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Fresh Categories, New Sciences

For much of twentieth-century philosophy it is no longer possible to think of Being as foundation, not simply because of the risk that objectivism might lead to a totalitarian society—to Auschwitz or to the Gulag—but above all because European culture has become aware that there are other cultures that cannot be merely classified as “primitive,” that is, as lagging behind the West in the way of “progress.” The 1800s were the century in which the historical sciences, including cultural anthropology, arose: there was a ripe awareness that there was not just a single course of history (culminating in Western civilization) but different cultures and different histories. This awareness would be decisively advanced through the wars of liberation of the colonial nations. Algeria’s revolt against France as well as the petroleum war of the early 1970s were the last episodes within the theoretical, practical, and political rupture of Eurocentrism, i.e., of the idea of a unique human civilization of which Europe was conceived to be the leader as well as the apex.

—Gianni Vattimo, After Christianity

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