Crisis and problematicity: Europe from the perspectives of Edmund Husserl and Jan Patočka
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During the past century a discourse of crisis has accompanied the discourse on Europe. While there has been talk of various crises in relation to Europe, up until a certain point in the 20th century the dominant crisis was a crisis of the European spirit. Since modernity, Europe had based itself on a rationalism that held that reason was the key to a meaningful existence. The catastrophes of the First and Second World War as well as the impoverished experience of the world that this rationalism led to caused Europe to abandon reason as its fundamental principle. Nothing, however, has been put in its place as the spiritual principle of European existence. This thesis analyses this crisis on the basis of the hypothesis that the crisis itself might contain valuable insights that can be used to address Europe’s situation. It does so by looking at two key authors regarding this theme: the founder of phenomenology Edmund Husserl (1859-1938) and one of his last students Jan Patočka (1907-1977). Both approach Europe’s crisis on the basis of phenomenology – the philosophical inquiry into meaningful experience. But whereas Husserl feared the end of Europe and sought a restoration of the faith in reason, Patočka felt he had already witnessed its end and could no longer have recourse to any optimistic faith. The phenomenological work of these authors is compared on this basis, showing their respective solutions to the crisis, and the limits to these solutions. Their phenomenological analyses of the experience of the world are used to address the sense of a world that has become deeply problematical and to see whether this experience itself can serve as the foundation for a new idea of Europe with a focus on the political consequences of this in particular.