RESISTING NIHILISM SINCE 1989 Keynote Address to the 12th World Congress of the International Society for Universal Dialogue, Lima, Peru.
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The International Society for Universal Dialogue (ISUD) was founded, in a moment of optimism and hope, to be an active part of a global resistance to nihilism while working to realize a more peaceful, humane, and just world order. Today, the hope for cultural renewal has faded as we sense that our ability for authentic public discourse on issues of meaning and value has diminished. The cultural dominance of instrumental rationality along with the steady spread of market practices and market logic into our everyday taken-for-granted understanding of things frames the pursuit of individual self-interest and calculative impersonal relations as the model of rationality and all social relations. Our bonds of attachment and our sense of shared community are replaced with impersonal contracts and Hobbesian self-identities. The result is that what Edmund Husserl and Jürgen Habermas called the “lifeworld,” our taken-for-granted background of shared meaning from which cultural achievements emerge and from which meaning is created and replenished through the sharing of perspectives and open dialogue—has now been corrupted, captured, colonized by creeping nihilism. This paper argues that the contemporary challenge for ISUD and philosophy itself is to repair and replenish our shared and overlapping lifeworlds through the recovery, critique, clarification, and renewal of authentic values, insights, and achievements from the widest possible plurality of traditions, cultures, and philosophical visions. We must liberate the life world from the snares of creeping nihilism. We must repair and replenish the life world through open and honest communication, through philosophical dialogue among an ever-greater plurality of perspectives and points of view.
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