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Comparison paradox, comparative situation and inter-paradigmaticy: a methodological reflection on cross-cultural philosophical comparison

It is commonly believed that philosophical comparison depends on having some common measure or standard between and above the compared parts. The paper is to show that the foregoing common belief is incorrect and therewith to inquire into the possibility of cross-cultural philosophical comparison. First, the comparison paradox will be expounded. It is a theoretical difficulty for the philosophical tendency represented by Plato´s theory of Ideas to justify comparative activities. Further, the connection of the comparative paradox with the obstacles met by cross-cultural philosophical comparisons will be demonstrated. It will be shown that to attribute the difficulty of cross-cultural comparisons to incommensurability of traditions is irrelevant and misleading. It is to be argued that the original possibility of comparison depends on the comparison paradox, i.e., the mechanism of meaning-production that functions in a non-universalistic and anonymous way. A philosophical paradigm does facilitate the attendance of such a situation, but it is also possible for the situation to emerge between paradigms in a gamesome way. Accordingly, the genuine comparison at issue will not originate primarily and merely on the level of concepts and propositions, but can only be achieved through inter-paradigmatic conditions, where we have the sharp awareness of a paradigm´s boundary from which we can attempt to achieve situational communication with another paradigm. In light of this, the perspective of a philosophical comparison differs not only from the traditional or universalistic one, but also from Gadamer´s hermeneutics, such as the doctrine of ‘fusion of horizons’. The new perspective finds an illustration in Heidegger´s relations with Daoism.

Article originally published in ‘Comparative Philosophy’, V.1(2010), n. 1, pp. 90-105. Reprinted with permission.

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