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Epistemological Challenge of Cognitive Body Odour: exploring the underside of dialogue


Epistemological Challenge of Cognitive Body Odour
Cognitive body odour
Specificity of body odour
Cognitive hygiene
Epistemological implications of the odour metaphor
Epistemological relationship between human values and olfaction
Policy implications of cognitive body odour -- for collective "bodies"

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How to explain the distaste that those of one belief system or school of thought feel for another, however politely it is expressed? This is most evident in the relations between religions. It is only too clear in the relations between academic disciplines -- especially between the "hard" and the "soft" sciences. It can be regretted in the case of the dysfunctional dynamics between the many groups concerned with "peace" or "saving the planet". It can be detected in attitudes to contrasting aesthetic preferences, whether associated with the arts, music or language -- or even meditation.

This distaste may well be at the root of the "arms length", tepid, tokenistic relationships characteristic of interfaith dialogue, interdisciplinary initiatives, and multicultural encounters. It continues to be rationalized in support of "us and them" modes of social organization, as disguised forms of apartheid -- and even in support of violence against the other.

The phenomenon is most perplexing in the case of initiatives that explicitly set out to be integrative and comprehensive in scope, or even profoundly spiritual. In practice each seemingly fails to address the significance of other initiatives that perceive themselves to be of similar or more profound significance. Furthermore their insight may be transformed into intellectual property of some kind for the special benefit of the originator.

This creates a challenge for the uninitiated -- how to distinguish between the various integrative claims, and the peculiarly unsophisticated dynamics between the claimants. In a period of violent confrontation between cultures -- epitomized by "crusades" and "jihads" -- this is the challenge that the Parliament of the World's Religions totally fails to address. In fact such bodies could not exist if they were to be acknowledged and addressed therein. And yet many of the religions that meet there implicitly (if with unctuous regret) endorse the actions of their adherents in cutting each others' throats.

The concern here is that, albeit unknowingly, all of us with integrative aspirations suffer from various forms of "CBO" -- cognitive body odour -- meaning that we may "smell good" to others of our tribe, but we may well "stink" most offensively to those of some other tribes. How should this challenge be addressed?

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