Monday, December 18, 2017

Europe: ‘Too old for its own truths and victories’?

January 23, 2015

by Rémi Brague


One of Europe’s leading thinkers asks whether Western modernity is sustainable.

Ondergesneeuwd veld met een eg (naar Millet), Vincent van Gogh (1889)


The challenges facing present-day Europe – and, in its wake, the rest of the West, which inherited its culture from “Old Europe” – arise from its own history.1The present paper takes up ideas that I have already sketched elsewhere. See „Schwung oder Schwund? Das alte und das neue Europa. Kontinuität und Brüche“, K. P. Liessmann (ed.), Die Furie des Verschwindens. Über das Schicksal des Alten im Zeitalter des Neuen (Vienna: Szolnay 2000), pp. 41-59; “The Angst of Reason”, T. Smith (ed.), Faith and Reason. The Notre Dame Symposium 1999 (South Bend: Saint Augustine’s Press 2000), pp. 235-244. I borrow this article’s title phrase from F. Nietzsche, Zarathustra, I, „Vom freien Tode“; Kritische Studienausgabe (Berlin: De Gruyter 1980) [here=KSA], vol. 4, p. 94. Some of its challenges are obviously of this kind, e.g. those from its relationships with its immediate neighbours, the Orthodox world or Islam, or from the aftermath of Europe’s oversea adventures, and so forth. To that extent, Europe has a history exactly as any other culture does; and exactly as other cultures do, it is sure to have some skeletons in its cupboard. Since Europe was given the opportunity to conquer the whole world, its skeletons are likely to be bigger than everyone else’s. Nevertheless, since Europe is in no other way exceptional on this point, I won’t expatiate on it. In my work, I have focussed instead on European history as such, i.e. on whatever distinguishes it from other cultures, for I felt that the challenge might come from there, too. European history, as such, has peculiar features that may be either a blessing or a menace.


I. A self-defeating success story

Let me begin with a paradox: the trouble with Europe is that its history is a success story; Europe has won out. It has defeated its enemies. I am not alluding merely to material victories that took place on the battlefields of centuries past due to an overwhelming superiority in weapons and military techniques of every kind. This victory has taken place on the level of ideas, too.

For there is no such thing as a post-European culture. Cultures that look or claim to be so are in fact the heirs of Europe. Some cultural critics suggest they should cast their moorings, drift away from Europe. A good example of this is Emerson’s famous Harvard Address of 1837.2R. W. Emerson, “The American Scholar”, in: The Selected Writings of R.W.E., ed. B. Atkinson (New York: The Modern Library 1950), pp. 45-63. By so doing, however, they borrow elements that came from Europe—e.g. technologies or democracy—and develop them more forcefully than in their original home. Allegedly post-European cultures are in fact hyper-European. Their triumph, if any, is the triumph of Europe’s essence over its contingent geographical husk.

On the other hand, European imperial expansion, colonisation, etc. have been for ages—almost from the outset, as a matter of fact—under the fire of critics of every ilk. One can leave aside the polemics launched against the Spanish conquest of America by French, English or Dutch authors, because their portrayal of the conqueror’s atrocities, alleged or real, was not devoid of ideological underpinnings. The “black legend” was part of a strategy that legitimized piracy against Spanish vessels that brought to Europe the gold and silver of the New World.3See Sverker Arnoldsson, La Leyenda Negra: Estudios Sobre Sus Orígines, Göteborgs Universitets Årsskrift, 66:3, 1960. Francis Bacon, who, on this point as on other ones, was not exactly a choir-boy, blurts out the real purpose with a remarkable boldness.4F. Bacon, “Considerations touching a war with Spain” [1624], in: The Letters and the Life of Francis Bacon, ed. James Spedding (London: Longmans et al. 1874), t. 7, pp. 499-500. Montaigne’s critique of the alleged European superiority in his famous essay on Cannibals is intellectually more respectable.5Montaigne, Essais, I, 31.

Nowadays, significantly, the arguments of the enemies of European culture come for the most part from criticism levelled by Europeans themselves against certain European developments. This self-criticism is indeed typical of the European stance vis-à-vis Europe itself. Its remotest forebear might be Jean-Jacques Rousseau who, as early as 1750, i.e. in the very year in which Turgot had put forth the idea of progress, attacked the idea according to which the betterment of material conditions would necessarily foster moral improvement.6A. R. J. Turgot, « Tableau philosophique des progrès successifs de l’esprit humain. Discours prononcé en latin dans les écoles de Sorbonne, pour la clôture des Sorboniques, par M. l’abbé Turgot, prieur de la maison, le 11 décembre 1750 », in: Œuvres de Turgot et documents le concernant, éd. G. Schelle, Paris, Alcan, t. 1, 1913, pp. 214-235. To the contrary, according to Rousseau, the modern refinement in sciences and arts has as its consequence the decay of the ancient political virtues.7See J.-J. Rousseau, « Discours sur les sciences et les arts », in : Œuvres Complètes, ed. B. Gagnebin & M. Raymond (Paris: Gallimard), t. 3, pp. 5-30.

Analogous arguments crop up under the pen of European Romantics, to the credit of a naïvely idealized view of the Middle Ages that countered its caricature as the “Dark Ages”, a caricature spread by advocates of the Enlightenment. Outside Europe, the Russian Slavophiles may have been the first to bring such arguments to bear on an analysis of their situation. Their imitators can be found all over the so-called Third World and, in the West, they fill departments of Postcolonial Studies. But they can hardly take themselves seriously unless they anchor their anti-European feelings to some European intellectual authority.

Now the offhand victory of European culture could be self-defeating. For the first time in the course of history, a culture must face itself in a lonely, solitary encounter. Europe has, so to speak, no “outside”. It can’t be endangered by anything but itself. The danger is all the greater, since no help can come from outside. Europe’s foundering would be a shipwreck without any raft.

There is more to that: such a shipwreck would make castaways of the whole of mankind. European things and thoughts have invaded the whole world. No part of the world is entirely free from European influence. As a consequence, what endangers Europe endangers whatever bears the stamp of Europe in the world at large, i.e. almost everything. What happens to Europe is likely to happen to the rest of the world, in so far as it has adopted European habits. A demise of Europe would have in its wake the demise of the entire world. To quote once more, after Joseph de Maistre, Shakespeare’s words: “the cease of majesty dies not alone, but like a gulf doth draw what’s near it with it”.8Shakespeare, Hamlet, III, 3, 15-17; Joseph de Maistre, « Considérations sur la France » [1797], 2, in : Ecrits sur la Révolution, ed. J.-L. Darcel (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France 1989), p. 103.


II. Europe’s loneliness

Let me now clarify my statement about the loneliness of European culture. I view it as a new phenomenon for the following reason. Earlier cultures looked out at something other than themselves. They could do that in many ways. For instance, traditional cultures set their sights towards the immutable order of nature. They tried to emulate it by creating in the realm of human behaviour a harmony that could match the eternal peace of heaven, as in traditional China, or they endeavoured to keep such an order going on smoothly in its regular motion, as in ancient Egypt. Other cultures were able to consider themselves as mirroring a different kind of supernal order: not the natural star-studded sky, but the heavens as the abode of God and the blessed. Byzantium, for instance, saw itself as an anticipation of the eternal paradise: the heavenly kingdom of Christ was a model for the earthly kingdom of His vicar on earth, the Roman Basileus.

In former times, European culture was no exception. But it had quite a peculiar way of looking upwards. Allow me to sketch it. First, when Europe saw itself no longer as a direction or as a part of the world, but as a political entity and a cultural project, it actually was far from the centres, be they the cities that symbolize the religions that arose there, Jerusalem and Mecca, or the centres of power and learning, Baghdad and Byzantium, not to mention the distant shadow of Athens. Europe was somewhat “in the sticks”, in the finis terrae, not to say, literally, in the Wild West. No region of the earth deserved as little to be called, like China, the “Middle Kingdom” as Europe did.

I have had the opportunity elsewhere to criticize the common accusation of “Eurocentrism”. It either strikes too wide, for every culture naïvely assumes to be the centre of the world, surrounded by barbarians, or it strikes simply off the mark, for no culture has been less self-centered and curious of the other than has Europe. The alleged “Eurocentrism” was either, as a “centrism”, an inescapable necessity or, as “European” as such, a sheer impossibility.9See my “Is there such a thing as Eurocentrism?”, in: G. Delanty (éd.), Europe and Asia Beyond East and West, (London & New York, Routledge 2006), pp. 257-268.

Furthermore, Europe had to look for its cultural sources outside of itself. Its dominant religion, Christianity, was not European in origin, but had its roots in the Middle East. Classical culture originated in Greece and its treasures were stored in the Byzantine Empire. A famous line by the poet and apologist Jehuda Halevi, a twelfth-century Jew from Toledo, expresses his longing for Jerusalem: “my heart is in Orient, and I am at the end of the West.”10Jehuda Halevi, Diwān, Šīrey Ṣiōn, « Libbī be-Mizraḥ… » For medieval man, the heart was not only the seat of feeling, e.g. of nostalgia towards the lost home; deeper still, it was the center of gravity, the innermost core of a living being, as well as the starting-point of its motion. Europe in its whole could chime in: its intellectual and spiritual wellsprings are not in Europe, but in the Orient.11Elsewhere, I have called this complex of phenomena by the name of “European eccentricity”; I have tried there to bring out the conceptual tools that enable us to understand it, and so I won’t expatiate on the point here. See my Eccentric Culture. A Theory of Western Civilization, tr. S. H. Lester (South Bend: St Augustine’s Press 2000); see “Inclusion and Digestion. Two Models of Cultural Appropriation”, in: The Legend of the Middle Ages, tr. L. G. Cochrane (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press 2000), pp. 145-158.


III. Self-centeredness

Now, does such a situation still hold true today? It obtains in the case of a European culture that has been waning for centuries at an ever quicker pace and is at present receding from our horizon with an amazing speed. This culture I might call, with certain others, like the late German sociologist Niklas Luhmann, “old European” (alteuropäisch) culture. At the end of his famous Cambridge inaugural lecture of 1956, C. S. Lewis, a distinguished example and staunch supporter of the classical learning bequeathed to us by that culture, jokingly called himself a “dinosaur”.12C. S. Lewis, De descriptione temporum, in: Selected Literary Essays, ed. W. Hooper (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1969), pp. 1-14. More dramatically, Dostoyevsky’s ’ Ivan Karamazov calls Europe “a churchyard, but a most, most lovable churchyard”.13F. Dostoyevsky, Братья Карамазовы, II, v, 3 (Moscow: ACT 2006), p. 234. In any case, the querelle des anciens et des modernes was fought long ago, even before it was explicitly formulated in late seventeenth-century France – perhaps as soon as Machiavelli, certainly with Bacon and Galileo – and the Moderns undoubtedly carried the day.

If there was an “old European” culture, what is “new European” culture? What is Modernity? This is a moot question that I can hardly hope to deal with properly here.14See my Le Règne de l’homme. Naissance et échec du projet moderne (Paris: Gallimard 2015) [fothcoming]. A safe way to take one’s bearings is to remind us of two obvious, rock-bottom points. They are geographic and historical in nature: 1) as for geography, be Modernity what it may, it certainly took place in Europe and spread thence all over the world; 2) as for history, regardless of where we draw the dividing-line between Modernity and what came before, the modern name for this period being “Middle Ages”, we certainly are after this watershed.

Two consequences can be drawn therefrom: 1) we Europeans or our forebears somehow bear the responsibility for whatever unpleasantness happened in the whole world as a consequence of Modernity; 2) we can’t possibly go backwards and simply escape Modernity. The way out that we will have to look for will lead us through modernity itself.

As for the content of our new culture, modern Europe has got rid of any outer reference point. It has learnt to avert its glance from the heavens. We can call this process by the names of secularization, desacralisation, etc.15On these concepts, see my Modérément moderne (Paris: Flammarion 2014), pp. 129-148.

Moreover, modern Europe has been taught by Bacon or, in his wake, by Descartes to look down at nature – nay, to look down on it, as a mere thing without any sacred aura, as a field to be subdued, as a pantry of sorts that should cater to our needs.16Contrary to a recent received wisdom, this stance does not stem from the Bible with its command to “subdue the earth”. The verse was not interpreted in that way by the Church Fathers or the Sages of the Talmud, nor later on by the Scholastics. The interpretation is itself the result of the modern project of domination over nature. See J. Cohen, ‘Be Fertile and Increase, Fill the Earth and Master It’. The Ancient and Medieval Career of a Biblical Text (Ithaca & London: Cornell University Press 1989).

Finally, modern Europe has been trained to consider that other cultures can’t possibly be our models. Nostalgia for less developed societies and their allegedly unspoiled mores are hardly more than a toy for aesthetes who would hate to live in such societies. As for ancient Greece or Rome, philology does not look at the works it studies as endowed with any special value. On the contrary, almost the first step for a student in “Classics” nowadays consists in debunking the very idea of “classical” education.

Now, we still don’t know whether a culture can really give up any reference to external credenda et miranda and survive all the same. Leading thinkers of Modernity were still aware of the risk and emphasized more and more consciously the idea that truth must be an essai, an experiment, a Versuch, from Montaigne to Nietzsche, including John Stuart Mill’s “experiments of living”.17J. S. Mill, On Liberty, ch. 3, in: Utilitarianism, Liberty and Representative Government, ed. A. D. Lindsay (London: Dent 1968), p. 115. The idea is already present ten years earlier in E. Renan, L’Avenir de la science, ch. 8, n. 68, in Oeuvres Complètes, ed. H. Psichari (Paris: Calmann-Lévy 1949), t. 3, p. 1133. We have been for some centuries conducting an experiment, or laying a wager. Now, nothing warrants that the experiment will be successful short of traces of a naïve trust in something like Providence.

Nietzsche is among the few, or perhaps he is the only one, to have considered the possibility of an irretrievable failure and to have honestly acknowledged it. In a passage that remained unpublished, he has his Zarathustra say, “We are making an experiment (Versuch) with Truth! Perhaps mankind will thereby founder! Never mind, go ahead (wohlan)!”18F. Nietzsche, Fragment 25 [305], Spring 1884 ; KSA, t. 11, p. 88. The exclamation wohlan! has in Nietzsche almost the value of a concept. This is quite a brash formula. We might sober up and ask: What if, in fact, the experiment yields a negative result? What if mankind invents contrivances and/or adopts modes of behaviour that endanger its own survival in the long run? The trouble is that, if the experiment does fail, so that mankind in its entirety walks the plank, who will have another try?


IV. One last ‘grand narrative’

Everybody is now familiar with an idea on which the so-called post-modern movement hinges upon, viz., to quote the late Jean-François Lyotard, the end of “grand narratives” (grands récits).19See J.-F. Lyotard, La condition postmoderne (Paris: Minuit 1979). Those stories used to make sense of the events that happen to us by finding an underlying direction. Among those stories was the Christian story of salvation, together with its more or less adequate substitutes, i.e. the Enlightenment idea of progress or the Marxian scheme of class-struggle ending in a classless society, etc. If the post-modern claim is well-grounded, those stories are simply done away with.

I remember hearing or reading somewhere an objection to this claim: there is still one last “grand story” left, namely the construction of the European Union. It might be the last goal left for young European elites, the equivalent of the American “new frontier”. Now, European construction is definitely a success story. This comes all the more clearly to the fore when we look at Europe from the outside, for instance from the U. S. or the Far East. There is a great deal of truth in that, and I would hate to throw out the baby with the bath-water. As far as I am concerned, I view the process of European unification as generally positive, I endorse it wholeheartedly, and I even hope to contribute my mite as a basic citizen.

Nevertheless, I wonder whether too great a “Euro-enthusiasm” may not harbour a risk that could prove lethal. To mention only noble results, establishing a peaceful dialogue between European nations is undoubtedly a good thing; learning mutual confidence and respect is better still; learning from one another is paramount. But there is a snag: we are thereby tempted to shirk a question, to spare ourselves the burden of submitting our present-day common life-style to a crucial examination. In a word: can the modern European lifestyle last in the long run? Or does it undermine itself? This question seldom comes to the public square.

Let me hazard some steps in this direction. Europe feeds on values that it did not create, but found in its cradle. Some were developed by the Pagan World, like Rationality, Democracy, the Rule of Law. Some were adumbrated by the Ancient Middle East and brought out by the Old Testament, for instance the ethical character of religion or the idea according to which time is meaningful and oriented towards the Good. Some were formulated by Christianity: among them, the infinite dignity of the human person, for which God gave His Son, or the separation of spiritual and temporal realms, must be given pride of place.

Modern Europe is, and has always been, unable to create brand new values. Even would-be revolutionaries grounded their protest on older assumptions. According to the American historian Carl L. Becker, the eighteenth-century philosophers, the self-proclaimed “philosophes” of the French Enlightenment, did scarcely more than rebuild on earth Augustine’s City of God, while sticking to medieval premises about the “natural” character of the Good.20See C. L. Becker, The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth Century Philosophers (New Haven and London: Yale U.P., 1932), p. 31.

Now, such an inability to create values is not that serious. For, to give the lie to a parlance that has become rampant, but is absurd all the same, “creating values” is in fact strictly impossible, exactly as impossible as adding a new fundamental color to the three that are already there. The only thing we can do, exactly as with colours, is mixing up values that already exist, emphasizing this particular hue, etc. What is really serious, on the other hand, is than we pretty well can lose our faith in the extant values.


V. Goodies, goods and the Good

Europe depends on resources that it doesn’t reproduce. I do not mean oil. I mean human beings. I mean our ever-increasing imports of human material, and still more, I mean what they suggest about a fundamental flaw in our life-style. European people are perfectly able to enjoy life and its amenities—who wouldn’t be, by the way? We are perfectly able to make life more just, and to dream of universal justice for other parts of the world, too—though whether we are willing to fight for their own values is another story. We are perfectly able to adorn life by art, including the art of living comfortably. In a nutshell: we hold life to be fun. And we are tolerably successful at making it that way.

But do we hold life to be good? “Good” implies: not only good for me, but, in the last resort, good for whomever it accrues to. If life is good, I am allowed to transmit it. But what if it is not good, but only fun? As for me, since I happen to be alive anyway, I am allowed to arrange my life as comfortably as I can. I even have a duty to live up to the highest moral standards. But how could I responsibly foist life on other people who are not yet living, let alone able to say whether they would like to be born or not? This can’t be done without a minimal metaphysics of sorts, a belief in the goodness of life, be it explicitly articulated or not. Its basic assumption is an Ancient and Medieval idea that Scholastic philosophy expressed in the doctrine of the convertibility of the transcendentals: ens et bonum convertuntur, whatever is, is, as such, good.21See my Les Ancres dans le ciel. L’infrastructure métaphysique de la vie humaine (Paris: Seuil 2011; translation forthcoming, South Bend: St. Augustine’s Press).

In any case, European countries are less and less able to produce people who hold that life is so great a good that it has to be passed on. As a consequence, they have to import from pre-podern countries people who have not yet been spoiled by the modern spirit. By this token, modern mankind must hope that its own lifestyle will remain the folklore of the cranny in which we happen to be living and won’t invade the whole world. For, if it does, mankind is doomed to disappear in the long run. The only hope for Modernity is that Modernization will fail to generalize. It thereby gives the lie to its own claim to universality.

Such a dialectics is the transposition to a human key of a phenomenon that takes place on a conceptual level, too: modern Europe, in so far as it is modern, lives on former values while constantly undermining them. To be sure, we make quite a big fuss about our Western values of democracy, tolerance, etc. We are happy to live in societies that are grounded on such values, and we have good reasons to be satisfied. We bask in the light, without our realizing that it is lunar in nature and borrows its clarity from a Sun that we consider to be setting or that we want to put out. But at the same time, we are no longer sure that the good things we produce are so definitely good that we ought to produce people who will respect such goods and enjoy them. The modern life-style can produce all kind of goods, with one exception: it cannot show that it is itself good.


VI. Parasitism and conservation

Our languages have a word for the stance that consists in consuming goods produced by other people without contributing to their production. This word is: parasitism. The modern world is parasitic. We are parasitic upon our own ancestors. As early as 1888, Nietzsche made use of a powerful, albeit enigmatic image: “we do not accumulate any longer, we dissipate the capital of our forebears” (wir sammeln nicht mehr, wir verschwenden die Capitalien der Vorfahren).22F. Nietzsche, fgt. 14 [226], Spring 1888, KSA, vol. 13, p. 398 or The Will to Power, § 68b.

But the first clear exponent of this view, to the best of my knowledge, is the French poet Charles Péguy (†1914). Allow me to quote him:

…as a matter of fact, with an unshakable nerve, that may be its only invention, its only real property in the whole movement, the modern world lives almost exclusively on past mankinds, that it despises and pretends not to know, mankinds whose essential reality it indeed ignores, whereas it does not ignore their advantages. […] The only faithfulness of the modern world is the faithfulness of parasitism.


Elsewhere, he summarizes: “the modern world is […] essentially a parasite. It draws its strength, or its apparent strength, from the regimes it fights, from the worlds which it attempts to break apart”.23Péguy, De la situation faite au parti intellectuel […] [6.10.1907], in : Œuvres en prose complètes, ed. R. Burac, t. 2 (Paris : Gallimard 1988), 725; Note conjointe sur M. Descartes […] [1914], in : Œuvres en prose 1909-1914, ed. M. Péguy (Paris : Gallimard 1961) 1512—my translation. On the concept of parasitism see Véronique, Dialogue de l’histoire et de l’âme charnelle  [1909], loc.cit., p. 391. It is a great pity that his early death in the first battles of the Great War did not enable him to bring home this idea in a more articulate way.

Some ten years after the French poet, the multifaceted British writer G. K. Chesterton restated the idea in a more specific way:

The fact is this: that the modern world, with its modern movements, is living on a Catholic capital. It is using and using up, the truths that remain to it out of the old treasury of Christendom; including, of course, many truths known to pagan antiquity but crystallized in Christendom. But it is not really starting new enthusiasms of its own. The novelty is a matter of names and labels, like modern advertisement; in almost every other way the novelty is merely negative. It is not starting fresh things that it can really carry on far into the future. On the contrary, it is picking up old things that it cannot carry on at all. For these are the two marks of modern moral ideals. First, that they were borrowed or snatched out of ancient or mediæval hands. Second, that they wither very quickly in modern hands.24G. K. Chesterton, “Is Humanism a religion?”, in: The Thing (London: Sheed and Ward, 1929), 16f.

The trouble with parasitism is that it destroys its own conditions of existence in the long run. In Ulysses’ famous monologue in Shakespeare’s Troilus, the praise of “degree” concludes with a description of the dire consequences of its neglect: “appetite […] Must make perforce an universal prey, / And last eat up himself”.25Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida, I, 3, l. 124. The hierarchic world-view grounded on a whole cosmology and expressed in the idea of “degree” is irretrievably lost,26See my The Wisdom of the World. The Human Experience of the Universe in Western Thought, English T. L. Fagan (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press 2003). and we can wish it good riddance; but the danger of self-destruction is still there. This is our challenge.

Facing it compels us to enlarge and deepen our understanding of what the conservative cast of mind may be and, in my opinion, should be. When the word was first coined, it unmistakably had a social and political ring. What had to be preserved was a social order that expressed itself in a political system. Hence the constantly recurring (and never totally groundless) suspicion that, under cover of noble principles, conservatism was merely trying to stave off not changes for the worse in general, but changes that threatened the privileges of a ruling class of men of property over against the claims of the poor. But at present, what has to be saved is the very continuation of the adventure of mankind at large.

 


Rémi BragueRémi Brague is a philosopher and historian specializing in ancient Greek and Medieval thought. He is Emeritus Professor of Medieval and Arabic Philosophy at the University of Paris I, and holds the Romano Guardini Chair at the Ludwig-Maximilian-Universität in Munich. A prominent cultural critic both in his native France and abroad, he is the author of numerous books and articles, many of which have either been translated into or originally written in English. You can read more about his work here and in an interview he gave the Clarion.

Notes   [ + ]

1. The present paper takes up ideas that I have already sketched elsewhere. See „Schwung oder Schwund? Das alte und das neue Europa. Kontinuität und Brüche“, K. P. Liessmann (ed.), Die Furie des Verschwindens. Über das Schicksal des Alten im Zeitalter des Neuen (Vienna: Szolnay 2000), pp. 41-59; “The Angst of Reason”, T. Smith (ed.), Faith and Reason. The Notre Dame Symposium 1999 (South Bend: Saint Augustine’s Press 2000), pp. 235-244. I borrow this article’s title phrase from F. Nietzsche, Zarathustra, I, „Vom freien Tode“; Kritische Studienausgabe (Berlin: De Gruyter 1980) [here=KSA], vol. 4, p. 94.
2. R. W. Emerson, “The American Scholar”, in: The Selected Writings of R.W.E., ed. B. Atkinson (New York: The Modern Library 1950), pp. 45-63.
3. See Sverker Arnoldsson, La Leyenda Negra: Estudios Sobre Sus Orígines, Göteborgs Universitets Årsskrift, 66:3, 1960.
4. F. Bacon, “Considerations touching a war with Spain” [1624], in: The Letters and the Life of Francis Bacon, ed. James Spedding (London: Longmans et al. 1874), t. 7, pp. 499-500.
5. Montaigne, Essais, I, 31.
6. A. R. J. Turgot, « Tableau philosophique des progrès successifs de l’esprit humain. Discours prononcé en latin dans les écoles de Sorbonne, pour la clôture des Sorboniques, par M. l’abbé Turgot, prieur de la maison, le 11 décembre 1750 », in: Œuvres de Turgot et documents le concernant, éd. G. Schelle, Paris, Alcan, t. 1, 1913, pp. 214-235.
7. See J.-J. Rousseau, « Discours sur les sciences et les arts », in : Œuvres Complètes, ed. B. Gagnebin & M. Raymond (Paris: Gallimard), t. 3, pp. 5-30.
8. Shakespeare, Hamlet, III, 3, 15-17; Joseph de Maistre, « Considérations sur la France » [1797], 2, in : Ecrits sur la Révolution, ed. J.-L. Darcel (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France 1989), p. 103.
9. See my “Is there such a thing as Eurocentrism?”, in: G. Delanty (éd.), Europe and Asia Beyond East and West, (London & New York, Routledge 2006), pp. 257-268.
10. Jehuda Halevi, Diwān, Šīrey Ṣiōn, « Libbī be-Mizraḥ… »
11. Elsewhere, I have called this complex of phenomena by the name of “European eccentricity”; I have tried there to bring out the conceptual tools that enable us to understand it, and so I won’t expatiate on the point here. See my Eccentric Culture. A Theory of Western Civilization, tr. S. H. Lester (South Bend: St Augustine’s Press 2000); see “Inclusion and Digestion. Two Models of Cultural Appropriation”, in: The Legend of the Middle Ages, tr. L. G. Cochrane (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press 2000), pp. 145-158.
12. C. S. Lewis, De descriptione temporum, in: Selected Literary Essays, ed. W. Hooper (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1969), pp. 1-14.
13. F. Dostoyevsky, Братья Карамазовы, II, v, 3 (Moscow: ACT 2006), p. 234.
14. See my Le Règne de l’homme. Naissance et échec du projet moderne (Paris: Gallimard 2015) [fothcoming].
15. On these concepts, see my Modérément moderne (Paris: Flammarion 2014), pp. 129-148.
16. Contrary to a recent received wisdom, this stance does not stem from the Bible with its command to “subdue the earth”. The verse was not interpreted in that way by the Church Fathers or the Sages of the Talmud, nor later on by the Scholastics. The interpretation is itself the result of the modern project of domination over nature. See J. Cohen, ‘Be Fertile and Increase, Fill the Earth and Master It’. The Ancient and Medieval Career of a Biblical Text (Ithaca & London: Cornell University Press 1989).
17. J. S. Mill, On Liberty, ch. 3, in: Utilitarianism, Liberty and Representative Government, ed. A. D. Lindsay (London: Dent 1968), p. 115. The idea is already present ten years earlier in E. Renan, L’Avenir de la science, ch. 8, n. 68, in Oeuvres Complètes, ed. H. Psichari (Paris: Calmann-Lévy 1949), t. 3, p. 1133.
18. F. Nietzsche, Fragment 25 [305], Spring 1884 ; KSA, t. 11, p. 88. The exclamation wohlan! has in Nietzsche almost the value of a concept.
19. See J.-F. Lyotard, La condition postmoderne (Paris: Minuit 1979).
20. See C. L. Becker, The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth Century Philosophers (New Haven and London: Yale U.P., 1932), p. 31.
21. See my Les Ancres dans le ciel. L’infrastructure métaphysique de la vie humaine (Paris: Seuil 2011; translation forthcoming, South Bend: St. Augustine’s Press).
22. F. Nietzsche, fgt. 14 [226], Spring 1888, KSA, vol. 13, p. 398 or The Will to Power, § 68b.
23. Péguy, De la situation faite au parti intellectuel […] [6.10.1907], in : Œuvres en prose complètes, ed. R. Burac, t. 2 (Paris : Gallimard 1988), 725; Note conjointe sur M. Descartes […] [1914], in : Œuvres en prose 1909-1914, ed. M. Péguy (Paris : Gallimard 1961) 1512—my translation. On the concept of parasitism see Véronique, Dialogue de l’histoire et de l’âme charnelle  [1909], loc.cit., p. 391.
24. G. K. Chesterton, “Is Humanism a religion?”, in: The Thing (London: Sheed and Ward, 1929), 16f.
25. Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida, I, 3, l. 124.
26. See my The Wisdom of the World. The Human Experience of the Universe in Western Thought, English T. L. Fagan (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press 2003).

Comments

One Response to “Europe: ‘Too old for its own truths and victories’?
  1. Scott Taylor says:

    Thank you for this helpful article. Might you know if an English translation of “Le Règne de l’homme” is available now or forthcoming in the future?

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