Europe as a Category of Thought: Autonomy as an Unfinished Project

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    • Presentation speakers
      • Emanuel Crudu, IMT Insititute for Advanced Studies


    Europe was not evolutionary shaped as a unitary entity but emerged from a tumultuous history as a ‘self-organizing vertigo’ (Edgar Morin). Some cultural unity within Europe is claimed by the daily mentalities and discursive practices even if it’s just under the form of a unita debole, to put it in Gianni Vattimo’s terms. The ‘European dream’ (Jeremy Rifkin) forms at the crossroad between the ideal and real multiculturalism. Europe became a category of thought – even if an essentially contested one – through dispute, difference, inclusive and exclusive practices. The idea of a Europe often involves a persistent and camouflaged historicism intrinsic in the European version of quasi – universalistic modernity (Gerard Delanty). The works of Cornelius Castoriadis on reflective questioning of socially instituted representations are useful in reminding us of what Europe stands for as a project among others. If there is a minimal specificity of Europe that could be defended, Castoriadis has argued throughout his work, it is precisely the lack of an unquestionable point from which a European distinctiveness could be reified. By historical contingency, for Castoriadis, it was in Europe that a genuine interest in the others as others emerged in the frame of the project of social and individual autonomy originated in ancient Greece and reasserted by the European modernity. The project of autonomy as essential for the European self-configuration implies an unlimited possibility of questioning our own institution and of acting in regard to it. The European specificity comes from its traditions originated in Ancient Greece encouraging the constant and never-ending reflective re-evaluation. This paper aims to revisit precisely this patrimony of critical thinking. It is the belief implicit in this paper that contemporary understandings of Europe should be placed more firmly within this tradition of aspiration for autonomy as putting into question the imaginary institutions of the society and their emanated representations and shake the walls of their cognitive closure. This is because, autonomy as unlimited questioning is a premise and not an outcome of European culture. The patrimonial European identity can be conceived as an experienced identification with a generous culture from which many individuals extract and share feelings of belonging. It is the role of critical thinking and philosophy to place the Europeaness in touch with its generous, magmatic cultural elements and question historically circumstantial projects of political appropriations of identitarian claims. And this is a time when philosophy significantly lost social influence.