Culture of Discussion: Response to Discussant
My presentation at this week's Forum was discussed by Professor Lee Taek-Gwang (이택광) of Kyung Hee University, who raised two questions about my advocacy of a culture of discussion in East Asia to overcome the limits to free discourse set by Confucian hierarchy, namely, that hierarchy exists everywhere and that my ideal of discussion is utopian. I've posted my response below:
I thank Professor Lee Taek-Gwang for his remarks, which are well taken. He raises two main points:Those were my remarks in response to Professor Lee. He seemed satisfied, though he might have merely adopted a courteous demeanor, for we were all exceedingly nice to one another at this Forum.
1) Hierarchy: Isn't hierarchy characteristic of every society?Concerning Number 1: This is a problem. All societies have hierarchy, and it does tend to inhibit a culture of discussion. For this reason, we need to emphasize the right to discussion and support it both culturally and legally.
2) Utopian: Isn't my presupposition about discussion utopian?
Concerning Number 2: I grant that my conception of a culture of discussion offers an ideal to strive for. Is that utopian? Possibly. But it is also a criterion by which to measure our approximation to that ideal situation. We should have evidence and reasons for our views.
I think that a more difficult question -- if I might query myself -- is that of action. We have to act in the world, often when we lack time for sufficient discussion. Knowing when to halt the discussion and act is not simple, easy, or obvious. I suppose that we just have to do the best we can with what little time we have.
But what I would like to emphasize are two points about Samuel Huntington. (1) He's famous for his borrowed expression -- taken from Bernard Lewis -- "clash of civilizations," but he himself stresses the need for intercivilizational understanding, finding common values upon which we can agree even if we have differences to discuss. (2) He alludes to what we share as a species beyond cultural differences, and I suggest that a core similarity is our mortality, our shared human frailty, as a motive for developing a culture of discussion in every society.
Other scholars, however, later noted that they agreed with certain points that I had made, though perhaps nobody agreed wholeheartedly . . .