Saturday, September 11, 2010

Stikkers, Kenneth W. Review of Fred R. Dallmayr, INTEGRAL PLURALISM. NDPR (September 2010).

Dallmayr, Fred R.  Integral Pluralism: Beyond Culture Wars.  Lexington: U of Kentucky P, 2010.

In his most recent volume, Integral Pluralism: Beyond Culture Wars, Fred Dallmayr again demonstrates, as he has throughout his distinguished career, his passionate commitment to making ours a more just and peaceful world. His central concern in this work is that, with postmodernism's steady move toward pluralism and emphatic rejection of totalizing monisms of every sort, there is a danger of cosmic incoherence whereby "individual lives likewise become incoherent and unintelligible" (1) and rendered incapable of effective engagement in the world. Dallmayr warns us:
Pluralism harbors a danger that curiously approximates it again to the monistic temptation. Carried to the extreme of radical fragmentation or dispersal, pluralism -- despite its protestations -- shades over into an assembly of fixed and self-enclosed monadic units exhibiting the same monadic units exhibiting the same static quality as its counterpart (8-9).
Such fragmentation, he further suggests, is a major source for today's "culture wars."

As an antidote to radical, atomizing pluralism, and as a middle position between it and tyrannizing monism, Dallmayr offers "integral pluralism," which he finds well exemplified already by classical pragmatists such as John Dewey, but especially by William James in A Pluralistic Universe. Integral pluralism entails "mutual embroilment, interpenetration, and contestation . . . differential entwinement without fusion or segregation" (9). The universe is taken as incomplete, but its pieces maintain real, although sometimes antagonistic, relations to one another. Other, non-Western thinkers whom Dallmayr offers as exemplars of integral pluralism are the philosopher of religion, Raimon Panikkar, whom Dallmayr discusses throughout this volume (and with whom this reviewer was privileged to study), Mahatma Gandhi, who receives a full chapter (Chapter 7), and two other, recently deceased Indian thinkers, little known in the West, Daya Krishna and Ramchandra Gandhi (a grandson of Mahatma Gandhi), who are the central subjects of the concluding chapter (Chapter 8). This reviewer is very appreciative of being made aware of these last two thinkers, and Dallmayr's interesting account of them has prompted him to read them first-hand.

Moreover, each of the above figures, including Dewey, is used to demonstrate the importance of religion for integrative pluralism. The Indian thinkers are especially exemplary because they articulate religious sensibilities that are integrated with the secular, in contrast to Western tendencies toward dualism, and thus steer between the dangers stemming from such dualism, namely, the politicizing of religion on the one hand (e.g., America's religious right and Islamic and Zionist extremisms), and the privatizing of religion and withdrawal into the solitude of religious consciousness, on the other. . . .

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