Relational Pluralism

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Today in our polarized society we need to appreciate what Lionel Trilling called “variousness, possibilities, complexities, problems.” A life devoted to literary and cultural criticism taught Trilling that the human condition includes the experience of ambiguity, multiplicity, irony and paradox. The pluralistic literary and aesthetic cast of mind resists all forms of totalizing dogmas, philosophies, ideologies and politics. There is never just one thing, no single lock, no single key.

At the same time, we possess an equally compelling need for encompassing coherence and the unity of knowledge. Some may even aspire to construct a Theory of Everything that transcends the epistemologial limits of both modern rational-empiricism and post-modern radical-pluralism with the combinational approach of trans-modern integrative pluralism.

Both the “literary-artistic” impulse toward incommensurable diversity and the “philosophical-scientific” impulse toward rational-critical unity must be honored in a dialectical relationship that includes the predispositions toward divergence and convergence, abstract symbol and concrete sign.

In general terms we need to exercise the innate yet largely neglected power that enables us to at least partially transcend our parochial prejudices and ideological camps so that we can engage in “conversations that matter” about the shared concerns of our common humanity in the pluralist society and global age.

IN EDUCATION this requires a constructive dialogue between the liberal arts, including the disciplines of philosophy, religion, history, literature, arts and sciences. It also requires a dialogue between  the competing philosophies of education, including the utilitarian, classicist, progressive and transformationalist views.

IN PSYCHOLOGY this requires a constructive dialogue between the temperament types, i.e., the  volcanic artisans, territorial guardians, ethereal rationals and oceanic idealists.

IN WORLDVIEWS this requires a constructive dialogue between metaphysical dualists, idealists, materialists and panpsychists, among others.

IN POLITICS this requires a constructive dialogue between traditionalists, progressives, libertarians and communitarians.

It is easier to remain segregated and isolated in our insular cabals, but the need to connect the various horizons of human knowledge and lived experience draws us into an ever-widening meeting of minds.

There is a moral obligation to be intelligent, to value the critically reflective and creative life of the well-tempered mind in relation to the whole person and its encompassing environment. This includes the development of the physical, emotional, social, imaginative, rational, volitional, ethical and intuitive dimensions of our complex and many-sided humanity. It also includes a commitment to living in “right relationship” to the encompassing reality, that is, the spiritual, natural, cultural and social environment  in which we “live and move and have our being.”

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Philosophical Reflections and Musings on the Great Questions of Life

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