How Serious is Our Divergence?
Near the beginning of his magisterial A Cloud Across the Pacific, Thomas Metzger sums up what he calls his “paradoxical combination of reflexivity with cultural patterns” as follows: This book is based on the premise that thinking about how to improve political life cannot be the product of either a closed cultural system or of reason as a uniform cognitive faculty with which all persons try to apprehend and reflect on objective realities or universal principles. Insisting that both dimensions are paradoxically combined in everyone’s thinking, I take issues with two groups — the Western scholars fascinated just with culture, and the many Western and Chinese intellectuals who today still largely ignore how reflexivity is shaped by disparate cultural patterns. [Metzger 2005, p. 13-14] Another key feature of Metzger’s approach is to focus on “discourses,” his label for the language, concerns, and “indisputables” that various “we-groups” share. That is, people who mutually recognize one another as part of a community share certain commitments that they find indisputably reasonable, not standing in need of justification. A central thesis of A Cloud Across the Pacific is that Chinese political thinkers in the twentieth century, whatever their differences, virtually all are members of a single community whose mode of expression he labels Discourse #1. Most Western political thinkers, in contrast, participate in Discourse #2, whose main indisputables flow from what he has called the Great Modern Western Epistemological Revolution, or GMWER, though some Western thinkers persist in a more old-fashioned search for true political principles that Metzger calls Discourse #3.