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HARMONY:ORIGIN OF TOTALITARIANISM OR PATRON OF PLURALISM?

Harmony is a central notion in Asian culture. It appears as a symbol on the Korean national flag; it is one of the names that the Japanese people used to call their nation; it is a justificatory principle in Chinese politics and policymaking.Harmony is a core idea in many intellectual traditions—in Asia, where it played a key role in especially Confucianism, but also outside of the Asian continent, where it appears for example in African Ubuntu and American Anishinaabe traditions. Harmony is also elaborately discussed in various strands of ancientGreek philosophy and fulfills a bridging function in Kant’s understanding of the workings of the human mind. Indeed, few reject harmony outright as a bad thingor as something utterly worthless. However, in contemporary mainstream philosophy the concept of harmony is hardly given serious consideration. There may of course be good reasons for this. It is possible that harmony is grounded in or expressive of a thick metaphysics of the natural-comic order that denies the laws of science; it is possible that harmony articulates or constitutes a vision of social conformity that opposes humanist commitments to freedom and individuality. But it is also possible that there are no good reasons why harmony has been forgotten in the transition from pre-modern to modern philosophy in the West. If that is so, then a continued dismissal of the concept constitutes not merely an unjustifiable disregard for non-Western philosophical traditions. Mainstream philosophical discourse could be dismissing out of hand an idea that has the potential to make important contributions to human understanding and self-understanding. The current world is full of disharmonies. Perhaps harmony should be taken seriously as a philosophical, political, and social concept, as an important human value.

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