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Dialogue and Universalism

Volume 15, Issue 7/8, 2005

Fourth European Congress of Dialogue and Universalism Warsaw University, July 23–30, 2005

Hans-Herbert Kögler
Pages 101-119

Beyond Dogma and Doxa: Truth and Dialogue in Rorty, Apel, and Ratzinger

The title of the paper productively suggests a double-meaning of truth vis-à-vis dialogue. The claim is both that the concept of truth is essential for a comprehensive conception of dialogue, and that dialogue points toward a concept of truth beyond dogmatic infallibity or doxastic relativism. At stake is to show how truth entails an essentially dialogical moment, and dialogue, if conceived philosophically, must entail the concept of truth. In theological as well as philosophical dogmatism, a final (a priori or revealed) truth is assumed. Interesting are positions such as Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI’s or Karl-Otto Apel’s “transcendental pragmatics” since they attempt to engage in dialogue yet assume an “infallible” or “ultimately grounded” foundation for their own assumptions. Radically opposed to this infallibilism is the postmodern relativistic view according to which the “groundless grounds” of human understanding make all claims to truth meaningless. Since understanding and dialogue are situated in contingent cultural contexts, as Richard Rorty argues, no ascent to truth is ever possible. The result of our analysis suggests that both positions lead to an insulation of experience from true dialogical challenge. Dogmatic positions miss the dialogical core of truth, as they believe that insulated truth-content remains “true” regardless of engaged and challenged reassertions. Doxastic conceptions miss the truth-relation of dialogue, as they fail to capture the seriousness and intentionality of intersubjective and intercultural dialogue. From these critical points emerges a productive concept of dialogue that entails truth as an open-ended and dynamic, and thereby indispensable, concept. Moreover, our analysis lays out that the basic dialogical notions involve truth, openness, and reciprocity in an interconnected way. Dialogue is unavoidable for truth, as much as truth is intrinsic to dialogue. But the new synthesis of truth and dialogue allows for a pluralistic understanding of truth that still, we hope, remains truthful to its content. As such, it alone can ground a non-relativistic notion of multiculturalism.