|Is Philosophy Global or Regional?|
Is Philosophy Global or Regional?
1. This simple question does not always have identical meaning everywhere. People, to whom this question is addressed, may think that it refers to the proof or denial of the Western and Greek origins of philosophy. After all, is it not true that some philosophers believe that philosophy is Greek in essence? Considering philosophy as a Western phenomenon may originate from different approaches. One approach may be that thinking and rational discussion are peculiar to the West and that others are unfamiliar with it. There are still others who agree that although philosophy is peculiar to Europe and that it is the essence of Eurocentricism, they do not argue that such philosophy is superior to other thinking approaches in China, India and other parts of the world. Even if they believe in such superiority deep in their hearts, they do not state it explicitly. Probably there are some hints in their statements which imply respect to others’ thought.
Meanwhile, recently some writers, poets and philosophers, particularly in the developing modernity-stricken world, assert the globality of philosophy and Western culture. Yet, they do not content themselves with it. They consider globalization as a threat to other thinking approaches. Nirmal Verma, the Indian poet and writer, is among these writers. He states (quoted from Dallmayer: Beyond Orientalism, State University of New York, 1996: 62) “The idealized image of the European man subverted the Hindu image of his own self, reducing it to a state of sub-self constantly aspiring toward fulfillment in the European model.”
The mentioned question is ambiguous. When a question has shades of meaning, and is interpretable, its answers will have the same characteristics. If the answer is: philosophy is not global but regional, one does not know what the responder has in mind. Does s/he imply that there are Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Iranian, Islamic and Christian forms of philosophy or s/he intends to say that in a broader classification, there are Western and Eastern philosophies? S/he may want to say that European philosophy is different from that of the Anglo-Saxon and on the other hand one may consider American recent orientation towards continental philosophy while maintaining its pragmatism. There are people who accept the existence of Christian and Islamic philosophy but they believe that these two philosophies are parcel and part of the history of philosophy that originated in Greece and evolved to the stage of modernity. Hence, we may be able to confirm both cases. In other words, once, we can say that philosophy is global and interpret it in a way that does not deny the Indian, Islamic or other philosophies, or we can say that philosophy is regional, i.e. philosophy will undergo a nativization process when it goes to a new place or being introduced to a new nation.
Obviously, when a philosophy is translated into another language, it is not philosophy anymore unless and until it thoroughly familiarizes itself with the target language. Still, once this familiarity, and probable unity, is achieved, a translated philosophy, as compared with its original, will become a different philosophy. Interpreters are used to interpreting philosophy as they understand it in their native language. Hubert L. Dreyfus in the USA has interpreted Heidegger with a pragmatic view. Although Mahta and Panikar are aware of the difference between Indian and Western thought, they have created an inter-cultural philosophy by their description of Heidegger philosophy. In Iran, the same German philosopher has been so interpreted as to have some affinity with Moheydin Ibn Arabi, the founder of theoretical mysticism in the world of Islam, and Hafiz, the great Iranian poet. Do such evidence support the regional essence of philosophy.
2. Let us look at the issue from a different point of view. It is a common practice in worldwide philosophy instruction systems to begin the major courses of philosophy from the ancient Greece and pursue it up to the post modern thinking. There are occasions where one or two courses are devoted to the philosophy of the orient in the syllabus, that is, Indian, Chinese and Islamic philosophy. In other words, throughout the world, students of philosophy mainly learn Western philosophy. Isn’t such philosophy then, global? Even those who do not believe in the Western nature of philosophy, usually include Western teaching materials and courses if they are assigned to design a syllabus. If asked about the reason why they have included no or few non-Western courses in their syllabus, they would claim that the philosophies of other nations are either lost or what has remained is negligible. However, if they are asked to report what they have from those neglected philosophies at their disposal, they would most probably provide a Western and European interpretation of the issue. They reject the westernity of philosophy but have a Western view of the whole world and history. That is, the manner of their justification is to prove the westernity or globality of philosophy.
In case, Greek logic and philosophy are intrinsic in human nature, and if Aristotle's Organon is the description of man's essence of reason, then people should always think in the same way everywhere, otherwise they are outside the circle of humanity. It seems that this is the unconscious belief of the West from which its power has been originated. The commonly held belief and public opinion is that science and logic are among global affairs and belong to all people; it is not the private property of any nation, country or region. This is to some extent true and scholars can confirm it. Yet, this conclusion might be the result of a misinterpretation. Science and technology have become global for some time, and everybody has a share in their production, consumption, expansion and development. Yet, this event may have been one of the possibilities and demands of man's history not the result of natural development of man's understanding, science and wisdom. Man's history could have been placed on a route other than the Western history. But as the history of the West evolved, it turned into the history of the whole world and covered the East so much so that the residents of the oriental geographical regions and people who have a long history of culture and thinking saw the West in their own mirror of culture and thinking: they mistook the events of the West for whatever their predecessors had told and wanted. As if the West is the ideal of what has come into existence in their history.
Whatever has entered the new world has something to do with the turn in philosophical thought of the new age. Properly speaking, the new age begins with the Renaissance philosophical turn in the works of Dante, Boccaccio, Thomas More, Erasmus, Machiavelli, Francis Bacon, Galileo and Descartes.
3. If the dreams of Thomas More and Francis Bacon in Utopia and Novum Atlantis have not been realized, and if political and civil freedoms are not as firmly established as they used to be a hundred years ago, and if human rights are violated in one way or another, and even if modernization faces difficulties everywhere, one should look for the causes of these issues in modern history. As Manuel Castells puts it. The modern world has turned into an electronic casino. If the perfection of modernity is due to the realization of the consumption of technical objects, and if human rights and liberty will be achieved through the right to have access to these objects, it is the very denial of modernity, as the aim of the founders of modernity has never been the transformation of the world to the consuming marketplace of digital technology.
4. At this age, the pace of globalization is greater than ever. The new civilization has been expanding and disseminating for over 200 years but no one has said anything about it; and if there was any mention of it in philosophers' works, it was not to the required extent. However, in recent years, papers discuss globalization, and numerous groups of people oppose it here and there, since globalization implies the uniformity of people's lifestyle, thinking manners and actions worldwide. Does this consideration of globalization have any relationship with philosophy? It was pointed out that globalization began with philosophy, and the end of philosophy's mission was announced. If these two were linked together, shouldn't globalization, which enforced enlightenment, have stopped after the failure of Descartes and Kant's project? Such contradiction would have been of significance only if the failure of philosophy's project had resulted in its dismissal of the stage. But this failure is itself a part of the history of philosophy, and the globalization of consumption technology and daily affairs of life are somehow related to it. It is worth mentioning that the failure we talked about has not suddenly come out of nowhere and afflicted philosophy. The great philosophical project of objectivization of all creatures has also been doomed to failure from the very beginning, as if the history of existence is a tragic one. Kant should and may have noticed that when power comes along with necessity i.e. it is united with science, and freedom is originated in a domain outside it, it can be considered as an injury in the soul of human being; an injury which is not easily treated. We usually see the humanism of the new era in its status and place after the Middle Ages. Although, we praise it, we have to consider that the new humanism put aside the Middle Ages and undermining of human. It did not limit itself to that, but began the tradition of human omniscience and omnipotence. The Western history, in turn, proceeded in this direction and reached the present status of art, philosophy, liberalism, and technology, as if the modernity project entailed an inutile passion. Based on that project, man must have had everything under his control and dominance, and achieve freedom at the same time. Apparently, freedom and power are not opposed to each other, but are complementary, since when there is vacuum of power, there is no freedom and will. Yet, the power that freedom necessitates is the power of an individual as an agent. The power included in the modernity project was beyond the power of an individual. This power was mainly focused in politics, science and technology, and gradually dispersed the individual and individuality. As a result, people became dispersed individuals and turned into the manifestation of public opinion. They fell in the pitfalls created by the dominance of technique, technology, economics and even lifestyles. Intellect and understanding were not free from these limitations. The advocates of reasoning have chosen a good code. But they are advised to think. When intellect is under the dominance of technique, in the first place, it should do something about its own freedom. Since, as long as it is not free, it is at the service of the world which is under its dominance. At the end of the history of modernity, power began destroying freedom and individuality rather than being accompanied with them, so that there is no private life today even in the most democratic countries of the world. People are being observed and controlled even at their homes while they are resting. Their daily affairs and chats are monitored and controlled by the ruling power. The more the power centralized in science and technology, the less is the man's freedom. If this concept is not easily understood, it is because of the decrease of freedom leads to the decreased understanding of the concept of freedom, and the degree of dependence to it.
In Thomas More's Utopia and Francis Bacon's Novum Atlantis, the imaginary form of the modern world has been portrayed while there is no place for freedom in them. Therefore, from the very beginning of the Renaissance, it was as if the philosophical great complex ideas of new philosophy were doomed to failure. In other words, the new philosophy called for technique as the criterion for law, politics and even culture. Then, whatever is happening in our world, and globalization, which is referred to by a sociologist as making the time and place smaller, are not irrelevant to philosophy. From the outset, philosophy has been a guide and waymark to globalization. But presently philosophy and culture, in their particular senses, no longer become global. Kierkegaard and Nietzsche predictions come true and everything become similar everywhere; people turn into an everyman (dispersed individuals) for whom the indefinite pronouns “on” and “one” are used in French and English respectively. Globalization began with philosophy but now that man’s life has become unidimensional, the link between globalization and philosophy has broken, and as a result, globalization is that of man’s every day lifestyle.