Tolerance – a Culturally Dependent Concept?
This article presents research on Japanese interpretations of the first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a point of departure for discussing how the Japanese cultural contexts present an alternative understanding of tolerance to the Western liberal.
According to Rainer Forst, tolerance is a normatively dependent concept (Forst 2010). This implies that the specific cultural values or the ‘normative context’ and environment become relevant. Since the praxis of tolerance always takes place in a specific cultural and moral environment, the cultural context influences how tolerance is carried out in practice as well as the norms defining its limits.
Japanese informants held that cultural norms and values in Japan differ somewhat from those in the West. They perceived the human rights discourse as culturally dependent and culturally marked and clearly considered the first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to be a product of Western thought. It states that ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in the spirit of brotherhood’ (United Nations 1948). While the role of tolerance in Western political philosophy seems to be attached to liberal values of autonomy and freedom, the Confucian-influenced environment in Japan places more emphasis on inter-dependency, cultivation, and learning social rules and proper-place-occupation as bases for moral conduct and deserving of respect. According to the Japanese informants, people are not ‘born with rights’ or ‘born free and equal’. Maintaining harmony, consensus, and proper behaviour according to relationships and hierarchy creates a different kind of setting for tolerance. The inter-dependent perspectives of Japanese culture may restrain freedom and can thus be expected to limit toleration of divergent views or behaviour. The culture-specific perception of human nature with an ‘inter-dependent construal of self’, counts as a context for tolerance. Also, it could be argued that Japanese religion is less doctrinal and absolute, and particularistic morality prevails. In the Japanese setting, the coexistence of competing truth systems seems to be more easily tolerated. This may broaden the room for tolerance. The cultural values defining ‘the good’ vary, implying that culture counts when the limits for tolerance are drawn. What is valued is culturally dependent, thus directing what is tolerated.
Angle, Stephen C. (2002). Human Rights and Chinese Thought – A Cross-Cultural Inquiry. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge UK.
Bellah, Robert N. (1985). Tokugawa Religion – The Cultural Roots of Modern Japan. The Free Press: New York.
Bellah, Robert N. (2003). Imagining Japan – The Japanese Tradition and its Modern Interpretation. University of California Press: Los Angeles.
Brandom, Robert (1994). Making it Explicit: Reasoning, Representing, and Discursive Commitment. Harvard University Press: Cambridge.
Bristow, William, "Enlightenment", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.) http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2011/entries/enlightenment
Brown, Wendy (2008). Tolerance as/ in Civilizational Discourse. In Williams M. and Waldron J. (Ed.). Toleration and its Limits. New York University Press: New York.
Dancy, Jonathan, "Moral Particularism", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.) http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2013/entries/moral-particularism
DeBary, Wm. Theodor (1998). Asian Values and Human Rights – A Confucian communitarian perspective. Harvard University Press: Cambridge MA.
Eriksen, Thomas Hylland (2007). Små steder, store spørsmål – Innføring i sosialantropologi. Universitetsforlaget: Oslo.
Forst, Rainer (1997). Foundations of a Theory of Multicultural Justice. Constellations. Volume 4. No. 1. 1997. Blackwell Publishers: UK and USA
Forst, Rainer (2008). Toleration and Truth: Comments on Steven D. Smith. In Williams M. and Waldron J. (Ed.). Toleration and its Limits. New York University Press: New York.
Forst, Rainer (2010). Two stories about toleration. Recon Online Working Paper 2010/15, August 2010. http://www.reconproject.eu/projectweb/portalproject/AbstractRECONwp1015.html
Forst, Rainer (2012), "Toleration", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2012 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.) http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2012/entries/toleration
Freedom House (2014).
Geertz, Clifford (1973). The Interpretation of Culture. Basic Books: New York.
Habermas, Jürgen (2006). Time of Transitions. Polity Press: Cambridge.
Habermas, Jürgen (2012). Legitimering på grunnlag av menneskerettigheter.
Agora 2012/ 1. http://www.idunn.no/ts/agora/2012/01/legitimering_menneskerettigheter
Hatfield, Gary, "René Descartes", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.) http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2014/entries/descartes
Henriksen, Jan-Olav and Pål Repstad (2005). Tro i Sør – Sosiologiske og teologiske blikk på sørlandsk religion (Faith in the South: Sociological and Theological Views on Religion in Southern Norway.) Fagbokforlaget: Bergen
Heyd, David (2008). Is Toleration a Political Virtue? In Williams M. and Waldron J. (Ed.) Toleration and its Limits. New York University Press: New York.
Japan Statistical Yearbook 2014. http://www.stat.go.jp/english/data/nenkan/1431-23.htm (Read 12.10.2014)
Jørgensen, Trond (2010). Menneskerettighetenes filosofiske fundament i møte med japansk kultur og verdensbilde. (The Philosophical Foundation of Human Rights meeting Japanese Culture and Worldview). Masteravhandling i Global Studies. Misjonshøyskolen: Stavanger.
Kalland, A (1996). Japan, i: Howell, Signe og Melhus, Marit (red.) Fjern og nær – Sosialantropologiske perspektiver på verdens samfunn og kulturer. Ad Notam Gyldendal: Oslo.
Kalland, Arne (2005). Japans Historie. Cappelen: Oslo.
Kymlicka, Will (1995). Multicultural Citizenship – A Liberal Theory of Minority Rights. Oxford University Press: Oxford UK.
Lande, Aasulv (1990). Japans religionar. Det Norske Samlaget: Oslo.
Lebra, Takie Sugiyama (1976). Japanese Patterns of Behavior. University of Hawaii Press: Hawaii.
Matlary, Janne Haaland (2007). When Might Becomes Human Right – Essays on Democracy and the Crisis of Rationality. Gracewing: Herefordshire.
Norwegian Social Science Data Service (NSD) (2014). http://www.nsd.uib.no/nsd/english/pvo.html
Onuma, Yasuaki (2000). In Quest of Intercivilizational Human Rights: Universal vs. Relative Human Rights Viewed from an Asian Perspective. Asia Pacific Journal of Human Rights and the Law, Vol. 1, Nr. 1.
Parisi, Lynn (2002). Lessons on the Japanese Constitution. http://spice.stanford.edu/docs/131
Rawls, John (1999). Collected Papers. Harvard University Press: Cambridge, Massachusetts, London
Reader, Ian and George J. Tanabe, Jr. (1998). Practically Religious: Worldly Benefits and the Common Religion of Japan. University of Hawaii Press: Honolulu.
Rebick, M. og Takenaka, A. (ed.) (2006) The Changing Japanese Family. Routledge: London and New York.
Repeta, Lawrence (2013). Japan’s Democracy at Risk – The LDP’s Ten Most Dangerous Proposals for Constitutional Change. The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 11, Issue 28, No. 3, July 15, 2013.
Se, Teruhisa and Karatsu, Rie (2004). A conception of human rights based on Japanese culture: Promoting cross-cultural debates. Journal of Human rights, Vol. 3, Nr. 3. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1475483042000224842
Song, Sarah, "Multiculturalism", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.) http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2014/entries/multiculturalism
Strand, Svein Erik (2003): Perceptions of the Afterlife Among Some Japanese Evangelicals: A Study of Contrasting Worldwiews. Trinity International University: Deerfield, Illinois.
Strand, Svein (2014). Transcendence Descended - Limiting God to the Immanent Sphere. Mission Studies 31 (2014) 44–59. Brill: Leiden.
The Constitution of Japan (1947). http://japan.kantei.go.jp/constitution_and_government_of_japan/constitution_e.html
The Norwegian National Committees for Research Ethics in the Social Sciences and the Humanities (NESH) (2006). Guidelines for research ethics in the Social Sciences, law and the Humanities. https://www.etikkom.no/globalassets/documents.pdf
Tucker, John (2012), "Japanese Confucian Philosophy", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2012 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.) http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2012/entries/japanese-confucian
United Nations (1948). The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/
Williams, Bernard (1996). Toleration, a Political or Moral Question? Diogenes December 1996 44: 35-48.
Williams, Melissa S. and Waldron, Jeremy (Ed.) (2008). Toleration and its Limits. New York University Press: New York.
Yum, June Ock (1997) The Impact of Confucianism on Interpersonal Relationships and Communication Patterns in East Asia. I: Samovar, Larry A & Richard E. Porter. Intercultural Communiction – A reader. Wadsworth: Belmont, California.