De paradox van het verlichte gelijkheidsdiscours - Beschouwingen over De uitvinding van de mensheid door Siep Stuurman | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online
Volume 124, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 0040-7518
  • E-ISSN: 2352-1163


Jesus praised the Good Samaritan who understood that the stranger we encounter in daily life is in fact our neighbour. For Siep Stuurman the tale of the Samaritan symbolizes the fundamental insight that humanity is a universal category transcending cultural differences. It would be perfectly legitimate, however, to interpret Luke 10:25-37 as an ethical injunction to help our neighbour even though regarding him or her as inferior to ourselves. Indeed, why should an ethics of compassion based on cultural inequality be morally reprehensible? In De uitvinding van de mensheid (The invention of mankind) Stuurman takes for granted that equality is theoretically more acceptable than inequality. He can do this only by consistently neglecting a powerful inegalitarian train of thought intrinsic to all world religions and cultures and which, in the West, surfaced among others in Plato, Augustine, the Romantics, and conservatism. Stuurman’s take on equality becomes clear when he addresses the contradictory Enlightenment claim that all men are equal but that some (the Enlightened) are more equal than others. He solves the conundrum by treating the claim as an irresolvable duality. This duality can be borne, he argues, if the Enlightened majority condescends to view society through the eyes of (less Enlightened) minorities. It is more realistic to view the Enlightenment claim not as a duality, but as a paradox. Enlightenment necessarily implies cultural inequality, and in this sense there is no distinction between it and the religions of the Axial Age. Belief in cultural inequality seems to be ingrained in humankind.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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