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HANS-GEORG GADAMER ON PREJUDICE AND THE TRANSMODERN PROJECT

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CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1 Background of the Study

Given the fall outs from the current world order, a certain strand of contemporary philosophy makes the case for another world. In their estimation, ‘another world is possible.’1 For some others within this school of thought, the alternative to the current world order should aim at creating ‘a world in which all worlds fit’.2 Yet for another group, they seek ‘worlds and knowledges otherwise’.3 For these schools of thought, the current world order is Euro-American and it possesses an exclusivist cosmovision. On this count, the current world order rather than seeking to arrive at a world in which all worlds fit just elevates the ideals of a particular world as a standard for other worlds to follow. In more specific terms, it is the Euro-American vision that has been universalised for all to follow. But the economic crises that greeted the West between 2007 and now places a lot of doubt on the continued efficacy of this cosmovision. The grand narrative which this vision held that “…once situated humanity in some continuing stream of meaning has faltered amidst existential doubt or economic and political ruins…”4 This places before us therefore, the urgent need for an alternative cosmovision. The urgency of this need is one motivation for this research.

Bearing in mind the fact that the world in which we live today is a global village, it becomes obvious that any effort at a new cosmovision cannot afford to ignore the demands for ‘a world in which all worlds fit’. Arriving at this world is primarily a practical task. But before this task can be executed in practice, it must redefine itself at a theoretical level or better still as a theoretical endeavour. It is within this context of theoretical redefinition that Gadamer and the transmodern engagement with prejudice is appropriated in this research. More precisely, Gadamer’s direct appropriation of prejudice and its impact on the transmodern idea of the bio/geo/body-politics of knowledge challenges the idea of universality as is the case in the Euro-American cosmovision. This challenge is not in favour of subjectivism or relativism, but in favour of ‘intersubjective dialogue’ and ‘pluriversality as a universal project’. Establishing these as genuine theoretical, as well as philosophical alternative upon which to achieve the practical task of building ‘a world in which all worlds fit’ is yet another motivation for this research.

In establishing the epistemic potency of these positions for a new world order, something further engages the attention of this study. As has already been stated above, Gadamer’s hermeneutic philosophy and its prejudicial base5, alongside its impact on the transmodern concern for ‘pluriversality as a universal project’6 are the favoured theoretical apparatus for achieving this new cosmovision. But then, a study of the transmodern project and its emphasis on delinking from the dominant macro-narratives projected by the West needs a closer scrutiny to establish how true the transmodern project is to this claim of delinking. The compelling force of this need is yet another motivating point for this research.

1.2 Statement of the problem

The idea of the possibility of another world is an idea which was developed, partly, as a reaction to the effects of the ‘clash of civilizations/cultures’. In the aftermath of the ‘clash of cultures’ came the rhetoric of ‘cultural interaction/contacts’ as alternative to the clash of cultures. But an observation of the world order, as it stands, still shows that the idea of ‘cultural interaction’ has not really proven to be a true alternative to ‘the clash of cultures’; rather it has only succeeded in moderating and covering over the naked force that ‘the clash of cultures’ portend. This is the case because, under the guise of cultural interaction, ‘super-cultures’ have continued to valourise aspects of their cultures and to hold them up as ideals/universals for other (smaller) cultures to follow. The broad problematique of this research is therefore, that of finding a basis for sustaining the identity and uniqueness of smaller-cultures in the face of the imposing presence of ‘super-cultures’. Based on this, the main question for this research is: is it possible to find a basis on which all cultures can interact and be appreciated in their uniqueness without losing sight of the common good for humanity and the planet? Or better still, can there be any basis for creating a world in which all worlds fit? To answer this question properly, the research is guided by the following questions:

  1. Are there any identifiable connections between Gadamer’s postulations on prejudice and the philosophy of the transmodern project?
  2. Has the transmodern project been able to extend Gadamer’s philosophical legacy in any way?
  3. Are the positions of Gadamer and the transmodern project with regard to prejudice tenable in any way?
  4. Are there any specific practical imports of Gadamer and the transmodern concerns that can aid in dismantling the current Euro-American cosmovision (colonial matrix of power) and fostering a collaborative approach to building a new world system and cross-cultural contact?

1.4 Significance of the Study

This research is significant at two levels: the levels of theory and practice. At the level of theory, the significance of this research includes: (i) it demonstrates the continued fruitfulness of the works of Gadamer and the transmodern project and assesses continuing points of similarity and difference between them in order to refine and extend their legacies. It is hoped that the fertility and acuity of the present contribution will stimulate more thought and dialogue on the rich and enduring value of Gadamer’s and the transmodern’s scholarships; (ii) it challenges the conventional one-dimensional truth base for universality and objectivity. By so doing, it rethinks the concept of universality and objectivity and upholds the idea that the focus should be on ‘pluriversality as universal project’ and ‘intersubjective dialogue’. These are considered as appropriate theoretical apparatus that can foreground the possibility of ‘a world in which all worlds fit’.

At the level of practice, the significance of this study revolves around the fact that the hermeneutic philosophy of Gadamer and its root in the transmodern project produces the ethical-hermeneutic principle of cross-cultural contact/evaluation  which can dismantle the current world order and is a collaborative approach to building a new world order/cosmovision.

1.5 Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this work is to examine the concept of prejudice in Gadamer’s philosophical hermeneutics and how it forms the basis for the philosophy of the transmodern project with a view to constructing an understanding of universality that can foreground the possibility of ‘a world in which all worlds fit’.

1.6 Scope of the Study

The scope of this research is tied primarily to Hans Geroge Gadamer’s postulations on prejudice. This research focuses on Gadamer’s main works: Philosophical Hermeneutics and Truth and Method. These works will also be supplemented with ideas from his other works Hermeneutics, Religion and Ethics; and Reason in The Age of Science. Importantly too, this research is also moderated by the postulations of the transmodernists, especially as evidenced mainly in the works of Enrique Dussel, and supported by the works of Walter Mignolo, Anibal Quijano, Ramon Grosfoguel and Nelson Maldonado-Torres.

 

1.7 Research Methodology

This is basically a qualitative research. Materials were sourced from journals, libraries and online sources. The expository method was used to lay bare the basics of the positions interacted with in this research. The critical method is used to ascertain how tenable the basic positions that the research is interacting with are. It is also used to make all the necessary connections between the various currents of thought we shall be engaging here. The historical method is used to trace the origin of the ideas engaged with in this research. Textual analysis is also employed in this research.

1.8 Definition of Terms

Prejudice: The word ‘prejudice’ etymologically breaks down into pre-judice or pre-judgment. All judgements are conditioned by pre-judgements. This is an older, pre-modern sense of prejudice which this research adopts. Whereas the familiar understanding of prejudice is unreflective judgment or over-hasty reasoning, resulting in the bigotry of purely subjective opinion or the unreflective parroting of purely received wisdom. The point being made here is that judgements are made possible not by an abstract and neutral reason but a set of pre-reflective involvements with the world that stand behind judgements and in fact make them possible.7 Cosmovision: This is an amalgam of the words ‘cosmos’ and ‘vision’. It refers to a vision of the world; a conceptualization of the world. The idea to be highlighted here is that the current vision of the world is Eurocentric which, is just one and an incomprehensive vision of the world. Interculturality: This, as used here, suggests the intercultural; it is the nominal form of the adjective – intercultural. It refers precisely to the dialogue between cultures in this age of increasing global awareness.

Transversality: This refers to a kind of dialogue that violates the discourse rules of the established order. It is a type of dialogue that sets out from a place other than a mere dialogue between the learned experts of the academic or institutionally dominated worlds.8 It is a dialogue that has its nexus of discourse at the fringe of civilization.

Pluriversality: This concept stands in opposition to the concept of universality. Universality emphasizes the common features of things hence, suggesting uniformity. Pluriversality, on the other hand, comes to the fore when various local histories connect through their common experiences as the basis for a new logic of knowing.9

Hermeneutics: This term describes basically the art of interpreting texts. The notion of hermeneutics as developed in contemporary philosophy embraces not only the problems concerning the interpretation of texts – literary, philosophical or religious – but also the careful consideration of both the cultural and historical conditions that form the horizon of the text; that constitutes the interpreter’s horizon of ‘pre-understanding’.10 

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