Proposal presented by Jacques Poulain, Director of the Department of Philosophy of the University Paris 8, Professor occupying the UNESCO Chair of Philosophy of Culture and Institutions for Europe, and by Heinz Wismann, Director of studies at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences sociales
The Sorbonne declaration of 25 May, 1998 emphasised the urgency of "constructing an open European area for higher learning" and making "continuous efforts to remove barriers and to develop a framework for teaching and learning, which would enhance mobility and an ever closer cooperation" and would be internationally recognisable as such. The Bologne declaration of 19 June, 1999 encouraged the development of "a Europe armed with knowledge that is more complete and more ambitious", so that it may be qualified to fulfil its special role as "an irreplaceable factor in the process of social and human development". Echoing the appeal of R.-G. Schwartzenberg on 30 October, 2000 for the recognition of the essential role the social sciences have to play in the education of European citizens and the formation of a self-aware European cultural identity, the Commission of Culture and Education of the European Parliament did not hesitate, on 5 February, 2001, "to invite the European Commission and Member States to support the creation of a European centre of philosophy and language sciences based on the model of the European University Institute in Florence" (Reporter: Geneviève Fraisse; PE 197.122, p.21). The Commission specified that the social sciences should be represented at the proposed centre not as auxiliary disciplines, but rather as full disciplines in their own right, citing their particular value for the elaboration of a European context of higher education and research.
These declarations and the determination demonstrated by the European Association of Universities in Salamanca on 29 and 30 March 2001 and the Information Bureau of European Students in Göteborg on 24 and 26 March last year respond to an ever more urgent need, the need, as Mr. Schwartzenberg said, to "humanise the future and civilise our civilisation". While the economic and political organisation of Europe is taking shape, its cultural development seems to be excessively deficient, indeed radically faltering, for the task of experimenting with new modes of living remains largely subordinated to the simple production of material and economic living conditions. These cultural breakdowns have been experienced since the 1970's as crises of rationality, legitimacy and motivation. The attempt to confront them has given rise to an historically unprecedented analytical effort on the part of philosophy, the arts, literature and communications sciences. In the process, these disciplines have been forced to overcome traditional and linguistic barriers and to converge in the discovery of the communicative dynamic inherent to the arts, to literature and also to the exercise of critical judgement, be it common, scientific, artistic, literary or more specifically philosophical.
This proposal to create the European University of Culture, presented in anticipation of the upcoming European meeting of Prague to be held on 18 and 19 May, is intended as a answer to these preoccupations. Encouraged by the support rallied over the last 30 years among the greatest names in European philosophy, arts, literature and the social sciences, it aims to intensify the effort of these disciplines in order to forge, in the context of European higher education, a true understanding of the culture that accompanies scientific, technical, industrial as well as artistic innovations, an understanding which can be transmitted to the "hundreds of millions of European citizens" mentioned by the Commission of Culture.
The disciplines which are to be represented: philosophy, the arts, literature and the social sciences of communication, are in a position today to confront Europe's cultural failures thanks to the international multi- and transdisciplinary discussion they have conducted for more than 30 years. With the help of an anthropology of communication as assured of its results as are the so-called hard sciences, this discussion has created a new basis for a real understanding of culture.
The purpose of this European University of Culture is thus to promote a context of intellectual elaboration in close connection with artistic, literary and philosophical creativity, a context in which the means for understanding the conditions of cultural invention can be made available to society as a whole, in short, to allow everyone to transform his or her ways of communication and of life
The proposed University fits into the larger context of human cultural experimentation. Its role would be to validate the judgements made by individuals and groups about social reality, in a manner that is just as firm and sure as are the judgements made by scientists of the hard sciences. The University will bring together the 4 disciplines which offer contemporary individuals a means of cultural self-recognition in the radical communicative experiment in which they are in fact engaged: firstly, philosophy, representing the principle of critical thinking insofar as it is a university discipline but also insofar as it governs the universal exercise of judgement, secondly, arts and aesthetics, presenting the various modes of creative invention of ways of life and of the harmonisation of individuals and groups as reflected in works of art, thirdly, literature, presenting writing as a paradigm for the transfer of artistic creativity to man's identification with his thinking about himself, fourthly, communication studies, developing various ways in which the social communication sciences can transform communication into a creative and regulatory mode of individual and group culture.
Since the communication between scientists remains a paradigm for the experimental exploration of the world, perfectly applicable to the social experimentation which culture has become, it seems opportune to join a Research centre for the philosophy and history of the sciences to these four departments. It could be integrated like the Robert Schuman Centre is integrated into the European Institute of Florence.
The various functions of this university clearly derive from the urgent needs identified by the various partners engaged in the construction of European higher education and from the necessity of following up on the unprecedented efforts made by these 4 disciplines in the last 30 years:
1. to enhance European university education and research in the disciplines concerned by granting European doctorates in these disciplines, in a public European institution appropriate to this end because its competence would be at once guaranteed, recognised and controlled, in close collaboration with the European networks of graduate schools or doctoral programs. This collaboration would be guaranteed by the participation of their teaching staff, thanks to a system of reduction of teaching loads to half-time;
2. to act on a permanent basis as a European instrument of incentive, expertise and reception, working to link the various national networks of graduate schools or doctoral programmes focused upon the relevant disciplines;
3. to place a centre of intellectual resources representing the leading edge of research at the disposal of as large a public as possible, allowing this public to participate in a real interdisciplinary dialogue;
4. to develop an analysis of the historical conditions of a European cultural identity, by linking contemporary research with the cultural and political history of Europe and with the results presented by the various "Institutes of European Studies" throughout the world, thereby opening Europe to a fully international reflection in the area of the understanding of cultural creation and cultural singularities. For this purpose, it will rely upon a Research Institute which will study the practices of appropriation of the classical antiquity inheritage at work in the national European cultures and which will build and grant the transmission of a common antique inheritage through the different European systems of high school.
For additional information, please contact :
Jacques Poulain or François de Bernard , tel. 00 33 1 40 03 99 60