Heinz Kimmerle, Zoetermeer Henk Oosterling, Rotterdam
The contributions to this volume are the revised versions of lectures on a conference on 'Sensus communis in multi- and intercultural perspective. On the possibility of common judgments in arts and politics' in November 1997. This conference had been organized by the Dutch-Flemish Association of Intercultural Philosophy in cooperation with the Faculty of Philosoophy at Erasmus University Rotterdam. The Trustfund Erasmus University Rotterdam had given a subsidy to make the conference possible. The organizers of the conference and the editors of this volume are thankful that the Trustfund and the Faculty of Philosophy have also subsidized the editing of the revized conference papers.
In his Introduction Heinz Kimmerle from the Foundation for Intercultural Philosophy and Art at Zoetermeer points out that the presuppostion of a sensus communis, as it is made by Kant to prove the transcendental validity of aesthetic judgments, has also a political dimension and can be used in today's inter- and multicultural philosophical debates. However, the transcendental validity of aesthetic judgements which is asserted by Kant and which means that they have to be accepted generally and necessarily by all reasonable beings, is no longer defendable under the conditions of present thought. That is why the reach of their validity has to be proved in and inter- and multicultural dialogues.
To start with, the exact meaning and the special relatedness of sensus communis to aesthetic judgments in the Kantian argumentation is pointed out by Antoon Van den Braembussche from Erasmus University Rotterdam. He shows that also from this starting point fruitful intercultural comparison and exchange are possible, in his contribution especially with traditional Indian aesthetic theories.
On the same strictly Kantian grounds Gerrit Steunebrink from the Catholic University Nijmegen argues that aesthetics as a whole and with it sensus communis has a pragmatic dimension. In Kant's way of thought the beautiful and the pleasure which is brought forth by it, serve the human subject to find an attitude which is favourable for religion and for morality. Together with religion and morality the judgment of the beautiful plays an important role in history, especially in the process of modernization, and also in social and political life. Steunebrink analyzes processes of modernization in India and, more extensively, in Turkey in order to show the intercultural relevance of this interpretation of sensus communis. In this respect, his presentation belongs together with the contribution of Yasin Ceylan from Ankara.
In the practice of intercultural philosophical work, as it is documented in the following contributions of this volume, sensus communis in aesthetic judgments turns out to have a historical and also a social and political dimension and/or is applied to a wider range of human behaviour. This proves to be philosophically interesting and relevant. Thus the step, that sensus communis has to be presupposed for the validity not only of aesthetic, but also of historical and political judgments, opens up a field of intercultural philosophical discourse, in which this notion appears to be highly productive.
Ryôsuke Ohashi from the Technical University of Kyôto makes clear that the 'Art Way' of thinking in traditional Japanese philosophy is not only relevant in respect of artistic phenomena in a narrow sense of the word, but covers many dimensions of human life and has general ontological implications. In the Japanese puppet theatre of the late Middle Ages, art is real and not real in a way which comes close to modern and postmodern ontological conceptions in the West.
As a reaction on this contribution, Henk Oosterling from Erasmus University Rotterdam shows that the sensus communis of Kant, if it is interpreted no longer as universally valid in the sense of transcendentalism, can open up a view on commonalities between contemporary French philosophies of difference and basic notions of Japanese thought. The common ground on which these different ways of thought can meet, is called the 'inter' which we also encounter in the mediatization of life in the modern/postmodern world and in the necessary global and at the same time local perspective of intercultural philosophy.
Kwame Gyekye from the University of Ghana at Legon/Accra focuses on the meaning of sensus commonis for African political and moral thought. He departs from the thought of his own people, the Akan, and he defends a universal validity of the basic values of the relatedness of human beings to the community.
This point of view is strongly supported by Frank Uyanne from Awka in Nigeria, who is presently working on a PhD-thesis at Erasmus University Rotterdam. Uyanne shows that from an Igbo perspective sensus communis has to be assumed as being active in aesthetic judgments, and also in everyday thinking and in politics. It has a relative validity which refers to a certain community, and as sensus communis humanus a universal meaning for all human beings.
After a critical evaluation of Kant's claim of transcendental validity of sensus communis from the point of view of a social scientist, Wim van Binsbergen from the African Studies Centre Leiden and Erasmus University Rotterdam describes a ritual festival of the Nkoya, a people living in Western Zambia, and its dramatical changes during the last three decades. He concludes that it is necessary to consider local particularities and global commonalities in order to understand what has been happening here.
Yasin Ceylan from the Technical University of the Middle East at Ankara applies the notion of sensus communis to the global dialogue between different religions and worldviews which is started in the 20th century and has to be reflected on from the perspective of the various participants, and certainly also of Islam. He explains the problem that Islam is a universal religion and at the same time is looking for a dialogue with all other religious and philosophical convictions. In this paradoxical situation, dialogues as a peaceful means of communication have to be stressed.
The necessity of dialogue, with special attention for the situation in Turkey, is also stressed in the above mentioned presentation of Steunebrink.
Recent Western issues concerning aesthetic and political aspects of sensus communis are presented by Tom Dommisse from the University of Amsterdam, Sybrandt van Keulen from the same University, and Cornée Jacobs from the Acadeny of Fine Arts at Rotterdam.
Tom Dommisse examines Lyotard's and Nancy's explanation of the actual meaning of Kant's argumentation on sensus communis and their thinking of community in general, and he underlines the fragile structure of the common that is 'not just at hand'.
Sybrandt van Keulen focuses on Rorty's choice for liberalism and democracy in the Western style, although this includes a certain type of 'ethnocentrism', which might become bearable through the way in which it is based on language and on the conception of a 'poetic community'.
And Cornée Jacobs discusses questions of the community of friends and, before all, of lovers, which is highly fragile and even impossible according to the writings of Duras and Blanchot. She asks (and answers in the negative), whether the literary community of the two authors on the basis of their convictions, as they intended, is or should be a model for the possibility or impossibility of human community in general.
Thus a broad inter- and multicultural panorama is exposed. The possibility of common judgments is investigated in the fields of arts and politics, and also in those of history, religions and worldviews. Kant's presupposition of a sensus communis for the validity of aesthetic judgments and - in a pragmatic view - its relevance for ethical and political life, if it is interpreted no longer in the sense of transcendentalism, gives rise to reflections on what is common or even universal and what ist particular in the fornamed fields. So it turns out to be fruitful and greatly inspiring for intercultural philosophical work.
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