Respect as the Ethic of the Open Society.
Learning for Democracy, 2 (3).
Karl Popper’s description of the open society in terms of respect,
rather than mere tolerance, appears to be highly relevant today. Although
he never explicitly addressed the issues of multiculturalism and valuepluralism
in contemporary societies, Popper’s idea of respect provides an
effective way to approach them. For, on the one hand, it may help to reframe
current debates about multiculturalism in clearer terms. On the other, it
provides a critical assessment of the widespread relativism that presents
itself as a sort of panacea of all theoretical and practical problems posed by
the cohabitation of groups sharing different values and worldviews. On
closer scrutiny, political relativism – just as its epistemological counterpart
– is not only entirely inadequate but also dangerous for the very existence of
the open society. A serious look at the present situation suggests, rather, the
adoption of a principle of reciprocity that is consistent with Popper’s critical
pluralism and might prove to be effective in addressing the problems faced
by a multicultural society.
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