On: A Philosophy of Diversity…

In attempting to develop an understanding of the meaning of the concept of ‘diversity’, it is arguable to suggest that the best place to begin is by attempting an answer of the following 3 core philosophical questions: “Who am I?”, “Where am I going”?, “What does existence mean?”

Attempts to answer these questions can be traced back to a number of known philosophical thinkers:  Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, St Augustine, Rene Descartes, Immanuel Kant, John Locke, Martin Heidegger, Tielhard de Chardin, John Paul Sartre, etc – all of whom dominated the ancient, medieval and contemporary and modern philosophical periods.

But what was the common denominator running through the varied arguments each thinker posed? Arguably, I suggest it was attempting an understanding of the meaning of ‘existence’: What was it? What did it mean? Indeed, how am I connected to it?

I remember when studying philosophy at university, I was particularly interested in the theories of ‘identity’. The existentialist philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre took my particular fancy. In attempting to understand individual identity (the Who am I? question) or what he called The Self, Sartre argued that you cannot but inevitably find yourself connected to ‘The Other’ person. The Self is therefore a bit of a paradox – if you will. “Is it possible to pick up a single grain of sand off the beach with your fingers“, Sartre asks in his writings? I challenge you, go on try it! In attempting to do so, you inevitably find your fingers with multiple grains of sand despite your best efforts. Sartre linked ‘identity’ – the (‘Who am I?’ question) – to his philosophy of ‘Otherness’: the reality that we are all somehow fundamentally and inextricably connected. We shall take this as our first premise to developing an understanding of diversity.

So, it would seem then that there is a connectedness between all people. We are a ‘Common Self’. Indeed, that ‘Common Self’ is in fact a ‘One-Self’ – as it represents a ‘conjoining’ of The One with The Other. I suppose the question then is; what is the purpose of ‘One-Self’? For if we are to go by the beach analogy – a visible symbol of human interconnectedness – surely the pervading question in our minds is: Why? Or, what is the reason for this ‘connectedness’? Why does it appear as if it is inevitable that we have to pick up multiple grains of sand when actually wanting to pick up a single grain? Does this signal a kind of determinism linked toThe Other?

The answer may lie in understanding the meaning of ‘purpose’ or ‘purposiveness’ – otherwise understood as that toward which we are drawn and which provides us with a sense of fulfilment. Martin Heidegger, a 20th century philosopher, calls it the desire to constantly ‘transcend’ ourselves and fulfil our existence as Beings with immense potentialities, a task that can only be achieved through taking care of the One-Self through constantly transcending ourselves or being challenged to act in ways that fundamentally has The Other in mind. Note that the phrase ‘taking care of’ does not imply a drive to be ‘nice’ to someone driven by some Christian belief system, but rather refers to a ‘natural’ act stemming from our very nature, and which necessarily concerns The Other person. So it would seem that our connectedness is driven by an ingrained sense of purpose we have toward each other, a purpose which involves constantly transcending One-Self leading to a sense of fulfilment. We shall take this as our second premise to developing an understanding of diversity.

But “where is all this going?” – I suspect my readers are wondering. A perfectly valid question to ask because it is to that particular question we now turn, and which forms our final premise: Where are we going? What is the purpose of existence?

Based on the previous paragraphs, we came to the conclusion that there is something about The One-Self which in attempting to discover itself, or the fullness of its Being or potential, puts itself through a process of self transcendence. This process of transcendence enables it to find itself in The Other, leading to the discovery of The One-Self. For Teilhard de Chardin, a modern philosophical theologian, the process of transcending represents the human need to discover new realms of existence, which in turn represents something in human nature – that points beyond it. Call it a new state of existence, or that toward which we naturally aspire, though we do not fully know what it is. In Teilhard’s interpretation, it is what he calls the ‘Omega Point’ – the state of complete intelligence, or of full intellectual awareness. And so to our third premise for developing an understanding of diversity: It would seem that the process of self-transcendence represents the aspirations we naturally have toward greater possibilities of intelligence.

Taking the logical premises we have subsequently arrived at in chronological order: (1) that all human beings are somehow fundamentally and inextricably connected, (2) that our connectedness is driven by an ingrained sense of purpose we have toward each other, a purpose which involves constantly transcending One-Self leading to a sense of fulfilment, and (3) that the process of self-transcending represents the natural aspirations toward greater possibilities of intelligence and intellectual awareness, I argue that the process of thought or of thinking, the common denominator running through all 3 premises, constitutes the fundamental argument for developing a baseline understanding of what diversity is.

I suggest that the reality of our external diversity – (as demonstrated in the multiple grains of sand we inevitably pick up from the beach despite attempts to pick up a single grain), is a symbolic representation of the ‘diverse’ and creative character of thinking or of thought processing – that fundamental reality which necessarily connects us all – and which ensures we constantly aspire towards new possibilities of intelligence.

The quest to understand the fundamental philosophical question: “Who am I?” and indeed the philosophical theories that arose as a consequence have been at the very heart of understanding the concept of diversity. Philosophical Diversity in this sense is the futuristic reminder of the infinite plethora of beautiful possibilities and new socio-political and economic states we can create through sustained intellectual stimulation –  a purpose that draws us, and which whilst we may not fully comprehend it presently, reveals itself as we continue to engage with the dialectic of The Self as it interacts inextricably and continually with The Other…and on to the revelation of the Beauty of the One-Self…in all of us.

Let the dialetic continue…



Filed under diversity

4 responses to “On: A Philosophy of Diversity…

  1. James

    When I saw the post headlined philosophy of diversity I didn’t expect that phiolosophy to be existentialism, I am as big a fan of Camus as the next man but I wonder if this is the right philosophical approach for the your purposes, I can see a much more fruitful and practical line of enquiry with Peter Singer’s utilitarianism and views of personhood, or William James’ pragmatism which also fits into a distinctly English cultural tradition of philosophy?

  2. James – thanks for your comments.

    I have been a big fan of existentialist philosophy since my student days at university. Existentialist philosophy is a great school of thought that can be applied to many fields, and which, personally, has always connected with me, and indeed my approach to understanding the strategic character of diversity.

    I do not know much about Camus or Peter Singer’s philosophy of personhood – so will have a look, though must admit that I am more drawn to use John Locke’s theory of personhood and identity, which I think is absolutely fascinating – you should have a look at it. I have decided to save John Locke for part II of the article!

    I will endeavor to have a look at the suggested recommendations.


  3. James

    Albert Camus is existentialist writer, and philosopher, contemporary of Sartre author of the Outsider, The Rebel, Myth of Sysiphus etc, but I meant it as a throwaway comment

    The end of this presentation by Steven Pinker (about 20 min) gives a pretty good view of Singer’s work, and you can probably see the applications:

    In fact the whole video is very interesting

  4. Carrie Cosby

    I needed to research diversity because it is such a cliche now. Everyone is diverse. Everyone who is a good person is diverse. But I think about how we explain it and it really comes back to me. I want to be a better person therefore I embrace all cultures. I still must remain a grain of sand myself. Therefore, as a single grain of sand whose life is whole impacted by those around I must make individual decisions about my person. Am I truly living in such a way as to please God my maker. This implies that I will see others as more important than myself. That I will understand and reach out to others with the truth that will ultimately give life and freedom. That I am to do so first with my Jerusalem – those just like me. My Samaria-those I reject. and to the ends of the earth-everyone who I come in contact with. America is filled with the ‘ends of the earth’ and it is always a challenge to give a gift of truth to someone whose world view is diferent than mine. Patiently and with kindness treat them as more important than myself with out embarassing their false ideas and thus loosing sight of who God is and who He wants me to be while imparting the reality of what gives me such joy and fullfillment. I know the God who created them. I can love them. I can choose to live according to God’s principals because I have made it so much a part of who I am that it is imperative to me know to seek out how to ‘better myself’ loose myself in the reality of who God is and wants me to be. E=MC2. True energy is Mass at zero and twice the amount of light. I must choose God and He ultimately expects me to live as a reflection of what He is – light. Truth. Love.

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