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Carlo Schmid, European is the Creative Spirit
Speech at the European Conference on Culture, Lausanne, 1949
But what is it that characterises Europe? What a question, and what a myriad of possible answers! And yet there are certain facts which can help us sense more or less where we should be seeking to distinguish, even if they are but the shadows of that reality which the slavery of Plato, chained in his cave, sees moving on the walls.
Nature does not bestow virtue; to be good is an art.
I believe that we can see Prometheus who, having formed man from the clay of the earth, stole fire from heaven to quicken his creature, and who in doing so began the struggle against everything and anything that is mere fate. In fact, to fight against everything which has no other dignity than that granted by materiality, to refuse to be just a passive and preordained element in the order of Creation is to my mind the primordial virtue that has made Europe out of a peninsula of Asia. ...
The European, by isolating the human conscience from its relationships with what is outside the Self, has enabled man, lost within the group and the play of its chance happenings, to become an individual. Now the dignity of the individual consists rightly in no longer allowing man to justify his actions by appealing to nature, history or society. He must justify himself before his conscience and before reason (which, whenever it refers to the evidence, is none other than the secularised individual conscience).
Cf. Eliot: European Culture is One & Multicultural ! * Hegel: Stages of Freedom * Jaspers: The Spirit of Europe * Malraux: Tragic Humanism * Hugo: La Loi du Monde n'est pas et ne peut pas Ítre Distincte de la Loi de Dieu