For the love of Europa, I call for a Council of Philosophers

#CriticalThinking

Picture of Arshin Adib-Moghaddam
Arshin Adib-Moghaddam

Europe is a love child born in Philosophy. According to the ancient Greeks, Europa was a princess from Phoenicia, an ancient civilisation in today’s Lebanon and Syria. Europa was taken by Zeus, the Greek “King of the Gods” to the island of Crete, where she gave birth to Minos. Europe’s story, then, is a beautiful tale of cross-cultural love that transcends borders.

Yet today, despite this poignant genealogy, Europe as an idea is in crisis. It is my proposal that our existential problem is primarily due to a lack of identification with the European narrative. The vehicle to understand its mission can only be philosophy, which is the art to think beyond existent boundaries. To reinvigorate Europe’s irresistibly cosmopolitan lure, we need a “Council of Philosophers”. I envision this to be a non-political entity consisting of a dozen leading European thinkers plus four drawn from the rest of the world. This Council of Philosophers would oversee the way the idea of Europe is institutionally represented and conceptualised in order to make recommendations to leading European organs and decision-makers. I would suggest that a working group is established in the first instance to work out the modalities. Obviously, members of the Council would have to be changed on a regular basis.

Right-wing forces are celebrating a comeback in almost all European countries

Constructing Europe should not be merely an administrative, political and economic endeavour. Global history has demonstrated that material structures can be easily undone. Today, nationalists are busy doing exactly that, eating away at the multicultural message at the heart of the European idea. These right-wing forces are celebrating a comeback in almost all European countries. Their battlefield is the European Union and their cannon fodder are its institutions.

A Council of Philosophers would recognise and evaluate such ideological trends and assess their impact on Europe. The Council would be equipped with the best tools of modern science and with enough academic integrity and scholarly acumen to analyse the European situation from the perspective of cutting edge research. Staying true to the tale of Europa at the cross-roads of civilisations, the Council would confine the politics of exclusion and xenophobia that tarnished the modern history of the continent to the past. Europe would not be seen in isolation from the rest of the world, of course. And to that end, the Council of Philosophers would not only open a dialogue within Europe, but it would speak and listen to the world.

The recommendations of the Council, which should be compiled yearly, would be disseminated to all major institutions and decision-makers of the European Union. As a scholarly entity, these suggestions cannot be binding. But I am convinced that a Council of Philosophers tasked with imagining a happier and better Europe would earn enough respect to be heard in the corridors of power. At the very least, the Council would manifest the idea of Europe, complementing existing material structures with an ideational super-structure. Europe would be imagined beyond the labyrinthine administrative and political organs that spawn from Brussels to Strasbourg and zig-zag all over the European Union.

European citizens are unaware of the meaning and importance of Europe

The Council of Philosophers would also bring Europe closer to the people by collating and researching what Europeans think about the workings of Brussels. It would then interpret and make available these ideas to the public and politicians, who are too often far removed from the realities on the ground. Europe would as such appear rather more down to earth and immediate to European citizens.

As it stands, Europe was planned through economic, administrative and political institutions and not through ideas. As a consequence, European citizens are unaware of the meaning and importance of Europe for their day-to-day affairs. Europe needs a vision. Europe needs culture. Europe needs philosophy. I am convinced that once Europa is equipped with the power of constructive ideas, she can ward off the dual threat of nationalist xenophobia and religious intolerance. To that end, I deem a Council of Philosophers essential.

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