About Europe: Philosophical Hypotheses

About Europe: Philosophical Hypotheses

About Europe: Philosophical Hypotheses

About Europe: Philosophical Hypotheses

Synopsis

The concept of the universal was born in the lands we now call Europe, yet it is precisely the universal that is Europe's undoing. All European politics is caught in a tension: to assert a European identity is to be open to multiplicity, but this very openness could dissolve Europe as such. This book reflects on Europe and its changing boundaries over the span of twenty centuries. A work of philosophy, it consistently draws on concrete events. From ancient Greece and Rome, to Christianity, to the Reformation, to the national revolutions of the twentieth century, what we today call "Europe" has been a succession of projects in the name of ecclesia or community. Empire, Church, and EU: all have been constructed in contrast to an Oriental "other." The stakes of Europe, then, are as much metaphysical as political. Redefining a series of key concepts such as world, place, transportation, and the common, this book sheds light on Europe as process by engaging with the most significant philosophical debates on the subject, including the work of Marx, Husserl, Heidegger, Patocka, and Nancy.

Excerpt

What makes Europe into a question for our world, present and future—and not just a historical or cultural given—comes from a deep ambivalence that marks the European phenomenon as much in terms of the facts as in thought.

Indeed, if we search for what sets the culture of Europe apart, what belongs to it properly speaking and what might constitute its patrimony or its core identity, we uncover assets that are undeniably precious, and whose constitution has required endless patience and energy; yet they are difficult to grasp in and of themselves: a certain general idea of what is human, a vision of being as a whole, a concern for what is broadest and for what is most common—in a word, a penchant for the universal. How strange that, in the end, Europe may not have produced anything for itself beyond this milieu in which it is itself dissolving; that its singularity may consist in denying that it is singular and in affirming or giving rise only to that which it shares with everyone else. Since its dawn, Europe may have only worked toward this excess that resorbs it. Better still, the deep value of European culture may lie precisely in the fact that Europe has been—and may still be—the place that constructed the unreasonable dream of a humanity open to all, and of a radically way of being in common.

This is not to say that Europe might have the prerogative of broadminded views and generosity. First, one would have to be thoroughly acquainted with India, China, ancient America, or immemorial Africa and their thinking to know whether this demon doesn’t stir them as well. But above all, the desire animating Europe, to expand and share, has combined with another—contradictory—tendency throughout its history: the inclination to take up this quest, to recognize it as its own, and thereby to endow its natives with an otherwise established identity, that of privileged possessors of the universal and superior specialists of the general. More than one colonial undertaking was legitimized in the name of a brutally despotic universalism. Moreover, it is exactly when the champions of com-

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