Eccentric Culture: A Theory of Western Civilization
St Augustine's Press
Western culture, which influenced the whole world, came from Europe. But its roots are not there. They are in Athens and Jerusalem. European culture takes its bearing from references that are not in Europe: Europe is eccentric. What makes the West unique? What is the driving force behind its culture? R?mi Brague takes up these questions in Eccentric Culture. This is not another dictionary of European culture, nor a measure of the contributions of a particular individual, religion, or national tradition. The author's interest is especially, with regard to the transmission of that culture, to articulate the dynamic tension that has propelled Europe and more generally the West toward civilization. It is this mainspring of European culture, this founding principle, that Brague calls "Roman." Yet the author's intent is not to write a history of Europe, and less yet to defend the historical reality of the Roman Empire. Brague rather isolates and generalizes one aspect of that history or, one might say, cultural myth, of ancient Rome. The Roman attitude senses its own incompleteness and recognizes the call to borrow from what went before. Historically, it has led the West to borrow from the great traditions of Jerusalem and Athens: primarily the Jewish and Christian tradition, on the one hand, and the classical Greek tradition on the other. Nowhere does Brague find this Roman character so strongly present as in the Christian and particularly Catholic attitude toward the incarnation. At once an appreciation of the richness and diversity of the sources and their fruit, Eccentric Culture points as well to the fragility of their nourishing principle. As such, Brague finds in it not only a means of understanding the past, but of projecting a future in (re)proposing to the West, and to Europe in particular, a model relationship of what is proper to it. R?mi Brague, professor of philosophy at the University of Paris-I, is the author of many articles and books, most notably of Aristote et la question du monde and La sagesse du monde.