Ilmu Massa, Turath, Sejarah. Analisa Kajian Budaya Pemikir. Peradaban Insani Kalbu Akal Mencerah. Hakikat Amal Zikir Dan Fikir. Ilmu, Amal, Hikmah Menjana Pencerahan. Ulul-Albab Rausyanfikir Irfan Bistari. Tautan Mahabbah Mursyid Bimbingan. Alam Melayu Alam Islami Tamadun Melayu Peradaban Islami. Rihlah Ilmiah Menjana Pencerahan Pemikiran, Kefahaman & Ketamadunan (Ilmu,Amal,Hikmah & Mahabbah) - Inspirasi: Rizhan el-Rodi

Philosophical depth: A scholarly talk with the Turkish foreign minister

Philosophical depth: A scholarly talk with the Turkish foreign minister

When he wrote ‘Strategic Depth: Turkey's International Position,' Ahmet Davutoğlu had planned to publish a series of four books. The second book of the series would be ‘Philosophical Depth' and it would be followed by ‘Historical Depth’ and ‘Cultural Depth.’ Turkish Review interviewed the Turkish foreign minister, Professor Ahmet Davutoğlu about the main ideas he would develop in ‘Philosophical Depth.’

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu's theoretical side is best known in the West for his seminal book "Strategic Depth." Despite the fact that the book was never translated into English in full, foreign ambassadors in Turkey circulate summaries of the book and become acquainted with terms such as "spheres of influence," "zero problems policy" and "de-securitization," because the book is already regarded as a doctrinal manifesto, if not the Bible, of the new Turkish foreign policy.

Many believe "Strategic Depth," first published in 2001 (the book has since been reprinted 41 times in Turkey alone), has been put into practice by Davutoğlu and that one would not be able to understand Turkey's new foreign policy moves without being familiar with the volume. Professor Davutoğlu accepts that there is a relationship between his book and his term as foreign minister, but the relationship he refers to is in reverse chronological order. "There was a price for writing 'Strategic Depth.' By first becoming chief advisor to the prime minister, and then foreign minister, I have been paying that price," he told Turkish Review. It is not the minister that put the book into practice, it is the book that put the minister into office.

Reading "Strategic Depth" is indeed illuminating in terms of Turkey's foreign policy moves, but overemphasis of the book as Davutoğlu's masterpiece is misleading.

If one is to make a "man and book" match, Davutoğlu would rather be paired with his "Alternative Paradigms." "I worked on 'Strategic Depth' for two years, on ‘Alternative Paradigms,' seven. But it didn't attract the attention it deserved," Davutoğlu told Turkish Review.

He was working on a book called "Philosophical Depth" -- which was to be the second book in the "Strategic Depth" series -- when he was offered the post of chief advisor to the prime minister. That book would possibly revive some of the concepts he worked on in "Alternative Paradigms" and "Civilizational Transformation." The series would continue with "Cultural Depth," "Historical Depth" and "Core Country." Professor Davutoğlu published several book-length articles in the periodical Divan, published in Turkish. Only by reading all of these books and articles can the gate to the philosophical depth of Turkey's foreign minister be opened.

KB: We are restricted by time and pages, so I will try to keep my questions limited to the articles 'Alternative Paradigms' and 'Civilizational Self-Perception' you published in Divan. In 'Civilizational Self-Perception' in particular, you relate the rise and fall of civilizations to something related to consciousness (self-perception) and not to anything material. This reminds me of Ibn Khaldun, who suggested that the rise and fall of nations was related to their tribal solidarity (asabiyyah). Is there a link between self-perception and asabiyyah? May I label you an Ibn Khaldunian sociologist?

AD: Ibn Khaldun was given a considerable amount of space in "Alternative Paradigms." I remember that I had to rewrite certain citations from his "Muqaddimah" (Introduction) because I had used an English translation of the book and my publisher told me that because of copyright issues I had to cut down the amount of citations from the "Muqaddimah." I did not want to do this and instead returned to the original Arabic version and made my own translation. This translation opened my eyes to a possible alternative translation of certain Arabic terms. I realized that the existing translation used "dynasty" for "mulk," for example. It could well be translated "political power" and that would make Ibn Khaldun's theory more applicable to modern times.

As for my position on asabiyyah, we have to remember that Ibn Khaldun was trying to develop a theory on the existing social reality. He was observing the tribes and their transformation into states. I find his theory meaningful and correct. But, in my case, I am working on a psychological perception rather than a sociological asabiyyah. I am trying to reach the psychological element behind asabiyyah. So I don't concentrate on defining social bonds but rather on the self-perception based on the ontology of human beings.

Self-perception is not only about the self. Through an understanding of the self, or a definition of the self, human beings reach a Weltanschauung, i.e., a worldview. A man's relationship to another man can be studied through asabiyyah. But what I worked on is the creation of a personal self-perception and spreading and sharing this perception so as to create a common self-perception. In that sense my theory is not an alternative to Ibn Khaldun. It is complementary. In fact, one of my students completed a Ph.D. thesis that reinterpreted Ibn Khaldun's asabiyyah from an ontological-psychological point of view.

KB: So are you more of a psychologist?

AD: From the very beginning of history, human beings have endeavored for two needs: security and freedom. On the security front we need a secure environment to survive. This is both a physical environment and a political environment. Sociology starts at this point. But human beings also need freedom -- and this is a distinctive characteristic of being human. Animals also look for and manage to find security. Human beings manage to develop their self-perceptions in relation to freedom. The human being needs to establish a bond between his personal self-perception and the collective self-perception of civilizations. To the extent that he is successful in doing so, a relationship of meaningfulness is established between the individual and the civilization he belongs to. I worked on this relationship of meaningfulness: where it starts, how it re-forms the civilization, to what extent the self-definitions of an individual are echoed in the social sphere and so on.

KB: But your vantage point has always been ontology and not sociology.

AD: That is because I believe the perception of the other is not the fundamental problem of all social processes. What is fundamental is the perception of the self. Without dealing with the problem of self-perception, human beings cannot deal with the problems emanating from the perception of the other. Of course such an approach changes all our understanding of the Islamic civilization. Many people believe that the Muslim civilization is community based, and thus sociology is the prime discipline to study it. I, on the other hand, think that the building motive behind the Muslim civilization is not sociology but psychology. The Muslim civilization redefined the self-perceptions of individuals within a paradigm in which there was no ontological proximity, where ontological spheres were not intertwined and where a category of demigods was not formed.

KB: We made a quick entry into alternative paradigms. Let's briefly define what ontological proximity means and what its alternative paradigm in the Muslim civilization is. This is a Davutoğlu neologism, am I correct?

AD: All religions and civilizations before Islamic civilization had established a demigod category between god and man. In fact, civilizations except the Islamic civilization always regarded god, man and nature on the same ontological level. I named this "ontological proximity."

In Greek mythology you see this as demiurge; in Indian civilization it is the avatar. This ontological proximity, I claim, has its implications in the shaping of social life. In India you find god descending to this world in the form of an avatar, but not everyone is able to communicate with the avatar. Those who have that priority formed the clergy and the caste system was based on this social hierarchy.

The same is true of Christianity. The semi-divinity given to Jesus Christ gave way to the creation of an institution that represents the nature of Jesus: the Church and the clergy. Islam, on the other hand, rejects ontological proximity between god, nature and man and establishes an ontological hierarchy of Allah, man and nature. Since there is ontological hierarchy in Islam, you will not find social hierarchy in Islamic civilization. I claim that what defines the social system is the psychology based on this ontological paradigm.

KB: Here we have established a link between your 'Alternative Paradigms' and 'Civilizational Self-Perception.' You say that depending on the kind of ontological paradigm -- this can be ontological proximity or ontological hierarchy -- individuals develop a self-perception, and over time this individual self-perception evolves into a collective civilizational self-perception. But how does this self-perception turn into a kind of locomotive force of ascendance and spreading of a particular civilization?

When human beings establish a new perception, a new Weltanschauung, they also establish a new self-perception. In time this psychological production gains enough power to begin spreading and influencing society. Here starts the ascendance of a civilization. For Ibn Khaldun, this force is asabiyyah. For me, what deserves to be studied is the perception element in this asabiyyah. Let me use historical material from early Islamic history to help clarify this point further.

In the prophetic era, a local but strong self-perception was formed in Mecca and Medina. This was the monotheistic self-perception. This self-perception entered into a showdown with the surrounding civilizations when, at the time of Caliph Omar, Islam started to conquer Egypt, Palestine and Mesopotamia. Now this encounter with ancient civilizations is very important.

I look at Mecca and Medina as the incubator of Islamic self-perception. If this incubator was in the middle of Africa, it wouldn't have had the chance to evolve into the brilliant Islamic civilization. Thanks to its geographic location, Islamic civilization emerged as a result of the interaction between this Islamic self-perception, at the core of which stood a dense monotheism, and the ancient civilizations surrounding it; the Egyptian, Palestinian, Mediterranean, Mesopotamian, Indian and Greek civilizations.

The Islamic self-perception shook all the traditional hierarchies that existed in this region of the world. The institutions of these established ancient civilizations, their centers, all fell under the control of the Muslims. Of course, the self-perception had to answer the challenges of these civilizations and rebuild itself. New sciences were formed, new disciplines, new universities were founded. In a very short time all the Christian, Greek, Neo-platonic and other schools were re-established within the Islamic civilization, thanks to the creative minds that worked on them.

KB: Isn't this a kind of invasion or domination of established civilizations by an emergent self-perception?

AD: No. I am not speaking about a clash of alternative self-perceptions or civilizations. On the contrary, I am speaking about the contributions of alternative paradigms. That is exactly what I tried to do in my book. I tried to prove the overarching uniqueness of an Islamic and a Western civilization and to show the contributions of these civilizations to mankind.

The main question in "Alternative Paradigms" is this: There are many Muslim philosophers. There is Averroes (Ibn Rushd), who criticizes al-Ghazali, and there is al-Ghazali, who criticizes the philosophers. All are within the Muslim tradition. So they should share a commonality. What is the paradigm of thought that governs all the Muslim philosophers' studies? Why do we still refer to Averroes as a Muslim thinker, in spite of the fact that his thought created a unique school in Western thought?

KB: The answer you found can be summarized as ontological proximity, epistemologically defined ontology, the particularization of the divinity of knowledge, the secularization of knowledge and the society in Western civilization and, in opposition to it, ontological hierarchy, ontologically defined epistemology and a hierarchy of knowledge in the Muslim civilization. Of course these are irreconcilable and a clash is inescapable, is it not?

AD: That is not what I claim. I claim the opposite. I am saying that this second encounter between the Islamic and Western civilizations in the modern era should have at least been as fertile as the first encounter. During the first encounter, a very fruitful result was born. I believe the recent encounter of Islamic thought with the West, with Western thought and the philosophy of the Enlightenment, can lead to very creative results. I am not speaking about a clash or even a split; rather, I am speaking about an encounter, a mutual interaction between the civilizations. I do not claim either one of these civilizational paradigms is correct, but I am warning against losing the uniqueness of both civilizations.

Samuel Huntington claimed that these two civilizations are clashing. I, on the other hand, say that they are interacting and, in order for that interaction to be fruitful, we have to first know our uniqueness. In that sense "Alternative Paradigms" is an attempt to open the way to such an encounter.

KB: We may even be in better shape than previous encounters, thanks to the instruments of globalization.

AD: The current globalization is not the first in human history. We have had several epochs of globalization in the past and all gave way to similar philosophic trends. For example, the era of Alexander the Great was a great era of blending between the philosophic traditions of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle on the one hand and of Buddha and Confucius on the other. A similar blending took place during the spread of Christianity. That is why I studied the concept of the trinity as an underlying civilizational marker.

But another blending took place during the spreading of the Muslim civilization. The Muslim world ruled all the classical civilizational zones for some time. It ruled Delhi and Grenada, and Baghdad and İstanbul at the same time. All these zones shared the same self-perception. It was not a uniformist self-perception, of course, but the same perception, the same soul was felt in cities like Baghdad, Bukhara, Delhi, İstanbul, Grenada and Cordoba. But then the era of 19th century colonialism came and it led to the spread of another self-perception in this region. This obviously resulted in a clash and I endeavored to analyze the codes of that clash in "Alternative Paradigms."

KB: Well, the encounter in the 19th century was detrimental for Muslim self-perception. The West's strong and rigid self-perception came and created a crisis of self-perception in the Muslim world. Why are you optimistic about this recent encounter? Why should Western self-perception be more flexible this time?

AD: First of all, the Western paradigm has already reached the limits of its fertility. This is a cyclical pattern that we observe in all civilizations. This was also true of the Muslim civilization. The self-perception that was born in Mecca and Medina expanded and encountered other civilizations. Through that encounter new schools formed.

Names such as Abu Hanifah wrote foundational classics such as al-Fiqh al-Akbar and other corpus juris. Followers of these schools then emerged. In time the new paradigm was consolidated and new universities were founded on this paradigm. This, of course, brought about the consolidation of political dominion. At a certain point the intellectual paradigm was translated into a political paradigm. Together with this development, intellectual originality dropped and scholars started to reproduce what was already said. This happens to any civilization. It happened during the [time of the] Ottomans when the political paradigm was consolidated. At that point unique intellectual originality declined and scholars started to write commentaries and explanatory appendices, because people thought the intellectual crisis was over and all that had to be said had already been said.

Let's look at Western civilization. The production of a new self-perception happened during the intense intellectual crises of the 12th and 15th centuries. The foundational classics of these ages paved the way for unique thinkers like Spinoza and Hobbes. With Hegel the paradigm is consolidated. Because of this, I usually compare Hegel to al-Ghazali. So, by the 19th century, Western self-perception was consolidated as a civilizational paradigm and was translated into a political paradigm.

Today we have reached a point at which the Western paradigm and the underlining Enlightenment philosophy have said all that they can say. This is why people like [Francis] Fukuyama claimed that history has reached an end. I first replied to Fukuyama with an article, "The Hegemonic Illusion," and later wrote "Civilizational Transformation" to warn the West that the end of history was an illusion. We passed through the same illusion when the Ottomans started their state system as an "eternal state" (Devlet-i ebed müddet).

The Ottomans believed that they had reached the perfect state and that it would be a static order forever from then on. This was, of course, the end of dynamism. This is exactly what Fukuyama claimed: The challenge of ideologies is over. Mankind reached a perfect order and this is the liberal order. This is not true. In fact, the foundational parameters of Enlightenment philosophy are passing through a serious crisis. There can be no political order when there is an intellectual crisis. I believe it is not the end of history. On the contrary, history will now flow at a greater pace. But it is correct to say that there are no longer any Kants or Hegels in the West. There are neo-Kantians and neo-Hegelians. They are at the commentary stage of their intellectual history, similar to the 16th century Ottoman State declaring itself as 'devlet-i ebed müddet'.

KB: Many Western scholars attest to this intellectual crisis in the West. This is nothing new. But why are you optimistic about the Turkish cultural dynamism and Islamic civilization? Do we have al-Ghazalis now?

AD: We are entering into an era that will have to deal with the new chaotic situation and reach a larger synthesis. I am not claiming that what lies ahead of us is a heavenly era. On the contrary. I foresee quite a chaotic era, both ecologically and ontologically. Chaos will produce crises and crises will provide us a new zone of ethics in which we will need to make an intellectual leap. The traditional ethics do not provide for the new challenges of life. We need new biological ethics, new ecological ethics. This means we need new foundational classics that will open a new paradigmatic era. And I see that the ancient world is awakening. India is awakening. China is awakening.

KB: What about Turkey?

AD: Turkey has the potential to make the most unique contribution to this intellectual leap. We have to expect huge philosophical production from Turkey in the decades to come. You know Samuel Huntington labels Turkey as a torn country and expects no meaningful Turkish contribution to the civilizational debate. Leave aside the discussion of whether Turkey is a torn country or not. Let's say Turkey is a divided country. But look at history. All the great thinkers came out of torn countries. Max Weber is a product of divided Italy. Hobbes is the son of the British civil war and Hegel that of a divided Germany. Only a restless soul will look for new ideas. Add to this the fact that Turkey was the latest zone of dominion of all the ancient civilizations. Yes, I am optimistic about the future.

KB: Chaos does not necessarily lead to an intellectual leap. There should be something we need to do in order to induce such intellectual productivity.

AB: What we need to do is to rediscover our ontology. This discovery will have to have two dimensions: the personal and the historical. On the personal level we have to rediscover the psychological ontology, and on the historical level we have to understand sociological ontology in our historical context. In the words of the "Civilizational Self-Perception" article, we have to rediscover our strong and flexible self-perception. "Who am I?" I have to find an ontological answer to this question. "What do I represent?" This is a historic and political question and the answer needs to be sociological. I am not speaking about re-emergence of an Islamic identity; I am speaking about continuity in the ancient civilizational zone that I refer to as the 'kadim medeniyet' [Literally ancient civilization, but Prof. Davutoğlu's use of the term comes closer to 'eternal civilization'. Editor's Note].

KB: In a speech you gave to the ambassadors of the European Union on Europe Day in 2009, you spoke about the Europe of your dreams. This Europe is not the strong and rigid Europe we have today. You spoke about a strong and flexible civilization. Are you hopeful that the intellectual leap you are foreseeing in Turkey or in the ancient civilization zone will have a transformative effect on Europe in particular, or on Western Civilization in general?

AD: Certainly! When civilizations interact, civilizational transformation is inevitable. The history of civilizations shows that at certain points established civilizations are inoculated or impregnated by newcomers. The civilizational awakening in the ancient civilizational zones will certainly inoculate the Western civilization and induce a new synthesis.

Islamic civilization passed through two immense eras of transformation. One was the Crusader-Mongol invasion era. The second was the colonization era. To a smaller extent, similar civilizational transformations occurred when the Turkish tribes moved into Iran and the two civilizations evolved into the Seljuk state. Later on, that civilization entered into contact with the East Roman-Byzantine civilization and the Ottoman civilization was born as a result. Western civilization cannot escape from that civilizational interaction. It will continue to evolve.

One reason for the evolution is the natural existence of Muslims and other Eastern ethnicities in the heartland of Europe. This existence is a natural result of Western hegemony over Muslim and Eastern countries in the last two centuries. This is a historical process. At some time after a dominating center rules over a periphery, the periphery starts to pour into the center. If Rome hadn't ruled over Palestine, there wouldn't be any Jews in Rome. My observation is that, about two centuries after a civilizational hegemony is founded, the peripheral elements start moving into the center of that hegemonic civilization. A new self-perception is formed and that is followed by a new political order. In time, the newcomers turn into definitive elements in deciding the future of the civilization.

Look at the Ottomans! Two centuries after Ottoman hegemony was established in the Balkans, we started seeing viziers from Serbian and other Balkan backgrounds. As long as the Ottoman system was open to the people from the peripheries, the system was able to cope with challenges. That is why the sultan was also called Kaizer-i Rum (Roman Caesar) together with his titles of hakan, padişah and caliph. The moment the system closed itself to the peripheral influence, it collapsed. This is true for Europe, too. It will either evolve into a higher civilization with the input of the Muslims, Hindus and other ancient civilizations, or it will start to decline. It won't be the end of history, but it will be the end of Europe's supremacy.

KB: The US seems to have a higher chance of civilizational transformation. Don't you think so?

AD: The US has been more flexible than Europe from the very beginning. But as a state founded by immigrants, the US has the same challenge. I remember I gave a speech at Princeton University after Sept. 11 and said there that the US no longer needs a Caesar from Texas but a Marcus Aurelius from Boston. When a civilization is ascending, there is a strong self-perception and Caesar-style rule is understandable. But after the periphery starts to pour into the center, you need a Marcus Aurelius style that incorporates the newcomers into the system and provides the civilizational flexibility for their contribution. Societies that cannot produce a Marcus Aurelius after their Caesar enter into a sharper and swifter decline.

KB: Is there an American Marcus Aurelius on the scene?

AD: Barack Obama! He is both the Marcus Aurelius of Rome and the Sokullu Mehmet Paşa of the Ottomans. Look, two generations ago African-Americans were unable to ride on the same buses as whites. The socio-cultural and socio-political system was exclusive of the Jews and the Catholics. The Kennedy family disgusted Americans, who believed a Catholic could not be president. Today that society elected an African-American as its president. This is a positive move. In that sense, Americans have a higher capability of internalization. Europe will have to do this, but it seems that it will realize this only after some harsh lessons. In the US, the internalization of Muslim and Hispanic civilizations will take place more voluntarily and via a natural course.

KB: You are speaking about different civilizational zones, but at some point you claim that a truly strong and flexible civilization can produce a true globalization. Do you foresee a universal civilization at the end of history?

AD: First of all, there are differing positions on the nature of civilization. There are those who claim that there is only one universal civilization and our differences are not civilizational but cultural. I find this to be a uniformist claim. This is in fact the progressive doctrine that claims that there is only one true civilization, and that is the Western civilization. All others are archaic civilizations that need to be eliminated in the course of history. If said from the position of hegemonic civilization, I claim this is a hegemonic illusion. If this position is adopted by other societies, this is a problem in self-perception.

The second position claims that there were and are different civilizations in the world but that they are in a continuous clash and are trying to eliminate one another. I claim that there are different civilizations and that they are in continuous interaction and that through this interaction new self-perceptions are produced. A clash is not inevitable. There are alternative paradigms, but this is not to say that they are rival paradigms.

As for globalization, I have already said that this is not a new phenomenon in human history. There is one difference, though. Previous globalizations were limited by geography. Today we are experiencing a trans-geographical globalization. Despite this difference, we can compare the intellectual responses to, say, the Alexandrian globalization and recent philosophical trends. The limited globalization of Alexander the Great gave birth to three Hellenic trends: Stoicism, the Cynic School and the Epicurean School. Stoicism looked for a new order that sought a mechanical system that would rule over both Greece and Babel. Cynicism was born as a response to this mechanical order. Diogenes' "Stand out of my sunlight!" revolt against Alexander is in fact a symbolic expression of a resistance to the new mechanical order. The Epicurean School, on the other hand, created a new expectation from the new reality: Let's all seek our pleasures under the new mechanical order!

The current globalization has produced three very similar trends. The new Stoics are those who speak of a "new world order." The modern Cynics are the postmodernists. They suggest that we should give up our inter-paradigmatic searches and start an intra-paradigmatic search. Let everyone be happy in his own world and leave aside the quest for an absolute truth. That is the premise of postmodernism. The Epicureanist response to the recent globalization is the culture of consumption: I can drink my coke and be happy; why should I think about other systemic issues?

So, what happened following the Alexandrian globalization is also taking place today, and this time it is happening in all of the world's streets. The only thing I can say is that this time it is swifter and will pave the way for a new philosophical discussion. Philosophy did not end with Heidegger; we are on the threshold of a new philosophy.

KB: So history is heading toward a higher civilization. Isn't this historical determinism?

AD: We cannot read history as sharp rises and falls. A helicoidal reading is more correct. I do not claim that we are flowing towards a global civilization. The river of history may fail to find its course. Europe may make an incorrect decision and, instead of facilitating a fruitful intercourse with the rising powers of Asia, the end result may be detrimental. I think the role Turkey will play is decisive at this stage. Turkey is in a central position to guarantee that the river of history finds its correct course. I always say Turkey is the litmus test of globalization. Our success by means of the east-west, north-south relationship and by means of socio-cultural and economic crises will provide for the success of globalization. Our failure will drag globalization into a fault zone that may trigger a deep clash.

KB: Whenever you speak of an inter-civilizational encounter, you use the term 'interaction.' You refer to a synthesis, but don't mention any dialectics. Are you suggesting that this is instead against the dialectics of synthesis?

AD: You are right. I abstain from using Hegelian dialectics as the driving force of reaching a synthesis. The trio of thesis, anti-thesis and synthesis is not necessarily true. A synthesis can be produced from within a thesis without the challenge of an anti-thesis. The Hegelian trio is useless in understanding the relationship between the West and Islam. Which of them is the thesis and which the anti-thesis? I prefer to refer to the relationship as an interaction. It is true that facing the challenge of the opposite creates a fruitful intellectual medium, but it is not a must.

KB: Let me summarize your thesis in 'Alternative Paradigms.' You claim that the fundamental premise of the Western civilization is ontological proximity and epistemologically defined ontology. These resulted in the particularization of divinity and knowledge and the equalization of the divine and human epistemological spheres. This gave way to axiological positivism and that resulted with the secularization of knowledge, law and life. Alternatively, in the Islamic civilization we have ontological hierarchy and ontologically defined epistemology. The divine epistemological sphere is regarded as superior to the human epistemological sphere and the end result is a cosmologico-ontological unity and transparency. But you don't stop there; you say that the difference that starts from ontological proximity-ontological hierarchy dichotomy ends up shaping arts, music, politics and even cuisine in these alternative civilizations. My question is this: Is this shaping power a one-way process only? Can a change in arts or city architecture or the cuisine of Europe bring about a change in the ontological proximity premise?

AD: That was a good summary of "Alternative Paradigms." I hope the readers don't get lost in the question.

KB: All I want to do is to show them the philosophical depth of the Turkish foreign minister. If they want to see all you have written, they will have to do more than just read this interview.

AD: The relationship between politics and ontology is not a one-way relationship. Each influences the other. In fact, the interaction between civilizations cannot be at the level of abstract ontological or epistemological premises. The interaction will be at the level of politics, economy, arts -- and that will reshape the premises.

KB: Let me ask a concrete question. Will a Europe that takes Turkey as a member and through that membership opens itself to interaction with ancient civilizations turn around and question its civilizational premises?

AD: Yes, it will. Such a Europe will be the litmus test of globalization then. Europe will experience what Turkey is passing through today in an extensive manner. Turkey will be an inoculation to Europe and I believe a very fertile intellectual atmosphere will be born. Of course the civilizational premises will be opened to questioning. My personal prediction is that new Christian movements with stronger monotheistic tendencies will flourish.

Let me elaborate on how the silhouettes of cities may influence those foundational premises. Today certain European countries are resisting minarets. Why? The reason is the strong and rigid Western self-perception. But a city with different cultural artifacts in its silhouette produces more and more pluralistic citizens.

During a recent discussion session about this minaret issue in Switzerland I joined a two-day meeting in Venice. Both Islam and the Turks were harshly criticized there as being irreconcilable [with the West]. My turn came and I asked them a simple question: "If you were to go to a city where you want to see a multi-cultural city, a city that would offer you buildings of Christianity, Islam and Judaism and even of the ancient civilizations, would you go to London and Paris, or would you go to İstanbul, Marakesh or Jerusalem? Is there such a city in Europe?" Somebody suggested that one would find all those in Sarajevo. But Sarajevo is an Ottoman city. It is true that you can find mosques, synagogues and churches together in [Sarajevo's] Bascarsija [old city]. But around Bascarsija is the Austro-Hungarian era city, where you will find only churches, and around it is the Marxist-Yugoslavian era city, where you will fail to find even a church. Such is our pluralism, and I hope that Europe will endorse that.

But I have to warn that this transformation won't be solely one-sided. There will be a flow of Eastern Europeans into Turkey. There will be more Portuguese and Brazilians in İstanbul. They will bring their needs with them. This will change us also. We will probably have to flex our mono-cultural nation-state-based understanding of Islam, and Europe will have to flex its mono-cultural Christian cities understanding. This is not an easy process, but it is inescapable.

The real problem is intellectual transformation

When I entered Boğaziçi University's department of political science, I had the topic of my doctoral thesis in my mind. I was planning to study the reasons behind our backwardness. More specifically, I was going to write a comparative study of British and French colonialist strategies and how this difference influenced Turkey.

At the time we were under the influence of Marxism and we saw all social problems as emanating from systemic and economic facts. In 1982 I submitted a paper at the end of the year titled "Comparative analysis of British and French colonial regimes in India and Algeria." It was a well-written paper, but during my reading for it, I realized the problem was not the actual colonization of India and Algeria by the colonizers. The problem was in the intellectual transformation of the Indian and Algerian intellectuals and the public and in their response to the intellectual challenge of the colonial regimes.