Does National Identity Matter?

By Dougherty, Jude P. | The World and I, March 2004 | Go to article overview

Does National Identity Matter?


Dougherty, Jude P., The World and I


Jude P. Dougherty is professor emeritus and dean emeritus of the School of Philosophy at the Catholic University of America.

The present generation, for the first time in history, is experiencing a unity such that nothing essential can happen anywhere that does not concern all. The Stoic understanding of unity, the framework of the polis, has been expanded to include the whole of humankind. Today's growing interdependence among nations seemingly has ended the days of absolute national sovereignty. Almost imperceptibly a new attitude has developed regarding interdependence, so much so that a United States of Europe is regarded as an imminent possibility. As Europeans debate an EU constitution, the loss of national sovereignty looms with unacknowledged consequences.

This eradication of national identity is occurring at the same time that there is a widespread awareness that the West has lost some of the spiritual resources that animated its past. In a memorable passage written in the first decades of the twentieth century, George Santayana (1863--1952), a Spanish-born Harvard University professor, expressed it this way:

"The present age is a critical one and interesting to live in. The civilization characteristic of Christendom has not disappeared, yet another civilization has begun to take its place. We still understand the value of religious faith. ... On the other hand, the shell of Christendom is broken. The unconquerable mind of the East, the pagan past, the industrial socialist future confront it with equal authority. On the whole life and mind is saturated with the slow upward filtration of a new spirit--that of an emancipated, atheistic, international democracy.1"

Santayana was not alone in his assessment. Philosophers and theologians as diverse as Friedrich Nietzsche and Pope Leo XIII addressed the new intellectual climate shaping nineteenth-century European thought. Old patterns of thought were losing the allegiance of the European intelligentsia. Lost was a confidence that the inherited could withstand the assault of the new science and technology and the progress it implied. Nietzsche and later Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger, each in his own way, called for a return to classical Greece as the source for an understanding of Western culture. Leo XIII recommended the work of philosopher-theologian Saint Thomas Aquinas as the antidote to the nihilism and anti-Christian spirit that animated the intellectual climate in the mid-1800s.

Discussion in philosophical circles tended to focus on the meaning of the concept of "Europe." English author Hilaire Belloc could confidently assert that "Europe is the Faith, the Faith is Europe," but that view was not widely shared in the intellectual circles of his day by the philosophers of Enlightenment parentage who thought they had eradicated Christianity. The classical sources of Western culture could not be denied, but was that the whole story? French poet and philosopher Paul Valery, we shall subsequently see, would answer with an emphatic no.

ANCIENT GREECE AND THE WEST

In his 1935 lecture "Philosophy and the Crisis of European Humanity," Husserl offered an analysis of Europe's spiritual and intellectual crisis that looked to ancient Greece as a way out of the crisis facing the West. Husserl found in the Greek spirit of philosophical inquiry the sources for "free and universal theoretical reflection" that would serve as a model for a "supranational" ideal of reason. In Husserl's words, "There are only two escapes from the crisis of European existence: the downfall of Europe in its estrangement from its own rational sense of life, its fall into hostility toward the spiritual into barbarity; or the rebirth of Europe from the spirit of philosophy through a heroism of reason that overcomes naturalism once and for all."2

Like his mentor Husserl, Heidegger similarly attempted to show that a revival of the Greek heritage was essential to the future of the West. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Does National Identity Matter?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.