The Belgian newspaper, Le Soir, is selling a series of seminal cultural and philosophical texts in book form. The one on sale this morning (I bought two straightaway) was about Averroès. Go on; be honest. Have you heard of him? He was a fascinating and inspirational figure, born in Cordoba, died in Marrakech, an Andalusian Muslim, a philosopher, lawyer, theologist, geographer, mathematician, astronomer, musician, physician, doctor and courtier. Many argue that he was the founding father of Western European secular thought. You can read about him here. And here’s a little anecdote. When we were finalising our Erasmus Mundus proposal (see 27 February post), we were casting about for a name. It was a new programme so, we thought, we needed a new name, and the one we hit upon was Averroès. To us, in our post 9-11 world, with a Commission President who’d put inter-cultural dialogue at the top of his priorities, what could be better than the name of this extraordinary polymath who had spanned the Western and Arab worlds, to the benefit of both? But our Commissioner at the time, Vivianne Reding, with impeccable political logic, pointed out that, with all sorts of belt-tightening going on, it would be better to give the impression of extending an existing winning model, rather than creating a new one. And so our ‘Averroès’ became ‘Erasmus Mundus’ and went on to flourish mightily. I still think it was a nice idea, though!