Well, it’s good to be blogging again and many thanks to James for getting us back in business. And not to congratulate myself shameslessly but Peter is right that the Delsol conference was a terrific event. Another issue that came up during our discussions: is part of the problem with cultural transmission today that our incessant talk about culture has reduced it to another item on the ever expanding menu of choice for the free, autonomous individual?

Multiculturalism explicitly celebrates the differences between cultures but only after reducing them to a kind of epiphenomenal baggage disconnected from our true selves—beneath the various cosmetic cultural disparities is the genuine unity of the human race. In this way, one’s culture is taken to be more evidence our our radical,individual liberty rather than an expression of our “given-ness”, or an indication of the limitations placed upon the free construction of the self. Contemporary multiculturalism, therefore, is a thinly disguised proclamation of anthropological unity—there is a diversity of cultures that properly warrants our curiosity as long as that theoretical wonder doesn’t translate into a practical legitimization of moral and political particularity. The “demiurgic impulse”, As Delsol desribes it, to prioritize international law over national sovereignty seems premised on the insignificance of cultural particularity, or the extent to which laws, like people, are necessarily rooted in culture. It might be the case that cultural transmission (like so many bioethical issues) has been complicated by the nature of the debate that surrounds it—the very public and hyper-rational treatment of it has a tendency to undermine our more primitive experience of rootedness.

More on: Etcetera, Culture, Theory

Articles by Ivan Kenneally

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