Saturday, October 01, 2011

The threefold synthesis: the idea of Europe

As is the HP's wont, he cut right to the heart of the matter with his post of earlier this week, "A higher law." There, he suggests that the lynchpin on which the Holy Father's vision of Europe turns - or, if you will, the lodestar from which it takes its bearings - is that Europe is essentially - arises from the "encounter between Jerusalem, Athens and Rome – from the encounter between Israel’s monotheism, the philosophical reason of the Greeks and Roman law." This is not the first time we have seen the Holy Father articulate this vision. In his Regensburg address (without doubt one of the three fundamental and most important public addresses of BXVI's pontificate), the Pope said:
[The] inner rapprochement between Biblical faith and Greek philosophical inquiry was an event of decisive importance not only from the standpoint of the history of religions, but also from that of world history - it is an event which concerns us even today. Given this convergence, it is not surprising that Christianity, despite its origins and some significant developments in the East, finally took on its historically decisive character in Europe. We can also express this the other way around: this convergence, with the subsequent addition of the Roman heritage, created Europe and remains the foundation of what can rightly be called Europe.
This idea is, therefore, a basic notion of what I would like to call, "the political thought of Pope Benedict XVI" - incidentally, the working title of a book I am currently writing. The two formulations, offered at five years' remove, tend also to suggest that the Holy Father's political thinking (I hope it is clear that I mean "political" in the ancient and original sense, recovered for political science by Eric Voegelin in the second half of the 20th century) is rather more systematic than a cursory consideration of his writings might suggest. Having written a licentiate dissertation arguing essentially that the program of St Augustine's De civitate Dei is constructive and systematic right from the very first book (a view that opposes the general view of the matter, according to which the first ten books were a pars destruens and the first five books, in the words of one recent translator, "little more than ham-fisted Pagan-bashing"), and having written a PhD dissertation in which - among other things - I argue that the question of America involves the question of Europe intrinsically, I am prepared to see system beneath the surface and recognize Benedict's public thinking as "political" in ways and under aspects that others perhaps would not.

In order to make the task of parsing and exploring this speech manageable, we must have recourse to some analytical tools. Since The speech itself begins with the Holy Father's invocation of "representation", and since "representation" is the basic problem of political science (by which I mean, basically, philosophy sic et simpliciter - but more on that later), I propose a discussion of the senses of representation, beginning with a discussion of the two German words that are both rendered into English as "representation", but which are not precisely synonymous.

What do you say, HP? Do you agree?


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