ALTERITY AND REVERSIBILITY IN MERLEAU-PONTY- A DISCOURSE ON CULTURAL DIVERSITY AND MINORITY RIGHTS
Cultural diversity is increasingly becoming an inevitable feature of most modern states. This is because trade, tourism, international dialogue amongst scholars, scientists and artists and the movement of skilled labour as well as migration have ensured that few countries do not contain within them significant numbers of peoples from other cultures. A likely consequence of this diversity is clash of cultural interests, especially between minority and majority cultural groups, in response to which proponents of multiculturalism argue for minority rights and recognition for cultural minorities. But multiculturalism tends to over emphasize the “cultural self” at the expense of the “cultural other” culminating in cultural separatism. This thesis takes up, however, the argument that a healthy perception and understanding of ‘the other’ in our relationship with fellow human beings is more fundamental to tackling the challenges of cultural diversity than multiculturalism. The aim of this work, therefore, is to employ Merleau-Ponty’s reversibility thesis (in which one’s world opens upon the other and vice-versa when people come in contact with one another) as an alternative model with which to better understand the ontological nature of the self’s relation to the other as the basis for intercultural reversal of perspectives rfor social harmony. Methodologically, the qualitative research design is used for this study. Data for the study are collected from books, journals articles, biographies, and interviews. Data from these sources are analyzed by the use of historical-hermeneutics and philosophical exposition/analysis. Historical-hermeneutics is employed to survey and understand previous conceptions of alterity and the self’s relation to alterity in the history of philosophy/thought. Philosophical exposition is used to highlight the relational ontology of the self to alterity in Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy of reversibility and also highlight the increasing reality of cultural diversity and minority rights claims. Philosophical/textual analysis is used to analyse Merlau-Ponty’s ontology of alterity and reversibility in order to apply it to the challenges of cultural diversity and multiculturalism, with social development in view.