Zastanówmy się, czy można uwolnić Zachód od etnocentryzmu. Problematykę tę bada nasz nowy autor Corentin Heusghem – absolwent filozofii Uniwersytetu Panthéon-Sorbonne. Rozważymy ją w trzech częściach. Spróbujemy wraz z nim przedsięwziąć potrójną rewolucję kopernikańską…
[Let us consider whether the West can be freed from ethnocentrism. These issues are investigated by our new contributor Corentin Heusghem (he graduated from a Master degree in contemporary philosophy at Panthéon-Sorbonne University). We will try to undertake the triple Copernican revolution with him…]
Rewolucja kopernikańska poza fizyką (Czy Zachód musi być centrum świata?
The Copernican revolution outside of physics (Does Occident have to be the center of the world?)
Humans regularly create particular worlds with lasting effects. The problem is that one of these worlds decreed that it was „the” world trying to reduce the wealth and variety of the social and natural life to its sole own logic
[Arturo Escobar, 2018, p. 161]
The book from which this quote is taken – Sensing-Thinking with the Earth. An Ecology Beyond the Occident (not translated yet in English) – depicts the story of the Occident as a particular and historical worldview that proclaimed its knowledge and its conception of reality as the exclusive and universal ones, thus concealing and suppressing the other worldviews or worlds, forms of knowledge and ways to live. The hegemonic claims of the occidental world expand so much throughout the planet (while imposing its ontology, epistemology and values in a colonialist manner) that it puts at risk the diversity of worlds, the balance of life on Earth and the preservation of its condition of sustainability with an ecological crisis. According to Escobar, the occidental hegemony takes its roots in its ontology and epistemology, more precisely in its dualisms between nature and culture or between object and subject, and in its faith in the superiority of science. By believing that there is a unique and single nature or objective world, that the different cultures only face representations or subjective worlds and that science is able to reach the one objective world, the occidental ontology grants a central position to itself: only the Occident manages to reach the true world. Therefore the occidental hegemony is due to the centrality of its position; it doesn’t consider itself as one among others but as the centre from which the other positions are judged, according to their proximity or distance from it. One world or one culture becomes the only criterion, scale and prism from which all the other ones are seen.
In order to overcome this prejudice of ethnocentrism and give back their fullness and autonomy as well as their radical difference to the other worlds and cultures we need to undertake a triple Copernican revolution with Escobar. Thus, what is at stake in this book is not to „end modernity but to end its cultural, epistemological and ontological hegemony, and to […] put modernity back in its place” [Escobar, 2018, p. 79], considered as it is, namely as one particular and historical world among others. There is a triple hegemony from the occidental modernity that we can remove thanks to a triple Copernican revolution, in the fields of axiology, ontology and epistemology.
The term or operation of Copernican revolution refers to a shift of conception in which the centrality of something is questionned and uprooted. This notion comes from Copernicus’ shift from the conception that it’s the stars that revolve around the Earth every single day to the conception that it’s the Earth that is rotating around itself daily. It’s not one star that is immobile and around which all the other ones are revolving but this star is actually one among many others, spinning on itself and moving through space. This kind of decentering is even clearer than the shift from geocentrism to heliocentrism (that some people refer to when mentionning Copernican revolution) because in the latter one centre is replaced by another, while the main idea of the revolution we aim for is that there is no absolute centre but only outskirts so to speak, only particularities that have to be analysed separately, individually and according to their own standard. There is no universal or absolute frame of reference anymore – no centre with a privilege and that serves as a benchmark for everything – but a whole open field, filled with particular entities and becomings. To remove the centrality of the occidental position will allow to consider the other options from their own prism but it will also enable to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of the Occident for what they are, instead of the usual intermingling between this particular world and a supposed „nature in itself”.
Let’s start with the axiological Copernican revolution, since it’s probably the one which allows the most clearly to understand what is at stake in such an operation. The centrality of the Occident’s axiology lies in its conception of development as a universal and indiscriminate aim for all human beings alike. However, the occidental conception of development is not neutral or universal. Indeed, development is always oriented towards a given paradigm and evaluated by a measure, a criterion or a compass; today it is set as „looking like or becoming like occidental societies, thrive economically”, while each community has its own world, its own reality, values and ways to live. This economic scale according to which the cultures are categorised (sometimes as primitive or under-developped) presupposes a continuity between all worlds – a single universal line on which they can be gradually distributed, with the Occident at the acme – while it is only one way among many others to evaluate the different societies. All worldviews are heterogenous, not spread on a single continuous line of development or progress but deploying each of them their own line, their own becoming based on different values, criteria or dimensions (which amounts to as many scales or lines). Those lines are parallel to each other, they will never intersect and cannot be all judged according to a measure found in one of them and only relevant to this single line. A line shouldn’t become the path, the progress, or the development of Humanity, as something ineluctable, a fate engraved in the things themselves. Instead, one must acknowledge the diversity of lines, a plurilinear world (or pluriverse) composed of several worlds or cultures, each with their own historical and cultural becoming and contingencies, like many different seeds that nurture their own kind of plant. You cannot ask all of them to be tall and evaluate them on this sole criterion, while some others are thicker, bear fruits, favour a more diverse ecosystem and so on. The other communities don’t have to be judged inferior because they don’t do or look the same as the occidental modernity – as if that was the only way to be – but they can instead oppose their intrinsic, ancestral and own particular way to be, to form society and shape a world, that is not better nor worse according to a universal criterion but based on radically different and heterogenous values. Therefore, there is no need to choose and declare supreme a single value or dimension. Each society can thrive or be fulfilled according to the dimensions of existence that they choose to value. This fact can only be acknowledged once the diversity of values or dimensions of existence have been brought forward by the axiological Copernican revolution, thus removing the central position of the occidental values and economic dimension. It is what a Copernican revolution in ethnology and philosophy implies: in order to decenter a particular conception that became hegemonic, it has to be de-naturalised (which means its universality, self-evidence or preponderance has to be put into question) and seen as one choice among many possible others.
Arturo Escobar, Sentir-penser avec la Terre. Une écologie au-delà de l’Occident (Sensing-Thinking with the Earth. An Ecology Beyond the Occident), Seuil, coll. Anthropocène, 2018