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“Against the tribal thought which fragments humanity, we must hold the discourse of the universal”

By Virginie Larousse

Posted yesterday at 8:00 a.m., updated at 7:30 p.m.

He is recognized as one of the most important philosophers of our time. Born in 1955 in Saint-Louis, Senegal, Souleymane Bachir Diagne was the first Senegalese to have joined the Ecole Normale Supérieure (Paris), where he specialized in philosophy of science. Since 2008 he has been teaching philosophy at Columbia University (New York).

Navigating between the three continents, this citizen of the world imbued with Muslim mystique has woven a complex thought, aiming to give voice to the plural of humanity without ever giving up on building a universal truly common to all men. Souleymane Bachir Diagne thus warns against “tribalisms and nationalist confinements” which are for him the enemy of civilization, and makes his own the word of Léopold Sédar Senghor, “the pride of being different should not prevent the happiness of being together”.

You are passing through Europe while our continent is upset by the war that has just broken out in Ukraine. What does this tragic situation inspire in you?

It’s just awful, with these children having their lives completely turned upside down overnight, having to leave school, being thrown into the streets with their mothers. And all these refugees. This situation arouses fear in me. What will all this give, both militarily and economically?

I never thought I would hear the words “World War III” from the mouth of an American president. No more than I would have thought to hear from the mouth of a Russian president the words “atomic bomb” [le 24 février, Vladimir Poutine a menacé ceux qui tenteraient d’“interférer” dans son “opération militaire” d’une réponse immédiate qui conduirait à des conséquences qu’ils n’ont encore jamais connues].

There is, of course, a response to this invasion, and economic sanctions are probably the only option. But who knows what their effects will be? We can already see, with gasoline and wheat, that the whole world is affected. And if it is absolutely necessary to try to think diplomacy and negotiation, everything seems to be done to sabotage this way.

Read also Souleymane Bachir Diagne: “Let’s build a world that is no longer centered on Europe”

Beyond the conflict in Eastern Europe, we live in a world plagued by growing inequalities, the climate threat, the development of populisms and nationalisms, the rise of obscurantisms – not only religious, but also linked to science . Do intellectuals have a share of responsibility in this global crisis?

They will have some responsibility if they don’t do the job that should be theirs. It is precisely in these moments when everything is dark that we must at all costs ensure that the lights of thought still illuminate our path.

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