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Interview: ‘We’re Living in a World Where Utility Has Replaced Empathy’

By Omair Ahmad

From a Clash of Civilizations, the global dialogue has moved to the fragility of civilisation as a concept in of itself. In a world where politics is influenced by actors such as ISIS or politicians like the US President Donald Trump, it seems difficult to understand what precisely keeps societies together and how they can communicate.

This is what makes the new book The Decline of Civilization: Why We Need to Return to Gandhi and Tagore, by the philosopher Ramin Jahanbegloo, so timely. He talks of how the essence of “being civilised” is dependent on a public relationship that is inclusive and accepting of differences, and the breakdown of these qualities has led to a process of “decivilisation”.

He spoke to The Wire about some of the key issues discussed in his new book.

Is there really a universally-accepted meaning of the word “civilised”?

Not necessarily. There has always been a great deal of ambiguity in relation with the two words “to civilise” and “being civilised”. The French author [Michel de] Montaigne uses the word “civilise” in the 17th century as having a “manner”. As for the French philosopher [René] Descartes, a “civilised” man is someone who is not a “savage”. As such, the term “civilisation” [works] as a sense of distinction, but also as a term which enabled the Europeans to redefine and reformulate their own frameworks of socialisation and human development. As such, the West has always related the idea of civilisation to that of progress, advancement, comfort, increased material possessions and cultivation of the arts and sciences. Read more

Source: The Wire

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