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World War I and the Modern West

History may be a series of more or less contingent events, whose only connection to the preceding or following ones is that men react to what others do.  Such events are basically disjointed because each one depends on the more or less unpredictable behavior of those men who are able to attract enough followers to stand out from the mass of secondary facts that constitute the fabric of day-to-day history.

Since philosophy rests on the conviction that visible things are merely the reflection of nonvisible principles or causes, for the philosopher the interest of factual “history” is strictly limited to providing him with phenomena whose meaning, transcending their perceptible evidence, ends up constituting the unraveling of a scheme that transcends particular men or times.  But such meaning can only stem from a reflection on an extended period of time.  Historical wisdom, like the owl, only rises after the sun has set.

Faced with the infinity of facts that the historian has provided, the philosopher acts as a sieve: To him some facts emerge as truly significant, while many others are irrelevant.  At the risk of being blamed for arrogance as well as ignorance or indifference to the complexity and intricacy of historical reality, I shall use only the gross evidence of some massive facts to support a certain overview of the modern West’s historical development, whose climax is arguably...

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