▪ Marc CREPON, directeur de recherche au CNRS (Archives Husserl), directeur du département de Philosophie de l’ENS.
▪ Rodolphe GASCHÉ, Distinguished Professor, State University of New York – Eugenio Donato Professor of Comparative Literature, State University of New York at Buffalo.
▪ Sara HEINÄMAA, Ph.D., Docent, University Lecturer in Theoretical Philosophy, University of Helsinki.
The onset of rationality in the West has become identified with the name of the maiden kidnapped by Zeus on the Phoenician coast to such a degree that it now seems a trivial truism to say that Europe is a philosophical concept and philosophy a European conception. However, such a statement is far from trivial both as regards the “name” or “concept” of Europe, and as regards the meaning of that “origin” and that “attribution”.
As for the latter: if philosophy may rightfully be considered as the European memory of a conceptuality, or of a mode of questioning, whose roots are in the world and in a language of ancient Greece (yet Greece never called itself “Europe” or “West”), it is also true that a universal project of uprooting from all linguistic, ethnic, cultural and territorial constraints is inscribed in the very onset of that conceptuality, and has expressed itself in it from the very beginning. The proof is that today philosophy is spoken, translated and practiced in a great number of languages and in countries ranging from the United States to Japan. And then, what and how many other forms of wisdom, what and how many other idioms contributed to establishing that discipline—to shaping that memory?
As for the “name” Europe: is its origin Greek or Semitic? Does it belong to the kidnapper’s or to the victim’s language? Is it part of the echo of a “here” or of an “elsewhere”? Of a familiarity or of a nostalgia? If its etymology is obscure enough, it is even harder to establish just what the term describes. Since Homer’s days to our time, “Europe” has never designated a region of the Earth neatly circumscribed by natural or geographic boundaries, much less a nativity or a nation. Instead, the realities and institutions the term has designated were so different—the adventures, narratives and linguistic migrations it has hosted were so complex—that we would be embarrassed should anyone (perhaps a non-European) ask us just “who” or “what” the “invention” of that mark or seal designated.
Establishing the status of the “concept” of Europe is no less difficult: is it a geo-political and juridical “institution” (perhaps a would-be institution), or is it a spiritual “figure”? Is it a cultural “convention” or a mental or teleological “schema”? Is it an “essence” or a “task”? Is it a “form of life” or an “idea”? And in the latter case, in what of the many different meanings attributed to the term “idea” in the long philosophical tradition ranging from Plato to Descartes, from Kant to Husserl?
But it is even harder to establish whether Europe is a “name” or a “concept”, a “mythologeme” or a “philosopheme”, or rather, the resistance to the “kidnapping” of one of them by the other.
Context and problem areas
The concept of Europe has taken up a prominent place among the key subjects of phenomenological reflection thanks to two texts: the lecture given by Husserl in Vienna in 1935 under the title, Die Philosophie in der Krisis der europäischen Menschheit (written little over a decade after the texts for the journal Kaizo, the lecture was later included into that monumental “philosophical testament”, Die Krisis der europäischen Wissenschaften und die transzendentale Phänomenologie); and the Einführung in die Metaphysik, a series of lectures taught by Heidegger at Freiburg University that same year. However, it was the philosophical contributions and the subsequent critical work of Heidegger himself—as well as, and primarily, of J. Patočka and J. Derrida, but also of J.-L. Nancy and many others—that made the topic of those first two studies (which were as theoretically committed as they were occasioned by current events) into a “chapter” of phenomenological research, one that many scholars around the world are still busy writing.
In that chapter, many questions intertwine with the theme of “Europe”. Here are just a few: the relationship of philosophical “rationality” and the universe of “myth” and “religions”; the onset of the “critical spirit” and the birth of the notion of “history”; the origin of the notion of “responsibility” and its connection to the rise of the Greek polis, to the tenets of Roman and medieval law, and to the idea of “democracy”; finally, the question of “technique” and the relationship between sciences and the “lifeworld”.
Goals and open issues
The aim of this conference is to revisit some aspects of this set of philosophical issues. We would like to see those aspects enter into a dialogue and a contamination (which in fact have been going on for some time, if not since the very beginning) with the discussions that characterize recent research in many fields of knowledge—from political philosophy to law, from mythology to literary studies, from anthropology to the whole range of post-colonial studies). We will try to answer a number a questions, such as the following: what is left, in the era of the so-called globalization or mondialisation, of the “reason” or “reasons” of Europe, as well, of course, as its unquestionable wrongs or misdeeds? What is the raison d’être of that constellation of meaning, now that the planetary deployment of techno-sciences, the exports of Europe—her (definitive?) kidnapping—have reached the four corners of the Earth, depleting its meaning by saturation or triggering a “return” process? In brief—and to quote the very meaningful title of one of J. Patočka’s works—what about “Europe after Europe”?