Chinese Thought in a Global Context: A Dialogue between Chinese and Western Philosophical Approaches

By Karl-Heinz Pohl | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

KARL-HEINZ POHL

How effectively Western style modernity has left its imprint on the world can be observed in the remotest corners of the globe. Whether these developments will be a blessing or a curse for the human enterprise on this planet will be left for later generations to decide. Whatever the ultimate judgement turns out to be, for now there seems to be a globally accepted assumption among intellectuals that the theoretical approach and level of complexity in the Humanities, as they are studied in the West, are to be applied as universal norms. This would appear to be inspired by perceptions of Western superiority in so many other areas, particularly in technology, natural sciences and even military capability.

In the wake left by Edward Said's Orientalism, these assumptions have been subjected to criticism. However, the effects of this postcolonial critique have been only marginal in the West in terms of questioning and challenging US- and Euro-centric views or developing a deeper consciousness of other cultures. We are still cooking in the juice of our Western style scientific theories, and take it for granted that people from other cultures will simply have to become well versed in Western modes of thought - even in the Humanities, if they are to explore the very essentials of human existence. The so-called cross-cultural exchange in the Humanities has, then, in fact been taking place on a one-way-street: EuroAmerican theories, categories and models were adopted everywhere and have become the universal standard of discourse for intellectuals all over the world. Meanwhile, in the West, the preoccupation with other cultures was limited to a kind of cultural anthropological positivism: The peculiarities of other cultures were researched, mapped out, and filed in the edifices of Western academia.

The cross-cultural encounter in the Humanities also concerns values. This inevitably brings up questions about different systems of values, and these questions have lately been the subject of hot

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