Ageing and Rejuvenation (Counter-Ageing) of European Populations: The Philosophical Foundations

1. Introduction

The need for pension system reform would appear to be ever more imperative for every European government and country. The immediate consequence for each and every country is the reorganisation of the whole political, economic and social system, indeed of the whole of Europe, since these reforms represent and will come to represent more and more the new post-euro political frontier for the enlarged European Union.
So from an urgent and apparently economic reform relating to intergenerational solidarity, the rethinking of the whole European model emerges, a model whose deep and basic philosophical and cultural roots are, at times, neglected.

2. The Risk and the Dignity of the Person: Philosophical Foundations in the Early Nineteen Hundreds

The appearance of a person is linked to the manifestation of a tension (De Rougemont, (1934), No. 8, p. 17); of a vital and creative conflict which ends in an action; this action causes a new conflict and a risk, which generate new creations. In this way action and person are indivisible (Rops, (1933), No. 3, p. 14). The conflict is within the person who, therefore is always able to overcome it. (Marc, (1937), No. 38, p. 47). And when he shows by action his raison d’être he creates something new, i.e. a new risk. His whole dignity in fact consists in taking on this new risk. Here we find the dignity of man as a responsible being (de Rougemont, (1934 ), No. 8, p. 18).
It is not enough for a person to reflect and adapt, to listen and obey: instead he must totally accept the taking on of risks and responsibilities (Marc, (1934), No. 11, p. 31). The reality of a person means taking action knowing its risks. To take responsibility is to have faith in the future and to affirm the capacity for bringing the absolute new into the world. This responsibility can be assumed only by those who act (Chevalley, (1935), No. 17, pp. 5-7).
It follows that society must guarantee “à chacun tous les empiétements impérialistes (…), l’aire de libre activité morale et matérielle don’t il a besoin pour dévolopper ses dons de creation; mettre à la disposition de chacun (…) le minimum d’aide matérielle et morale faute duquel l’individu est hors d’etat de tenter sa chance spirituelle et matérielle”, (Dupuis, (1936), No. 39, p. 33): a hypothesis which forms a theoretical background to all the proposals for a minimum social guarantee, living income, citizen’s grants, etc.
The culture of the person thus proposes the man who affirms himself, takes positions and responsibility in comparison to other human beings, on things and on life, committing himself and taking risks in every single moment (Dupuis, (1935), No. 18, p. 17). This culture is a continuous and renewed creation of values and traditions. The more the person is free of life needs, the more practicable is the assumption of risks; therefore the measures of a minimum social guarantee, are essential and preliminary conditions for assuring the dignity of persons. They assume institutional dimensions as occurs in an exemplary and overriding manner in the European Constitution project. The very nature of pension measures implies, by definition, institutional acknowledgement of the need to guarantee the life requirements of people way beyond citizens’ income plans (or grants) and other systems of institutional redistribution of the minimum life guarantee.
These, therefore are an expression, practically unquestioned in Europe, of a guarantee of the person; in this case beyond a certain age threshold or other specific conditions (disability, effects of war, repairs to social damages or others). They express therefore, the necessary conditions for guaranteeing the people concerned their constitutional dignity, and hence, to follow the hypothesis of the personalist philosophers, for allowing the same people “a growing freedom of the creative personality” (citing p. 15 of Gilda M. F.) with the assumption of risks proportionate to their activities, i.e. their businesses.
The institutions which succeed in basing themselves on the persons recognise their supremacy, they recognise the concrete nature of man and accept his permanent conflict which is dichotomously individual and social like the person himself. The conflict the person has with himself, individual and collective conflicts, within couples, within groups, between nations, between peoples, between religions, between ethnic groups, require and produce an incessant dialectic for the setting of borders and for overcoming them.
On the other hand, without borders there would be no causes for conflict, traditions of conflict, presence of and necessity for conflicts, there would be no migrations nor prevention and regulation of conflict. The personalist dialectic and ‘englobante’ which follows from it, unlike the Hegelian ‘dechirante’, includes the poles of conflict as well as the relevant tensions, and it seeks to overcome them through successive balancing which produces new conflicts and new contradictions and research into new creative balancing.
The ‘englobante’ dialectic is applied to the person, society, work, economy, culture and institutions, and represents the methodological essence of personalist culture which at political and institutional level leads to global federalism. Federalism, particularly European federalism does not acknowledge, and cannot acknowledge, even technically, war as a means of resolving conflicts, though it is predictable and frequently used (sometimes surreptitiously) as a means of resolving conflicts in international and intergovernmental relations. Federal relations, subsidiary and ancillary to the various levels of personal conflicts are the historical and doctrinarian alternative to negotiated and international diplomatic ones.
Europe represents the modern workshop for these doctrines. Their expressions have always been, and still are, present in the recent history of the building of the European Union. The plan for the European Constitution Treaty expresses the most recent of these passages. In it the dignity of the person forms Title 1 of the preamble, in the part devoted to the fundamental rights of the Union.
It is possible that the link between person (not individual), his dignity and the risk generator of existential tensions, a fundamental link in personalist federalism, was not explicitly conscious; however it appears in the constitution text that is deeply influenced by the philosophical roots which created the cultural and political climate in which, with its founding fathers, the plan for the European Union was born. And it is not displeasing to remember it among the many celebratory aspects of the fiftieth anniversary of the Treaties of Rome.

Chevalle, C.Y. (1935): “Sur l’idèe de responsabilité”, in Ordre Nouveau n° 17, pp. 5-7, Imp. E. Aubin et Fils, Ligugé (Vienne).

Dupuis, R. (1935): “Qu’ est-ce que la culture?”, in Ordre Nouveau n° 18, p. 17, Imp. E. Aubin et Fils, Ligugé (Vienne).

Dupuis, R. (1936): “Election et souveraineté”, in Ordre Nouveau n° 39, p. 33, Imp. Graphique, Paris.

Heim, M. (2004): “Introduction au fédéralisme global”, Aracne ed., Roma,

Manganaro Favaretto, G. (2006): “federalismo personalista di Alexandre Marc”, in Antologia di A. Marc, p. 15, Franco Angeli (a cura di), Milano.

Marc, A. (1934): “Ton destin”, in Ordre Nouveau, n° ll, p. 31, Imp. E. Aubin et Fils, Ligugé (Vienne).

Marc, A. (1937): “L’être qui dit non”, in Ordre Nouveau, n° 38, p.47, Imp. Graphique, Paris.

Rops, A. (1933): “Spirituel d’abord”, in Ordre Nouveau, n° 3, p. 14, Imp. E. Aubin et Fils, Ligugé (Vienne).

de Rougemont, D. (1934): “Communauté révolutionnaire”, in Ordre Nouveau, n° 8, p. 17-18, Imp. E. Aubin et Fils, Ligugé (Vienne).

Raimondo Cagiano de Azevedo: Faculty of Economics, University of Rome ‘La Sapienza’.

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