Philosophy & Civilization


When we discover that there are several cultures instead of just one and consequently at the time when we acknowledge the end of a sort of cultural monopoly, be it illusory or real, we are threatened with the destruction of our own discovery. Suddenly it becomes possible that there are just others, that we ourselves are an ‘other’ among others. All meaning and every goal having disappeared, it becomes possible to wander through civilisations as if through vestiges and ruins. The whole of mankind becomes an imaginary museum: where shall we go this weekend–visit the Angkor ruins or take a stroll in Tivoli of Copenhagen?

-Paul Ricouer, “Civilisations and National Cultures,” in his History and Truth.

My dabbling in Ricouer owes itself to a former professor in philosophy. But when I took his class I knew nothing of the other worlds philosophy could open. I thought, quite narrowly and arrogantly…

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