The ‘crisis of European existence’

Let us summarize the fundamental notions of what we have sketched here. The ‘crisis of European existence’, which manifests itself in countless symptoms of a corrupted life, is no obscure fate, no impenetrable destiny. Instead, it becomes manifestly understandable against the background of the philosophically discoverable ‘teleology of European history’. As a presupposition of this understanding, however, the phenomenon ‘Europe’ is to be grasped in its essential core. To get the concept of what is contra-essential in the present ‘crisis’, the concept ‘Europe’ would have to be developed as the historical teleology of infinite goals of reason; it would have to be shown how the European ‘world’ was born from ideas of reason, i.e., from the spirit of philosophy. The ‘crisis’ could then become clear as the ‘seeming collapse of rationalism’. Still, as we said, the reason for the downfall of a rational culture does not lie in the essence of rationalism itself but only in its exteriorization, its absorption in ‘naturalism’ and ‘objectivism’.

The crisis of European existence can end in only one of two ways: in the ruin of a Europe alienated from its rational sense of life, fallen into a barbarian hatred of spirit; or in the rebirth of Europe from the spirit of philosophy, through a heroism of reason that will definitively overcome naturalism. Europe’s greatest danger is weariness. Let us as ‘good Europeans’ do battle with this danger of dangers with the sort of courage that does not shirk even the endless battle. If we do, then from the annihilating conflagration of disbelief, from the fiery torrent of despair regarding the West’s mission to humanity, from the ashes of the great weariness, the phoenix of a new inner life of the spirit will arise as the underpinning of a great and distant human future, for the spirit alone is immortal.

EDMUND HUSSERL: Philosophy and the Crisis of European Man

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