On Saturday, Le Monde (Paris) offered brief summaries of what seven well-known intellectuals have been writing about the Paris attacks.[1]  --  Nicolas Truong also provided links to their recent pieces, all published in Le Monde....




By Nicolas Truong

Le Monde (Paris)
November 21, 2015


Some ideas to try to understand the dark times in which we're immersed.  Some reflections to resist terror and stunned amazement.  A few analyses, sometimes contradictory, intended to overcome panic and reflexive thinking.  Because if France's response so far to the terrorist attacks of Nov. 13 is invoking security forces, the courts, and the military, the response can also be moral or intellectual.

Given the blood-drenched climate in which we find ourselves, we need a compass and points of reference.  A philosophical approach certainly does not enable us to staunch our wounds, but it can bring some measure of understanding.  Not to accept or justify the horror, but, on the contrary, the better to find a response to what is no less than a huge explosion.

To do this, France has to accept that the idea of a Europe freed from borders and the idea that the nation-state is dead were illusions, says the American academic Mark Lilla, who is an intimate of the bloodied Parisian Bohemia, having spent time there, in particular during the attacks on Charlie Hebdo.  The Dutch-Somalian writer Ayaan Hirsi Ali goes further:  the European Union has to stop allowing "the cancer of Islamic extremism," which is spreading within the porousness of the Schengen Area, to metastasize.


But let us beware of the temptation to withdraw into ourselves, warns the German philosopher Jürgen Habermas.  Rather than "sacrifice" democratic virtues on the "altar of security," France and the other countries of Europe should heal the "social pathology" of that is seen in a rejection of their heritage by some of our youth, which is succumbing to jihadism.

All the more so in that the Republic is lacking neither in meaning nor in spirituality, proclaims, at a considerable distance from what today are idées reçues, the philosophers Pascal Engel and Claudine Tiercelin.  And paradoxically, explains historian Marcel Gauchet, the reactivation of Islamic fundamentalism is an indication of a process of "leaving religiosity behind" that is inseparable from a globalization in the process of completing its expanstion. 

We must wage an "ideological war" against Islamic fanaticism, though, according American philosopher Michael Walzer.  But we must also wage struggle ethically against our own legitimate tendency to give way "to a logic of fear and hatred," according to French philosopher Frédéric Gros.  These are some of the calls for intellectual resistance, and they are all invitations to philosophize in rough weather.


-- Interview with Jürgen Habermas:  "Le djihadisme, une forme moderne de réaction au déracinement" ['Jihadism, a Modern Reactionary Form of Rootlessness'] (  ) , with Nicolas Weill.  Jihadist fundamentalism is far from being a religion, the German philosopher emphasizes.

-- "Nous devons mener une guerre idéologique” [’We Ought to Wage an Ideological War’] by Michael Walzer.  The American philosopher thinks that intellectuals have the obligation to revive the cause of states when faced with religious fanacticism. 

-- "La fin des illusion d'une France sans frontières" ['The End of the Illusion of a France without Borders'], by Mark Lilla (professor of humanities at Columbia University).  Deeply knowledgeable about France, this American academic autopsies a country that has to bury not only its victims but also its political beliefs.

-- "Entretien avec Marcel Gauchet: Le fondamentalisme islamique est le signe paradoxal de la sortie du religieux" ['Interview with Marcel Gauchet: "Islamic Fundamentalism Is the Paradoxical Sign of Leaving Religiosity Behind'"] with Nicolas Truong.  For this historian, globalization is causing a break in how the religion is organized in the world.  Its effects in the Muslim world have been devastating, and part of it is finding a radical way to resist the march of history.  He explains that the origin of the violence of terrorists is indeed religious, not social or economic.

-- "Non, les valeurs de la démocratie ne sont pas vides !" ['No, Democracy's Values Are Not Empty!'] by Pascal Engel (director of studies at EHESS) and Claudine Tiercelin (professor at the Collège de France).  Religion is not the only thing that can respond to the meaninglessness many attribute to our societies.  The values of the Republic are also substantial ideals.

-- "L'Europe doit prendre des mesures fortes pour combattre le cancer de l'islam radicalisé” [’Europe Must Take Strong Measures to Fight the Cancer of Radicalized Islam]," by Ayaan Hirsi Ali.  The closing of mosques and other Islamic propaganda sites is a good idea, and so is making a welcome to migrants conditional on respect for European values, in order to contain the threat, in the opinion of the Dutch-Somalian writer.

-- "Interview with Frédéric Gros: Trop de sécuritaire tue la sécurité” [’Interview with Frédéric Gros : 'Too much security kills security,'" with Nicolas Truong.  We are indeed at war, says the philosopher and professor of poltiical thought, but we must beware of overdoing security measures.  The resistance to a climate of terror can be as much ethical as it is military or political, he emphasizes, adding that "what's needed is a new basis for the concept of war."

--Translated by Mark K. Jensen
Associate Professor of French
Department of Languages and Literatures
Pacific Lutheran Univeristy
Tacoma, WA 98447-0003
Phone: 253-535-7219
Website: www.plu.edu/~jensenmk/
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