Christian Europe in the medieval centuries was, indeed, in a position to admire from the ancient heritage – and to adopt critically – whatever might enhance its Gospel-based conviction of the free will of the individual. Thus the Attic achievement in particular lies at the elective root of a paradoxically self-identifying European culture. Islam knows only that it is Islam whereas Europe, when at its best, has always understood that it is itself and yet something else at the same time.

A European sense of intellectual insufficiency and need gave unexpected strength to the progress and consolidation of the medieval mind. Europe would prove itself “permeable” in a way that Islam could not – convinced as it was of its own perfection ab origine. Thus, concludes Gouguenheim, “the Hellenization of medieval Europe was the fruit of Europeans,” who discovered, on their own, their filiations with the ancient societies.

Aristote au Mont Saint-Michel is one of the most significant publications of the last few years. It is, I believe, destined to become a classic – not only in its original French, but also in the other European languages, once it has been translated. It dispels a myth, an invidious one that has long been central to the perverse palaver of western self-hatred. For those who, like me, command their French a bit unsurely, Gouguenheim’s prose is a miracle of balanced sentences and clear meaning. I would say that Gouguenheim’s study has a potentially large audience outside the academy and could become something of a popular success in the Anglophone nations.


Sylvain Gouguenheim’s “Aristote au Mont Saint-Michel: Les racines grecques de l’Europe Chrétienne” reviewed by Thomas F. Bertonneau, Brussels Journal. Here edited with emphasis (in bold or italics) added by ELLOPOS BLOG.