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Eighth International Congress on Philosophy and Culture

UNITY AND DIVERSITY IN RELIGION ND CULTURE (PDF ) (5.4 mb)

Exploring the psychological and philosophical issues underlying global conflict

Sponsored by

The UNESCO Chair on Comparative Studies of Spiritual Traditions, Their Specific Cultures and Interreligious Dialogue

Located at the St. Petersburg Branch of the Russian Institute for Cultural Research

In Partnership with
  • Antioch University Seattle (the host)
  • Central Washington University
  • Cornish College of the Arts
  • Pacific Lutheran University
  • Seattle University
  • Simon Fraser University
  • University of Oregon
  • University of Washington
  • Western Washington University
  • United Nations Association of Seattle
  • World Affairs Council
  • St. Petersburg Branch of the Russian Institute for Cultural Research
  • Philosophical and Cultural Research Centre “Eidos”
  • International Institute for Islamic Thought
  • Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon
  • Washington Association of Churches
  • Church Council of Greater Seattle
  • Archdiocese of Seattle
  • Archbishop Alex J. Brunett
  • Evangelische Akademie, Germany
  • Partnow Communications
  • Center for Ethical Leadership, Institute of Noetic Sciences (The list of sponsors and partners is still growing.)
The International Conference on Unity and Diversity in Religion and Culture is being organized by the UNESCO Chair on Comparative Studies of Spiritual Traditions, Their Specific Cultures and Interreligious Dialogue as part of an on-going program to address the need for new ways of understanding the problems facing humanity. The aim of this conference is to make significant progress in clarifying and resolving the fundamental psychological and philosophical issues underlying global conflict.

History of the Program

The Conference on Unity and Diversity is eighth in a series. The previous conferences have occurred in St. Petersburg, Russia, and they have all been organized under the auspices of UNESCO. The seventh, scheduled for August 27-31, 2004, in St. Petersburg, will focus on the Dynamics of Values in Contemporary Culture: Reflections on Extreme & Optimal Conditions for Cultural Development. These intensive discussions treat the “strategic importance of intellectual research efforts, not only for the understanding and description of the on-going processes of modern culture, but also for accurate forecasting of their possible consequences in the future.”
To date, the series has addressed: Issues of Communication in Contemporary Culture (1998), Symbols, Images, Stereotypes of Contemporary Culture (1999), Intellect, Imagination, Intuition: Reflections on the Horizons of Consciousness (2000), Ontology of Dialogue as the Main Value of Cultural and Religious Experience (2001), Creation ⎯ Creativity ⎯ Reproductions: Wisdom of the Creator, Reason of Dedalus and Cunning of the Hacker (2002), and Differentiation and Integration of World Views: Dynamics of Dialogue between Cultures in the 21st Century (2003).
The UNESCO Chair on Comparative Studies of Spiritual Traditions, Their Specific Cultures and Interreligious Dialogue is one of the specialized Chairs that have been established at educational institutions around the world under the Pluralism and Intercultural Dialogue Section of the UNESCO Division of Cultural Policies and Intercultural Dialogue. The UNESCO Chair on Comparative Studies of Spiritual Traditions is one of ten Chairs that focus specifically on interreligious as well as intercultural dialogue. Promoting dialogue is a “key component of UNESCO’s mission and activities.” Dialogue between different faiths, cultures and civilizations is viewed as the primary way to nurture “an authentic and shared universality” that respects and is strengthened by diversity (Background documents prepared for the New Delhi International Ministerial Conference and the Ohrid Regional Forum, 2003).
The Conference on Unity and Diversity is the first in the series to be held in the United States. This conference extends the UNESCO Chair initiative and draws North American institutions into the global dialogue.

The Content of the Conference

In preparing for this conference, we ask that you focus your attention on one or more of the following themes. We suggest questions to spark interest. However you may prefer to pose your own questions. (See below for the different levels of participation.)
Identity: We are now in a time when the peoples of the world are experiencing a mighty turning of history and culture, a time of change, confusion, anxiety, opportunity, and hope. Social forces (population growth, technology, mobility, media, commerce, etc.) are pulling us together, both as individuals and societies, as they are also pushing us apart. This double possibility ⎯ of union and differentiation ⎯ is, in relation to human identity, the great challenge of our time. We are thus faced with the need to discover new ways of defining our identity in relation to self and others.
What are the psychological and philosophical ramifications of this turning point in history and culture?
Is the whole of humanity in an “identity crisis?” If so, what are the roots of this crisis and how is it manifested in the world?
How is the human self-definition changing?
Transition: The world situation today is highly pressurized and tensions are volatile. During transition periods, old patterns disintegrate as new patterns of behavior, thought, and communication become established. Conflicts and tensions often arise when representatives of the old order find themselves challenged by those whose lives are committed to bringing the new order into being. Pressure mounts as these interests grow increasingly polarized, until the need for release from the tension becomes paramount. What psychological and philosophical issues underlie the most disturbing tensions in the world today, and how can these issues be resolved peacefully?
Our need for a positive explanation that makes sense of these times is exceeded only by our need to weather the changes gracefully, without reactivity. How can we generate genuine responsiveness and avoid simply reacting to the world situation?
Religions traditionally offer guiding wisdom, yet the disparity of belief systems results in fragmentation and often works against the common good. Are religions responsible for caring for the soul of humanity? If so, how can we encourage religious leaders to move beyond concern for their specific congregations or faith communities into a caring for the whole of humanity?
Community: The desire for community, and by extension its spiritual correlate ‘union’, is basic to the human condition. This urge is problematized in contemporary times by our unpreparedness to negotiate as a species the often-perilous byways of interior and external life. We are only beginning to understand the deepest implications regarding this basic human need and the necessity for literacy of self, other, and culture. Can the unified state be defined in ways that allow the full range of diversity to be expressed? If so, how might this be done?
Spiritual union is generally thought to require some form of “death.” Can the expectation of death or apocalyptic disaster be understood in ways that do not generate fear? If so, how might this be accomplished?
4) In what ways do we deny our desires for and fear of community?
Notions of Truth: In those worldviews shaped by the influence of monotheism and western philosophy in general, there has been a dominating desire for Truth ⎯ that is, a belief in a core reality which shapes reality and all of life. A belief in and desire for Truth has driven much of the intellectual life in the cultures dominated by these worldviews. Various ways of defining Truth have shaped the nature of cultural, ethnic, religious, and social self-definitions. The belief in Truth has provided both a base for morality and a base for defining what is worth dying or killing for in order to protect. In these days dominated by a belief in the rhetoric of Truth, we might well ask a few central questions.
How do current notions of Truth define the lines of opposition between competing Truths? Is it possible to have dialogue across Truths? If so, how can this dialogue be encouraged? What non-western philosophies might fruitfully be brought into dialogue with western views?
Trustworthiness: Doubts regarding the trustworthiness of humankind surround the paradox of our capacity for extreme, opposing acts, both on an individual and group level. Centuries of wars and intentional cruelties are juxtaposed with acts of great love, self-sacrifice, and caring. We need a vision of human trustworthiness that is both realistic and positive. Now is the time to work toward imagining and creating such a vision.
Is there widespread skepticism regarding humankind’s trustworthiness? If so, what are the psychological and philosophical antecedents for this distrust?
How does the essential need for meaning and worth in one’s community contribute to or undermine the sense of trust?
How can persons caught in social and religious conflict learn to trust their opponents and be grateful for their opposition?
How do our notions of good and evil inhibit our ability to appreciate and trust the humanness in all people?
What factors do we already know, and what are those we can imagine, that can transform the devastating psychological and spiritual aftermaths of wars and violence into reconciliation and forgiveness?
How can we generate a positive vision of human trustworthiness?

Note Regarding the Format of the Conference

The format of this conference will be unlike standard academic conferences. Other than the keynote speech during the opening ceremony, there will be no formal presentations. Instead, the format will include interactive panel discussions and group dialogues with skilled facilitators, culminating in a plenary process designed to identify specific problem areas, areas of common interest, and possible future projects and collaborations.
This format will serve both as a demonstration of methods being used successfully in trouble spots around the world to by-pass barriers of communication and as a means to achieve a new level of communication among the interest groups represented at the conference. Although this conference is academic, the participants will include representatives from spiritual and religious traditions, program directors of related non-profit organizations, government advisors, grassroots community leaders, and artists whose diverse perspectives must be taken into account in forming a complete understanding of the fundamental problems of contemporary culture.
The papers will appear on the Web site prior to the conference. Papers by Level 1 and Level 3 participants (see below) will be published after the conference by the Philosophical and Cultural Research Centre “Eidos” in a special thematic edition of International Readings on Theory, History and Philosophy of Culture. All participants will be encouraged to read the papers before we gather to discuss the issues.
more information (PDFPDF)(308 kb)


Dedicated to the United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations and to the 300 years Anniversary of St. Petersburg

The First cycle of Cross-cultural and Interreligious Discussions

ONTOLOGY OF DIALOGUE AS THE MAIN VALUE OF CULTURAL AND RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE (PDF ) (1.5 mb) (PDF ) (2.6 mb) (PDF ) (2.2 mb)

Arranged by the St. Petersburg Branch of the Russian Institute for Cultural Research of the Russian Federation Ministry of Culture and Russian Academy of Sciences 16-21 June, 2001 (St. Petersburg)

The discussions continue a series of international conferences and symposia organized and convened by the St.Petersburg Branch of the Russian Institute for Cultural Research and the Philosophical and Cultural Research Centre «Eidos» in the framework of a long-term scientific research and organizational program of the International Centre for Fundamental Studies in Contemporary Culture. Among these were International Conference’s on Philosophy and Culture: "Language and Text: Ontology and Reflection" (17-21 August, 1992); "Paradigms of Philosophizing" (10-15 August, 1995); "Issues of Communication in Contemporary Culture" (Under the auspices of UNESCO, 17-21 September, 1998); and the Symposia: "In the Labyrinths of Culture" (1997),"Reflections on Chaos" (1997), "Metaphilosophy – or Philosophical Reflections in Space of Traditions & Innovations" (1998), "Cultural Studies: Issues of Interdisciplinarity" (Under the auspices of Russian Commission for UNESCO, 1998), "Symbols, Images, Stereotypes of the Contemporary Culture" (Under the auspices of UNESCO and with support of the UNESCO Division for Cultural Pluralism, 1999) "Intellect, Imagination, Intuition: Reflections on the Horizons of Consciousness" (Under the auspices of UNESCO and with support of the UNESCO Division of Human Sciences, Philosophy and Ethics of Science and Technology, 2000). The materials of each meeting are published in the thematic issues of the International Readings in the Theory, History and Philosophy of Culture (№ 1-10).

The forthcoming discussions are initiated by the UNESCO Chair on Comparative Studies of Spiritual Traditions, Their Specific Cultures and Interreligious Dialogue at the St. Petersburg Branch of the Russian Institute for Cultural Research.

It seems doubtless that the problem of revealing creative and harmonizing potentials of contemporary culture becomes actual now against the background of increasing cultural and ecological crisis inhibiting numerous meaningful prospects of man and society development.

The problems of national and cultural spiritual identity cannot be properly and fully formulated without considering the role being played by religion in the self-determination of regional, national and ethnic communities and also in personal making and development including the specific hierarchy of basic values and definite horizons of personal freedom and responsibility.

The First series of international philosophical and religious discussions will be held to examine this set of theoretical and existential problems of contemporary culture with the special emphasis on their fundamental nature.

Leading scholars, philosophers, religious figures and thinkers representing various traditions, confessions and cultures will be invited to participate in the discussions.

The discussion areas

  1. The Basic Value Hierarchies in Traditional World Religions and New Religious Trends;
  2. The Psychological and Ethical Challenges of Inter-religious Dialogue;
  3. Philosophy, Art, Science and Religion: Possible Interaction in Contemporary Culture;
  4. Religions Diversity and Personal Identity: Unity without Unification?
The discussion space of cross-cultural and interreligious dialogue which is suggested for examination is outlined in the following way:
  • life and death
  • soul and body
  • faith and knowledge
  • sin and grace
  • evil and salvation
  • personality, will and freedom
  • compassion and humility
  • visions for the future... ?
The strategic importance of research efforts, not only for the understanding and description of the processes taking place in contemporary culture, but also for the highly accurate forecasting of the possible consequences, will undoubtedly dramatically increase in the situation of the historical transformations of values and orientations that humankind currently faces.



Devoted to the 70-years Anniversary of the Russian Institute for Cultural Research. (September 7-12, 2002, St. Petersburg, Russia)

The Fifth International Congress on Philosophy and Culture

CREATION – CREATIVITY – REPRODUCTIONS: WISDOM OF CREATOR, REASON OF DEDALUS AND THE CUNNING OF THE HACKER (PDF ) (2.2 mb) (PDF ) (2.5 mb) (PDF ) (1.7 mb)

Arranged by the St. Petersburg Branch of the Russian Institute for Cultural Research, The Russian Federation Ministry of Culture and Russian Academy of Sciences, UNESCO Chair on Comparative Studies of Spiritual Traditions, Their Specific Cultures and Interreligious Dialogue

With organizational assistance:
  • The St. Petersburg Scientific Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences
  • External Affairs Committee of Administration of St Petersburg
  • The International Association «The Russian Culture»
  • State Memorial Museum «St. Isaac’s Cathedral»
  • The Russian Foundation for Basic Studies
This congress continues a series of international conferences and symposia organized and convened by the St. Petersburg Branch of the Russian Institute for Cultural Research and the Philosophical and Cultural Research Center “Eidos” in the framework of a long-term scientific research and organizational program of the International Center for Fundamental Studies in Contemporary Culture. Among these were the International Congresses on Philosophy and Culture: "Language and Text: Ontology and Reflection" (17-21 August, 1992); "Paradigms of Philosophizing" (10-15 August, 1995); "Issues of Communication in Contemporary Culture" (under the auspices of UNESCO, 17-21 September, 1998); and the Symposia: "In the Labyrinths of Culture" (1997),"Reflections on Chaos" (1997), "Metaphilosophy – or Philosophical Reflections in Space of Traditions & Innovations" (1998), "Cultural Studies: Issues of Interdisciplinarity" (under the auspices of Russian Commission for UNESCO, 1998), "Symbols, Images, Stereotypes of the Contemporary Culture" (under the auspices of UNESCO and with support from the UNESCO Division for Cultural Pluralism, 1999) "Intellect, Imagination, Intuition: Reflections on the Horizons of Consciousness" (under the auspices of UNESCO and with support from the UNESCO Division of Human Sciences, Philosophy and Ethics of Science and Technology, 2000); the First cycle of Cross-cultural and Interreligious Discussions “Ontology of Dialogue as the Main Value of Cultural and Religious Experience” (under the auspices of UNESCO and with support from the UNESCO Division of Intercultural Dialogue, 2001). Papers presented at each congress, symposium or open discussion, are carefully prepared for press and further published in current issues of the ongoing multilingual edition of International Readings in the Theory, History and Philosophy of Culture (by present time, 14 issues have appeared).
The main objective of the Congress consists in promotion of transdisciplinary, cross-cultural, and interreligious dialogue dedicated to multifaceted aspects of creativity, regarded by as an integral and fundamental part of the vast and rapidly developing realm of basic human values and rights. In the context of this objective, we plan to center upon several crucial dimensions of the aforementioned topic, conditioned by context of the following tasks:
  • elaboration of potential benefits of globalization for cultural diversity and pluralism, as well as the integral role of the latter in the promotion of creative thought and behaviour, linking together regional traditions and universal values, and evading dangers of irresponsible reproduction;
  • promotion of cultural policies, strategies and practices enhancing creative potential in the context of post-industrial civilization, based on qualitatively new concepts of access to information resources and technologies, including creative freedom of processing, expressing and disseminating knowledge, results of artistic and/or spiritual experience, and civic initiatives;
  • encouragement of 'culture of peace' and 'ethics of responsibility' in the context of lifelong education, as basic prerequisites and foundations of steadfast development of creativity in the framework of social and educational innovations, rapid progress of life sciences and information technologies, as well as growth and dissemination of innovative artistic and spiritual practices.
The keynote tonality of the Congress is to gather outstanding representatives of the realms of philosophy and theology, natural science and humanities, as well as artistic circles in order to initiate interdisciplinary discussions, leading to productive synthesis, aimed at promoting cultural identities, social cohesion, enhancing general vitality and creative capacities in contemporary society.
The work of the Congress-2002 is arranged around the seven plenary sessions, offering for all participants the opportunity to listen to keynote presentations of internationally known personalities. The sessions are titled along metaphorical ways in order to promote wider interdisciplinary and multicultural participation and synthesis. The sessions comprise:
  1. Concept of Creativity in Different Cultural & Religious Traditions: Challenges of Contemporaneity.
    Freedom and responsibility, free will and categorical imperative, tradition and innovation have for many centuries defined framework of creative work in the scope of different cultural and religious traditions. Our task would be to present the purport and essence of creative life and work, as defined by them, and to elaborate common terms, being essential to ensure self-determination and progress of creative communities in the framework of regional, national and/or ethnic values and institutions.
  2. Being & Nothingness: Mythological, Artistic, Scientific and Religious Experience.
    Being and nothingness, l'être et le néant, Gestalt und Angst, hope and existential fear continue to exert their spell in the framework of myths created by traditional and post-modern religions, artistic inspiration and by contemporary mass-media. Our task at this section would consist in creating a protected environment for sharing reflections and constructs, in order to promote spiritual, intellectual and artistic aspects of creative activities in the framework of cultural pluralism.
  3. Metaphysics and Poetics of the Elements: Air-Water-Fire-Earth-Man.
    An age-old construct, belonging to archetypal elements of human culture in general, is chosen, as usual, as axis for intellectual debate centered upon metaphysical foundations of modern cultures. In this case, we center upon the joint concept of Universe and the Human species, structuralized along four elemental lines, which continue their endless interplay. Religious psychology, literary criticism, philosophical inquiry into the realm of ontology would be particularly welcome in this framework.
  4. Paradoxes of Creation: From the Wisdom of the Creator to the Cunning of the Hacker.
    "We have left wisdom to gain knowledge, and we have left knowledge to obtain information" – the old maxim says. A most popular way of assessing the progress of civilization would be to trace back a line of descent from the golden age of Creation - to the bronze age of navigation in the space of Hypertext. At the same time, encouraging "digital literacy" and ensuring mastery of the new information and communication technologies tend to provide giant new opportunities for personal growth and democratic reforms. Our task would be here to give careful thought to both orientations in the societal debate on the forthcoming "Internet age" and to elaborate a well-balanced worldview.
  5. Ontology of the Original and Phenomenology of Reproductions: Image and Imitation, Clip and Clone.
    Cultural goods and services have grown into a valuable and highly dynamic part of the global civilization. An important part of their production is provided by application of sophisticated techniques of copying, whether it be remakes in the art of cinema, or cloning in the realm of contemporary biotechnologies. What is the purport of these trends, regarded from the point of view of basic human values and rights? Our discussions are likely to center upon this and adjacent questions, actively discussed by present-day academia and mass-media.
  6. Joys and Horrors of the New Technologies: Is the Creation Continuing?
    Fostering human dignity in the age when its basic roots are being actively reformed by means of biological and information technologies is definitely a serious challenge and subject for earnest discussion. Our task here is, as usual, to enhance dialogue between leading representatives of life sciences and philosophers, in hope to contribute to search of a "new consensus", desperately necessary in the age of technological progress.
  7. Narratives of Wisdom, Discourses of Reason, Bits of Information: Search for the Optimum under Extreme Conditions
    Paradigm shifts and value reshuffling has grown to be a characteristic trend of the present-day society, regarded by many prominent thinkers as gradually moving towards a possibility of massive intellectual devastation. Being alone in the world, unable to meet its challenges, not being protected from changes devoid of spiritual purport, are growing characteristic for contemporary mass psychology. Looking for optimal personal, professional and societal position in the framework of the "New World Disorder" (labelled thus by the American social thinker P. Drucker), definitely forms a pivotal orientation in the work of the Congress in general, and of this section in particular.



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