Identity is the unity of being, of total consistency and person equality. It concerns the set of behavioral or personal characteristics by which an individual
is recognizable as a
member of a group, the quality or condition of being the same as something else or the distinct personality of an individual
regarded as a persisting entity; individuality.


sense of personal identification with Europe | Going Beyond Modernity to Identity Politics | Remember the religious roots of liberal thought (Larry Siedentop) | Modern 'Western' worldview is not liberalism, but tolerance | Unlimited identity | Identity Please!


sense of personal identification with Europe  
The sense of personal identification with Europe is called pan-European identity. People of Europe have a distinctive set of political, economic and social norms and values that are slowly diminishing and replacing existing national or state-based norms and values. European culture has not led to a geopolitical unit. As with the constructed nation, it might well be the case that a political or state entity will have to prefigure the creation of a broad, collective identity. At present, European integration co-exists with national loyalties and national patriotism.
A development of European identity is regarded as a vital objective in pursuing the establishment of a politically, economically and militarily influential united Europe in the world. It equally importantly supports the foundations of common European values, such as of fundamental human rights and spread of welfare.

European identity is promoted through funding of educational exchange programmes, the renovation of key historical sites, the promulgation of a progressive linear history of Europe terminating in European integration, and through the promotion and encouragement of political integration. The European Parliament is trying to cultivate a "European identity," with top officials saying that it is the only way to ensure a lasting union between member states. "National systems have very much invested in constructing their own identity," Klaus Welle, the secretary general of the European Parliament told an audience at the Centre for European Policy Studies, a think-tank, on Thursday (29 March 2012). "If we want to build a lasting union of solidarity we also need to invest in European identity. We need to understand history as European history and not just as compilation of national histories."

Referring to his native Germany, Welle noted that people speak of the country as if it has existed forever. But the modern German state was created in 1871. Before that there was the German Confederation, which also included Prussia and Austria. Up until Napoleon's time, there used to be around 300 German-speaking statelets under the Holy Roman Empire. "It [1871] is very recent. We have reconstructed our own history as if we have always had a nation state which is completely false and untrue," he added. "In order to stabilise identity, we have created national museums, we have created national curricula, we have reconstructed national history." The parliament is now seeking to carry out a similar exercise.

The recently-opened Parliamentarium - a visitor-cum-exhibition centre - is "one attempt to contribute to a European identity. There are others, e.g. "House of History" - the brainchild of former parliament president Hans Gert Poettering The parliament is also "rediscovering" the fact that it owns the house lived in by Jean Monnet, one of the founding fathers of the European Union

The issue of European identity is a touchy subject. MEPs have often referred to the need for countries to make sure that European history is part of national curricula. But the suggestion alone raises heckles about interference from Brussels. The European Commission, which has the sole right to propose laws, has no real power in education matters, which remain in the hands of member states. Much of the identity debate - which also encompasses European values and culture - is bound up in the discussion on how most average Europeans feel removed from 'Brussels.'


  Going Beyond Modernity to Identity Politics
A Turning Point in Human History: Going Beyond Modernity to Identity Politics
(May, 2019, Stephen B. Young Global Executive Director Caux Round Table for Moral Capitalism):

There is great angst among a certain cosmopolitan elite in what we have come to call “The West” over the rise of a cultural force which they do not understand and fear. Modernity, an unprecedented stage in human history, is now some 200 years old, having begun with the Industrial Revolution in England and Scotland and, culturally, with the French Revolution, which brought enthusiasm to the work of rooting up and throwing out the ancien regime of king, aristocrat and priest. Perhaps modernity has run its course and a new template for civilization is emerging. Thus, our cosmopolitan elite has become the ancien regime of our time. Progressive elites, seeking to take modernity to its logical extreme, refer to the global phenomenon now opposing them as “Populist Nationalism.” They see it most in support for Donald Trump in the United States, in stubborn antipathy to the European Union in the U.K., in the dogmatic parochialisms leading the way in Hungary and Poland and in the strange political marriage of the far right and the antic left in Italy. In India, the Hindu purist Narendra Modi, another populist nationalist (“India for the Hindus”), is projected to win re-election as Prime Minister.



Selective memory of our past lies behind our current crisis of identity, writes Larry Siedentop. The west is in crisis. The advance of China, India and other nations has led to a dramatic shift of economic power. In the political sphere, military adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan have compromised western influence, leading the US to draw back from its “superpower” role. Yet the west’s troubles go deeper than that. It is suffering a moral crisis, a crisis of identity.

Some are now uncomfortable using the term “the west” for fear that it carries the residue of an imperialist and racist past. But that is not the only source of discomfort. The crisis of identity also springs from the challenge of Islam, a creed that can make western liberal secularism seem morally tepid, if not worse. Indeed, the term “liberal” is at risk of becoming a pejorative. In continental Europe it connotes little more than market economics. In parts of the US it is becoming a synonym for “radical”, or even “socialist”.

But who are we, if not liberals? Elusive though it may at times be, this remains the best available description of western attitudes and institutions. We lack a compelling account of their evolution, a story we can plausibly tell ourselves about our moral roots. Our self-image comes dangerously close to equating liberal secularism with non-belief. A sophisticated version of that view is that our political and legal systems aim to achieve “neutrality”. But that does not do justice to the moral content of our tradition.
Accounts of western development usually involve a major discontinuity, captured in the phrase “the middle ages”. Since the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, this period has been represented as one of superstition, social privilege and clerical oppression – the antithesis of liberal secularism. Historians have been tempted to maximise the moral and intellectual distance between the modern world and the middle ages, while minimising the moral and intellectual distance between modern Europe and antiquity. Describing the ancient world as “secular” – with citizens free from the oppression of priests and an authoritarian church – became an important political weapon during early modern struggles to separate Church and state in Europe. But this account fails to notice that the ancient family, the basic constituent of the city-state, was itself a kind of Church. The paterfamilias was originally both the family’s magistrate and high priest, with his wife, daughters and younger sons having a radically inferior status. Inequality remained the hallmark of the ancient patriarchal family. “Society” was understood as an association of families rather than of individuals. It was the Christian movement that began to challenge this understanding. Pauline belief in the equality of souls in the eyes of God – the discovery of human freedom and its potential – created a point of view that would transform the meaning of “society”. This began to undercut traditional inequalities of status. It was nothing short of a moral revolution, and it laid the foundation for the social revolution that followed. The individual gradually displaced the family, tribe or caste as the basis of social organisation. This was a centuries-long process. By the 12th and 13th centuries the Papacy sponsored the creation of a legal system for the Church, founded on the assumption of moral equality. Canon lawyers assumed that the basic organising unit of the legal system was the individual (or “soul”). Working from that assumption, canonists transformed the ancient doctrine of natural law (“everything in its place”) into a theory of natural rights – the forerunner of modern liberal rights theory. By the 15th century these intellectual developments contributed to a reform movement (“Conciliarism”) calling for something like representative government in the Church.
The failure of that reform movement lay behind the outbreak of the Reformation, which led to religious wars and growing pressure across Europe for the separation of Church and state. By the 18th century such pressure had become a virulent anticlericalism, which reshaped the writing of western history and with it our understanding of ourselves.It is this selective memory of our past that lies behind our failure to see that it was moral intuitions generated by Christianity that were turned against the coercive claims of the Church – intuitions founded on belief in free will, which led to the conclusion that enforced belief is a contradiction in terms. So it is no accident that the west generated a rights-based culture of principles rather than of rules. It is our enormous strength, reflected in the liberation of women and a refusal to accept that apostasy is a crime. We should acknowledge the religious sources of liberal secularism. That would strengthen the west, making it better able to shape the conversation of mankind.

The writer is an emeritus fellow of Keble College, Oxford, and author of ‘Inventing the Individual’


Sir, Larry Siedentop no doubt had his tongue in his cheek when proposing that the roots of western liberal thought are religious (Comment, January 24). The history of ideas is complicated and many paths can be traced through it with more or less conviction, but the path he seeks to trace is an unusually selective one. First, the ancient world was certainly not secular, or egalitarian. But it was diverse in religious observance and to that extent, and in allowing free inquiry at least among the elite, was tolerant of diverse views (though, as Anaxagoras discovered, not of outright scepticism). Second, the great discontinuity in western thought was not the middle ages, nowadays recognised as a period of recovery and new inquiry, but the early years of the dominance of the Christian church, justifiably called the dark ages. In that era, every kind of free inquiry and learning itself, were violently assaulted by the most influential voices. John Chrystostom argued that Christians should “empty their minds of secular learning in order to provide a mind swept clear for the reception of divine words”. Finally, the most pervasively distinctive aspect of the modern worldview sometimes labelled “western” is not liberalism or individualism but tolerance of diversity and dissent – of belief or political affiliation. While there have been honourable, even heroic, exceptions the general tendency of all religions and not least Christianity when they have had dominance in public utterance and the support of secular power, has been to suppress internal dissent and to support political repression – at least until the growth of a more broadly tolerant consensus in society made such positions untenable.

A rights-based culture is perhaps a specifically western concept but the centrality of belief in tolerance and in equality is certainly the great strength of modern societies, wherever located, and their outstanding contribution to human flourishing. But the deepest and strongest roots of these beliefs lie in sceptical and secular thought, not in religion.


In October 2015, the Veerstichting organized the symosium with the theme 'Unlimited Identity". The Veerstichting is dedicated to inspire and be inspired. It is a philosophical theme at the interface of people, organization and society. The themes reflect emerging trends and encourage participants to mingle in lively discussions.

Looking for guidance in a world full of change: does the fact that you have your passport by definition a true citizen? What is left of East Germans after the fall of the Wall? How universal are our Western ideas still in a world of Muslim extremism, homophobia in Russia and powerful undemocratic states like China? All these questions have one thing in common: they have to do with the way our identity in today's world is changing.

In October 2015, the Veerstichting organized the symosium with the theme 'Unlimited Identity". The Veerstichting is dedicated to inspire and be inspired. It is a philosophical theme at the interface of people, organization and society. The themes reflect emerging trends and encourage participants to mingle in lively discussions.

Looking for guidance in a world full of change: does the fact that you have your passport by definition a true citizen? What is left of East Germans after the fall of the Wall? How universal are our Western ideas still in a world of Muslim extremism, homophobia in Russia and powerful undemocratic states like China? All these questions have one thing in common: they have to do with the way our identity in today's world is changing.

From your family to your local football club, from your religion to your hobbies. These are all things that we feel close to and that are part of the way we see ourselves. Your identity is the one that connects you as an individual with groups of people. It gives people a purpose in their life and provides a safe haven in times of uncertainty. But what if you feel connected with something that is changing at a rapid pace, what then is left of your identity?

Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter allow the connectedness in the world is stronger than ever. The large migration flows from south to north, the rapid rise of China and India as economic giants and the sudden emergence of the Islamic State are characteristic of today's world in which major changes and shifts follow one another in rapid succession. All this has an effect on your identity. It is diverse and is constantly changing. We feel today connected to all kinds of groups, not only close but also away from home. Simultaneously, the groups to which we belong change faster than ever: our environment, after all, does not stay the same and we also often deliberately choose to be part of new groups. So now you will not be surprised when you will be looked when you changes over again your election party. The EU forces us to choose between the national government and Brussels. The role of the pastor is marginalized to many people in the West within a generation, while others exchange their national house for a trench in Syria or Iraq.

But offers the diverse identities that are constantly in motion still enough support? Do we have any idea where we belong and where we stand in a world where Western values are no longer self-evident? Ar we in an identity crisis? Or provides a limitless identity precisely new opportunities? For example, we can now more than ever be conscious of who we are and who we want to be.


Search for a (common) identity is also addressed at the Nexus Institute. During the conference 'Identity Please!' this issue was examined by asking questions such as who are we, and who do we want to be? What makes us into a society? Can we make do, must we make do with only political and social values, or do we also need cultural values to determine our identity? If we do, what values are these, and what significance do they have for life in a multicultural society? What is still specifically European about European humanism in such a society? Why does our identity seem to be continually shrinking (limiting itself to nation, family, group) instead of expanding (making us Europeans, world citizens)? And what role can be assigned to religious values in a secular society? Should minorities be allowed to publicly live out the teachings of their religions? What future is there for a Europe without a European spirit?


14 June 2008: Nexus-conference:
'Identity, please!'
& festal presentation of Nexus 50 'European humanism. Grammar of an unspoken language'

European Humanism Nexus conference: 'Identity please!' Keynote lecture George Steiner
The conference began with a keynote lecture by George Steiner called 'Tritones. The Three Languages of Man'. This was not so much in his lecture on European identity, but more generally valid identity values. What are the ways in which a man expresses himself? For Steiner that his music, mathematics and language.

Music is universal, it is older than language, even nature makes music, it has nothing to do with good and evil, and it grabs deep into the feelings of man.

Secondly, mathematics. Steiner was a few years ago once a classroom and there were different people with different backgrounds and nationalities together, without speaking, on a blackboard to solve a mathematical. They needed no language. Mathematics was their language. Languages may come and go, but mathematics is and remains the same. People can make mistakes in applying mathematics, but eventually that will automatically be put right. Like music, mathematics has nothing to do with good and evil. Mathematics is Truth, Transparent and Eternal. Finally, Steiner noted that within mathematics there is no fiction, and that will characterize my problem with mathematics.As a third language, and then in Steiner's view especially towards poetry. Language is the protection against human folly. In contrast to the music language knows progress. As a summary of the poetry he called: poetry is the interaction between sense and sound, and goes beyond everyday thinking.What unites these three values is the fact that we do not know where they come from. In these ways man will make himself immortal, as long ago been said by Dante.  

Other speakers: Frank Fukuyama, Adam Zamoyski, Roger Scruton (†12-01-2020), Adam Zagajewski († 21 March 2021) , Jonathan Israel, Michael Ignatieff and many others.


Nicholas Mann worked on depth research into the life and work of Francesco Petrarca. The most important thing I've inherited, is the image that we are dwarves who sit on the shoulders of giants. These giants are the "idols" of the past, where we sometimes create an ideal of it. Because those "giants" have done and gained much research and knowledge, we as well-educated Westerners have to do much less effort to create the same level to achieve, or even to transcend it.

Lewis Lockwood, a student of Beethoven, began his introduction by saying that Petrarch is quite unknown, and that his Beethoven has a lot more fame. He continued to lay the connection between Beethoven and European humanism. Also, he read a piece of a letter ever written by the composer. Here Beethoven warns against commercialism and exploitation of publishers of the artist. "The human mind can not be sold as a piece of cheese."

All professors brougt their own personality. David Dubal ended all his comments with a joke. The full house could have a good laugh, and it made sphere, but he did not add anything useful to the debate. Finally they came out at the point which is also mentioned earlier by George Steiner: that man wants to make himself immortal through art. There were also briefly talks about the relationship between art and religion. It is noted that artists and performers do not want to explain the deeper meaning behind their works, but that theologians wants gladly to explain how it is with the above observable. What both art and religion are having in itself: it gives hope.

The session ended with a poem by the American-British poet TS
Eliot, from Four Quartets:

'So here I am, in the middle way, having had twenty years-
Twenty years largely wasted, the years of l’entre deux guerres
Trying to use words, and every attempt
Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure
Because one has only learnt to get the better of words
For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which
One is no longer disposed to say it. And so each venture
Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate
With shabby equipment always deteriorating
In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,
Undisciplined squads of emotion. And what there is to conquer
By strength and submission, has already been discovered
Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope
To emulate-but there is no competition-
There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
And found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions
That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss.
For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.'


The second round of discussion began with some faint general presentations of the speakers and their opinion about the decline of values in the twentieth century. Roger Scruton, an eccentric British philosopher who has written on diverse subjects, started the discussion by making a comment about the danger of utopian thinking. Religion can not save us, and a utopian world gives "the idea That we can redeem ours elves here and now." Furthermore, he noted that European humanism consists of two core values, transcendence and reason. According to him, the question was which one we want to emphasize at the conference.

Michael Ignatieff thought it turned out better than was expected with the loss of values. Life has always been difficult. But he thought that there was a lot of noise in the political systems. What he meant was unclear, but Scruton had a solution in the form of culture that keeps the noise out.

Sarah Rosenberg is a multi-talent. She plays piano professionally and was a valuable contribution to the intellectual debate. She was worried about the technological society. In our digital society, the idea of an 'original', as you have with a work of art, disappeared. Instead, we all have copies. Ignatieff is a true realist and modified the observations of Rosenberg. Authenticity has always been a problem. According to him, every generation have to translate the classics for himself and interprete it in a way to learn from it.


The last part was a debate round with Jonathan Israel, Francis Fukuyama, Avishai Margalit, Bassam Tibi and Adam Zamoyski. Rob Riemen asked them what the unifying factor in Europe was, and what it will be. Historically, religion tied Europe together, which will bind Europe together now? Avishai Margalit clarified why he thinks Europe was not tied by religion. According to him it was the technological revolution that took place in Europe some 250 years ago. At that time no other part of the world one was so advanced. He thought it was too early to say which way Europe will go. But he thought that the states will strengthen mutual. The opinions of the intellectuals on the genesis and the unifying factors of Europe were quite different. According to Bassam Tibi, Europe arose in Charlemagne in the time of Charlemagne when he drove out Islam.