Ed. by Lütterfelds, Wilhelm / Majetschak, Stefan / Raatzsch, Richard / Vossenkuhl, Wilhelm
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Horizontverschmelzung, Inkommensurabilität und sprachliche Bilder
Wittgenstein, Gadamer und Taylor über Verständigungsprozesse
How is it possible to achieve intercultural communication in such away that both Ethnocentrism and Relativism are avoided? The paper explores Charles Taylor’s proposal that what is needed is a language of perspicuous contrast. In an attempt to spell out what such a language would involve, it discusses two pertinent metaphors, the fusion of horizons (Gadamer) and the relation of incommensurability (Kuhn/Feyerabend). It argues that the first is an overly optimistic, and the second an unnecessarily pessimistic way of stating the problem: Horizons set by different linguistic means often cannot be fused, and the incompatibility of scientific theories has no bearing for natural languages.
What then are the linguistic procedures the working of which would explain the impression that even in language there are cases of incommensurability? This feature of language should also be able to explain the deep and potentially violent character of intercultural disagreements.
For an answer the paper turns to Wittgenstein’s observations about pictorial uses of language and their role in our respective languages of self-understanding. As religious languages testify, such ways of speaking (about a Creation, a Last Judgement, about multiple rebirths, etc.) are acquired in early childhood and are therefore formative for building an identity. Additionally, such pictorial expressions cannot be fused to form one single coherent picture. Building on Wittgenstein’s observations about the possibility of freeing ourselves from pictures that are holding us captive, it is proposed that the ability to move freely between pictures is the competence that Taylor meant to capture with his phrase of a language of perspicuous contrast.