Dialogue and Universalism

Volume 15, Issue 1/2, 2005

Wisdom: Research, Education, Implementation

Edward Demenchonok
Pages 181-201

Intercultural Discourse and African-Caribbean Philosophy

The explosion of publications on race, gender, and minority cultures during recent decades was a natural reaction to the universalistic pretensions of Western philosophy, for which many of these issues were invisible. The theoretical articulation of these issues has substantially contributed to the transformation of philosophy. However, the side-effect of an overemphasis on difference is an underestimating of unity, which may lead to disintegration. The challenge to philosophical thought on race, gender, and culture is to reconcile the difference with commonality, and diversity with unity. This essay explores the issues of cultural identity and intercultural relations and their interpretation in African-Caribbean thought. The first part of the essay surveys the current debate over multiculturalism, which promotes diversity but overlooks the interrelations of cultures, and the alternative ideas of interculturality or the dialogue of cultures. The dissatisfaction with multiculturalism and postmodern relativism stimulated alternative approaches, such as “transculture” and “intercultural philosophy”. Mikhail Epstein criticizes relativism from the perspective of “critical universalism” and develops the concept of “transculture”. Raúl Fornet-Betancourt’s project of the intercultural transformation of philosophy asserts the cultural embedding of philosophical thinking and draws attention to the indigenous and African thought. The second half of the essay focuses on the ideas of identity and interculturality as they are expressed in African-Caribbean philosophy. This philosophy is viewed as a part of Africana philosophy. Various theoretical approaches to the issues of race and culture are examined: Charles Mills’ concept of “racial contract”, Lewis Gordon’s “Africana philosophy of existence”, and Paget Henry’s project of Africana philosophy, which combines the existentialphenomenological approach with analysis of the discursive formations in search for the identity of this philosophy. The analysis shows that in the evolution of African-Caribbean philosophy, as in Latin American and other “Third World philosophies”, the initial focus on the search for identity is followed by more interest in dialogical relationships with other philosophies as a condition for its own development.