Guide Relativism and Human Rights: A Theory of Pluralistic Universalism

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My answer is: to the rapprochement of cultures. It is one step further, not just to merge cultures, but to make them more compatible with each other. I would call that ordering pluralism. Sensory perceptions — hearing, sight, smell, taste and touch — constitute the first tool for a true knowledge of different cultures. We know to what extent concerts or festivals, for example, contribute to expanding our knowledge through sensory perceptions.

The second tool comprises cognitive representations — the acquisition of knowledge through reason, and not necessarily through the senses. These are based on the convergence of knowledge, a notion on which I would like to dwell on briefly. The cooperation between cultural institutions is also based on the idea of mixing together several cognitive paths.

In the field of art, we have a large number of examples of this kind of cross-over. For example, French composer Pierre Boulez who, in the late s, shed light on the process of musical composition, by evoking the lessons of the Swiss artist Paul Klee of the Bauhaus School of Design in Weimar, Germany from to The combination of the sensory and the rational — and we know that these two capacities are linked — is undoubtedly the one that opens the widest perspectives for our knowledge of different cultures.

Essay on Universalism vs. Relativism

Whichever path we take — sensory, cognitive or combined — we have several ways to order pluralism, without suppressing it. To avoid both the relativism and imperialism of values, an interactive and adaptable dynamic is necessary. The rapprochement of cultures must be understood as a process, a movement that encourages us to go beyond the fixed metaphors — human rights seen as the foundations, pedestals, pillars or roots of various cultures — and give preference to the metaphor that presents human rights as the common language of humanity.

It suggests three processes, the dynamic effect of which is growing: from intercultural exchange dialogue to the search for equivalences translation , and even to reciprocal transformation creolization. Dialogue, or intercultural exchange, improves the understanding and knowledge of the Other and thus facilitates rapprochement, but does not guarantee it.

The court had ruled that the extradition to the United States, of a man facing a death sentence violated the prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. By its potential applications to various third countries, this case law would have an influence throughout the world. But dialogue remains subject to the goodwill of the actors and, in this sense, its contribution to the rapprochement of cultures is limited to coordinating differences.

Universalism vs. Cultural Relativism

The second way, which goes further in the recognition of common values, is translation. That said, we often encounter untranslatable concepts, and the misunderstandings they cause. Initially, only "reason" was mentioned. He proposed adding the Chinese term liangxin , which translated to conscience. In reality, the equivalence between liangxin and conscience is weak, because the Chinese term, derived from the characters lian and gxin, evokes moral conscience in the Confucian sense, that is, a conscience that favours otherness.

To solve this type of difficulty, we would need to go even further, by implementing the third means mentioned above: hybridization or, to avoid possible misunderstandings, creolization. I use the word creolization in the way it was used by the French poet Edouard Glissant , when he suggested opening up our particular poetics, one with the other.

In other words, creolization makes it possible to unify differences by integrating them into a common definition. It is a mixture that produces something unexpected. It is a way of overcoming differences. A shift from the poetic to the legal realm will allow me to examine the example of a concept with a universal vocation, the legal significance of which is evolving: crime against humanity. First used in the charter of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg in , this concept is implicitly part of the Western perception of humanity, which is based on the idea that each human being is an individual, and equally, a member of the human community.

But the concept has gradually been extended to the destruction of cultural property. As such, it almost exemplifies the notion of crime against humanity, because in fact it is humanity as a whole that is affected by the destruction of a specific religious culture and cultural objects that are attached to it. The question also comes up regarding Iraq. Abusharaf, R. Abusharaf ed Female Circumcision: Multilcultural Perspectives. University of Philadelphia Press, Philadelphia. Afshari, R.

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The Screwtape Letters and Subjective Relativism

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