The specter haunting multiculturalism

Philosophy and Social Criticism 36 (3-4):381-394 (2010)
Abstract
I argue that the specter haunting multiculturalism is incommensurability. In many discussions of multiculturalism there is a ‘picture’ that holds us captive — a picture of cultures, religious or ethnic groups that are self-contained and are radically incommensurable with each other. I explore and critique this concept of incommensurability. I trace the idea of incommensurability back to the discussion by Thomas Kuhn — and especially to the ways in which his views were received. Drawing on Gadamer’s understanding of hermeneutics, I argue that the very idea of radical incommensurability is incoherent. This does not entail an abstract universalism but rather sensitivity to the ways in which all languages and cultures are in principle open to the real possibility of enlarging one’s vision and mutually understanding
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