The Concept Of Encounter Of Cultures In The Philosophy Of History

4660 words - 19 pages

The Concept of Encounter of Cultures in the Philosophy of History

ABSTRACT: A general problem of philosophical interests concerns the possibility of objective knowledge of other cultures and a past culture, as well as the adequacy of their reconstruction. The problem of cultural development is also crucial. By the criterion I develop, a culture which has expanded its potentialities in various independent forms is an open culture able to enter into dialogue with any other culture.

1. To begin with, I must mention that at first I intended to present my paper at the Section of Philosophy of History, because the point at issue here has a great concern to the concept of history and to the methodological approaches of historians. Something must be changed in the attitude of historians and brought in accordance with cultural studies and ideas of the philosophy of culture, I think. A kind of etatism is prevailing in the minds of historians when they perceive the history of mankind as a succession of Principalities, States and Empires, Universal States and Great Powers and leave out of vision the historical mosaic of cultures which really comes down from remote past and which is the real essence, value and the very vocation, if you please, of the existence of a human, and of peoples. A people becomes conscious of its Self through its culture, and the historical lifetime of a people is measured by the duration of its culture.

2. The problem of encounter of cultures has a number of particular aspects belonging to universal history, ethnology, archaeology, social and ethnical psychology, sociology, law, etc. But a general - though abstract - idea of this crucial phenomenon of human society and history one can get viewing it from the point of philosophy of history.

The term "encounter of cultures" is intended to cover the whole gamut and all the varieties of this phenomenon: the contacts of cultures in space and time; their interactions; their dialogue, conflict, collision; the inheritance relations between them; the survival, historically, of a culture or of its definite layer in other culture, etc.

The phenomenon of encounter of cultures has been known and described long ago, but in its definite meaning the theoretical analysis of the phenomenon may be dated by the late 19th and early 20th cc., the period of shaping of contemporary anthropology and philosophy of history. In this connection, in the field of the philosophy of history the work of Arnold Toynbee ought to be mentioned who has put forward a conception and a model for systematic representation of the whole diversity of historical facts concerning the encounter of societies, civilizations, cultures in space and time, (1) and, in the field of ethnology, the work of the American cultural anthropologists, of Franz Boas' school, in which theory and practice of intercultural and cross-cultural research have been initiated in different forms. (2)

3. In such a broad meaning of the...

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