The Fourteenth General Conference : The Truth about Islam in a Changing World
About An "Age Of Modest Reason", Of "Dialogue", Of "Paradoxical Humanity" And Of "Otherness"
About An "Age Of Modest Reason", Of "Dialogue", Of "Paradoxical Humanity" And Of "Otherness" : Canada As A Meta-Culture
By J.J. Van Vlasselaer Professor, Carleton University
Canada, during the last hundred years has evolved - and recently, very quickly - from second - level colony to an inter-nation, an inter - culture welcoming state. To explore this renewed framework of societal change, of a new perception of civil society, of a new proposal of civilization, I shall present a few concepts, which form the framework of this evolution, as well as some of the milestones which have led to this new temporary equilibrium, which underlie such a fundamental shift in the thought process of a nation.
Canada's lack of "strong national identity" (in the XIXth and XXth century sense of the term) as well as its experience with diversity are proving to be major assets to a state projecting itself into the XXIst century. Its prospective societal tissue is one of "inclusiveness" (societe' d'accueil) where horizontal "soft" power exchange and a meta - culture built from the positive perception of "difference" and the dynamics of "diversity" create not only a space for a permanent rejecting of our perception of the world, but permit a networked individual identity. This identity is at the opposite end of the spectrum of the homogenic one (homogeneity is boring"), of cultural cliché’s and generalization, of insecurity and its correlate defensive institutionalized units.
The dynamics, fertile concepts of "difference" and "diversity" permit a positive integration of the too - often excluded notions of "complexity" and "paradox" necessary to contemporary thought. "Difference", as an essential notion in cognitive development is also an operative concept in the understanding of "otherness" (and its social correlate "diversity"). They represent cornerstones of a "knowledge society".
This presentation will cover a short perspective of the recent Canadian societal evolution, from its 1968 bilingualism option, its subsequent multicultural perspective on, towards a "learning society" based on cultural networking, inter-analyzing, internalizing difference. From a "two-nation" state, Canada turned into a transnational, inter-nation (al), inter-cultural society.
A Few Opening Quotes:
"Just like individuals, civilizations die in a way as certain and as unexpected" (Edgar Morin).
And from the same French sociologist E. Morin "The future is of the order of the improbable".
To J.C. Guillebaud now: J.C. Guillebaud, author of a remarkable book on the "Refoundation of the world" (Seuil). He writes "the us is constitutive of the me" An Indian proverb tells us that "Life is a bridge. One has to cross it. And not build a house on it". Tchouang-Tseu reminds us that "the accomplished man does not accompany back what is going away, does not proceed what is coming, welcomes everything, does not keep anything, and, that way, embraces human beings without suffering any damages".
Towards The Re-foundation Of Dialogue (About Democracy And Dialogue):
This presentation is also about human beings, about human transformation, about new perspectives of our social time. This is also about the elusive substance, which helps human beings transform themselves: the concept of difference, which understood in its coagulated, positivistic, essentialist, ultimately stereotyped way can become its own worst enemy and be the measure of exclusion.
The perspective is one of metamorphosed democracy, such as foreseen by Hannah Arendt: as a community of dialogue between ephemeral singulars for whom the consensus is always temporary or provisional and the anxiety, permanent. J. Habermas views it as a society in which community policies are organized in such a way that those for whom the rights and laws are promulgated consider themselves as their authors. A society in which auto determination responds to the new complexity, the new paradoxes of the international world, of networked communication in our contemporary world, preserving, enhancing the effective role of citizens in that society. Democracy is a space for dialogue. Dia-logos: from its Greek origins the word refers to both reason and language. Obviously the space has changed from the Agora to our contemporary context, where we can have communication between an infinite number of people who do not know each other and who are physically remote and distant from each other. Our Agora has electronic dimensions. Our perception of time and space has dramatically changed.
Distances have been virtualized. This absence of limits, but more so, the speed of change frightens. Our new house-world bewilders, confuses. Within this multiplicity of being, this continuous and indefinite branching off of time, dialogue, dia-logos keeps a fundamental value as the space of creative encounter.
Dia-logos keeps by definition a fundamental, universal value of morality which has as its point of departure not what separates human beings but what unites them. And what unites them is reason in the action of dialogue. It necessarily presupposes the equality of all human beings as reasonable beings. That is what is implied in the word dialogue. When I enter into a dialogue with you, I recognize by that virtue your capability of truth (“capax veritas”) says Marcel Conche, and, as such, not alienated by the causes which would obliterate your judgment, free and using freely your reason. Humans who dialogue say to each other, implicitly, one to another, “you are my equal”. This is about human rights and uniquely about human rights. This is also because I consider the human person sacred, an absolute which should not, cannot, be subordinated to anything, to anyone.
Towards A New Age Of Reason (About Reason, Humble Reason And Paradoxical Humanity)
In the history of Europe - which became the think-tank for Western (occidental) civilization, the XVIIIth century was a moment of take-off, technological, scientific but also legal, philosophical, social, in comparison with other civilizations. It crystallized its secular forces, clearly separating itself from holistic societies, opening up to the conscience of the “self”, leading to a major lesson of the “Age of Enlightenment”: critical reasoning. The notion of the individual became both a conquest and a horizon. Especially combined with the ideal of sovereign reasoning, which in turn took care of political constitutions, collective decisions as well as being the guide to individual lives, presiding over the morality of choices as well as the justice of sentencing.
This evolution went together and broke definitely all ties with homoagrarian, rhythmed by natural cycles, by seasons and moons, an initial humanity of "cold works", of invariance. It ran parallel to the homo-economicus, living in a promethean, industrialized world, transformed through heat. This XIXth and very much XXth century era of industries, colonialism and empires reduced “reason” as only one of the numerous factors of determining human situations, and not "its original source, it ultimate measure" (J. Habermas). Later, the XXth century, as you know well, did not only put "reason" into doubt, it dug into the dark side of human behavior, its instincts, its hatred to find its forces of power and of destruction.
Reasoning is not given; it's a process at work. It exists only in every attempt, in every endeavour of argumentation. It is a reason founded on a linguistic, on a language, on a communication basis: but this does not suffice. Again, in the words of Jurgen Habermas: “next to that, one has to found a legitimity of rights in a framework of a concept of reason as communication”. It would replace the classical model of the contract by an agreement established through discussion. The democratic debate and the legitimization of the state of law have an internally, a strong conceptual relationship. Through this relation we can, in a globalized inter-nationalized world reconstruct the enlightenment, the age of reason for our time. Not one of hard instrumental rationalism, but one in which we apply what I call “humble reasoning” based on a continuous distance-taking of ones own reflection, and the integration of learning to doubt, basic ingredients to a world in which the horizons become those of uncertain belonging, of genetic identities, of multilayered and fractally strong personalities. This humble reasoning leads to a paradoxical humanism: "humble reasoning", able to criticize oneself is inseparable of spiritual freedom, of tolerance. "Humble reasoning does not combat beliefs, it combats fences of all kinds" (François Chatelet). It constitutes the key to "paradoxical humanism", which is a humanism opening up to the other, to the plurality constituted by others and through them and the integration of their difference, their differences, to fortify oneself, one's "self". The lead towards paradoxical humanism will be furthered when we tie it to the concept of "otherness", because "paradoxical humanism" is "humanism of the other". It breaks ties with "totalities" and it escapes the philosophy of identity and thus not only opens up to a morality of otherness but as denunciates totalitarianism as political translation of the philosophies of identity. UNESCO just after World War II defined "obscurantism" as "the blind refusal of what is not ours". The context for this important conceptual shift is the one following the industrial-Promethean period, into which parts of world have already moved: it is the one of communication, of translation, of distribution, of transmission, of messages, of information, of networks, as well as of interference, interception, parasites. This is, after the period of "cold works", then of "warm industries", the fluid fluctuating, volatile one, made out of neguenthropic fine and information space (M. Serres). Information - technology running trough space of different nature, piercing vertically, running in open ended loos, connecting varieties through mobile exchanges whose nodes, whose joints connect that which prior to this, had no relation one with another. Theories of communication are now crossed by networked systems, based on theory of multiplicity. It is also the one which is defined by German sociologist Ulrich Beck as the "risiko gesellschaft" - "The Risk Society" - a society in which the logic of dangers incurs replace the one of the distribution of richness. It is a state of generalized precariousness within which even scientific thought is transformed, inscribing corrective graphs relating latent risks, integrating social demands at the initial stage of hypothesis!
At this point, we could define contemporary society as related to most of those situated in the northern hemisphere as a network of unstable relations fragile and transversal to all political, cultural and religious borders. The thus defined community is nourished by political regard for a world on the basis of a plurality of a cosmo-political representation of human ties and of citizenship in particular.
It is in this rapidly evolving context that Canada has been launched forward, thanks to a certain number of circumstances and of policies. First a few words about the historical process which was undertaken in the early sixties, now forty years ago. Canada is a country in which the aboriginal inhabitants spoke 52 languages at the time it became a nation state (1867). By that time and until recently, its fundamental institutions, political, administrative, societal were instituted by the two "founding" nations, the settler cultures, the French and English, which as a matter of fact were no really homogeneous societies. Nevertheless 80% of immigration, before 1967 (one hundred years into Canada's history) was of European heritage. Canada until then had remained an outpost of the British empire, with an Anglo - Saxon genteel voice, but a strong grip on society.
During the 1960's and into the 1970's even, Canada lived a period of assertive English speaking Canadian nationalism, both towards the Quebec province, inside, as towards the American neighbour, south of the border. The relationship with the other "founding group was indeed a non-conversation between "two solitudes" (see Hugh Mac Lennon "Two Solitudes", 1945). During the period 1962-1967 immigration laws had been overhauled. Before, they were based on race and ethnicity. After 1967, they became "Colour blind". Canada's voice had been for many years a counterpoint. Now it would become polyphonic.
At about the same time, in 1962, the editorialist of the Devoir, André Laurendeau titled an article which would become famous: "For an inquiry into bilingualism". It called for a comprehensive approach to the linguistic problem of equality of the two languages. It led to a fact- finding study led by André Laurendeau and Davidson Dunton, called the "Bilingualism and biculturalism" Royal commission and which led in turn to the Official Languages Act in 1969 and the subsequent applications of language policies through both the executive and legal powers.
As G. Pelletier wrote: "In certain areas, it is impossible to legislate equally as the Americans say. But we started from the idea that it was perfectly possible, by legal means, to bring uniform use in the country's two official languages in the relations between Parliament, the Government and the whole of the population". The implementation of the Official Languages Act was to be followed by a newly appointed Commissioner of Official Languages, a kind of ombudsman, protecting the language rights. The first one was a journalist called Keith Spicer and he took his task brilliantly from the right angle: "to uphold and preach the idea of equal dignity of English - and the French speaking Canadians". He took a resolutely non - juridical view of the Act seizing its essence of equal dignity, setting out as principles, common sense, generosity and imagination. He wanted to get people to think about languages not as problems, but as opportunities. And he spoke to people's hearts as well as their minds.
The Official Languages Act had stood the test of time and proven to be a sufficiently flexible instrument of reform. In 1988 it was partially rewritten for policies tailored to a changing society. Canada's perception of the world had indeed changed very quickly. Under Prime Minister Trudeau the "Charter of Rights and Freedoms" was repatriated (1981). Equal opportunity, the rights of minorities, human rights, the multicultural state were all interwoven in "this" turning - point charter. It enunciates basic equality and guarantees equitable treatment, not only in reference to aboriginal rights and freedoms, in the equal status of men and women, in the enjoyment of liberty of citizens of Canada, but also in its provisions relating to official languages and minority language education rights. Moreover it recognizes multiculturalism and at the same time places it in the context of a set of shared values, confirmed by law, "which give structure and strength to the common culture underlying all Canadian life".
Meanwhile world immigration had transformed its city landscapes. As we remarked before, the discourse of difference has never been ethnic but focused on language and culture. Now, the English - French duality was being absorbed by the ideology of pluralism. The cultural economy in Canada had naturally become inclusive. The "Anglo/other" opposition and its dominant discourse which had constructed "the other" was being diluted into marginalized discourses within a legal system open to its diversity. From a difficult, bifurcated position into a cultural borderland, in which the right of being culturally plural is opening the road to the inter-cultural being.
A few figures: in the largest city of Canada, Toronto, 54% of the population are immigrants (many are refugees). One out of ten Americans is an immigrant; the figure in Canada is double: one in five. Refugees can work: 77% of them are doing that while waiting for the processing of their claims. All are entitled to social assistance after more of less three months. The size of the Canadian population born in Asia, Latin America, Africa increased by 340% between 1971 and 1986. And it must be said also that 90% of Canada's immigration went to the country's eight largest metropolitan areas. This led also to a sharper urban-rural split for Canada in comparison to the USA.
Now, what is that "Common culture underlying all Canadian life"? Both cultural matrix and a complex of values and traditions which are the open subtractions to everything else, allowing immigrants to maintain, to discard, to acquire, to help read by themselves this usually very illusive notion of "difference".
Pluriculturalism had emerged as an increasingly insistent overlay on the fundamental duality, had unhinged it from its opposing position. Canada, as a diversity laboratory, as a continuous work in progress was ready to beady to become an inter-nation, inter-culture, meta-culture state. This happened in an almost natural development triggered through three interconnecting levels of political and social discourse: (1) the one which restarted the dialogue with the First Nations of Canada and ultimately led to the Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples to Canada in 1996. As James (Sakej) Youngblood Henderson writes: "Three features distinguish the Report from other political writings: its interrelated methodology, its rejection of colonization and its view of Aboriginal humanity; and its collaborative vision of the Canadian Constitutional order". The Report Contains 5 volumes and over 400 recommendations to explain the requirements of restoring justice to the relationship between Aboriginal peoples and Canadians. Its innovative holistic methodology was developed by synthesizing Aboriginal and Euro-Canadian thought and was based on the sense that:
(a) many facets of human life and the natural world are interconnected.
(b) problems arise from interrelated causes.
(c) solutions must therefore be holistic and multifaceted as well.
Ideas were attributed to events in the past; subjective and objective perceptions were united, intercultural projects were forged. The report's four fundamental premises that will be guiding the ensuing legal and policy decisions are:
1- Mutual recognition based on equality, co-existence and self-government.
2- Mutual respect for the unique rights of Aboriginal peoples in Canada's civil ethos.
3- Mutual responsibility for ecology and a new ethic of stewardship of the land.
4- Sharing of Canadian prosperity to generate mutually beneficial economic interdependence and ecologically benign forms of resources management.
This report is a marker in post-colonial methodology and research. A model for attempting to capture Aboriginal difference and cultural diversity in a post-colonial nation.
(II) The second level of societal discourse is the one that deals with the Canada-Quebec relationship. We have already pointed some of the most important steps towards bilingualism and biculturalism from 1962 on. In fact, our luck, Canada's luck was at the time the presence of its province of Quebec which "thwarted the attempted formation in the last century of a unitary-American style pan-Canadian narrative" (Tamara Palmer-Seiler). It was the necessary counterpoint to keep Canada from falling into the easy trap of assimilation, although until the early seventies it was virtually part of the Canadian voice via translation. In a bilingual state the danger of recuperation by the dominant culture is almost inevitable. But this second level of discourse, combined with the quite different one which society recently discovered entering into the dialogue with the Aboriginal peoples, and with (Ill) the third one, the one of non-Euro centred immigration, and its major constituent of "visible minorities" has fundamentally changed the deal, subverting the binary frame, shattering the opposing forces, deconstructing the status quo, challenging the limits to diversity inherent in hegemonic notions of political discourse. As Tamara Palmer-Seller writes:
"ethnic minority writers have created fiction that evokes a fraught and bifurcated borderland space when the Anglo-Canadian centre intersects with the ethnic immigrant culture".
With three levels of discourse freely conversing in a society which has learned to read the differences as part of its cultural framework: Canada's matrix had acquired its triple dimension. Parallel to this, the government and its institution have become the facilitators for its community of citizens to negotiate, to challenge even the prevailing norms and institutions of recognition and accommodation of diversity, to experiment even with new arrangements.
The participation itself generates cohesion and tends to create a form of *citizen-identity that is appropriate to cooperation among culturally diverse citizens" (James Tully).
In this sense, Canada is moving into a post modern global, political and legal order of negotiated multi-level networks of action coordination, "the democratic freedom of the individuals and the groups involved to negotiate the way they are recognized and accommodated as they cooperate is going to be an increasing important factor in the legitimacy, stability and cohesion of the new world". (James Tully).
In our renewed forum for dialogue, fundamentally changed through our ways of communication, forum for any democracy, we collectively know that there is no definitive procedure for exchange of public reasons, that political association is not a fixed structure, that these are of a negotiated order, including negotiation over prevailing procedures of negotiations: Again, as James Tully points out, the freedom to "have a say" underlies all the other rights of the Roman principle of "Audi alteram partem" (always listen to the other side). Canadians know that belonging is not definitive, that identity is a moving complexity, citizenship a moving target; that belonging is not without contradictions, but that it reflects in us the complexities and paradoxes of our societies, "that it is the consequence of its being multiole by definition". (H. Nowotny).
We know that movements of people, of exchange are normal; we accept that newcomers are legitimate, because we know that humankind is a global reality - these are some of the "inescapable realities" which formed the underlying context of the Banff meeting. It leads also to important inferences and conditions of success such as the fact that:
(a) a minimum of social cohesion is necessary for good governance (in its evident balancing act with the requirement that a minimum of good governance is necessary for social cohesion....).
(b)"cost free otherness" goes down to the individual and does not stop at the door of a "community", whatever that community stands for.
(c) Creation of pluri-Identity citizens goes necessarily together with an employment of those citizens to be engaged in a newly deverticalized public governance space.
In the layout of the pluri-identity citizen's kit (preparing for a global citizen's kit) one should:
1- infer from universally endorsed codes of conduct, from laws ruling international obligations to realize the more natural and local ones.
2- go beyond the economic commercial dialogue and open up the space for socio-cultural, the artistic narrative. We know that literary fiction is a low-risk space for public imagination to enter a renewed dialogue with society.
3- Go beyond the majority concerns and create space in which minority concerns have to be treated by community as legitimate.
Therefore the role of education is essential to create citizens able to dialogue and negotiate in a renewed public space. An education teaching diversity enhancement techniques, conceived for building inclusiveness, and following the policies of pluri-language training, in cross-cultural communication, in across language-group communication, permitting citizens to negotiate common goals, values, visions.
This leads to a new national narrative in which the ultimate dialogue in the public space is as much, if not more, about learning from each other than about trying to persuade each other. In this exercise, nobody "has to win". It is a dialogue as the ultimate exercise - from it develops a "soft protocol" which is a voluntary citizen's code of conduct. This "soft protocol" is a totally different dimension from e.g. the notion of "political correctness" which is part of the blockages of the diversity phenomenon.
Inter-culture, difference, second-level reading and the human factor Anthropologist Margaret Mead has often spoken of the symbolic meaning that the tree holds for the inhabitants of certain islands in South East Asia. Upright, deeply anchored by its roots, its crown reaching towards the sky, the tree signifies home, a nesting place, solid and deeply rooted, unmoving, growing in only one direction.
In contrast, felled/cut, the tree serves to build boats - birch-bark canoes of the North American Indian, an African dugout canoe, a Nordic skiff, or a Chinese sampan, regardless of where they come from, the function remains unchanged: it is the one of moving away, of moving away towards other places, discovering of what is beyond. This displacement creates the notion of distance, of distance apart, of divergence, the basis for the fundamental learning process of perceiving and integrating difference. This voyage permits one to go from one shore to the other; it is a voyage towards otherness. This is the horizontal move, the cultural one. It is complementary and opposed to the vertical position, the rooted me, the immobile site, powerfully rooted, symbol of hierarchy, place of power: covering the whole spectrum, from the absolute vertical power of a dictatorship, the hard-core power to the "soft" power, the one that has not been negotiated between individuals that are partners in a common project. The art of seeing is invented when travelling. The art of hearing can be learned from the differential perception when going from one language to another. The art of listening invents itself when moving from one difference to another.
Margaret Mead's metaphoric story tells us in fact about the dialectical relationship between nature and culture, about roots and otherness, especially about the fact the displacement - that is the realization of difference, is the foundation of the cultural act, and that, consequently, culture is the road towards the other.
This is a notion of culture which is a construct, related to both the cognitive and the anthropological. Let us push it one step further. Culture, as Edgar Morin told us so often, is of the order of the organization of the living. Now, if an individual has learned to read differences, he is reading the world. His world. Culture as the organization of the living. Inter-culture - the individual who possesses the ability of comparing differences, who, in fact, has learned to read the difference of difference - is about the reading of the reading of the world, if you want, a meta-reading, freeing him from the first-level reading, freeing him from the cultural barriers, from culture as a barrage, the one tied to verticality, to roots, to one's static identity, very often reduced to its stereotypes in the communication of daily life, the bunker of our social subconscious.
Inter-cultural behaviour is creating for oneself a polyphonic site in which one can reflect one culture into the other one, through their necessary differences.
Our distinctiveness is to be a differential site, where all meaning bypasses the literal one. It is a continuous transit place, the one for cross-breeds, for migrants; for mutants.
Our distinctiveness is thus the differential site, where from one culture to another, from one language to another we learn to become virtuosi of perception, of understanding, and by understanding, driving back fear, comprehending the other. The other one, because of his difference, becomes my school for learning. My identity has then become the secure and continuous learning process through otherness. Recently a statesman - of which very few exemplary specimens remain said of Canada "While other countries are building fences, Canada is building bridges". Far from searching its identity into a reconstructed "glorious" past, Canada builds a civilization of cross-cultural communication, empowering its citizens to transit between multiple cultures, offering forums of discussion and dialogue. Recognizing difference is a dynamic integrative strength that opens up to inter-cultural being. And being inter-cultural enhances one's identity. In its social perspective the evolution is towards the "international" state and has as ground rule the recognition of diversity, as identity the passage, the bridge towards the other, towards otherness.
Better even: beyond tolerance for the other, beyond the right to identity, the road is open for the ritht of being plural, of plurality - which is the integration of the other in one's dialogue with the world. Babel was not a punishment. Babel was a gift. The essence of human adventure is pulling up the roots. Turning the tree into a bark travelling into otherness will do it. And contrary to the words of Huntington who says that the grandeur of a civilization produces diversity, we believe in Canada that it is diversity, in its interplay with equality, that produces a grand civilization.
"I am between the proper and the foreigner and I am not one without the other", said the Japanese painter of the XVI century, Fujiwara. With which the very contemporary French writer and essayist J.-C. Guillebaud concurs: "The WE is constitutive of the ME". Yes, difference is the road to otherness and otherness (Levinas) is the way to keep is alive. "To suppress distance, remoteness, kills" said the French poet Rene' Char. And an Indian proverb, in a way, gives us the dynamic response to all this. "Life is a bridge. One has to cross it. And not build a house on it". Displacement is self-transportation. Metamorphosis is life. It is also the essence to our elusive identity. Reflecting on culture into another Canada is creating this moving no-man's land, in which its meta-culture is a civilizational attitude. It is the un-ghettoized country. Where else could one, in the worst of the Bosnian war, find emigrants of Bosnian, Serb, Croat background, one week after their arrival, play soccer together in a square in Montreal?
Canada's social, its political will goes beyond tolerance, beyond definitions. It is about second-order identity, it is about evolving structures, about continuous dialogue, and up to a point it is about a capacity of irresolution, leaving doors open; it is the replacement of vertical power by soft power, it is the principle of reasonable disagreement, it is about education in plurality, in complexity (and not in stereotypes). It is a world, not of revolutionary change, but about sweet change, it is about putting human beings into a cultural context which gives them the freedom to be plural, to be not what you have to be, but to help create multiple niches in one's behavioural patterns. This is why people in Canada feel free. They are part of the ongoing process. And the process is about learning. And the learning is about process creation, where no norm has legitimization anymore when it has not gone through the practice of dialogue, in a world of profoundly changed communication. A civilization where justice is the goal and democracy the means, a civilization in which the second level reading of cultures has opened to a meta-culture, by definition flexible and neutralized, open to any new difference, the one of "the human principle".
It does not suffice to say that the "me" needs the "us". The dependency, the creative tie is far stronger. The "us" is constitutive of the "me". The "us" constructs me in my real being. I am made out of other. From him/her I receive language, conscience, identity. The other one defines me. The emancipated individual of occidental culture is more and more drawn in a learning process, the learning over again of the other, which positivistic individualism had cut short. The principle of otherness destroys the fortress of the "subject", the castle of "essence", the skyscraper of "identity", (as perceived in the XIXth and XXth centuries, imposed by the ideology of the Nation-States), the hearth of the of "ego". Emmanuel Levinas, who has explored the thinking about "otherness" says "human beings are no trees, humanity is not a forest". Lets pick up our language, leave our comfortable home, leave for what it was Greek philosophy's obsession with "self", "same", "the one". Then, identification of the self through the other is an individualized guarantee of my difference. It also guarantees a certain type of sociability, the creation of a social tissue build out of differential cohesion, as we become subject through intentional it if the other. This inversed intentionality builds also a relationship of a different order than the one we can have as objective knowledge - the knowledge of an object. It is the order of listening to verbal sound, to a discourse, to a discourse as a paradigm of intelligibility (and not as a straight forward translation into our "self"). It is an immediate trigger for critical speech, carrier of the function of transcendence of the "other". Here, through discourse with the legal-conceptual - rational perspective of J. Habermas and the philosophical - spiritual approach of E. Levinas prepare communication and dialogue at the individual level for what in very general terms has been called "the dialogue of civilizations".
About Qur’ânic Thought And "Otherness"
A few general thoughts, to finish, as my knowledge of the Qur’ân and Islamic limited.
In fact, in reference to science, technology and arts, Muslim civilization was equivalent to what happened in Europe at the baroque and pre-classical period, through thoughts that were nurtured during the XIth – XIIth - XIIIth centuries. Islâm was indeed very close to pre-Keplerian, pre-Cartesian, pre-Copernican Europe. Wasn't it the Islam of Andalusia which had transmitted to the Latins not only Greek philosophy, basis on rational thoughts but also the Scientific Arabic corpus on which from 1150 European medieval universities would thrive in all fields - psychology, ontology, natural science, physics, optics, metaphysics, philosophy of the mind...? And didn't, in general, Qur’ânic heritage have a deceive role in the propagation and the success of rational thought in medieval occident? Wasn't it Al-Tûsi who traced part of the road for Copernicus? Hadn't the man of Coroba (1126-1198), Averroes, Abi-Al-Walîd Muhammad ibn Ahmâd ibn Muhammad ibn Rushd, perceived the emergency of the nation of liberty of the individual, the rights of the person, the dismantling of the consubstantiality of the political and of the religious, basis of the upcoming "Age of reason". If we combine with those premises the fact that Islam holds a profound knowledge of humility (not of humiliation); a knowledge of the infinite remoteness of "the one", of the deserted land (humus, land of human) by him, which makes for an ungrateful sojourn but where human beings can have the courage and the pride, the self respect to go their way, then Ismâ’îl in the desert with Hagar is not anymore reduced to a myth of compassion, but becomes one of our possible names, as a name of otherness; which will help the occident to open its "Self".
Isn't there a Hadith with reads: "Islam was born a stranger; it will finish as it started, a stranger; blessed be the stranger"?