Ernest Renan From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Ernest Renan (February 28, 1823–October 12, 1892) was a French philosopher and writer. In his own lifetime, Renan was best known as the author of the hugely popular Vie de Jésus (Life of Jesus). The book's controversial assertions that the life of Jesus should be written like the life of any other man, and that the Bible could be subject to the same critical scrutiny as other historical documents sparked a flurry of debate, and enraged the Catholic Church. Today, Renan is most famous for the definition of a nation given in his 1882 discourse Qu'est-ce qu'une nation? ("What is a Nation?"). Whereas German writers like Fichte had defined the nation by objective criteria such as a race or an "ethnic group" sharing common characteristics (language, etc.), Renan defined it by the desire of a people to live together, which he summed up in a famous phrase, "avoir fait de grandes choses ensemble, vouloir en faire encore" (having done great things together and wishing to do more). Writing in the midst of the dispute concerning the Alsace-Lorraine region, he declared that the existence of a nation was based on a "daily referendum."