20 September 2011

Postmodernity has reached the end - by Enrico Mercatali

Postmodernity has reached the end

A new realist philosophy has seemed to be wafting,
between Italy and Germany, for some time


Addendum: "The irruption of reality"
(from Barbara Spinelli's editorial on "la Repubblica" newspaper, August 10th 2011)

The italian philosopher Maurizio Ferraris, from the university of Turin (above), with the colleagues Markus Gabriel and Petar Bojanic, respectively  from Bonn and Belgrade (below), is organizing an international convention entitled "New Realism" in Bonn for next spring, dedicated to the necessity of bringing the outside world back to the centre of the facts. This will imply a defection of postmodernity, perceived by now as a philosophy which is not able to address the most urgent and necessary choices nowadays: therefore, a comeback of the "Strong Thought".



The convention will be attended by well-known international philosophers, like Umberto Eco, John Searle and Paul Boghossian. The topic is of great interest. The convention has the purpose of giving back to the notion of "realism" the room that it deserves, both in philosophy, in politics, in society and in everyday life; the same room that the postmodern world had taken away from it, considering it conservative, or even an out-and-out philosophic ingenuity. 


Umberto Eco (on the left), italian philosopher and novelist, who will participate to the works for the Convention in Bonn, and is the author of the famous essay "Kant and the platypus" (1997). He has been one of the biggest supporters of the necessity of squaring with the "hard core" of reality, along a way that he had already undertaken at the beginning of the 90's, with the essay "The limits of interpretation".
John Searle (above, at the core), US  philosopher who will in turn participate to the Convention, has been one of the first ones to criticize, in 1995, the idea that everything is constituted by a social superstructure, and that even the natural world depends on it, taking away any thickness to the principle of reality. This criticism already appeared in his famous essay "The construction of social reality", in which reality seemed to depend on external factors, present in the interpretation given by society.
Paul Boghossian (on the right), director of the New York Institute of Philosophy and researcher of philosophy of the mind and epistemology of the language, has developed interests and really deep studies on the field of aesthetics, with particular reference to a philosophy of music; he is the author of "Fear of knowing", essay in which he criticizes the relativism and constructivism of knowledge.

The weak thought had described reality as inaccessible as such, because it was mediated by thoughts and senses. With the famous slogan "Imagination in power", you could justify the unconscious desire to leave everything as it was in the facts, not facing reality for everything it represented, both in a positive and negative way, and getting a renunciative position towards the problems imposed by reality. Today, politics first of all, but also the populist construction of media consent, have contributed to crumble all the postmodern certainties.Everything that some time ago philosophers suggested as a "way for emancipation", which means the idea by Nietzsche that "There aren't any facts but only interpretations", has become the occasion to always do whatever you wanted or was convenient. The same conception of aesthetics viewed not as a philosophy of illusion, but as a philosophy of perception, demonstrates the way in which people looked at the outside world, at a reality they wanted to watch with the eyes of someone who follows subjective rules, without considering any conceptual scheme. The notion of "truth" itself, closely related to the notion of "reality", was considered by postmodernity less important than solidarity. In an article published on "Repubblica" magazine (August 8th 2011), Ferraris gives the example of someone who goes to the doctor's and is not satisfied of getting interpretative and creative answers about his health condition, but wants some truthful answers. Here's why the keywords of "New Realism" must be: ontology, criticism and enlightenment.

Thirty years ago, the german philosopher Habermas was already seeing in postmodernism a dangerous anti-enlightenment wave. And with him also many of us, at the beginning of this wind gust of radical changes in the critical view of reality born during the 70's, doubted about its substance of thought; but also about its ability to create any theoretical schemes of reasoning that could be as convincing as the theoretical-philosophical bases born with the enlightenment.

The mistake of postmoderns was their confusing ontology with epistemology, or rather what exists and what we know about what exists.
In sum, as Ferraris says, the fact that water wets and fire burns doesn't depend on the fact that we know it, and least of all on languages and categories. To distinguish dreams from reality we need to use the salient nature of reality, which could be a limitation, but a safe foothold at the same time.
While postmoderns see unrealism as an emancipating modality, someone sees the necessity of investigating so as to verify, which means knowing how really things are, having recourse to criticism. Realism is immediately critical, while unreality poses problems of interpretation. You certainly need to know if you really are changing the world, or you are just imagining to do it!
In the matter of enlightenment, Habermas was the first one, 30 years ago, to understand that postmodernism implied a real anti-enlightenment wave. And together with him, many of us had understood the real substance, made out of unreality, dream, uncertainty of judgement, substantial critical weakness in front of the real problems that you have to face so as to keep in the reality of things.

Enlightenment requires trust in mankind, in knowledge, in progress. Kant was already saw in it the getting out of man from his childhood. Since a God will never be able to bring salvation to humanity, men can reach it only through truth, wisdom, knowledge of truth. Choosing to follow miracle, mistery and authority instead, means renouncing ro the duties of the really salvific action, as all the postmodernisms have done, as well as all the old and new dictatorships with their political populisms.

 In opening and closing the issue, here are the portraits of Kant and Hegel, from whose thought come all the philosophical theories that put man in front of the outside world and the facts of reality. Today, this position is considered essential for human experience, which has become more vacuous than ever, in thought and action, after the advent of all the theories concerning the weak thought coming from postmodernity.

We are determined to keep in touch with these concepts and to follow the Convention in Bonn next spring, since it will develop in a completely new way their sides linked to actualities more than history.
We believe that the ideas of creativity and transparency, which we used so as to define the activity fields of our Blog, are linked to the necessity of mankind to get knowledge through travelling, through adventure, through wandering around the world despite the modalities currently organized.
Moreover, these two ideas are still both collocated within the strong thought, within a realism more concrete than suggestive, within an action made out of project more than of dream, of verification more than of escape, for the construction of oneself in the conscious knowledge of one’s nature.

Lesa, August 11th 2011
Enrico Mercatali


"The irruption of reality"
Article by Barbara Spinelli published on “Repubblica” magazine, August 10th 2011

Maybe it didn’t happen by accident, but the day next to the one in which we got the piece of news about the Convention in Bonn entitled "New Realism", an editorial by Barbara Spinelli on “Repubblica” magazine, entitled “The irruption on reality”, faces the same topic,  from a political instead of a philosophical point of view. We can therefore get an interpretation really close to our days about the philosophical matter that had attracted our attention only one day before. This reinforces the impression, which we had already got while reading Maurizio Ferraris’ article, of being in front of an epoch-making turning point, whose importance was underlined by the fact that a new philosophical dimension able to explain it is needed.

By commenting with her usual critical acumen on the particular incapacity of the italian Government - compared to the one showed by the other countries- when it comes to face the crisis of the International markets, Spinelli asserts that the situation has completely get out of the hand  of those ones who, though having the reins of government, don’t have the ability to face problems anymore, since they have abandoned every realistic reading of reality. A wrongfooted government (“administered”) by the superior monetary Authorities (BCE), which refuses to feel divested of authority by them on the field of a realism that  he isn’t used to; a government that finds himself pillaged of the oneric vision that he had always used so as to accustom the country againts an unacceptable “truth”, too bothering mainly because it’s inescapable with the usual instruments adopted by the media populism so far.
Nothing clearer than this, in the journalistic reality, to explain what even philosophy is about to decree with its logical structures.

Lesa, 18 settembre 2011
Enrico Mercatali

(traduzione dall'italiano di Penelope Mirotti)

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