2020 | 3 | 5-7
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Editorial: Comparative Culture Studies in Philosophy and Aesthetics

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We have the pleasure to present a broad collection of deeply elaborated and original-minded texts entitled Comparative Culture Studies in Philosophy and Aesthetics. The material in this issue of Dialogue and Universalism, guest-edited by the academician Antanas Andrijauskas, includes the findings of culture-focused comparative research in philosophy and aesthetics. The authors investigate various aspects, fragments and spheres of culture in different historical eras and geographical locations and compare mutually distant cultures, frequently finding amazing similarities between them. Studies on Chinese culture and its relations to other cultures are the most numerous in the collection. The term “culture” (as well as its plural “cultures”) is used here in three meanings: culture in the narrowest sense (art, rituals, specific ethnic views), culture in the broadest sense (the entirety of the lifeworld, i.e. all the non-biological spheres of human existence), and, situated above these two meanings, culture in the philosophical sense, where the aim of inquiry is not the scope of culture but its essential properties. By their very nature, comparative culture studies are impressive in their scope: They demand the ability to investigate from diverse cultural perspectives at once and to switch from one cultural consciousness to another. Such transitions are often considered impossible as many theories claim humans are en-closed in their respective worldviews which are incomparable. Culture studies also require reference to various philosophical disciplines and various spheres of the humanities and social sciences. It must be noted here that in this issue of Dialogue and Universalism the philosophical perspective is the dominant one. In these culture researches, philosophy oversees all other spheres of knowledge, organises inquiries and gives them a philosophical character. Philosophy is also an object of study in the culture research here provided: For the authors it is an important, even leading component of culture, not separated in any distinct way from cultural consciousness. It would be stating the obvious to say that studies which compare cultures and seek out their differences and common points are of fundamental importance and far more than only an intellectual challenge. Investigating the essence of cultures and the relations between them is important not just for closed scholarly circles and non-academic enthusiasts, and not only for purely theoretical reasons or because culture scholars are curious about worlds different from their own. Culture studies, especially comparative research, are of extreme importance for the human world, also today. Understanding and cataloguing the specific features of the cultures that developed in various parts of the world, their evolution over history, the relations between them and their common areas is one of the sine qua non conditions of understanding between human individuals, social groups, peoples and civilisations. Knowledge about cultures, the discovery and study of their differences underlies perceptive social communication. And most important in such comparative studies is axiological neutrality (which is generally a necessary research criterion). Putting it somewhat perversely, comparative culture research involves a kind of rational empathy, or the rational investigation of what initially appears as exotic, totally unknown and alien, and therefore, as human history teaches us, can easily be perceived as hostile. Mutual understanding—or at least a comparison of cultural differences with-out their full comprehension but with their positive acceptance as the legacy of Others—enables conflicts to be disarmed already in their emergence phase, or simply prevented. It opens the door to the conciliatory resolution of misunderstandings and helps overcome hostility. Another banality which must be brought to the fore here is that true human coexistence on a global scale must rest on mutual understanding in which one of the main carriers is the approving, or axiologically neutral admission of cultural difference. Alongside other reasons, misunderstanding, conflict and aggression are also rooted in the human biological sphere. However, in the modern world the biological determinants of intraspecial aggression have become secondary to those provided by culture (in the broadest sense of the term). Comparative culture studies transform the incomprehensible Other who is usually seen as Alien (an alien individual, social group, people or culture) into a component of our own world, and help annihilate the hostility that often stems from lacking knowledge. It is, among others, for this reason that knowledge about the Other is so crucial for the condition of today’s world and its future. The aim is for the Other not to become Alien and, in consequence, hostile. Therefore—as professor Antanas Andrijauskas has stated in his private correspondence—comparative culture research is of strategic importance for the condition and future of contemporary humanity. It is an unalienable component of an enlightened strategy serving the further evolution of the human world towards reducing intraspecial aggression—which, let me repeat, is today mainly cultural. Consequently, and in line with its mission, the studies conducted by the Lithuanian Cultural Research Institute are/should be of importance for contemporary geopolitics. We are living in times of the most intensive global-scale human interaction in history—mainly in the economic and political sphere. However, these largely self-interested ties, pursued in a variety of political and economic manoeuvres, rarely base on a common social and cultural foundation. In effect, they are superficial, illusory and limited to ad-hoc interests. Thus, despite our developed communication networks, we live, as Jürgen Habermas says, in different life-worlds and our global world stands far from a true unity which is, in fact, often seen as an illusion, a falsehood propounded by propaganda or the most naïve prophets. The material in this Dialogue and Universalism issue comes from one source—the authors are all scholars from or cooperate with the Lithuanian Cultural Research Institute (located in Vilnius), a state scientific research institution. It is very impressive to see that one, not overly large research institute (65 research staff), has been able to produce such a valuable and broad legacy in such a short time. The institute was founded in 1990 as the Institute of Culture and Art with the mission of researching national culture, something that had heretofore not been pursued in Lithuania at the state level and reflected the changes in science policy after the country regained independence. In 2002, after its merger with the philosophy departments of the Lithuanian Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, it became the Institute of Culture, Philosophy and Art, and since 2010 is the Lithuanian Cultural Research Institute. The institute has considerably broadened its research since 2002, and today studies culture in general, and all cultures. From 2002 to 2020 only its Department of Comparative Culture Studies, under professor Antanas Andrijauskas, which employs 12 research fellows and cooperates with others (among them are professors Vladimir V. Maliavin from Russia and Hidemichi Tanaka from Japan) has published 45 monographs, 72 collective editions, 79 studies, and over 1100 academic articles. Chapeau bas! The Dialogue and Universalism editorial team wishes to extend its thanks to this issue’s authors for their efficient and friendly cooperation. Our special thanks go to the guest editor, professor Andrijauskas, for his work on this publishing project. I hope our readers receive it with the interest and appreciation it deserves.
  • Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences
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