Weakening Philosophy

Weakening Philosophy: Essays in Honour of Gianni Vattimo

Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 464
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  • Book Info
    Weakening Philosophy
    Book Description:

    Moving away from Jacques Derrida's deconstructionism and Paul Ricoeur's hermeneutics, and building on his experiences as a politician, Vattimo asks if it is still possible to speak of moral imperatives, individual rights, and political freedom. Acknowledging the force of Nietzsche's "God is dead," Vattimo argues for a philosophy of pensiero debole or "weak thinking" that shows how moral values can exist without being guaranteed by an external authority. His secularising interpretation stresses anti-metaphysical elements and puts philosophy into a relationship with postmodern culture.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-7714-5
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. 1 Introduction: Gianni Vattimo and Weak Philosophy
    (pp. 3-34)

    Gianni Vattimo is a world-renowned Italian philosopher. He has received the Max Planck Award for Humanities Sciences in 1992, the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic in 1996, the Hannah Arendt Prize for Political Thinking in 2002, and the President’s Medal from Georgetown University in 2006, and he has honorary doctorates from many universities. His best-known books areThe End of Modernity; The Adventure of Difference; The Transparent Society; Beyond Interpretation; Belief; Vocazione e responsabilità del filosofo (The vocation and responsibility of the philosopher ); After Christianity; Nihilism and Emancipation; Dialogue with Nietzsche; Religion,coedited with Jacques Derrida; and...

    • 2 Weak Thought and the Limits of Interpretation
      (pp. 37-56)

      To elaborate my position regarding the “weak thought” of Gianni Vattimo I am obliged to speak first about myself.

      In 1986 , I wrote an essay for a collection edited by Georges Duby on Latin thought, where I tried to identify the notion oflimitas the fundamental idea of latinity.¹ I realized that perhaps because of this essay, I had some years later entitled one of my booksThe Limits of Interpretation

      According to Greek rationalism – from Plato to Aristotle and beyond – to know is to know by a cause. Even to define God is to define a cause...

    • 3 Modern Moral Rationalism
      (pp. 57-76)

      There is a mode of thinking in modern moral philosophy that is perhaps most evident in analytical philosophy in the Anglo-Saxon world, but also influential elsewhere. Analytic philosophy has lots of good qualities. But one of its drawbacks is a tendency to narrowness on certain questions. And one of the most marked sites of this narrowness is in moral philosophy.

      The narrowness concerns more than just the range of doctrines considered, though it also consists in that. But more fundamentally, it has restricted the range of questions that it seems sensible to ask. In the end it has restricted our...

    • 4 Which Ontology after Metaphysics? Conversations with Gianni Vattimo and Richard Rorty
      (pp. 77-86)
      GIACOMO MARRAMAO and Robert T. Valgenti

      One of Gianni Vattimo’s indisputable accomplishments over the past three decades has been to carry forward the “urbanizing of Heidegger” (to use the famous expression of Jürgen Habermas) initiated by the hermeneutics of Hans-Georg Gadamer in his trulyepochemachendwork of 1960 –Truth and Method. To that end, Vattimo’s philosophical program – expressed by the very successful formula “weak thought,” but in my view more adequately summed up in the expression “ontology of decline” – has made crucial contributions to the international scene, thanks to the initial convergence and to the subsequent uninterrupted confrontation with the neopragmatism of Richard Rorty. Based on...

    • 5 The Human – Over and Over Again
      (pp. 87-109)

      The following remarks seek to relate Gianni Vattimo’s thought to modernist thinking. Did the author ofThe End of Modernitydepart from the modernist way of thinking, or does he remain its partisan? What boundaries are involved? How might they be crossed?

      Diderot formulated the fundamental axiom of modernist thinking in 1755 : “Man is the unique concept from which one must start and to which one must refer everything back.”¹ Diderot states this axiom when considering what the fundamental principle for the organization of the Encyclopedia should be. He is convinced that an approach based on the structure of...

    • 6 Can the Globalized World Be in-the-World?
      (pp. 110-116)

      “A shot heard ‘round the world’” – a phrase linked with the American Revolution and Bunker Hill – was often repeated after the American president John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 . Here was an event that marked the world, marked it with “shock and awe.” How could death come to such a young leader – very much in his prime, whose promise as president held a great sense of pride and hope for a new world? Cut off at this crucial moment, that hope for a new world came to an end. Around the world people would remember where they were...

    • 7 Deconstruction Is Not Enough: On Gianni Vattimo’s Call for “Weak Thinking”
      (pp. 117-130)

      Vattimo’s paper on weak thinking is strongly argued, at least in its general strategy.¹ He first describes the dialectical mode of philosophizing, then opposes it to the differential mode that “combats” dialectics while remaining “deeply complicitous” with it, and finally sublates both: weak ontology is “constructed not only by developing the discourse of difference, but also by recalling dialectics.” This is strong thinking indeed, perhaps unintendedly so. The Hegelian as well as the Heideggerian positions are to beaufgehoben,since ours is the time in which both modes of reappropriating the past have proved asthenic. They are elevated and at...

    • 8 Weak Thought 2004: A Tribute to Gianni Vattimo
      (pp. 131-146)
      PIER ALDO ROVATTI and Robert T. Valgenti

      I think that the most sincere tribute to a friend and thinker – one to whom I feel profoundly tied and with whom I have publicly shared a philosophical adventure in which I continue to believe – should return to the very grounds of our encounter, beginning with the so-called differences between us. Gianni Vattimo is one of the most original and significant Italian philosophers of our time (I write “one of” out of modesty andbon ton; in reality, I consider him the most important). This is already a great difference between us, one that I will assume is taken for...

    • 9 Heideggerianism and Leftist Politics
      (pp. 149-158)

      Gianni Vattimo’s writings are among the most imaginative contributions to the tradition of philosophical thought that flows from Nietzsche and Heidegger. They are well suited to the needs of those who would like to gain an understanding of the intellectual outlook he calls “nihilism.”

      That outlook might also be called “common sense Heideggerianism.” It is widespread among European intellectuals. Many people who, like Vattimo and Derrida, were students in the 1950s were deeply impressed by Heidegger essays such as “Letter on Humanism,” “The Question concerning Technology,” “The Origin of the Work of Art,” and “Nietzsche’s Word: God is Dead.”¹ Many...

    • 10 The Universality Claim of Hermeneutics
      (pp. 159-183)
      MANFRED FRANK and Jim Scott

      I send Gianni Vattimo the most heartfelt best wishes on his birthday. The number fully justifies a jubilee; and yet it ill fits the youthful charm, the elegance, the humour, the intellectual and physical presence of the man whose name occurs immediately to one and all when someone calls for the leading Italian philosopher and intellectual.

      I met Gianni Vattimo in the early eighties at a colloquium at the Goethe-Institute in Turin. The topic was the tradition of the “new mythology” in German and Italian fascism and the debates were passionate and not very harmonious. Nevertheless, this first meeting resulted...

    • 11 On the Continuation of Philosophy: Hermeneutics as Convalescence
      (pp. 184-202)

      Gianni Vattimo wants philosophy to continue. This obvious statement appears at first sight to be vacuous, almost nonsensical, when employed to begin writing about a philosopher. After all, does not every philosopher by the act of philosophizing engage de facto in the continuation of philosophy? The apparent emptiness of this statement quickly disappears, though, when, as in the case of Vattimo’s philosophical project, there is an announcement of the end of philosophy such that there is indeed a question not actually of whether philosophy is to continue but of the way in which it is able to continue. The announcement...

    • 12 Vattimo’s Latinization of Hermeneutics: Why Did Gadamer Resist Postmodernism?
      (pp. 203-216)

      We have many reasons to be grateful to Gianni Vattimo for his continuing contribution to philosophy and public life. Undoubtedly, his most decisive philosophical impulses have come from the German philosophical tradition, and mostly from the Holy Trinity of Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Gadamer, who was his teacher. Yet he was not German but a proud Italian and for some reason more able than others to carry this tradition further. The German philosophical tradition has to a large extent dominated philosophy since Leibniz and Kant, but its dominion ebbed considerably after Husserl, Heidegger, and Gadamer. One could attribute this decline to...

    • 13 Looking Back on Gadamer’s Hermeneutics
      (pp. 217-230)
      RÜDIGER BUBNER and Jim Scott

      Jürgen Habermas occasionally characterized Hans-Georg Gadamer’s work with gentle irony as the “urbanization of Heideggerian parochialism.” As a student, I myself took a lively interest in this kind of controversy. The so-called Frankfurt School retreated from neo-Marxism to a Kantianizing theory of speech acts. On the other hand, the Heideggerian efforts on behalf of ontology merged into the universe of hermeneutic interpretation. I heard a lot of tales from inside the Heidegger School and met and fully admired the master himself on his sporadic visits to seminars that he held for his disciples in Heidelberg. Habermas participated in my PHD...

    • 14 Pharmakons of Onto-theology
      (pp. 231-249)

      It is worth noticing that while never suggesting a new philosophy or philosophical method meant to correct past positions, Martin Heidegger became the most original and important philosopher of twentieth century. George Steiner presented him not only as “the most eminent philosopher or critic of metaphysics since Immanuel Kant but also as one of that small number of decisive Western thinkers that would include Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Leibniz, and Hegel”; Hannah Arendt described him as “the secret king of thought throughout twentiethcentury philosophic sensitivity”; and when he died on 26 May 1976 , a number of European philosophers affirmed that...

    • 15 Gianni Vattimo; or rather, Hermeneutics as the Primacy of Politics
      (pp. 250-270)
      PAOLO FLORES D’ARCAIS and Robert T.Valgenti

      In a decisive way, Gianni Vattimo has helped to make hermeneutics the hegemonic philosophy of our time, bending the Heideggerian legacy towards “the left,” where the theme of the forgetting of Being and the nostalgic commitment of philosophy to its “recollection” transforms itself into Being’s weakening/exhausting, into Being’s dissolutive destiny; that is, into modernity equated with the “long goodbye” to Being.

      But it is hardly ever pointed out how this way of thematizing Being makes the philosophy of Vattimo anessentiallymoral philosophy, or more precisely, an ethico-politicalphilosophy. In fact, it is an antimetaphysical, antidogmatic and antiauthoritarian philosophy, where...

    • 16 Weakening Religious Belief: Vattimo, Rorty, and the Holism of the Mental
      (pp. 273-296)

      Notwithstanding Lyotard’s characterization of postmodernity’s incredulity toward grand metanarratives, the most interesting and provocative philosophy in our time is that being painted with meta broad brushes. When distinguished philosophers fashion overarching narratives, they help us hold things together in a synoptic vision; by painting forests for us, they make those of us who read too many books able at least to see more than just the trees. Gianni Vattimo and Richard Rorty, metanarrators both, and two of the most original philosophers writing today, invite comparison of their overlapping but distinct narratives on religion and secularization, which I will undertake in...

    • 17 Christianity as Religion and the Irreligion of the Future
      (pp. 297-303)
      FERNANDO SAVATER and Ileana Szymanski

      A few years ago, a dialogue of more or less theological character between Umberto Eco and Cardinal Martini was published; as an annex, it included interventions by other important Italian thinkers. The title of the book surprised me:Belief or Nonbelief?¹ Since the question in the title referred to the beliefs of those who do not believe in God or in religious dogmas, the answer was a fairly obvious one: they believe in the demonstrations of the natural phenomena established by science, in what is endorsed by historical or social studies, in the pertinence of moral values, and so on....

    • 18 Israel as Foundling, Jesus as Bachelor: Abandonment, Adoption, and the Fatherhood of God
      (pp. 304-325)

      As the author of books explicitly about the Jewish and Christian scriptures – books, however, in which by design I reveal nothing about my personal stance with regard to religion, I am often asked whether or not I am, after all, a believer. My extemporaneous answers never satisfy me but only, perhaps, reveal why I have so studiously avoided the question. But since the publication of Gianni Vattimo’sCredo di credere,I have developed a better answer. Read Vattimo, I say, and you will acquaint yourself with my predicament better than I could acquaint you with it myself.

      My only regret...

    • 19 Postmodern Disarmament
      (pp. 326-347)

      A disclaimer, to begin with: I was trained not as a philosopher but as a scholar of comparative literature, and Italian is not among the languages I read. Neither Gadamer, Gianni Vattimo’s teacher – nor Heidegger, Gadamer’s – is a thinker who means much to my own work or had any place in my education. I find aspects of the hermeneutic enterprise counterproductive. My relationship to Vattimo, therefore, is unobvious, yet definable precisely. Our relation is editorial.

      Gianni Vattimo is a member of theCommon Knowledgeeditorial board. He and other writers whose relation to one another was unobvious joined me in...

    • 20 The Hermeneutics of Christianity and Philosophical Responsibility
      (pp. 348-368)
      CARMELO DOTOLO and Robert T. Valgenti

      In the history of Being presented by postmodernity, does Christianity represent achancefor rethinking Being and rewriting the meaning of the philosophical vocation? This seems to be one of the most meaningful demands put forth in the reflections of Gianni Vattimo, especially in the wake of his philosophical proposal that finds anouvertureunder debate in the metaphor of weak thought, in the sense that it radicalizes a form of reflection that is (seemingly) closer to deconstruction. The issue appears even more intriguing if it is limited to the relation between philosophy and religion. There is a well-known irreconcilability...

    • 21 The Rights of God in Hermeneutical Postmodernity
      (pp. 369-386)
      TERESA OÑATE and Ileana Szymanski

      Let us recall that in the mid-1980s, with the echoes of the year 1968 still audible and following the example of the literary and architectonic aesthetics that were saying their good-byes to modernity – J.-F. Lyotard announced the advent of thepostmodern condition.¹ However, the most disquieting thing was, without a doubt, the tempestuous news that, in a fashion similar to the announcement of the death of God by Nietzsche, was contained in his report on the societies of telematic capitalism: the news of the end of the Western metaphysical metanarratives, demythologized as tall tales written by – and, moreover, mimicking W....

    • 22 Atheism and Monotheism
      (pp. 387-399)
      JEAN -LUC NANCY and Antonio Calcagno

      To Gianni Vattimo, I offer the tribute of this text, which is amicably close yet far from the faith that dwells in him.

      Not only is atheism a specific invention of the West, but it must also be considered as the element with which the West invented itself. What we call “Greece” can be easily crossed and mixed with many religious paths, not least of which includes, above all things, what distinguishes or even constitutes “the Greek.” It is a space of life and thought that neither forms nor marks out the divine presence (except that of the gods of...

    • Conclusion: Metaphysics and Violence
      (pp. 400-422)
      GIANNI VATTIMO and Robert T. Valgenti

      I am not going to respond to all of these outstanding essays, not only because doing so would take too much space but most of all because I do not think I could provide a balanced summary of the acute philosophical interpretations, comments, and criticism that have emerged from all these colleagues and friends of mine. The three parts of this book, “Weakening Power,” “Weakening Methods,” and “Weakening Beliefs,” seem to indicate that I have not only gone beyond Nietzsche’s and Heidegger’s intentions but also pushed hermeneutics to a place that none of its founders (Schleiermacher, Dilthey, Pareyson, Ricouer, or...

  8. Bibliography of Gianni Vattimo
    (pp. 423-444)
  9. Contributors
    (pp. 445-448)
  10. Index
    (pp. 449-453)