Evelyn Waugh and European Philosophy

In an essay about Jurgen Habermas, described as “Europe’s most influential philosopher,” Prof. Daniel N. Robinson is

reminded of when the British writer, Evelyn Waugh, was received into the Roman Catholic Church in the Fall of 1930. It caused quite a stir. He was charged with having been “captivated by the ritual”. But listen to what Waugh had to say:

“It seems to me that in the present phase of European history the essential issue is no longer between Catholicism, on one side, and Protestantism, on the other, but between Christianity and chaos…Civilization—and by this I do not mean talking cinemas and tinned food, nor even surgery and hygienic houses, but the whole moral and artistic organization of Europe—has not in itself the power of survival. It came into being through Christianity, and without it has no significance or power to command allegiance.”

The quote is taken from Waugh’s October 1930 article in the Daily Express entitled “Conversion to Rome–Why it has Happened to Me.” The article is reprinted in Essays, Articles and Reviews, p. 103. Prof. Robinson’s essay is posted on his weblog tothesource. He is Professor Emeritus at Georgetown University and currently on the Philosophy Faculty at Oxford University.


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