Saturday, September 23, 2006

A Braguean Reading of the Pope's Lecture

Find Europe ... if you can.
(Image from Wikipedia)

Some commenters have called my attention to other aspects of the Pope's Regensburg lecture than the theological one that I've emphasized.

I did notice these other points when I read the text, but I was more focused upon demonstrating that the Pope's quote from the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus had been misconstrued by much of the media and many Muslims, partly due to a faulty English translation that the Vatican itself didn't catch.

The Pope's lecture, however, contained far more than just theology, and the following paragraph reminds me of Rémi Brague's views:
This 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.
The Pope's understanding of what formed "Europe" sounds a bit like Brague's, about which I blogged more than one year ago, when I wrote:
Brague argues that the central characteristic of Western civilization is its "secondarity." Unlike, for instance, Islamic or Confucian civilizations, the West finds its identity in something other than itself -- indeed, in two other cultures to which it is secondary, those of ancient Greece and ancient Judaism. Thus, the West's founding texts are in Classical Greek and Biblical Hebrew and by requiring repeated translation have kept the West aware of its borrowed identity.
The Pope doesn't emphasize "secondarity" in his paragraph, but a small step would get him there.

Rémi Brague's book, for those interested, is titled Eccentric Culture: A Theory of Western Civilization (2002), and it first appeared (1992) in French, where it bore the title Europe, la voie romaine.


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