The Return of Settembrini and Naphta in the 21st Century

Bernard-Henri Lévy & Aleksandr Dugin

On 21 September 2019, the Nexus Institute celebrated its 25th anniversary with a public symposium entitled ‘The Magic Mountain Revisited: Cultivating the Human Spirit in Dispirited Times’, after the Institute’s founding novel, Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain.

The Nexus Symposium opened with an intellectual duel between the philosophers Bernard-Henri Lévy and Aleksandr Dugin, presented as a 21st-century reprise of the famous debates between Settembrini and Naphta in Mann’s novel. The following is a transcript of this duel.

Rob Riemen: The Magic Mountain centres on a duel between two competing worldviews fighting for the soul of Europe. With that same duel, we will start today’s Nexus Symposium. I’m delighted that two brave philosophers accepted our invitation to discuss the premises and consequences of each other’s completely opposite and competing worldview. I call them brave, because it has become extremely rare that two philosophical opponents really meet eye to eye. Those who have read the novel know that at the very end of the novel there is, indeed, a physical duel. Naphta challenges Settembrini, Settembrini refuses to shoot, and then Naphta kills himself. That, fortunately, will not happen today. Please give a very warm welcome to Leo Naphta, also known as Aleksandr Dugin, and Ludovico Settembrini, also known as Bernard-Henri Lévy.

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