I'm a European living in America. A fellow countryman is trying to coerce me into doing something for him.

He claims that if I was a "True European", I would do what he wants.

I've not done a lot of philosophy, but I don't think there is such a thing as "European-ness".

I don't believe that the essence of all Europeans that have ever lived has been (triple?)-distilled and exists in Platonic heaven, and all of us have varying amounts of it in us.

Is there such a thing as "European-ness"/"Asian-ness" etc? In addition to your great answers, are there essays or other media resources you would recommend that address this issue further?

NB: I am not aiming to create a political debate. I am interested in identities and their essential natures. Feel free to substitute European identity with any other identity group you like.

  • Recently ran across this essay, The Europe of Nations versus the Europe of Brussels. Might be of interest. powerlineblog.com/archives/2019/05/…
    – user4894
    May 30 '19 at 19:17
  • European nations are ... nations. A French is a Citizen of France: there are no "races" corresponding to nations. May 31 '19 at 6:03

Edward Said says:

At [the core of what can be called the epistemology of imperialism] is the stubborn thesis that everyone is principally and irreducibly a member of some race or category, and that race or category cannot ever be assimilated to or accepted by others---except as itself. Thus came into being such invented essences as the Oriental or Englishness, as Frenchness, as Africanness, or American exceptionalism, as if each of those had a Platonic idea behind it that guaranteed it as pure and unchanging from the beginning to the end of time" (p.376, emphasis mine).

In general, Said's work has been influential and this issue has been discussed a great deal in postcolonial studies. I'm not all that familiar with pure philosophy that discusses this, but there are many feminists philosophers who work on similar issues about the constitution of personhood and gender, etc.

Quotation from

Said, E. Reflections on exile and other essays. Cambridge (Mass.): Harvard University Press (2000)

  • Thanks! It's a pity we got censored. On a small scale, it feels like the suppression undergone by groups that are misunderstood by governments or other people in positions of authority. Jun 7 '19 at 10:56

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