The Boundaries of Intercultural Dialogue in a World 'After Babel'

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    This paper examines the inescapable boundaries of intercultural dialogue in a context of (radical) religious and societal heterogeneity, in which there is no common language. The paper discusses two models of understanding the cultural other: first, Gadamer’s idea of a fusion of horizons, and second, Ricoeur’s idea of cultural hospitality. Through a critical analysis of Taylor’s ideas of understanding the other in her own right, it is shown that the paradigm of a fusion of horizons is only effective for intercultural dialogue as long as the differences between various cultures are not too big. However, this paradigm reaches its boundaries in a context of cultural heterogeneity, because there is no “Esperanto”, i.e. a common language, in which all the ideas, practices and sensitivities of all cultures could be translated without loss. Therefore, Ricoeur’s idea to approach the opportunities and boundaries of understanding the cultural other by comparing it with learning a different language is a major step forward, since he stresses the value of cultural hospitality, while at the same time doing justice to the idea that there will always be something untranslatable. The conclusion will be that, although intercultural dialogue confronts humans with inescapable boundaries, communication with and understanding of the cultural other are nevertheless essential, since humans can only understand themselves through the other.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)3-22
    Number of pages20
    JournalUniversitas-Monthly review of philosophy and culture
    Issue number10
    Publication statusPublished - 25 Oct 2018


    • After Babel
    • Taylor (Charles)
    • Translation
    • Cultural Hospitality
    • Fusion of Horizons
    • Gadamer (Hans Georg)
    • Hermeneutics
    • Ricoeur (Paul)


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