I constantly compare myself to and seek the acceptance of Germans, French, English and even Swedes. I think their cultures are better then ours.. I don’t even think I have much of a culture. There is no such thing as western civilisation (2016) Kwame Anthony Appiah.

One reason for the confusions “western culture” spawns comes from confusions about the west. We have used the expression “the west” to do very different jobs. […] Often, in recent years, “the west” means the north Atlantic: Europe and her former colonies in North America. The opposite here is a non-western world in Africa, Asia and Latin America – now dubbed “the global south” – though many people in Latin America will claim a western inheritance, too. […] “western” here can look simply like a euphemism for white.

Herodotus only uses the word “European” as an adjective, never as a noun. For a millennium after his day, no one else spoke of Europeans as a people, either.

In a Latin chronicle, written in 754 in Spain, the author refers to the victors of the Battle of Tours as Europenses, Europeans. So, simply put, the very idea of a “European” was first used to contrast Christians and Muslims.

The idea that the best of the culture of Greece was passed by way of Rome into western Europe gradually became, in the middle ages, a commonplace. In fact this process had a name. It was called the “translatio studii”: the transfer of learning.

But they all face a historical difficulty; if, that is, you want to make the golden nugget the core of a civilisation opposed to Islam. Because the classical inheritance it identifies was shared with Muslim learning. […] Much of our modern understanding of classical philosophy among the ancient Greeks we have only because those texts were recovered by European scholars in the Renaissance from the Arabs. […] So the classical traditions that are meant to distinguish western civilisation from the inheritors of the caliphates are actually a point of kinship with them.

Whether you are discussing religion, nationality, race or culture, people have supposed that an identity that survives through time and space must be propelled by some potent common essence. But that is simply a mistake.

It will help to recognise that the term “western culture” is surprisingly modern – more recent certainly than the phonograph. Tylor never spoke of it.

[T]he very idea of the “west,” to name a heritage and object of study, doesn’t really emerge until the 1890s, during a heated era of imperialism, and gains broader currency only in the 20th century.

How have we managed to tell ourselves that we are rightful inheritors of Plato, Aquinas, and Kant, when the stuff of our existence is more Beyoncé and Burger King? Well, by fusing the Tylorian picture and the Arnoldian one, the realm of the everyday and the realm of the ideal.

No Muslim essence stops the inhabitants of Dar al-Islam from taking up anything from western civilisation, including Christianity or democracy. No western essence is there to stop a New Yorker of any ancestry taking up Islam.

The cosmopolitan impulse that draws on our common humanity is no longer a luxury; it has become a necessity. […] I don’t think I can improve on the formulation of the dramatist Terence: a former slave from Roman Africa, a Latin interpreter of Greek comedies, a writer from classical Europe who called himself Terence the African. He once wrote, “Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto.” “I am human, I think nothing human alien to me.”

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