Sunday, December 9, 2007

Küng & Kant

Hans Küng discusses the globalization of ethics:

These trans-cultural ethical rules form structural elements of a common human ethic, whatever we call it, and make almost irrelevant the idea of a deep antagonism between “Asian” and “Western” values. If Asia focuses on its trans-cultural ethical core, an entirely new spirit of unity can be developed that uses soft power instead of military force and does not know enemies, but only partners and competitors. In this way, Asia could catch up with the West in terms of its cultural integration while contributing to the establishment of a genuinely peaceful new world order.

This project differs from the West’s human rights movement, which is based on natural law thinking. The point is rather to integrate values, standards, and attitudes of ethical-religious traditions that, while appearing in each culture in a specific form, are common to all, and that can be supported by non-religious people as well.

On the surface this approach seems similar to the one used by Kant when discussing his Categorical Imperative, with the notable difference being that Küng is arguing that the Golden Rule has a certain cultural receptivity to it, as opposed to being an almost innate aspect of the human ethical experience. By doing so Küng seems to inoculate himself from charges that he is advocating for a kind of cultural colonialism, but I don't get the impression that the kind of colonialism he is speaking about falls inside the standard "West dominating the heathen East" rubric. In fact, I get the impression that Küng is essentially telling his readers that the West has nothing to fear from a country like China, who will seek to assert its power in the world through "cooperation and competition" rather than brute force.

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