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Transversality and the Philosophical Politics of Multiculturalism in the Age of Globalization

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This essay advances the concept of transversality by drawing philosophical insights from Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Calvin O. Schrag, and the Martinicuan francophone Edouard Glissant. By so doing, it begins with a critique of the notion of universality in modern Western philosophy. It targets Hegel—the modernist incarnate—in particular, who had a dark view of the non-Western world. His overarching Eurocentric universality is founded on the fallacious premise that what is particular in the West is universalized or universalizable, whereas what is particular in the non-West remains particular forever. As Glissant puts it succinctly, however, thinking about “One” is not thinking about “All” or “Many.” Eurocentric universality is outmoded and thus has no place in the globalization of the multicultural world. It simply ignores the reality of interlacing of multiple life-worlds. The concept of transversality, which is symbolized in the Maitreyan Middle Way, is proposed to replace universality, which tends to be nothing but the philosophical expression of a particular socio-cultural life-world. It not only reduces ethnocentric ignorance but also fosters a hybridity that in fact dissolves the binary opposition between particularism and universalism. In short, transversality is conceived of as a new paradigm in philosophical conceptualization or world philosophy. What is traditionally called “comparative philosophy” is not just a neglected branch of philosophy, but it is poised to transform radically the very conception of philosophy itself.

Affiliations: 1: Moravian College

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