The Importance of Understanding Mr. Charles Taylor’s Concept of "Genuine" Recognition for Different Human Cultures and Individuals.
The purpose of this essay, is to reveal the importance of understanding Mr. Charles Taylor’s concept of "genuine respect" in contemporary society. Before we can begin to understand the importance of this concept, we first must realize, that all individuals and cultures, in relationship to one another, are very different and distinct from one another. To surrender oneself to this first idea, that all human individuals and cultural groups are not the same, is the first step in understanding the importance of this concept of "genuine respect". It is only after we are convinced, that all human beings and cultures have different idea’s of "the good", that are not inferior to one another in status, that we can then proceed, to understand Mr. Charles Taylor’s concept of recognizing other human beings and cultures with a "genuine respect". Now that we are convinced of this first idea, we can now go on to conceptualize the definition Mr. Charles Taylor gives to the word "respect". To Mr. Charles Taylor, there are two types of "respect". One is considered a "genuine respect"; while the other is a façade of "genuine respect". The latter, is in direct opposition to the first. In this sense, Mr. Charles Taylor is distinguishing the first type of respect as being a beneficial type of respect in relationship to the latter. This second idea, that these two types of respect, are in direct opposition to each other, is the second crucial idea that we must believe in order to proceed any further in obtaining an understanding of the original concept of "genuine respect". Now that we have accepted this second supposition, we can then go on to realize, that there are some people who actively want to obtain not only this concept of "genuine respect", but also, that these same people would benefit from this obtaining this "genuine respect". So let us go on to define what exactly the idea of "genuine respect" is now. To the people who want to obtain "genuine respect", "genuine respect" to them means that they do not want to receive any respect in a patronizing sense, or even, in a sense because they are demanding respect.
To them, simply demanding respect from another individual or culture, and receiving this respect only because the other individual or culture feels coerced into giving the demanders any respect at all, is not the act of "genuine respect". This would be an act, in Mr. Charles Taylor’s words," No one can really mean it as a genuine act of respect. It is more in the nature of a pretend act of respect given on the insistence of its supposed beneficiary. Objectively, such an act involves contempt for the latter’s intelligence"(Taylor:1994:70). Further, Taylor states," Moreover, even if one could demand it of them, the last thing one wants at this stage from Eurocentered intellectuals is positive judgements of the worth of cultures that they have not intensively studied (Taylor:1994:70). Before going further, I think that it is important to understand exactly who these people are that not only are demanding this "genuine respect", but who also would benefit from obtaining this "genuine respect". Although, in the above paragraph Taylor refers to "Eurocentered intellectuals", as persons who can give only this second type of respect connected with an ill-will, to the persons that want "genuine respect", these "Eurocentered intellectuals" do have the potential to give "genuine respect" to the people that want it.
But this is only possible, after they have studied the culture that is different and foreign to them, that they were judging prematurely with "ill-will". Only then, are they able to make a true judgement of the worth about the cultures of others with "genuine respect." If we all are different individuals and different cultures, it would seem that in applying Taylor’s concept of "The Politics of Difference", that since we are all distinct in some way or another way, that every individual or culture can benefit from a "genuine respect". After all, we must consider that even the "Eurocentered intellectuals" referred to, in order to justify the concept of "genuine respect", is rested on the understanding that all individuals and cultures not only have equal worth, but also that they all have something equally important to say, share, and that we can learn from, This means that even the "Eurocentered intellectuals", should be understood an respected as a different culture in this sense.
Taylor explains this in saying," Just as all must have equal civil rights, and enjoy equal voting rights, regardless of race or culture, so all should enjoy the presumption that their traditional culture has value" (Taylor:1994:68). So what value might the "Eurocentered intellectuals" have we might ask? They have made us at least cognizant of the fact, that we might be receiving the type of respect that is a façade to "genuine respect". So then we can understand that even they, have something that is equally important to learn from for us. Taylor does say that although this demand for "genuine respect", is most beneficial to the individuals and cultures that have been deprived this "genuine respect" in the past by what Taylor refers to as "the colonizers", Particularly those colonizer’s from western Europe, that imposed depreciating self images on those people that they subjugated. Who are these people that have would benefit from this "genuine respect", and, who are these people and cultures whom have internalized these depreciating self-images, in addition to have been subjugated by the ethnocentricity of those western European colonizers? Taylor says that these people are, "women, and for people of non-European races and cultures…for pupils in mainly black schools" (Taylor:1994:65) to mention those at the fore. Taylor speaks of not only understanding the importance "that we all recognize the equal value of different cultures; that we not only let them survive, but acknowledge their worth" (Taylor:1994:64).But also, that in order for these people and cultures, which were once subjugated, "in order to free, must purge themselves of these depreciating self-images…that there is a struggle"(Taylor:1994:65) for this type of purging as well. This attempt and struggle to free oneself of depreciating and distorted self-images, placed on them by those ethnocentric colonizers, is a violent internal struggle for freedom. To recover from these distorted self-images, is to return to one’s "authenticity" and to be able to be free in the sense that we can return to the hearing and expressing of our own inner voice, which tells us our own "idea of the good." This is the concept Taylor refers to as "being true to ourselves". This, according to Taylor. is the only way that we can fulfill our lives as Taylor explains it," We are asked to step outside the dimension of human life, in which reputations are sought, gained, and unmade.
How you appear in public space should not be important to you (Taylor:1994:46). In other words, Taylor explains this idea by stating, " We might speak of an individualized identity, one that is particular to me, and that I discover in myself (Taylor:1994:28). In referring to this particular identity, this is a particular identity that we developed in a distinct culture, in a dialogue between ourselves, and our significant others within our own culture." In order to recover from our distorted image of ourselves in not an easy task, after many years of hearing external voices which have demeaned us. Therefore, it is important that other people, in particular the majority culture which has imposed its norms and demeaning labels on us for so long, begin to recognize that we are not second class citizens, nor are we equal by receiving equal civil rights by our majority governing polity and their governing principles alone, such as those in the constitutions of a liberal democratic society such as in the United States i.e., Bill of Rights. This is not considered "genuine respect" by the people demanding it either. That is the false respect that they do not want. They want the majority to understand that for us to be genuinely respected is not continue to demean us or label us i.e., the "Zulu Tolstoy" example. Nor is "genuine respect" based on making judgements of worth, of individuals, or of cultures that are foreign to us on the basis of our own culture. This too is also considered to be an ill-will. Why is this? While one might think at first thought, that one is giving a "genuine respect" for the practices of the "languages" i.e., as art. love, music, and of even the literature of a minority culture , or that of an individual that has ways very foreign to us simply by liking the sound of the music, or saying "I really like that", they are still not understanding the importance of what "genuine respect" really is, or why this type of false respect is contemptible. It is contemptible, and understood as ill will because," it implies that we already have the standards to make such judgements. The standards we have however, are those of North American civilization." (Taylor:1994:71).
This is why the example of the "Zulu Tolstoy" is so demeaning. In judging the works or another culture in such a manner, we would be saying that , "they have to produce our kind of excellence", so the judgement of like or dislike is made by our own standards, and that of our own culture, which," By simplicity invoking our standards to judge all civilization and cultures, the politics of difference can end up making everyone the same…The moral and political thrust of the complaint concerns unjustified judgements of inferior status allegedly made of nonhegemonic cultures. We are not demanding to "Include these because they’re ours, even thought they may be inferior" (Taylor:1994:68-71. The demand that we seek in others, called "genuine respect" is this," For real judgements of worth suppose a fused horizon of standards, as we have seen; they suppose that we have transformed by the study of the other, so that we are not simply judging by our original familiar standards." Taylor:1994:70). So then, in order to give a true and valid judgment of the works of another culture that is not our own, we must study the culture," because for a sufficiently different culture, the very understanding of what it is to be of worth will be strange and unfamiliar to us…We learn to move in a broader horizon, within which what we have formerly taken for granted as the background to valuation can be situated as one possibility alongside the different background of the unfamiliar culture"(Taylor:1994:67). So then, whether we like Hindu music or not is not the point, it is alright to not like it, only if we respect Hindu music as having an "equal footing" in worth and that it is one of equally different cultural "languages" and works that we may or may not enjoy or like, but that we approach each varying culture and their works with the idea that ,"true judgements of value of different works would place all cultures more or less on the same footing", that of equally possibly having something we might like because they are different from our own culture, but yet, that they are not inferior to our own culture"(Taylor:1994:66).
This is "genuine respect" the way that it is demanded by its proponents. In closing in Mr. Charles Taylor’s words, "Perhaps one could put it another way: it would take supreme arrogance to discount this possibility." (Taylor:1994:73). So that if we cannot approach a judgment of a work, with the idea that it has an equal and non-inferior status to that of our own culture, this would mean that we are ethnocentric and we have failed morally in our own arrogance, and this is the view as seen by the advocated of the politics of difference.
Jill Starr Chapman