Inter-cultural dialog is frequently treated as either unnecessary or else impossible. It is said to be unnecessary, because we all are the same or share the same ‘human nature’; it is claimed to be impossible because cultures seen as language games or forms or life are so different as to be radically incommensurable. The paper steers a course between absolute universalism and particularism by following the path of dialog and interrogation—where dialog does not mean empty chatter but the exploration of the ‘otherness’ of interlocutors on the far side of either assimilation or exclusion. Such dialog is the heart of hermeneutics as formulated by Hans-Georg Gadamer. The paper explores the question whether hermeneutical interpretation can be transferred from textual readings to the domain of cross-cultural encounters. After discussing both the historical development and the basic meaning of contemporary hermeneutics, the paper draws attention to the intimate linkage between interpretive understanding and ‘application’, or ‘practical philosophy.’ Drawing on the insights of Gadamer and some more overtly political thinkers, the paper then shows the relevance of hermeneutics for cross-cultural studies, as an antidote to the looming ‘clash of civilizations.’ It turns to some writings by Maurice Merleau-Ponty in order to emphasize the necessary linkage between interactive dialog and concrete embodied engagement. Undercutting purely mentalist or ‘idealist’ misconstruals of dialog, this linkage shows the mutual compatibility between Gadamerian hermeneutics and existential phenomenology.
Read the essay here: http://www.ethicsandglobalpolitics.net/index.php/egp/article/view/1937/2187.