Europe is often discussed in the context of crisis, usually economic or political. Less prominent these days is Europe’s spiritual crisis; an important topic throughout the previous century. Various catastrophes put in doubt the rationalist principles on which Europe had based itself. The current relativist intellectual and political climate can still be seen as an expression of this. Rather than following attempts to counter this via the restoration of a supposedly European essence (often in terms of Christianity or rationalism), this book attempts to think the crisis through to its end and to articulate the truth which manifests itself in it.
The themes of this book – Europe, phenomenology and politics – share a concern with the crisis as the dissolution of the world, that is, the dissolution of a shared horizon of human existence. Among phenomenologists, Husserl and Patočka foremost have linked this problematic to reflections on the idea of Europe itself. They represent two distinct perspectives, corresponding to different historical situations. Nonetheless, what is presented here is not primarily the continuity between their thought and their historical circumstances, but rather the underexamined continuity between their phenomenology and their thought on Europe and politics.
Applying phenomenology to politics, Husserl’s and Patočka’s thought are used to assess the justification for and limits of liberal and agonistic political philosophy respectively. By analysing the concrete ways in which our world is structured experientially, the limits of the ideal of rational reconciliation are shown. An alternative conception of politics is developed on the basis of the breakdown of Europe’s rationalist ideal, that is, on the basis of the truth which manifests itself in Europe’s crisis, without lapsing into a relativism where anything goes. This leads to an agonistic conception of liberal democracy based on Patočka’s phenomenological concept of problematicity.
Lorenzo Girardi is author and editor of the Dutch political platform Vrij Links. His work focuses on the phenomenological tradition, having published on authors such as Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger, and Jan Patočka. In particular, he is interested in the relation between phenomenology, metaphysics and political philosophy.
With a crisp and clear approach, Lorenzo Girardi proves to his readers the crucial importance and fecundity of phenomenology for a reflection on Europe. Engaging with Husserl and Patočka, Girardi explains convincingly what is at stake philosophically and politically in a turn to Europe’s identity and crises.
This book presents a significant and noteworthy contribution to the relatively underexplored field of research, commonly referred to as political phenomenology. Rather than glossing over the subject of Europe as a philosophical and political project, Girardi chooses to tackle it head-on, with the intention of rethinking the European crisis “through to its end”, in close dialogue with two of its finest diagnosticians: Husserl and Patočka. The result is an inspiring work that, given its innovative character, will surely find an attentive readership far beyond its disciplinary boundaries.