Thursday, October 29, 2009

Imperialism and Philosophy

I wonder if a study has ever been done, or a book or article ever written, regarding whether there is a connection between European imperialism and European Philosophy.  Certain European philosophers have tried to create great philosophical systems which encompass, and purportedly explain, most everything.  They appear to have a desire, so to speak, to conquer and dominate the world of thought, and perhaps in supposedly explaining humans, society and history, to know all if not to control all.  This is a tendency which isn't necessarily limited to philosophers, however.  Freud seemingly sought to explain all conduct by reference to sexual experiences.  The gigantic systems which are constructed seem to be based on relatively simple premises or causes from which all else is said to follow.

The question arises (that is to say, I think it does) whether there is something in the European character which encourages the tendency to philosophize in this fashion.  Must philosophy account for (encompass, or rule) everything in order to have worth?  Is there some latent Caesarian ideal, a remnant of nostalgia for the Roman Empire?  A kind of intellectual habit resulting from centuries under absolute monarchies, and the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, that fascinating ghost of the Empire? 

What, though, of later European philosophies of existentialism or nihilism, for example? These, it seems, cannot readily be described as imperial.  But perhaps they are the natural result of European loss of empire.  They no longer rule the world, and that world-view has collapsed.  What would be more natural than for imperialists who have lost their imperium to despair of any real order, now that their order has gone?

A bit of speculative fancy, for what it's worth.

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