Not Being God

Not Being God: A Collaborative Autobiography

GIANNI VATTIMO
with PIERGIORGIO PATERLINI
Translated by WILLIAM MCCUAIG
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 200
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/vatt14720
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  • Book Info
    Not Being God
    Book Description:

    Gianni Vattimo, a leading philosopher of the continental school, has always resisted autobiography. But in this intimate memoir, the voice of Vattimo as thinker, political activist, and human being finds its expression on the page. With Piergiorgio Paterlini, a noted Italian writer and journalist, Vattimo reflects on a lifetime of politics, sexual radicalism, and philosophical exuberance in postwar Italy. Turin, the city where he was born and one of the intellectual capitals of Europe (also the city in which Nietzsche went mad), forms the core of his reminiscences, enhanced by fascinating vignettes of studying under Hans Georg Gadamer, teaching in the United States, serving as a public intellectual and interlocutor of Habermas and Derrida, and working within the European Parliament to unite Europe.

    Vattimo's status as a left-wing faculty president paradoxically made him a target of the Red Brigades in the 1970s, causing him to flee Turin for his life. Left-wing terrorism did not deter the philosopher from his quest for social progress, however, and in the 1980s, he introduced a daring formulation called "weak thought," which stripped metaphysics, science, religion, and all other absolute systems of their authority. Vattimo then became notorious both for his renewed commitment to the core values of Christianity (he was trained as a Catholic intellectual) and for the Vatican's denunciation of his views.

    Paterlini weaves his interviews with Vattimo into an utterly candid first-person portrait, creating a riveting text that is destined to become one of the most compelling accounts of homosexuality, history, politics, and philosophical invention in the twentieth century.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51957-1
    Subjects: Philosophy, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. ANALOGIES
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Piergiorgio Paterlini
  4. 1 INCIPIT
    (pp. 1-4)

    My dear Stefano,

    Does growing older ease the pain of living? Does it make us less capable of suffering, and so of loving and experiencing passion? Does it make us more cynical, harder, less sensitive? I ask myself this today, at the onset of my old age.

    I fear that the answer is yes, and I reproach myself for it.

    On my seventieth birthday I spent the day—you weren’t there, as usual, I note with a touch of bitterness, but with much greater tenderness for you, as you know, and acceptance of your being so young and beautiful—I...

  5. 2 LAST THINGS
    (pp. 5-6)

    No, I have no fear of death. My own death has almost no importance to me.

    The really scandalous death you have to bear isn’t your own, it’s that of others close to you.

    Gianpiero’s death scandalizes me. Sergio’s death scandalizes me. So does my mother’s, my aunt’s, my sister’s. The uncompletedness of their lives.

    Sergio wrote a few important things in art history, and Gianpiero some beautiful books in comparative literature: these are the things I regret they were unable to bring to fruition.

    I am simply unable to imagine that death is the end of everything.

    It’s my...

  6. 3 CLOSENESS
    (pp. 7-8)

    Every Sunday I go to the cemetery—the Cimitero Monumentale, near here—where the tombstones of Gianpiero and Sergio are, one above the other, and an empty slot waiting for me. I feel at peace. I continue to feel a great closeness to them, something that doesn’t happen to me with anyone else, not even with my mother or sister.

    When I saw my sister dead, in that absurd bed at the Maria Vittoria Hospital, I really thought: look, she’s in another world now, in another time; she’s closer to Julius Caesar than to me.

    With Gianpiero and Sergio I’ve ...

  7. 4 THE UNTIED SHOELACE
    (pp. 9-11)

    I’ve lived through some tough times. I’ve heard bombs falling overhead. Air-raid sirens. When I was five I was already going to school, and I recall one day when we had to race for the bomb shelter. I had one shoelace undone, and I was in real trouble because we had to run and I couldn’t tie my shoes by myself. A little girl helped me.

    Another night it was a miracle I didn’t get blown away along with my whole family. By chance we were in the shelter beside our own. Next morning we came out and our house ...

  8. 5 RORSCHACH TEST
    (pp. 12-13)

    At the Liceo Classico Gioberti, a high school for the humanities, our professor liked history, not philosophy. For a textbook, he had chosen the one with the fewest pages.

    I, however, had my own personal master. Apart from school. A Thomist, an ultra-Thomist: Monsignor Pietro Caramello. A man who thought it was too progressive even to call himself a neo-Thomist. He used to protest that he was a Thomist period, forget the “neo.” He edited the works of Saint Thomas for the publisher Marietti, and he was the chaplain of the Sindone (the Shroud of Turin), practically a retainer of...

  9. 6 PLATEAU ROSA
    (pp. 14-16)

    My great master in university was Luigi Pareyson. Maestro and lifelong friend.

    In my university years, I didn’t yet know what to think. I dallied with the Thomism of Caramello and with Pareyson’s philosophy, and like many left-wing Catholics at that time I read Emmanuel Mounier and Jacques Maritain, looking for a way out of the jaws of the trap formed by liberal capitalism and the bureaucratized communism of the Soviet Union. In short, I didn’t want to be identified either as a liberal or a Marxist. And—like Maritain—I was especially interested in criticizing the dogmas of modernity....

  10. 7 BEING
    (pp. 17-19)

    Not only have we forgotten what Being means, we have forgotten that we have forgotten. Heidegger places this sentence from Plato’s Sophist at the beginning of his Being and Time, the book with which he forced himself onto the attention of the philosophical world and the general culture at the end of the 1920s.

    Heidegger reads Nietzsche, and as he does, he reconstructs the history of Plato’s Ideas down to modernity, to today, meaning down to positivistic scientific experimentation, which for Heidegger is the height of the forgetting of Being.

    I began to worry at this problem, and it’s the...

  11. 8 EPOCHS
    (pp. 20-21)

    There is something else that stirs my emotions and makes me feel a connection to Martin Heidegger.

    At a certain point I began to read Michel Foucault (but you know, when you read Foucault, more than anything else you invent what you think he meant to say, because you grasp little or nothing) —anyway, I was reading Foucault and thinking about Theodor Adorno’s “epochs,” the fact that he often speaks of “constellations.”

    Heidegger, too, imagines history as flashes. Sudden illuminations. Occurrences. (The noun in Italian is accadimenti, literally things that befall, that come about, that take place. And the Italian...

  12. 9 THE IMPOSSIBLE RETURN
    (pp. 22-24)

    So Heidegger “regrets” that we have forgotten Being. But he doesn’t see clearly how to get out of this. What to do?

    Years later I succeeded in giving a relatively full answer of my own, going beyond Heidegger while remaining faithful to him in substance. Above all, I came to understand the moments at which the great German philosopher gives in to nostalgia and imagines a possible return of Being that wouldn’t openly contradict everything he has thought and written, and the points at which, on the contrary, he supplies a possible confirmation of my “nihilistic” reading.

    Right from that...

  13. 10 DEBUT
    (pp. 25-26)

    On November 28, 1961, I was invited to give an important lecture at the Biblioteca Filosofica of Turin, an association directed by Augusto Guzzo, who had as it happens been the master of Luigi Pareyson.

    Back then, such occasions were real events, events for the whole city, not just academic affairs. All the most important philosophers, the monstres sacres, were in the front row: Nicola Abbagnano, Pietro Chiodi, Carlo Mazzantini, Augusto Guzzo, Pietro Rossi, Carlo Augusto Viano. Luigi Pareyson, naturally. And Norberto Bobbio. And Michele Pellegrino, who taught ancient Christian literature, and was later to become one of the most...

  14. 11 ON THE BANKS OF THE NECKAR
    (pp. 27-29)

    I haven’t yet told you why and in what sense and in what way I was a Catholic, from age twelve to age twenty-four or twenty-five. But I know that I stopped being one when I no longer read the Italian newspapers. My religious commitment was so much interwoven with my philosophical and political commitment that, when I lost contact with Italian politics, boom, it was all over, painlessly, just like it began. Even if a lot of passion was consumed in the interval.

    After graduating, I won the prestigious Humboldt Fellowship for two consecutive years. So I went to...

  15. 12 “MAD, UTTERLY DESPERATE STUDY”
    (pp. 30-31)

    In 1964 Pareyson shifted to theoretical philosophy, and I took over the course in esthetics. At age twenty-eight I was one of the youngest lecturers in the whole Italian university system.

    In 1967 my book Ipotesi su Nietzsche (Hypothesis on Nietzsche) came out; I was dumped by a girl I was very seriously engaged to; Palazzo Campana, the heart of the University of Turin, was occupied at the end of November, and I was initially unsure what to think about the student movement; Michele Pellegrino became archbishop of Turin and this had a picaresque impact on my public/private life (it...

  16. 13 VAMPIRES
    (pp. 32-32)

    “Is someone here a vampire? How sure are we that nobody in this lecture hall is a vampire?” I often put this question to my classes as soon as I walk in.

    Because, has there ever been a scientific experiment demonstrating that vampires don’t exist? No. The moment never came when someone explained once and for all that vampires don’t exist. At a certain point, we simply forgot it. We don’t bother with it anymore; it doesn’t worry us. That problem went out of fashion.

    This is an example of “historical paradigm.” There are epochs in which people really believe...

  17. 14 PARADIGMS
    (pp. 33-36)

    It’s the end of metaphysics and the end of Thomism, but it’s also the swansong of positivism: truth cannot be the objective mirroring of factual data.

    Already in Being and Time—and this is one of the fundamental keys to my understanding of Heidegger—he no longer believed in truth as conformity and correspondence. The scholastics had defined truth as the intellect in conformity to the thing. There’s the rub. If the world has shrunk to the results of scientific experimentation, then the real world is no more. If true Being is only what can be planned and calculated, then...

  18. 15 POPULAR NOVEL
    (pp. 37-39)

    I well remember July 14, 1948, because my sister was on vacation in Cetraro the day Antonio Pallante opened fire on Palmiro Togliatti. Disturbances at Rome, deaths at Naples, Livorno, Genoa.

    Here in Turin a group of workers held Vittorio Valletta, the CEO of Fiat, prisoner in his office. The army was getting ready to step in. The next day, June 15, the telephones weren’t working and the trains weren’t moving. Italy was split in two at Bologna. Then De Gasperi and Pope Pius XII telephoned the Italian cycling team competing in the Tour de France. Gino Bartali was twenty-two...

  19. 16 ORATORY
    (pp. 40-41)

    I am the scion of institutions. Religious ones in my case. Religious corporations educated me.

    My father died when I was barely sixteen months old. My aunt was already living on her own, my mother worked all day, my sister likewise. I studied and lived in the street. At this point the “De Gasperi” sisters stepped in, two women who owned a small grocery nearby, at the corner of Via Maria Vittoria and Via Bogino. They got their nickname because they were ultra-Catholic. “Why doesn’t this boy go to the oratory?”

    So I began to frequent the oratory of San...

  20. 17 CATHOLIC ACTION
    (pp. 42-43)

    So there you have my Catholic roots. In 1954, when I finished high school, I was already the diocesan student delegate.

    It was summertime, and I had finished high school with excellent results. I set out for the Falzarego Pass with a group of Catholic students, of whom I was the leader, for ten days of school camp at one of the numerous former fascist youth organization colonies, some of which had been handed over to the Communists and others to the Catholics. A fine band of individuals, some smarter than me. Like Michele Straniero, for example.

    And there we ...

  21. 18 BEYOND THE HORIZON
    (pp. 44-47)

    I’ve already mentioned my eternal need to work. Study and work. To pay the bills, not because of ideology; I wasn’t yet acquainted with Mao’s little red book.

    That summer, the summer of 1954, the summer I graduated from high school, I was at the point of going to work for Generali, the insurance company. I had filled out an application because I needed a job. I consoled myself with the thought that Kafka too had worked for Assicurazioni Generali. In the worst case, I told myself, that’s a great example.

    During those months the RAI—which had started to...

  22. 19 WORKING-CLASS SCHOOL
    (pp. 48-49)

    So I dropped the RAI and went to teach in the Casa di Carità Arti e Mestieri, an interagency school run by the Unione Cat-echisti del Santissimo Crocifisso (Catechistic Union of the Holiest Cross) and by Maria Santissima Immacolata, a suborder of the Fratelli delle Scuole Cristiane (Brothers of the Christian Schools) that served the working classes, in the sense that they taught trades. But there was a cultural component. I taught culture, religion, and civics.

    The kids who attended the school were from the working-class outskirts, Michelin workers mostly.

    I studied Thomas Aquinas and prepared religion lectures on that....

  23. 20 DEMONIC POSSESSION
    (pp. 50-51)

    Why did the Fratelli delle Scuole Cristiane decide to get rid of me when I was twenty-three? Because I had started to frequent trade unionists, take part in worker strikes, picket factory gates. I picketed with the guys from the labor organization CISL at the Avigliana ironworks, for example.

    One day there was a demonstration in front of the prefecture, nothing controversial, it was against apartheid in South Africa, but there was a bit of commotion. The police blew the thing up, calling it an assault on the prefecture. Apparently someone on our side had proposed that we charge the ...

  24. 21 ULCER AND MAO
    (pp. 52-52)

    The ulcer began in Germany, and it gradually got worse. A bleeding ulcer. Early in 1968, while I was at a philosophical convention in Rome, I had to go to bed and stay there, immobile, for two weeks. What could I do? Be patient and read.

    Back in Turin I was admitted to hospital, at the Molinette. They operated.

    Away from the university and the daily grind I relaxed a bit, began to unwind.

    I left the hospital and convalesced at San Remo with my mother, my brother-in-law, and my sister.

    I read continually, stuff I hadn’t had time or...

  25. 22 THE DREAM OF A THING
    (pp. 53-54)

    Who can ever recount summer afternoons, the lassitude and the languor of certain summer Sundays? Nothing else is so close to the surface of the skin, alive and desperate at the same time.

    There was a boy who was my colleague at the Casa di Carità, a swimming champion, beautiful as an angel, strong. I passed tormenting Sundays with him, reading him The Good Person of Sichuan.

    One afternoon I said to him, “Let’s go rowing on the Po.” We got on a bus. There was just me, him, and a mother with a young daughter who looked a bit...

  26. 23 TAKE A KING AND THRASH HIM
    (pp. 55-56)

    The first great loves have also been examples for me as well. All the unconsummated ones, I mean.

    Between the fourth and fifth grades in middle school, I desperately desired a classmate named Renzo. I went to Rome with him during the holy year in 1950. We were fourteen. We slept at Santa Maria where the cardinals live now, in cots separated by curtains. We talked all night, telling each other we were in love with the same little girl, but male friendship came first, so it was “I leave her to you.” “No, I leave her to you.”

    In...

  27. 24 PORTA PALAZZO
    (pp. 57-59)

    I’ve never taken myself too seriously. And—Sergio always criticized me for this—I’ve never had a particular predilection for details, and so never taken much care over them. I haven’t kept a diary. I envy Alessandro Galante Garrone, whose biography I read recently. He always wrote everything down, day by day, minute by minute. A great historian, of himself too. Not me. I don’t even have a complete archive of the things I have written, or that others have written about me. Now that my students Mario Cedrini, Alberto Martinengo, and Santiago Zabala are organizing the publication of my ...

  28. 25 FROM HEIDEGGER TO MARX
    (pp. 60-60)

    This may seem incredible, but if you work through Heidegger you can easily get to Marx. Heidegger’s forgetting of Being can be likened to Marx’s alienation and Lukács’s reification. In at least two ways: you can’t change anything by yourself, so to sort things out you have to make a revolution; and the forgetting of Being as Heidegger thinks it is what Marxism explains with the division of labor: you yourself don’t enjoy all the fruits of your labor, and a society is erected in which everything is commodified, including you as a worker.

    When Heidegger says that there is...

  29. 26 THE MOVEMENT
    (pp. 61-63)

    Becoming a Maoist (I say this half in jest and half seriously), discovering that as a Heideggerian I was also a Hegelian-Marxist, didn’t make me a convert to the student movement overnight. Far from it.

    My stance as an anticapitalist romantic made me think: the capitalist world is a big rubbish heap, but these people here, these well-bred students, will never change anything, much less make the revolution.

    And to be honest, the slogans that got them worked up made me laugh. For example: “We want university departments, not institutes.” Laugh? No, that was really stupid. Okay, the institutes were...

  30. 27 STATE OF GRACE
    (pp. 64-65)

    When I went into a store with him, it was as if they had opened a skylight.

    His name was Julio, and he was a Peruvian dancer. Utterly beautiful, gentle, sharp, and sweet. And very sensual. It was he who taught me that in bed you can, you must, be completely free. It was with him that I experienced passion, love for another person that is also the maximum of desire. It was his smile that first of all and more than anything moved me. When the first thing I do is look someone in the eyes, that’s the sign...

  31. 28 THE BICYCLE LEFT BEHIND
    (pp. 66-69)

    Hegel used to say: decide to get married first, then look for a wife. That’s how it was with Gianpiero. A choice. Just as my sister’s marriage was a rational choice, following an unhappy grand passion.

    If you marry for passion, it ends badly.

    Before him, apart from Julio, I had had “friends.” But they were those terrifying things I did at night. In hiding. Even from myself. My heart was in pieces when Julio left.

    A friend introduced me to Gianpiero. From then on, until his death, for twenty-four years, we were always together.

    He wasn’t even twenty, thirteen...

  32. 29 LUKÁCS’S SLIPPERS
    (pp. 70-72)

    Gianpiero was a Germanist. He studied a great deal of German literature with Claudio Magris. Magris was his master, in a manner of speaking. About Danube, Gianpiero used to say, “Yes, interesting . . . it’s all cribbed from Baedeker.”

    So Gianpiero was headed for a brilliant career as a Germanist.

    At Easter in 1969 or 1970—I don’t recall—we went with two friends of ours, Paola and Giorgio, to Budapest in a car. And we went to visit Gyorgy Lukács. We rang him up, and a maid answered; then he came to the telephone, and I asked him...

  33. 30 FORCED OUT
    (pp. 73-75)

    I hit forty in 1976. It was the year Heidegger died (I had just edited and translated a collection of his essays and speeches). It was the year Gianpiero and I decided to abandon beautiful but inconvenient Valsalice and come back into town to live, so I was looking for an apartment. And it was the year of the national elections.

    Not just any elections. The eighteen-year-olds were voting for the first time, and after the clamorous defeat of the moderates in the divorce

    referendum of 1974 and the debacle of the Christian Democrats in the local elections of 1975,...

  34. 31 IN AMERICA
    (pp. 76-78)

    In 1972 a Swedish professor from the University of Uppsala, whom I had met at an international conference, suggested that I replace him for a semester (it means four months there) in America. He requested it as a favor, but I jumped for joy. Imagine, teaching in the United States! Salary: $12,000 for the semester.

    I already knew the language well, I read English, but to use it for teaching . . . I took an intensive course in English, expensive too, with the tapes, the headphones, everything. And off I went. Or rather off we went, because Gianpiero came...

  35. 32 THE TWO BOYS
    (pp. 79-80)

    Sergio Mamino came from Mondovì. He was passionate about art, and to study art at that time you had to enroll in the faculty of letters and philosophy. He had discovered that his president was openly gay, and he wanted to meet me. He had also discovered that I lived up on the hill and had sent me a postcard at Valsalice from a vacation spot. I couldn’t figure out who this Sergio was who was writing me.

    Then in Turin he showed up in person. Meanwhile Gianpiero and I had moved to the attic in Via Mazzini. Sergio lived ...

  36. 33 DEATH THREATS
    (pp. 81-83)

    It was the period when the Brigate Rosse, the Red Brigades, were killing people at the rate of one per day. Someone would wake up in the morning and . . . bang. The mayor, Diego Novelli, and the president of the Piedmont region, Aldo Viglione, were doing nothing but attending funerals.

    It was at Turin that the first trial of the BR was going to be “celebrated,” to use the curious Italian idiom: the historic nucleus of the BR, Curcio and Franceschini.

    On November 16, 1977, they killed Carlo Casalegno.

    On March 8, 1978, the trial started.

    I was...

  37. 34 REVOLUTIONARY MORALISM
    (pp. 84-85)

    One of my students went to jail for terrorism, too, found on some list, I believe. I don’t think he’d pulled a trigger yet, but he was certainly one of the many who were semiclandestine, one of those pretending to be a worker: he would leave the house at 6:00 AM with his lunch pail, to make people think he was headed to the factory, but he didn’t go there; I don’t know exactly where he went.

    He was drop-dead beautiful. But he had such revolutionary moralism. . . . He wrote letters from jail as though he were under...

  38. 35 WEAK THOUGHT
    (pp. 86-88)

    Weak thought got its name, pensiero debole, only in autumn 1979, and it became the title of a collection of essays—it seems incredible now, when everyone is shunning it like the plague—edited by Pier Aldo Rovatti and me in 1983.

    In autumn 1979, more than fifteen years after my first “debilist” reading of Heidegger, the idea of the history of Being as that of its growing lighter and more distant assumed a firm contour in my mind. And as time went on, so did all that it entailed, and was still to yield in the years ahead.

    I...

  39. 36 ROOTS
    (pp. 89-90)

    My father Raffaele was born in 1885. He was a Calabrese peasant who emigrated to the north. He arrived in Turin in about 1910.

    He was a policeman. One lasting memory I have—I don’t know how, it must have been a phrase I heard in the house later—is that some evenings Papa “era di cinta” (“had perimeter duty”). I heard it as “incinta” (pregnant) and didn’t understand it at all. It meant he was on duty outside the jail. I practically never knew him. I didn’t have time; he died of pulmonitis (like my sister later) when I...

  40. 37 TERRACES
    (pp. 91-95)

    If I let the memories flow, I realize that some happy and important moments in my life have had to do with terraces: the terrace at Cetraro, the terrace of the house in Heidelberg, the terrace at Santorini. Even here in Via Po, where I live now, there’s a small terrace full of plants.

    But there is another terrace that has caused, and still causes me, a bit of hurt as well as anger, a metaphorical yet very concrete terrace, the “Roman terrace,” which is a familiar Italian codeword for a certain blend of social, cultural, and intellectual snobbery.

    I...

  41. 38 A SAFE PAIR OF HANDS
    (pp. 96-97)

    When it comes to personalities I don’t esteem, I get irritated, but in the end I lose interest. Early on Pareyson warned me about another aspect of power: “As long as you don’t occupy a real place in the world, everyone’s your friend; when you do start gaining a place, watch out.” Indeed. Indeed I can’t even get one of my students an academic job anymore. Because you need alliances, and I’m a “maestro without portfolio.”

    But with the others, with the real “greats,” with persons for whom I feel admiration and gratitude, I’ve discovered that inside I bear a...

  42. 39 THE VOLUNTEER FOR WEAK THOUGHT
    (pp. 98-99)

    Weak thought was officially born in autumn 1979, and that same winter I met Richard Rorty, a philosopher and a friend who became increasingly important for me.

    I was invited to a meeting on the postmodern at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee (that’s right, Jeffrey Dahmer’s town).

    Richard Rorty heard me speak and told me, “I’d like a copy of your paper.” I was flattered. But better yet, he gave me a copy of his book Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature.

    I went back to Italy, finished my lectures at the university, left for Santorini on vacation, and...

  43. 40 THE WORLD
    (pp. 100-105)

    To crisscross Italy, to travel round the world, to meet thousands of persons of every sort and in every continent, to give lectures, conference papers, debates—all this has been one of the nicest, luckiest parts of my life, and still is. It comprises an almost infinite spectrum of sensations: fatigue, amusement, gratification, affection, emotion, worry, novelty, intellectual stimulus.

    One of my first conference papers outside Italy, maybe the first period, was at the Sorbonne in Paris, no less, where I met Mikel Dufrenne.

    Then, in July 1964, I wasn’t even thirty, Gilles Deleuze invited me to the international conference...

  44. 41 IN HISTORY
    (pp. 106-107)

    Heidegger thinks that Being is not structure but occurrence, that which eventuates in history in different cultures, in different epochs. He puts a lot of emphasis on the notion of epoch. Epoch is historical epoch, but also—from the Greek—suspension. A historical epoch is a freezing of the constellations, an interval in the movement of the heavens. In the epochs, different horizons open up, with different truth criteria. Sometimes it’s believed that there are vampires, other times that there are atoms.

    How are historical epochs inaugurated, according to Heidegger? For him the opening, inaugurating events are the great works...

  45. 42 IN HUMAN CONVERSATION
    (pp. 108-110)

    Among the passages from Hölderlin cited most frequently by Heidegger, there’s a particularly beautiful one: “Because mankind has named many gods since we have been a colloquy.”

    If Being eventuates in history, it eventuates in historical languages, and so in language, in the dialogue among humans, in the human conversation.

    This word “conversation”—which I like a lot more than “dialogue”—has recently been foregrounded by Santiago Zabala. I find it a brilliant intuition, drawn a bit from Rorty, a bit from Gadamer, but a fascinating novelty. These openings occur in language, in the historical languages.

    Here you can see ...

  46. 43 BARBARIANS
    (pp. 111-113)

    Postmodernity is the milieu where what Heidegger predicted in his essay “The Age of the World Picture” is realized. It’s an important essay for me.

    In that essay he portrays the modern society of his epoch, the epoch of scientific specialization. Sciences grow more specialized, so we are always learning more and more, but gradually these specializations construct images of the world irreconcilable among themselves. So that in the end there’s something like an explosion, an impossibility of having an image of the world. In my view (although Heidegger never said so), this is what the postmodern is: it’s the...

  47. 44 SCIENCE’S POSITIVE SIDE
    (pp. 114-115)

    There is a page in Heidegger that I have twisted and turned in every possible way, because it’s the only one in which he says that maybe the new event of Being, an eventuation of Being different from metaphysics, can come about in the ensemble of the technological world, which may be the extreme point of damnation, the most total forgetting of Being, but might also turn out to be a first flash of the event.

    Surprising. Gadamer personally confirmed to me that when Heidegger made that statement during a lecture, it wasn’t just an offhand remark. Indeed, he was...

  48. 45 OBITUARIES
    (pp. 116-117)

    Gianpiero was only forty-three when he died, shortly after Christmas 1992.

    Sergio died at forty-seven, just before Easter 2003.

    Julio died not long after Gianpiero.

    I practically never knew my father; he died when I was sixteen months old.

    My mother died twenty years ago now, in 1980, at age eighty.

    My sister Liliana died three years after our mother, in 1983; she was only fifty-three. An absurd death, a case of the flu that turned into pulmonitis and that nobody could diagnose or cure. The tragic fire in the Statuto movie theater happened just then, and when I was...

  49. 46 OBITUARIES TWO: CACCIARI
    (pp. 118-119)

    On the other hand, I wouldn’t know how to write an obituary of Massimo Cacciari. Nor of Umberto Eco, come to that. It won’t be necessary. I wish both of them a long life, and I hope to go before they do, even if I’m 120 years old. But I wouldn’t know what to write. I’ve never really understood what the devil it is Cacciari is saying or thinking.

    Once—many years ago—Cacciari sent an article to the Rivista di estetica, which I edited with Pareyson. Pareyson comes in and says to me, “Try reading this, will you, to...

  50. 47 OBITUARIES THREE: ECO
    (pp. 120-122)

    With Umberto Eco it’s a whole other story.

    Even though I couldn’t write his obit, because I don’t believe he has said anything new in philosophy. He has made advances in semiotics, but since I don’t understand anything about semiotics, I’d still be unable to write a word.

    Eco finished his degree with Pareyson before I did. He jumped through the same hoops I did. But our common master didn’t back him for a full professorship. Indeed, when I won the competition for the chair in esthetics, Eco was a participant.

    I tried to keep things cordial between Pareyson and...

  51. 48 UNDER A BAD SIGN
    (pp. 123-128)

    They say there comes a critical age for everyone. For some it’s their thirties, others their forties or their fifties. Not for me. To me that hasn’t happened. For me it’s been more like the seasons changing, from summer to winter, not an illumination but a darkening of the sky, an onset of overcast weather.

    After the idyllic years, our family life began to grow unhappy. The rivalry between Gianpiero and Sergio increased; it was as if they were older and younger brothers. Sergio sulked a lot. Gianpiero got angry. Only on vacation all together were we still happy, like...

  52. 49 WITH THE YOUNGER SON
    (pp. 129-130)

    If I hadn’t cultivated my dream of a multiple family. If I had behaved worse, been more jealous, more adamant . . . maybe Gianpiero wouldn’t have gone to that sauna in Nice, maybe he wouldn’t have caught AIDS. Sometimes I tell myself that. That is the regret I have concerning Gianpiero, my remorse. But I know that’s not really how things are. He and I were both going to saunas already before that.

    Concerning Sergio, on the other hand, my remorse is that I left him too much alone, especially after I was elected to the European Parliament in ...

  53. 50 THE FRANKFURT SCHOOL
    (pp. 131-133)

    Every time I go to Frankfurt my heart skips a beat. But then, it’s only been three years, or a bit more.

    When Sergio found out he had a tumor six centimeters in diameter on his left lung, I was leaving to give yet another lecture in Spain. It was February 2003.

    I said to him, “Calm down, we’ll see what can be done, it’s not over.” We began a round of visits to all the medical luminaries in Turin. And they all said, “It can’t be removed.” It was inoperable, so we had to try chemotherapy. But Sergio had...

  54. 51 THE RICH FIANCÉE
    (pp. 134-135)

    As you well know, I’ve always desired a family. Always.

    Right after the Heidelberg years I courted, and spent a lot of time with, a girl, a student of mine, whom I still see and who never married. She’s a psychoanalyst.

    She was pretty, but above all rich. That she was rich was important for me. My thinking was: only petit-bourgeois people have a myth of “authenticity,” because they can only afford one house. Rich people can take broader views. I thought that a haute-bourgeoise girl wouldn’t be so set on the notion that you had to be with her...

  55. 52 THE LITTLE OLD LADY IN NEW YORK
    (pp. 136-137)

    At a certain point, the industrialist Cesare Romiti was apparently looking for an “intellectual ally.” And he thought I was it. It was the time of the Alliance for Turin.

    One evening a woman who was a friend of mine gave a dinner for me, Romiti, and Marco Rivetti, the boss of Facis, one of the great enlightened industrialists of Turin: highly simpatico, an art connoisseur, very much villa-with-boys-in-Morocco and who knows where else in the world (but unlike other equally rich and famous men, he wasn’t married).

    I said some things to Romiti that were a bit extravagant, extravagant...

  56. 53 ALMOST A MAYOR
    (pp. 138-140)

    In the early 1990s, in 1993, shortly after Gianpiero’s death, politics, direct, strong commitment to politics came back to me, but in a much more direct and institutional way than when I was young.

    The Alliance for Turin was born, the local and regional elections were approaching, and people were starting to talk about civil society.

    They wanted me to run for mayor against Diego Novelli, the incumbent. He was running again as an extreme leftist, since the Democratic Party of the Left had washed its hands of him. God knows why. One more idiocy in my view. I had...

  57. 54 THE END OF PREHISTORY?
    (pp. 141-144)

    There isn’t much to tell about my firsthand political experience as a member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2004: the lunch where Gad Lerner and Luciano Segre proposed that I run, the slightly hypocritical maneuverings of Romano Prodi, the telephone call from Massimo D’Alema, a letter from me to which Piero Fassino didn’t even deign to respond with a raspberry, the telephone calls from Antonio Di Pietro every half hour, the improprieties of Marco Rizzo’s stooges. . . .

    For the subhistorical record: in the Turin district I was elected on the Left Democratic slate, together with Bruno...

  58. 55 JOACHIM OF FIORE
    (pp. 145-146)

    In 2005 I was invited to run for mayor of San Giovanni in Fiore, in Calabria, the Calabria where I had roots.

    In something I’d written, I had referred to Gioacchino da Fiore (Joachim of Fiore). Down there they have an institute of Gioacchino studies, a small journal on Gioacchino, and so on, and as soon as someone refers to Gioacchino they are all thrilled: our numbers have swollen by one!

    I went in September 2004 and found a group of really sharp young people. In the parish hall we talked about so many things: culture, theater, the future, philosophy....

  59. 56 AT A CERTAIN HOUR
    (pp. 147-148)

    Now I’ve gone back to being a libero, or “sweeper” in soccer parlance: in the newspapers, in Italy, around the world. Back to thinking, elaborating, writing. Being a university professor. I wouldn’t want that to be forgotten, because it’s not something residual to me. It’s my job, my primary commitment.

    Indeed, I’d like to be remembered as a professor who was generous and accessible, the way Pareyson was with me. I try. I strive to be accessible and welcoming. But I don’t believe I’ll ever succeed in supervising anyone the way Pareyson supervised me.

    When he died, fifteen years ago...

  60. 57 RETURN TO CHRISTIANITY
    (pp. 149-152)

    The ultimate and most scandalous chapter of my history—and it obviously didn’t come out of the blue—is that I became a Christian again.

    There are many overlapping reasons.

    I asked myself why it was that I adopted a “left” reading of Heidegger, that of “increasing lightness,” versus a “right” reading, because one does exist. (And here the reference is purely philosophical, to the Hegelian right and left, even though it was the Hegelian right that read Hegel as the restoration of traditional religiosity, whereas Marx and Feuerbach were out to cause trouble.) Purely because he seemed to me...

  61. 58 SOME REALITY, PLEASE
    (pp. 153-155)

    My new book will be on reality, and it will be an up-to-date manifesto on weak thought. On reality and the future.

    I’ve given some lectures at Leuven on this theme, and also my university course this year.

    I talk about the “Heidegger effect” and the “Nietzsche effect,” meaning the critique of the notion of reality in my two lifelong references, but I go farther, much farther. I show that the very notion of reality is violent.

    This new theoretical elaboration won’t be greeted any more warmly. Because there’s this pervasive need for realism and certainty right now. There’s a...

  62. 59 IF STALIN HAD BEEN A NIHILIST
    (pp. 156-158)

    I was already approaching these themes after having written La società trasparente, to the point that when a second edition was under consideration, I added a chapter on “the limits of derealization.”

    The idea is: let’s move toward a society in which image and reality are indistinguishable—the image given me by interpretation, that is.

    At the same time technology—and about this Adorno, the philosopher I was thinking of working on after I graduated, and whom Pareyson, God bless him, steered me away from, might be right—is headed toward such possibilities of control that it is unlikely that...

  63. 60 EVIL, WHAT A PITY
    (pp. 159-159)

    One of these days I will give a course in the university on the meaning of evil. I’ve been pondering it for a long time.

    Because in Credere di credere I maintain that the only meaningful use of the word peccato (sin) is when we say: “oh, che peccato” (“Oh, that’s too bad” or “Oh, what a pity”). In other words: “ogni lasciata è persa” (“Everything left is lost,” implying, “Never miss a chance to grab something for yourself when you can”). But every missed chance to do good is also a loss: I didn’t pay attention to that person...

  64. 61 IF I WEREN’T GOD
    (pp. 160-160)

    I’m seventy, and I ought to listen to you, my dear Stefano, when you say, “Give it a rest, pull the blinds down, quit worrying.” I’ll pretend I don’t know that you more than anyone depend on me, make requests, even demands.

    About Gianpiero, about Sergio—and about my mother, my sister, my aunt Angiolina—I no longer worry. But there are still so many people around me I care about. Maybe too many and maybe too much.

    I always think I have to provide, provide for everybody. I am the provider. But that would make me God.

    I think...

  65. 62 COMPLINE
    (pp. 161-161)

    Many accuse me of having cobbled together a Christianity the way I like it. So what? Am I supposed to live according to a religion I dislike?

    It’s true, I’ve lived religion primarily as a tranquilizer, something soothing, in recent decades. Where’s the harm?

    Ever since Gianpiero fell ill, I recite compline, the part of the breviary that ends the day, every evening before going to sleep. I still do so today.

    If Cacciari only knew! How he would rail at me from his lofty perch.

    A habit? A superstition? But superstition is the only serious thing one can cultivate...

  66. 63 THE TREASURE CHEST OF BEING
    (pp. 162-162)

    If we think of Being as that which illuminates things from the perspective of mankind, mankind located in time, mankind that inherits a language and modifies it, that projects itself, then Being and Time could be retitled Being Is Time. Being is temporality.

    Heidegger goes so far as to write that death is the treasure chest of Being. Death as the treasure chest of Being? Is that possible? Yes. Look, how many times can I alter my thinking over the course of a lifetime? Four, five, that’s about all. If I didn’t die, I’d always be clinging to the last...

  67. 64 FLASHES
    (pp. 163-164)

    Defeated on every front, I’ve never felt so free.

    Cesare Annibaldi (that’s right, the Fiat executive) said to me one day, repeating a brilliant witticism of Ennio Flaiano, “Failure has gone to your head.” That must be it.

    In the end, without ever having acknowledged it to myself so explicitly and so forcefully, I’ve sought freedom above all else. For me. For others. Perhaps more than love, even, more than fame and success certainly, more than power for sure, I have sought freedom. Knowing that one can be very much alone without being free, but it’s difficult to be truly...

  68. ENVOI
    (pp. 165-170)
  69. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. 171-172)
  70. INDEX
    (pp. 173-180)