‘Greek, Christian and Beyond’
In his book Europe, or the Infinite Task, Rodolphe Gasché suggests that Europe is not to be construed simply as ‘a geographical and political entity’, and insists that a rigorous engagement with what we understand by “Europe” requires we acknowledge it as involving ‘something else as well’. And then, perhaps surprisingly, he immediately admits ‘one does not exactly know what this is’. What are we to make of this quasi-anonymous confession of not-knowing? While it is not typical for an academic to admit to not-knowing anything, the ambition to come to terms with phenomena that are both (in some way) known and (in some other way) ‘not exactly known’ is precisely characteristic of investigations in philosophy. In this respect it is significant that Derrida’s The Other Heading presents itself as a sustained attempt to engage with a provocation from Paul Valéry that has a fundamentally similar form: it is an effort to respond to Valéry’s challenge to what Derrida calls ‘a familiar interlocutor, one at once close and still unknown’. Taking this as a clue for reading ‘The Other Heading’, the chapter explains why falling short of complete clarity concerning Europe’s identity is not something that needs to be overcome in a rigorous philosophical investigation but is precisely what we need to save.
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