Pluralism and Diversity Attitude Philosophy
Do we want a world in which peace is a condition negotiated by competing powers, or a condition that fairly enables meeting the needs of all?
A reference for various pages on this Web site
Copyright © 2001, 2003 Dorian Scott Cole
The world is not a peaceful place. Judging from the amount of violent conflict in this world, it may not be peaceful for most of this 21st. Century. Conflict is both inevitable and desirable as competing ideas come into focus and ask us to change either to diversify or for the better, but forums for equitably resolving conflicts are in short supply. In the typical negotiations power struggle, the sides argue over their position at the negotiating table.
The conflicts between the Israelis and Palestinians demonstrate just how difficult and serpentine the path to peace can be. Additionally, while terrorists are continuously being caught in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Iran, many more step forward to continue repression and terror in these countries. I suspected decades ago that religious and political fundamentalists in various countries would push us all toward the brink of war, and wrote "The Angry Doves" novel in the early 1980s as my response (half of which is published on this Web site). Is peace possible? There is hope. I think that if we continue looking in positive directions, and find ways to live together, the world can become more peaceful.
We have had plenty of philosophical frameworks within which to seek peace, such as "detente," "peaceful co-existence," and "accords." These have helped hold our world together so that we don't annihilate each other. But they have their limitations, and some conflicts do not respond to these. What I suggest here is not a panacea or step-by-step instructions, but a philosophy that can help provide a framework in which we can resolve differences and live together. This philosophy admits elements like religions, traditions, and politics, as legitimate players in the contentions that can both divide us and unite us. Every concern is legitimate. But no matter how large or narrow we make our attempts at peace, it is difficult. For example, we have seen negotiators slyly use negotiations as stalling tactics to delay agreements until they can maneuver into better positions.
We have also noted that the balance of political power within nations can easily tip in favor of those who oppose agreements, if the negotiator representing the people fails to satisfy those people. For example, while Hamas may have "agreed" for political positioning that they accept Israel's right to exist, powerful factions within Hamas, including senior leaders, seem to use this public position as a cover to continue attacking Israel at its convenience. On the other hand, Israel, may publicly accept that it must remove settlements, accept the return of displaced people, and at least share power in Jerusalem, but hard-line fundamentalists who believe that God gave them the land thousands of years ago, and is now returning it to them in an ungodly act of injustice, refuse to stop building. Both the Israelis and Hamas continue tit for tat, eye for eye responses to each other, in an endless bout of blinding each other (comment reflects Gandhi's thought). Regardless of what the leaders and populations of both nations want, extremists within both nations have the power to sway public sentiment and support, and create chaos, and the negotiating philosophies of each encourage this.
The world is intrusive, and doesn't always help the cause of peace. The press often gives extremists a platform for spewing poison. Arab TV broadcasters, in an unusual move where the US is involved, have been prohibited from covering developments in Iraq because of this. Even in the US, some high profile radio commentators who don't believe in pluralism and diversity, daily pour corrupt and opposing ideas into their many followers. One in particular, while announcing in the field of sports, followed in a long tradition of men who become inebriated on their own words and perceive themselves on a throne, and succumb to the temptation of power, unveil their heart through a "rush" of rash statements, and unveil their bias. So it appears that another leader, exalted by the insanity of his biased positions, will be seen "grazing grass in the fields" (Biblical reference). His popularity shows how a group like Hamas could be popular anywhere. The press generously covers both the extremists' utterances and their demise, for either good or ill.
Every approach to peace has a strategy. Simplified, most of the strategy is, "I want this, you want that, so let's negotiate and the most powerful will wrest the greater victory from the least powerful, and then we will live in peace." This strategy, much like the impact of WWI on Germany, and "Gunboat diplomacy," they won a battle, but didn't end the conflict, and usually generate hate that lasts for decades or centuries. There seemed to be little left but gunboat diplomacy in Iraq. In someplace like Israel, coercive strategies may win a temporary agreement, but the unconvinced power groups quickly condemn it, incite the populace, and begin employing dissent and violence to wreck the negotiations. Coercion seems to be the name of the game in the Middle East. This is why I suggest a different philosophical arena for talking about peace, one without the built in bias of power. Many, not at the point that something like this can be accepted, will reject this approach, and perhaps they can do little else. There are other resources listed at the bottom of this page which emphasize other good approaches.
Pluralism and diversity have been promoted by many for some time - I'm certainly not the first to suggest this, or to suggest unbiased forums. Many of the thoughts placed here are products of these lines of thought, and Post-postmodern thought. My purpose here is simply to try to get people thinking in these terms.
Note: I view "Modernism" as a valid quest for answers and absolutes. I view Postmodernism as a valid confirmation that there are many valid viewpoints that describe both constructs and the many aspects of the absolutes. In a Post-postmodern era, I believe that Postmoderism is a temporal interlude of unbiased reflection that permits the cleansing of ideas to reveal the gems within them, and the reconstruction of tradition. Postmodernism itself makes no claims of any kind.
Pluralism and Diversity Attitude Philosophy is one attempt to improve our world by recognizing the value of and the attainment of pluralism and diversity.
Pluralism and Diversity Attitude Philosophy is a moderate direction that addresses the kind of world we create with an emphasis on pluralism, diversity, and consequences of actions, to enable peaceful living by addressing the just interests of all parties, while remaining cognizant of accepted standards of law which provide limits. Rather than a negative reaction to something, this philosophy is a proactive vision for pluralism and diversity. It is primarily affirmative and visionary (positive) with the goal of to build rather than to tear down.
This is an attempt to establish an independent position that provides a philosophical method forum for effective and fruitful communication for the exchange of ideas, discussion of ideas, and resolution of conflict. It is not the purpose of the forum to judge the overall merit of ideas or judge between ideas, but simply to establish a forum in which the participants can realistically evaluate their own ideas, and help belief systems remain open systems. I intentionally added the word "attitude" because it symbolizes that applying the framework is a volitional act reflecting an internal acceptance to enable candid discussion, not a philosophy that is forced onto someone.
pluralism and Diversity have implications for personal and collective meaning, individual differences, cultural and political differences, religious and philosophical differences, social construction, psychological theoretical constructs, narrative interpretation, educational methods, literary and social criticism, and probably a lot more that I haven't thought of. The basic concept is unity through diversity of thought rather than through singularity of thought. It is similar in concept to the forum presented by the PMTH discussion list.
This is a result of Post-Postmodern thought. This philosophy is not a theory or an absolute, but is a place for centering (unbiased reflection) and an attitude supporting unbiased contemplation. It does not dictate any beliefs or solutions, but supports growth and resolution.
The main ideas are to enable:
- Respect for each other's points of views and ways of life
- Conflicting ideas to live together in harmony
- Absolute ideas to coexist with other ideas
- Legitimate interests to be achieved without repressing each other
- Nations (people and ethnic groups) to retain their identity even when faced with competing cultures
- Recognition of some universal values which guide every society, as guides in this philosophical forum (a forum in this article is a perspective, even a construct for some, which is a venue for discussion and resolution)
- Recognition of historical context which brings valuable experience about life and values
- Resolution of competing beliefs that aren't compatible, by admitting exceptions, coexistence, deconstruction and reconstruction around the meaning and goals inherent in the original beliefs, or a recognition that the value conflicts with universal values
Concepts that Diversity Attitude Philosophy promotes:
- Plurality and diversity - unity can exist with either singularity or diversity of thought. There is greater strength in diversity than in singularity.
- Conflict is inevitable and often desirable for growth; peaceful resolution of conflict is imperative.
- Conflict resolution is superior when maximizing solutions to meet individual needs, and compromising [losing ground] only when essential). Conflict might be within a person, within a family, between individuals and groups, institutions, governments, nations, etc.
- Ideas such as cultural meta-narratives tend to be provisional, not absolutes, and the outcome of any evaluation by participants doesn't become the view of Diversity Attitude. Clarify rather than reject meaning-making.
- Justice (in fullness of its meaning)
- Local norms are normative determinants. Individuals and societies develop independently and at their own rate.
- Exceptions to beliefs and ethics. Admitting absolutes for those who believe in absolutes, but acknowledging that others may hold other beliefs that are valid for them.
- Social construction of perceived reality (subjective)
- Firm grounding in historically successful virtues, but open to new experience
- Open future, encouraging growth and change (not a closed system, even if only admitting to exceptions)
- A reverence for life and death, individual liberty, community cohesiveness, and individual and collective responsibility.
Concepts that it doesn't embrace without losing effectiveness:
- The quest for absolutes at the expense of everything else, and the resulting fear, does not fit within this philosophy.
- Extremist positions.
- Singularity views that try to force everyone and all needs and behavior to be the same.
- Value judgments about belief (religious and philosophical) systems.
- Value judgments about philosophical and ethical systems.
- Value judgments about theoretical constructs within social sciences.
- Judgments regarding behavior that is within normal constraints (legal, ethical). Promoting virtuous behavior, and judging behavior are two different things.
- Inflexible political or other Agendas.
- An independent position, or safe and non-threatening "middle ground," which permits the unbiased view of and discussion of competing ideas (Influenced by Ury's "third side").
- Deconstruction - Permits clarifying important issues within
meta-narratives without invalidating its basic objectives. (Derrida)
- Reconstruction - Permits building bridges that take into account
important issues on each side; or reformulates a single side to reach goals without the encumbrance of less important issues.
- Relevance - If it has no significant impact, then it is over-interpreted, and is probably not relevant (Influenced by Umberto Eco on over-interpretation).
These are practices that don't involve creating principles about behavior or belief systems. They deal with some things that would affect Diversity Attitude's ability to help communications and self-impose limits.
1. Diversity. I see Diversity Attitude as a tool, not a statement of faith about its own absoluteness. I don't think that Diversity Attitude means that there can absolutely be no truth and that all constructs are without meaning or validity. (For example, Derrida says that relativism and "no absolutes" is the opposite of what he says.) Diversity Attitude isn't the arbiter of truth or validity, or a rejecter of truth - it is independent of truth and validity. Diversity Attitude is a philosophy that permits one to look with less bias, especially bias from meta-narratives. It is an attitude that is a counter attitude to some modernist's quest for absolutes.
Diverse beliefs or constructs may represent many valid points of view, and these might possibly relate to valid things beyond them. (Life is a journey, not a destination.) Within this plurality of beliefs there is probably a "mode," which is representative of what people find in common (such as "God is Love," and as more valid things are discovered I would expect this mode to shift, but in a positive direction. This happens within all religions, governments, and philosophies. If Diversity Attitude defines an ethic or belief, then it is less able to shift as the mode shifts.
Some suggest that Postmodernism or Social Constructionism be used to compare and judge various constructs. The comparison of which construct is better, potentially is not a move toward diversity and the recognition of individual differences and needs, but a move toward absolutes. It promotes oneness by singularity, not oneness by inclusiveness. Figuratively, it reduces all words to one word as if the others were irrelevant. It reduces experience to a single defined path. It reduces society to sameness, not individuality. Rather than letting societies experience by the course of normal growth and interaction, it tries to declare a standard.
2. Rule of Law and Justice. The rule of law is a bit controversial since some believe that the rule of law is simply an extension of economic pursuits, which may be inherently unfair to some. The laws of society are often protectionist of economics. Rather than law, justice implies equitable solutions. There are basic minimal standards of conduct to which we can all subscribe or agree to live by. These aren't relative. The fact that our legal systems go through cycles of being conservative or liberal show that there is a live discussion going on about these that creates a balance of power or a representative "mode." By subscribing to this mode, Diversity Attitude is never "against the law" even though it might question and explore it.
3. History. All of history, including religious and philosophical history, presents a chronicle of the interaction of human beings with concepts of moral behavior (behavior that can be judged and learned from), presenting examples of the highs and lows. There is wisdom in history. It is up to us to establish guiding moral principles that improve our world, and decide what kind of a world we want to create. Diversity Attitude can be a tool for exploring history (not judging it) without the influence of meta-narratives, in order to learn from it.
4. All is not written. While we can look back and learn much from history, it is by trying and evaluating new things that progress and growth are achieved. That there is "nothing new under the sun" applies to human nature, but not to technological achievement and the complicated situations that our technology and rapidly changing and condensing world thrusts on us, or to our ability to effectively change human behavior.
5. Relevance. There is another aspect of relativity that doesn't mean that "everything" is relative. That is, understanding the connectedness and interrelatedness of things - in other words, what is relative to us. By understanding what is relevant to our lives, and what is less relevant, we get a better picture of the things that affect our lives. This permits systems or constructs to be adopted which address the needs of the individual. Relevance helps define limits so that there is not the appearance of chaos, complexity, and relativity that has no end. (Influenced by Eco on avoiding over-interpretation, and by my work in artificial intelligence (fringe), word meaning, and categorization.)
People fear that the slippery slopes of relativism will lead to the abandonment of anything "moral." So people insist on something "absolute," and disregard the collective belief systems that guide today's multicultural world. Yet, while there are many examples of immoral leaders and events in today's world, there is also tremendous pressure to improve, and it is working. For example, while there have been many internal struggles in countries in the last 50 years, there have been very very few countries attacking and conquering other countries, which was very common before WWII. Hitler types would be much less likely to threaten the world today on the scale that he achieved in the 1940s. There has also been a much wider acceptance of international law, and much improvement in human rights throughout the world. I think that the basic thrust of the world situation is toward higher moral principles, partly due to improvement in beliefs and in international cooperation and agreements.
5. Truth. Diversity Attitude should not be for or against truth. Rather than reject what is called truth, we should realize that our ontology of truth is incomplete, and life experience is a way of proving the theories through ideas and experience. This is very different from rejecting all truth or endorsing specific truth, and is also different from a point of view that all truth is already known and is present in ancient writings (whether religious, mystical, or philosophical). This applies to both philosophy and religion. Many religions, I think, are constructs of what often originated not as "modernist" or absolutist thought, but were original revelations or perceptions and then became absolutist by proponents and bureaucracies.