This paper takes a new look at debates about human nature, and the way in which these have been polarised between extremes that give overwhelming weight either to biology or to environment. While there is widespread agreement that some kind of interactionist middle ground is needed, the dynamics of the debate seem inevitably to reproduce the traditional extreme positions. This paper offers several resources for facilitating the move to a more defensible middle ground. First, we should recognise that there is no unique way of understanding human nature: many theoretical perspectives have value, though value that is limited and specific to an intended class of questions. Second, the basis for this pluralistic perspective becomes clearer when we take seriously that humans, like other biological systems, are highly dynamic processes rather than substances, necessarily defined in ways that give priority to some arbitrarily selected stage of the human life cycle. Third, from a process perspective it is possible to give proper weight to the fact that what is most distinctive about humans is their developmental plasticity, which is what makes possible the behavioural diversity that motivates the importance of environment, especially social environment, stressed by so many theorists of human nature.
There is a tendency in scientific practice to elaborate complex and multilevel models to account for biological dynamics. Systemic approaches have been advocated to account for such phenomenology, so that models often emerge as networks of dynamic interactions with elements that acquire a specific explanatory relevance depending on the scientific question. However, what actually characterizes such systemic accounts is not ultimately clarified. The thesis I defend in this paper are a) that the process of attribution of relevance in explanatory terms is a key epistemological issue in scientific practice and b) that such process implies acknowledging an ontological feature of biological systems and of their regulation, i.e. their nested inter-level stratification. This also clarifies how natural phenomena can be addressed at different levels and understood through a systemic approach.
The paper is focused on the comparison between the analytical or reductionist approach and the system approach. The latter is more inclusive than the reductionist epistemology, which is able to justify the component approach, but fails to suitably grasp the interactions among the several constituents, thus running the risk to neglect or even miss the overall complexity. The system approach, by adopting methodological pluralism, does not exclude the component approach, but it relies on it as on a level of inquiry which in some cases may be sufficient, while in others may require further completion.
The brain is an open system continuously attempting to reach the equilibrium with its environment. Its harmonious relation with the world defines the aesthetical experience. This is the primary experience of our to-be-in-the-world, where the perception-action arc in the Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology of perception finds its description. In its continuous dialog with the world, described in the dissipative model as the brain’s Double, the brain constructs meanings and knowledge, leading to a meaningful vision of the world. Coherence is the product of the symmetry breakdown induced by the external inputs to which the brain is exposed and manifests itself in the auto-similarity properties of fractal structures. The occurrence of self-similar fractal structures in the brain and in a large number of natural phenomena leads us to the vision of Nature unified by dynamic coherence ruling morphogenetic processes (laws of form) and the formation of meanings.
A systemic approach is the best way to understand what aesthetic experience is. Indeed aesthetic experience is complex, because it is an integration of the faculties of mind and body which are inseparable. The priority of the category of relation arises specifically from aesthetic-artistic experience. In fact something cannot be considered beautiful or a work of art unless a complex relational experience. In this case itʼs impossible to distinguish the object and the experience.
Since the psyche has been linked to the central nervous system, the relationship between the mind and the brain has been strongly debated, facing the fundamental criticality to refer phenomena of higher complexity to events occurring in systems at much lower level. The systemic approach has represented the occasion to overcome such a criticality. In a system the relationships between these units are more important than the intrinsic properties of each one of them and the mind can be interpreted as a device of the living matter capable of optimizing the relationship between the body and the macro-systems in which it is located. The brain seems to operate through dynamic networks and the cortex appears to define associations in function of synchronization and phase coherence, aggregating relations of properties in consistent processes, operating the construction of objects and the inference of more and more labile entities (concepts). The «health state» is the functional integration either among the components of the mind and the body and between the individual subject and its social group. The mental illness arises when the mind has lost or decreased its ability to system harmonize. The identity of self also may be interpreted in the systemic perspective. The brain dynamics, driven by brain networks functionalities, could generate, along with personal biographical experience, a «global» or «general pseudo-attractor» consisting in the prevailing style of interpretation and reaction to the surrounding reality, as well as the prevailing perception of the internal and external stimuli. The concept of identity however involves also self-reflective abilities of describing consciously yourself as an object of thought by means of symbolic components of cultural derivation, developed over time in a context of relationships with the surrounding environment and with the social group especially. The prevalent reactivity, supported by the catalyzing effect of the pseudo-attractors, may become the focus of introspection and conscious understanding, by which the conditioning of the future by the past personal history is broken by the freedom of the self consciousness.
In the systemic view different objects are identified through their second level (or emergent) properties. A system able to sustain and preserve such properties can be said «healthy», whilst «illness» will be the consequence of the exclusion of a part from the systemic interactions. Health and illness are part of the process through which human beings construct their identity in their life time.
Aristotle stressed the importance for philosophy to stay connected with the empirical world. Nowadays both philosophy and the sciences have expanded their knowledge and their experience, which must be put in common to acquire a general comprehension of the world that as human beings we share.
The aim of this paper is to analyse accurately occurrences of names as huparxis and hupostasis and of the verbe huphistanai that could mean, according to Plotinus, the existence and the fact of existing. The word existence belatedly appears between the Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Starting from the «First Existence», that is the One-Good, that is not an ousia and it is identical to itself, all the other ontological levels are able to «get out of» or «pro-cedere», aren’t they? Therefore we need to show that the identity and the mone in itself of the «First Existence» represent the conditio sine qua non of the existence of the different levels of existing and beings that «get out of it» and «derive from it» in a dynamic way.
The aim of this paper is to shed some light on the notions of existence and identity by means of the Stoic doctrine of oikeiôsis, or «familiarization». In particular, what the Stoics say about the sort of oikeiôsis that is directed toward oneself helps us to better understand the constitution of the identity of the animal according to them. The concept of oikeiôsis includes both a cognitive and an affective dimension, which can be best grasped if we look at the Stoic oikeiôsis in the context of providence. While both dimensions are essential for the subsistence of the animal, the cognitive one is of particular importance for the constitution of a self-conscious identity.
Given that Aristotelian ousia both means something really existing and something particular, in Metaph. Z 8 Aristotle seems to think that matter is essential to individuality, but this conviction doesn’t match with the idea of matter as a pure indeterminateness apparently pinpointed in Z 3. The controversial chapters Z 7-8 outline a whole range of features which matter exhibits in its relation to form, and rectify the former definition of matter in Z 3. It emerges a picture which could be not so much at odds with the conceptions of matter supported by modern physics.
Aristotle faces questions concerning the existence of controversial kinds of entities not asking whether such entities exist, but how they do, i.e. developing a theory both internally consistent and able to account for the presence of such entities in our discourses about things in the world. A similar role is played by the conceptual couple whole-part in assuring identity to ordinary objects; such objects, most of all living beings, are given in natural experience as wholes, whose form, i. e. structure, constitute their basic identity. This essay focuses in particular on the words holon and kolobon according to Metaphysics, book Delta, where is visible Aristotle’s concern about the identity’s preservation for living beings.
The present essay deals with the Frege-Quine’s quantificational theory of existence. The analysis expounds both the reasons that lay at the basis of the theory, and those that highlight its limitations in the domains of metaphysics and of modal semantics. The outcome of this analysis consists in proposing to introduce, besides quantifiers – whose function is to declare the existence of objects in general (however they may be: abstract, concrete, possible, ideal,...) – an existence predicate that plays the role of expressing the actualisation of that which is in potence.
The main aim of this essay is to try to clarify a central question concerning the coherence of emergent dualism. The question is approximately this: how should we articulate and defend emergent dualism, if emergence is mostly interpreted as a kind of supervenience, and supervenience is rejected by the supporters of dualism together with the dependence of the mental on the physical? What should an adequate conception of emergence look like? This essay will be part of an attempt to provide an answer to this question.
The aim of this work is to provide a sufficiently reliable criterion for distinguishing abstract entities from concrete entities. The two mail candidates are the non spatio-temporal collocation and the abstraction principles à la Frege. We suggest that these criteria have to be considered as complementary and not opposite; this fact is explained by the metaphysical framework of the abstract entities taken into account, namely if they are dependent or independent entities. Since each criterion has an intended background metaphysical framework, the adoption of both will make more complex the description of the domain of abstracta.
Starting from the question «What is a Thing?» (1935-36), this article deals with the critical reflection which leads Heidegger, throughout the inquiry into the work of art (here the example of Dürer's Hare), to the question of «singular»’s ontological statute (in connection with his early researches into the problem of individuation and the concept of haecceitas).
If we leave aside the notion of existence that is nowadays expressed by a quantifier, we can identify eight different senses of ‘esse’ in the writings of St Thomas: substantial being, accidental being, privative being, intentional being, common being, absolute being, copulative being, and identical being. The paper distinguishes and evaluates these uses.
The discussion about the distinction in creatures between essence and existence, as well as that of their identity in God, doesn’t cease to draw the attention of philosophers, and not only those usually known as ‘Thomists’. The aim of this article is rereading some of Aquinas’s texts on this topic, starting from the well known Frege’s Sense and Reference. Frege’s distinction between sense and reference seems to be particularly useful not only to better understand some of Aquinas’s passages, but sometimes even to better translate some of Aquinas’ Latin idiomaticLatin expressions. The result of such an interpretation is that «essence» and «existence» are not two different objects designated by their corresponding names «res» and «ens», as pointed out by Avicenna and those who still defend the ‘real’ distinction, but two different senses, expressed by those names, of the same object designed by them.
Following the aim pursued by Marion to distinguish the Martin Heidegger’s interpretation of ontotheology from the scholastic metaphysics, this paper focalizes the attention on the modalities with which Thomas Aquinas sets God outside the range of the «being» that metaphysics claims to describe and define; in effect, because of the analogy, he digs a chasm between two conceptions of being: the actus essendi and the copula. The esse commune does not have a real ontological consistency, that is, it is not hypostatized: so we must not identify the esse of God with the esse as it is studied in logic and ontology. This thesis is documented through some fundamental passages of Aquinas’ works dedicated to the relation between esse commune and the Ipsum esse of God, concerning the relation between Being and Logos, and the characteristics of the actus essendi described in his metaphysics of participation. Finally, it is shown that the metaphysics of Duns Scotus is not touched by the heideggerian charge of «oblivion of being», because, on the one hand, it is founded on the univocity of the ens in quantum ens; and, on the other hand, it is based on the disjunctive transcendentals of finite or infinite: in their extension towards the gnoseological and ontological sphere, Scotus claims that just the individual entity, marked by the haecceitas, must be said existent.
The Spirit of Utopia (1918-1923) is the best proof of the permanent oscillation (swing) of Ernst Bloch’s thought between an utopian metaphysics and an ontological thought of existence and being-in-the-world which is influenced by Kierkegaard and Heidegger. That’s a philosophy of «understanding-of-oneself-in-existence» and of «real-life experience» of the religious and moral «affects», of this thought of the «interiority of being» in Kierkegaard, which is also a leitmotiv of Bloch’s philosophy of the «encounter-with-oneself» (Selbstbegegnung). Simultaneously, Bloch proceeds to an extension of Kierkegaard’s concept of «profound interiority» toward a «being of a demoniac (interior) productivity», i.e. unto a «being maximizing one’s potential». In this perspective, Bloch is opposing Kierkegaard and Heidegger, who describes the fundamental ontological situation of man as essentially determined by fear (anxiety), despair and the danger to fall into the «depths of nothingness«, meanwhile in Bloch’s eyes hope is destroying fear, overtaking despair.
In The Spirit of Utopia subjectivity is shaped within the sphere of the individual who, fragmented and lost, relates to the intersubjective «Us» and teleologically orientates himself towards the «universal Self». This subjectivity includes eschatological-metaphysical perspective, ethical-political conscience and emotional order of the heart. Emotional life does not postulate any priority of knowledge and of rational discourse. As affirmed in The Principle of Hope, it rather constitutes a self-concentred sphere of intensity that, although wrapped up in darkness, opens to the intentionality of the waiting, pushes forwards, places its own affections in a temporal horizon.
The paper goes into the reading of Heidegger offered by Courtine in relation to the question of «thing», drawing on Aristotelian metaphysics and focusing on the relationship between individual and universal, and between experience and thought.
GIUDIZI DI IDENTITA', PROCESSI DI IDENTIFICAZIONE, COREFERENZIALITA'
The dialogue develops from Frege’s 1892 article, On Sense and Denotation, and the source from which it springs: what is identity and how can it be expressed? S. Raynaud questions Eva Picardi, the scholar to whom the Italian speaking audience mostly owes its knowledge of Frege, raising a number of issues ranging from opposition experienced while teaching, focusing on identity as a central role, both from an ontological and a logical standpoint, to the position by Frege in the long developmental history of the topic. This also touches on the philosophers from Plato to Leibniz, Aristotle, Kant and Hegel. Other themes covered are the comparison of algebraic notation and «spoken language» to the practice of the use of proper nouns, the semantics of which provoked a flourishing debate in the second half of the nineteenth century. This contrasted with a semantics based on the unenlightened respect for the original noun imposition and a semantics in deference to the identifying knowledge of experts. The conversation ends by highlighting the developments of the post-Fregean debate, from Wittgenstein to Quine, Kripke, Geach and Dummett, concerning the possibility of thinking an indefinitely open system of identities, the relationships between ontology and metaphysics, and the logic of research.
This essay of descriptive metaphysics intends to explain why we sometimes have troubles about the identity of objects. The basic idea is that, in judging about the identity of objects, three different criteria are usually used: continuity in space-time, identity of material parts and identity of structure. When these three criteria agree each other, we respond positively or negatively to the question regarding the identity between two objects. However, when one criterion does not agree with the other two, no definite answer to the question about the identity of the objects is available.
Network theory provides a suitable framework to model the structure of languages as complex systems with deep relations between their components. Based on a network automatically built from a Latin dependency treebank that includes works of Thomas Aquinas, this paper applies methods for network analysis to show the key role of the verb sum (to be) in the overall structure of the network. Further, the most frequent lemmas that stand either in the subject or in the nominal predicate relation with the lemma sum in the input data are reported and discussed.
The article puts the origin of the expression «metafisica classica» in a course given by Marino Gentile at the Università Cattolica on 1934-35, where this expression is referred to the demonstration of the unmoved mover developed by Aristotle. Then the article briefly compares three formulations of the «metafisica classica», which have been proposed respectively by S. Vanni Rovighi, G. Bontadini and M. Gentile, stressing the advantages offered by the last one. Finally it illustrates the further developments of M. Gentile’s position proposed by the author himself.
Metaphysics, classic or modern, questions reason, which, by nature, seeks the foundation of the sensitive and intellectual realities we experience in our existences. The idea of a foundation traditionally takes the form of an antecedent reality, whether a priori or archaeological, and is expressed in different terms, such as «cause», or «principle», or «origin». Do they have the same meaning? Do they not, rather, express specific and different aspects of this foundation, which do not exclude, but rather complement each other within the idea of freedom?
In this article I consider the possibilities and the modalities of saying the infinite by the finite consciousness. Moving from the intuition of the divine’s primitiveness and from the phenomenological observation of the relation’s universal value I analyze the symbolic consciousness. By saying itself, it refers to Other in a circularity between unconditional and conditioned that predispose to the deep listening of Being.
In this article, I want to offer an interpretation of the arguments that Charles Taylor made in The Politics of Recognition (1992) and reflect on their significance for the theme of identity and citizenship. I suggest that the essay left a number of important questions not only unanswered, but largely unasked – in particular concerning the significance of the international dimension of recognition. I then suggest that much of Taylor’s later work (especially his volume A Secular Age, 2007) does provide a rather different way on integrating this perspective into the framework offered by The Politics of Recognition and that, in this respect, his work since that essay has, in fact, deepened and enriched his more strictly political philosophy: the liberal elements that defined the earlier argument have become more qualified and the emphasis on particularity has become greater and more pluralistic.
The aim of this brief reply to Renggerʼs paper is to develop a critique of the so-called ʻcode fetishismʼ in the moral, social, and political sphere. After a brief analysis of the debate between Charles Taylor and Bernard Williams, I focus, first, on Taylor’s reflections on Ivan Illich's interpretation of the parable of the Good Samaritan. Then, I analyze the challenges that emerge from such interpretation, particularly those concerning identity and citenzship. Finally, I consider some questions about the link between nomolatry and political power.
The article discusses the issue of the anthropological foundation of democracy. The Author criticizes the thesis of J. Rawls - or rather a certain interpretation of his thought - that defines democracy as a simple formal procedure, preferring the view that democracy is a system that is based on a substantive content (philosophical and / or Religious). The author identifies the content of values (for other accepted also by Rawls, if interpreted more thoroughly than usual) in a precise anthropological principle: the idea of man as a «person free and equal» and therefore with absolute value . After showing how this idea, which is of Christian origin, has the character of «concrete universal» and is universally available, the conclusion is that a democratic political system can not survive without an adequate moral foundation. This does not mean abandoning completely the formalization procedure that, after having removed its claim to absoluteness, is used as a principle of universalization of a precise anthropological content.
This contribution focuses on Marco Cangiotti’s critical lecture of John Rawls’s theory of justice, as it appears from the three most important works of american philosopher: A Theory of Justice, Political Liberalism and The Law of Peoples. Cangiotti highlights that the rawlsian elimination of comprehensive doctrines from the public space and their conservation only into the private dimension hids the proposal of priority of political liberal ideal of political neutralism from the conceptions of good, reached by the statement of equivalence between «political» and «state».
This paper focuses on the question of whether the inclusion of religions in the public sphere is compatible with the neutralist conception of democracies. It argues that it is possible to justify this inclusion, provided that two conditions are satisfied: 1) translation and conversion from the private use of religious logos to the public use of juridical logos; 2) broadening the scope of public reason, in order to pay attention to different standards of argumentation, especially in reference to expressive registers of communication.
The aim of this paper is to discuss Ferry’s views on deliberative democracy. Particularly, it deals with the contentious role of religion in the public sphere of contemporary post-secular societies. How can we legitimate this inclusion? Is it possible to justify the compatibility between «religious convictions» and the so-called «public reason»? The article argues that Ferry’s suggestion of a «perlaborative» democracy can be a valid argument. «Perlaboration», the French translation of Freud’s term Durcharbeitung, involves a process of reciprocal adjustment between religions and public reason: on the one hand, religious convictions in pluralistic democratic debate are called to accept the perspective of argumentative discussion; on the other hand, the public debate needs to be inclusive of different standards of justification, like narrative reasoning and story-telling, which are typical of religious citizens.
According to the leading paradigm of political philosophy, the State should be neutral about truth and the good, in order to allow all citizens to do what they desire at the highest possible degree. This view is recommended for its claimed merit of allowing a mild form of secularism. This paper contends that secularism cannot be kept in this milder form, since a commitment to truth and to what is perceived as good is unavoidable in political decision making agencies. This conclusion is argued for on the grounds of considerations about human action, which counter key assumptions of the leading paradigm. The conclusion leads also to novel consideration about pluralism and neutrality.
The political authority must tolerate the evil acts, if they are slightly detrimental to the common good, in order to protect freedom and to allow the realization of virtuous acts. Moral pluralism can be sometimes a bad thing, but other times it can propitiate the truth’s discovery. Virtues and vices of a subject can affect him in the public sphere and a right society needs virtues: it is not enough to ensure legal mechanisms and various procedures of control.
From patient to citizen consumer: the theme of subjectivity, which in bioethics is latent in the discourse on autonomy and self-fulfillment, becomes topical again in the debate on Human Enhancement. Against the background of evolutionary theories, from the meta-physical imprint, there is hypothesised the transition from liberation from illness and pain to the liberation from normality and the human condition itself. The article questions the significance of this project, which delegates to the biotechnology market the answer to the question about the meaning of identity and human existence.
This paper aims to analyze the posthuman relatively to a central problem of philosophy and morality: what it means to live a real life. The response of the posthuman consists in the statement that a real life passes through conciliation, basically biological, of man with his animality. Some philosophers, especially Kojève and Foucault, propose that this necessary reconciliation can be realized in a totally different way from that proposed by the posthuman.
Despite being in crisis, the subject has not disappeared and in bioethics it emerges with an inescapably laden veritative. All the projects which substantiate reflection arise, in fact, from a sort of dissatisfaction with what human being is, his actual condition, his present. Therefore, the crisis of the subject ends up being hidden in some respects, and amplified in others by technology. Insofar as it searches for ‘another’ human condition, the latter has a melancholic course and the human being who places trust on it instead of overcoming his crisis, ultimately uncovers its real nature. Placing this bioethical reflection in relation to the fascinating meditation that Michel Foucault proposed of the path of the Cynics and individual sovereignty, the present contribution aims to outline a response to the crisis of contemporary subjectivity worthy of human imperfection.
For Hannah Arendt life is in itself extraneous to the artificial world, but there is no doubt that scientific efforts reveal that there is now in man a desire to ‘escape’, of near immortality which is shown in the attempt to create life in a test tube. For Arendt the introduction of the artificial in the procreative act entails however, the risk of transforming birth into a technique imposing a practice of social control aimed at implementing a project for superior humanity. Hence the crisis of natality as a spontaneous and natural category, as well as the violent and forced change of the representation of origin. Frozen life does however inevitably wound the human person. To alter the germ line, moreover, is not a neutral action, without ethical reflection; even less so is the modification of genetic heritage. What is violated in procreative engineering is in fact the right of new generations, and at one time of the human person, to have an open future.
The article discusses the views of such authors as Dennett, Metzinger and Churchland, who dissolve the ontological reality of the self and of human persons. It is argued that, to defend the view according to which persons are part of the furniture of the world, the Cartesian view of the self, as an absolutely self-transparent and self-sufficient reality, must be abandoned. Persons should be viewed as inherently embodied and essentially related to others. They are biological bodies endowed with consciousness and with a first-person perspective: as such, they emerge from their biological bases, even though they cannot abstract from it.
A part of philosophy attentive to research in the field of neurosciences tends to eliminate the subject dissolving it in an illusion or an artificial convention. These are issues that accord well with some strings of post-modernity which see the consistency of the subject collapse in favor of a fragmented and nomadic identitary reality. The text briefly addresses three fundamental ethical and anthropological questions connected to these theses: the inescapability of the subject, postulated by the same assumptions of its illusoriness; the need for a clarification of the difference between the psychological and ontological subject, in order to avoid confusing the levels of investigation and the question of the identity of the subject with the connected but distinct question of the mind-body relationship; the repercussion in the ethical and political sphere of the loss of the subject to the subsequent creation of imputability without responsibility. Lastly, it shows how the question of the dissolution of the subject is often the result of a unilateral emphatisation of the body that is resolved paradoxically by the denial of its role in personal identity.
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