He was Paul Ricoeur’s editorial assistant: This is where Emmanuel Macron comes from. He’s a member of the editorial board of the influential monthly “Esprit”, friends with Olivier Mongin, the author of an important book on the invention of the democratic intellectual. Some try to diminish the link to Ricouer. Yet, Macron insists on this intellelectual debt and profound affinity.
“J’ai beaucoup appris auprès de lui. A lire la philosophie. Parce que c’est un hasard de la vie, pre…sque un malentendu. C’est François Dosse, qui a été son biographe, qui était historien, qui a été un de mes professeurs, qui m’a conduit jusqu’à lui parce que Ricoeur cherchait quelqu’un pour faire ses archives. Donc c’était vraiment une tâche très manuelle, très ancillaire. Et nous nous sommes rencontrés, et nous ne nous sommes plus quittés.”
In 2004, Paul Ricoeur (1913-2005) received the Kluge Prize from the Library of Congress. It is one of the most prestigious intellectual awards in the world. It is meant to include areas in the humanities not covered by the Nobel Prizes (philosophy, theology, history, etc) On that occasion, the distinguished Russia scholar and then Librarian of Congres, James Billington, wrote: “Paul Ricoeur is a philosopher who draws on the entire tradition of western philosophy to explore and explain common problems: What is a self? How is memory used and abused? What is the nature of responsibility? He is a constant questioner – always pressing to understand the nature and limits of what constitutes our humanity.”
In 1945 Ricoeur began his teaching career at the international Protestant College Cevenol (where he met American Quakers, who invited him to Haverford College 10 years later) and moved in 1948 to the University of Strasbourg. In 1956 he was appointed to the chair of general philosophy at the Sorbonne. For the next decade Ricoeur wrote continuously as a professional philosopher. He was also an activist, both against the French war in Algeria and as a reformer of the French university system. In 1967 he left the Sorbonne to assume the deanship of the new experimental university at Nanterre. Student and community disruption and unrest forced him to resign in 1969. He then taught for two years at Louvain in Belgium before moving to the United States, first to Yale and then to the University of Chicago. There he succeeded Paul Tillich as the John Nuveen Chair in the Divinity School and was jointly appointed to the Department of Philosophy and the Committee on Social Thought.
I agree with Anne Applebaum: The old ideological polarities are definitely obsolete, exhausted, hackneyed, the French elections indicate the birth of the radical center. I would add that they also signal to the Kremlin thugs that they cannot count forever on “useful idiots”. Both radical extremes seem politically and intellectually impotent confronted with the rise of the radical center. And this is good news, indeed…
Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen
Approved by the National Assembly of France, August 26, 1789
The representatives of the French people, organized as a National Assembly, believing that the ignorance, neglect, or contempt of the rights of man are the sole cause of public calamities and of the corruption of governments, have determined to set forth in a solemn declaration the natural, unalienable, and sacred rights of man, in order that this declaration, being constantly before all the members of the Social body, shall remind them continually of their rights and duties; in order that the acts of the legislative power, as well as those of the executive power, may be compared at any moment with the objects and purposes of all political institutions and may thus be more respected, and, lastly, in order that the grievances of the citizens, based hereafter upon simple and incontestable principles, shall tend to the maintenance of the constitution and redound to the happiness of all. Therefore the National Assembly recognizes and proclaims, in the presence and under the auspices of the Supreme Being, the following rights of man and of the citizen:
1. Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good. …
We are not in the 1930s, the Fifth Republic is not the Weimar Republic, and it’s crucially important to remember that France is the country that gave to the world, in August 1789, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen,a fundamental document of the French Revolution and in the history of human and civil rights. Whereas Marine Le Pen is an unswerving exponent of the populist Far Right, Emmanuel Macron symbolizes the resurrection of the Center in Franch politics. Marine Le Pen’s all-consumming xenophobia reminds us that Nicolas Chauvin, from whom the term “chauvinism” derives, was French. Macron comes from a republican tradition that includes Gaullists, liberals, and democratic socialists.
Will the parapet resist? This is the French dilemma these days…
Parapet: A low protective wall along the edge of a roof, bridge, or balcony.
Image: Georges Seurat, “Man leaning on a parapet,” 1879 – 1881. Thanks, Andrei Octav D
Qui vivra, verra: Will the xenophobic, neo-Fascist, populist plague prevail in France? Will the ghosts of Pétain, Laval, Doriot, Déat, Maurras etc defeat the legacies of de Gaulle, Jean Moulin, Malraux, Camus, Robert Schuman, Raymond Aron, Mendès France?