Hegel on America

Idealistic Studies 27 (1/2):69-78 (1997)
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Abstract

The European influences which after the discovery of America reshaped the cultural development of the New World, but also destroyed its previous identity are much better known than the components which re-influenced the way in which Europeans saw themselves. This asymmetry shows remarkable aspects. We notice that the early European descriptions of America do not consider the ancient cultures of America with their foreign and archaic traits, but that several hidden preconceptions prevail. These claims become evident in the discussion on the "human nature" of the Indians, the "noble savage" and in the philosophical and theological controversies that accompanied the formation of the ius gentium. All this suggests that theses biases towards America have arisen from Europe's own problems. Therefore, it is not incorrect to say that in the discovery of the New World the Old World was re-discovered, too not only in its own prejudices, its desires, ideals and utopias, but also in the cruel practices of the conquerors, in genocide. The first European descriptions of America were made from the point of view of the Caravelle and not with the eyes of those who were waiting on land unsuspectingly, without weapons but with gifts.

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