West-östliche Begegnungen in Sprache und Kultur, Literatur und Wissenschaft
Edited By Ernest W.B. Hess-Lüttich and Yoshito Takahashi
Othering: Gegen die Reduktion von Anderen auf ihre Andersheit: Elmar Holenstein (ETH Zürich)
Elmar Holenstein (ETH Zürich)
Othering is a word that has gained currency to designate exaggerated attributions of otherness to people of a different culture. There are two questions to be posed: (a) Under what conditions would it be possible for cultures to be incomparably different? That would be the case if the fundamentalists among the holistic hermeneutists were right in assuming that every historically and geographically unique fact about a culture has an effect on everything in this culture and on the culture as a whole, in particular and utterly on people’s minds. There are cultural experiences, especially experiences in early childhood that obviously can enduringly mould people’s mental constitution. Such experiences result in problems of understanding that are just as insurmountable intraculturally as interculturally. The scope of their effect, however, is limited and, moreover, can be curtailed at will. (b) Under what conditions will the reduction of people from other cultures to their otherness naturally, automatically fail to happen? Literary gems that are instructive in answering this question have been written by Lord Kipling (for South Asia), Saint-Exupéry (for North Africa) and Goethe (for China). – The orientation of present-day studies by cognitive psychologists on the specific human ability to have shared intentions is diametrically opposed to the fixation of many researchers in the human sciences on alterity. It belongs to the human capacity for language that people can say and explain in every language things that cannot be translated from one language into another equivalently,...
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