a curious Yankee in Europe's court

blog about living in Europe, and Italy

Europe through the eyes of an Italian philosopher: Massimo Cacciari

Posted on the January 21st, 2011

Following the recommendation of a friend, this evening I listened to a live streaming of a discussion with Italian philosopher Massimo Cacciari (and here). Afterwards, curious about Cacciari and the interesting ideas I’d just heard, I went Googling for more.

A solid gold nugget I unearthed is a Q&A interview with the philosopher published last summer in a Barcelona magazine (Interview with Massimo Cacciari: “‘I am many’, says Europe. We have to be capable of being many”  by  Josep Casals and Alicia García Ruiz, Barcelona Metropolis, July – Sept 2010).

Much of the interview was about Europe – what it is, was, can be. Fascinating!  Excerpt:

Q. …Europe is a question you have addressed in many of your works. Europe is a laboratory for philosophical experimentation. European thought, and thought about Europe, is, today, as much of a philosophical problem as it is an intellectual cartography. You have defined the problem of the starting point, of the search for a single initial constant, as a central problem of philosophy, and it might also be considered a political problem in relation to the idea of the origin of Europe. Is the origin of Europe a problem of the starting point for political thought, that is, is the origin of Europe an identity or a plurality?

Europe has been a difficult problem to define from the very outset. One need only think of the mythological figure of Europe. Europe was a woman who came from the other side of the Mediterranean, the modern Lebanon, which was Phoenicia. The very name Europe is not of Indo-European or Indo-Germanic origin. It probably has a Mesopotamian, Sumerian or Semitic origin. Europe has been from its very beginnings a melting pot of energies, identities and differences. Just think of the Greeks. They felt they were one family but, in fact, they were cities that were at war with each other from dawn to dusk, and yet, they really felt they were a family. Olympia, Delphi… were common places (with common gods), but totally autonomous one from the other. Where does it begin and where does it end?

Europe has always engendered itself. Europe is a task. Europe is a problem. Europe always declines itself in the future tense. Europe will be, will be and will be. This means that Europe is lived like this: as a task, a mission. We must always be building Europe. And it can be built with hegemonic intentions, as we have seen throughout European history: Charlemagne, Charles V, Napoleon, Hitler – they all attempted to exercise hegemonic power over Europe. But every time someone has tried it, Europe has got rid of them, she has not wanted anyone who wanted one Europe. Europe is not one, they are many. Like us, like you, like me … That is what Europe is like: “I am many,” says Europe. We must be able to make of ourselves many. And today more than ever, Europe must be able to make of herself many. For alongside the traditional European families, there are in Europe today families that until a generation ago were not here. Or perhaps they had been in Europe many centuries ago. This is the case of Islam which, in Spain, was European but, from the late 15th century onwards, ceased to be so. And now it is European again, but in a form that is completely different from that of six or seven centuries ago. But Europe today must understand that her origins are many and she should be able to make of herself many once again; in a peaceful way, not in the controversial way that happened so often down the centuries. This peaceful form would be the confederation, the union, of the European peoples, but also with the new people who come to Europe. In just fifteen years, in my region, in Veneto, the population with non-European origins has gone from zero to 15%. Therefore, we must learn to make of ourselves many. But this is nothing new, Europe has thought of herself in this way since her origins.

Read the full interview here.

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We’re all copycats: Susan Blackmore

Posted on the August 24th, 2010

In a blog post Sunday in the New York Times, philosopher Susan Blackmore explains why human beings copying each other in all kinds of ways is a very good thing (“The Third Replicator” Aug 22, 2010). In fact, she argues, it is essential to our development and progress.

In the post, Blackmore discusses memes (rhymes with cream). She also coins a new term “temes” (technological memes). Both terms are all about the act of imitating.


“Whatever the reason, our ancestors began to copy sounds, skills and habits from one to another. They passed on lighting fires, making stone tools, wearing clothes, decorating their bodies and all sorts of skills to do with living together as hunters and gatherers. The critical point here is, of course, that they copied…”

Read the full post here.

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