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, that perhaps philosophy might only unlock doors for those who solely pondered but did not act. This was, of course, reactionary toward my education then which I discovered had an agenda greater than introducing us to new ways of thinking.
Today I return to Ricouer with my head bowed low in reverence and without pride. This, I feel, is one way to return to truth.
Just don’t ask me what that is because I still don’t know for sure.