Bornstein brings face-to-face two forms of “hyperrality,” one from contemporary Confucian China and the other from consumerist America. What emerges from this very rich and daring essay is no less than a questioning of what constitutes “culture” or “civilization,” depending on the context within which the “endless reproductions of fundamentally empty appearances” take place. In more abstract terms, the dialogical element in this study brings to light similarities and differences that would have otherwise remained unnoticed, and by doing so contributes to calling for mutual engagement and curiosity on a global scale.

        This issue of the Journal devoted to “philosophy and dialogue” ends with a strong argument against any conception of the mind or the sense of self that ignores its relational nature. Madhucchanda Sen shows how the problems that stem accordingly from Cartesian philosophy are echoed in the analytical tradition of so-called “Representationalism.” Sen endeavours to challenge this overlooking by bringing the phenomenological conception of “embodiment” into play. Sen’s compelling critical stance becomes apparent as soon as Representationalism is exposed to phenomenology, partly through carefully selected quotes.

        All these essays have contributed in their own philosophical ways to creating a dialogical working field to help enabling co-existence – and the aim is not to maintain differences aloof, but to renew them through mutual understanding. Issue No. 3 will let art speak in its own voice for more calls and more responses to be heard within our field and ways beyond.

        Finally, I would like to thank our new Assistant Editors, Anne-Marie McManus and Jon Shaw, as well as our Copy Editor Ying Ying Lee, for the marvelous work they all did.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Gerald Cipriani


Gerald Cipriani

5The Philosophy and Politics of Dialogue
Hans Köchler 

21Doing Difference Together – Towards a Dialogue with Aboriginal Knowledge Authorities Through an Australian Comparative Empirical Philosophical Inquiry
Helen Verran and Michael Christie

37What It Means to Be an American Today: Democracy “To Come”
Peter Atterton

63Mortal Vocabularies vs. Immortal Propositions – Richard Rorty and the Conversation of Mankind 
Katerina Reed-Tsocha

79America against China – Civilization without Culture against Culture without Civilization?
Thorsten Botz-Bornstein

109The Self and the Other, The Inner and the Outer: Dissolving Binaries
Madhucchanda Sen


INAUGURAL ISSUE                                                                                                        

Culture and Dialogue, Vol. 1, No. 1, 2011, pp. 1-2

Current natural and human-made disasters in Japan as well as political events in the Arab world are typical albeit terribly sad examples. The ones who dictate and act for their own survival regardless of the existence of otherness soon realise, often too late, that there cannot be such a survival. To realise this is simply to understand the nature of dialogue. The principle is at work in all fields and at all levels. Thus the issue at stake is to find ways of relating to nature and fellow humans that both acknowledge and allow the complementary and reciprocal character of such a relationship – a sort of equilibrium made of differences and sharing in order to handle the inferno, inexorability, and creativity of the spiral of life. This is what will hopefully constitute the spirit of Culture and Dialogue.
        The idea of creating a journal that explores the role played by dialogue in cultural formations comes indeed from the intimate conviction that if more people understood the nature of dialogue there would be fewer problems in the world. To many, this statement is self-evident. Why, then, are there so many problems in the world? A predicament, a tragedy, or a disaster perceived as such occurs when one’s will or the force of things becomes so overwhelming that it threatens the life of those whose consciousness makes them realise their plight. In other words, the problems of the world stem from human beings’ inability to see that their survival depends on their willingness to negotiate with otherness, be it nature or other fellow humans.
     Far from being a simple platform for academic exercises and heuristic purposes, the Journal seeks to convey the spirit of dialogue in its multifarious cultural facets, whether in the fields of philosophy, art, language, politics, religion, or science. It offers a field for thoughts on dialogue to be sown as much as for the cultures of dialogue to grow. The Journal also seeks that complementary balance imagined so beautifully by Tzvetan Todorov in La Signature Humaine(2009) – the balance between Mikhail Bakhtin’s theoretical approach to dialogue and the dialogical life of Roman Jakobson.
        To some extent, this inaugural issue embodies this balance with a first soul-moving essay by Mohamed Turki that resonates with a call for a new form of humanism inspired by the African conception of Ubuntu and Islamic values. Gereon Kopf has similar relational concerns, so to speak, when he questions our ways of thinking cultural diversity beyond the idiosyncracies of the particular and the platitudes of the universal, and this by masterly inviting us into the complex world of one of the most important philosophers of the twentieth century, Nishida Kitaro. This set of theoretical reflections on various principles of relations culturally situated ends with a very substantial essay by Martin Ovens on the original idea of intercultural skepsis as a possibility, or even a condition, for creativity – such is the wonderful pathway of the sceptic pilgrim. The second series of essays instantiates dialogical principles, starting with Daniel Raveh’s remarkably thoughtful journey into the effects of cinematographic translations across cultures and a reflection on the degree to which the remake of the American thriller Memento by Indian film director Ajith Rahul Murugadoss creates mirroring, echoing, differentiations, or tensions. Kinya Nishi’s text, which might be perceived as dramatically topical given the current unfolding of disasters in Japan, offers another insightful understanding of the need to bring into dialogue different cultural formations as expressed in the idea of tragedy in art and literature, East and West. Dialogue, however, can also vitally take place between concrete entities such as architecture and the idea of stage, whether natural or theatrical, which Jale Nejdet Erzen’s very perceptive writing expresses in literal and metaphorical terms. Finally, this inaugural issue closes with a masterpiece of scholarship by Martin Svensson Ekström, who brings into dialogue the Aristotelian conception of metaphora and the linguistic world of early Chinese culture to answer the question Does the metaphor translate?
        The editor can only express his outmost gratitude to all the authors and scholars who have accepted to contribute to this Journal, as well as to those who have taken the trouble to respond to our call even if circumstances did not allow them to get involved. A word of gratitude as well to our publisher, Airiti Press, who put their trust in us and who had to undergo the painstaking task of juggling with different languages.
        The Journal has links with the UNESCO and is run in conjunction with the establishment of an International Research Centre for Culture and Dialogue affiliated with the Faculty of Languages and Cultures of Kyushu University, Japan.  

Gerald Cipriani


Gerald Cipriani

3Trans-cultural and Intercultural Humanism as a Response to the “Clash of Civilizations”
Mohamed Turki 

21Ambiguity, Diversity, and an Ethics of Understanding: What Nishida’s Philosophy Can Contribute to the Pluralism Debate 
Gereon Kopf

45The Sceptic Pilgrim: Seeking Intercultural and Interdisciplinary Patterns in the Philosophy of Creativity
Martin Ovens

91Translating Across Cultures: A.R. Murugadoss’s Ghajini in Focus 
Daniel Raveh

107A Multicultural Approach to the Idea of Tragedy
Kinya Nishi

117Architecture – A Worldly Stage
Jale Nejdet Erzen

125Does the Metaphor Translate? 
Martin Svensson Ekström