This issue is presented under the title, evocatively vague, of “Miscellanea” and replaces the planned thematic dossier on the topic of complexity. However, as the French say, chance works wonders. Almost all the articles presented here explicitly reflect upon complexity. After all, isn’t there a secret thread behind every collection, which reveals, in the backlight of apparent heterogeneity, the complexity of an almost imperceptible order?
Many indicators of our contemporary world emphasize the aspects of complexity that affect both the elements that shape our life and the exercises of thought concerning it. It is appropriate to open this issue of the Journal with Silvana Borutti’s essay, Complexity and Critique of Epistemology, which highlights the epistemological repercussions and, more generally, the theoretical implications of the scientific developments that occurred during the second half of the 20th century and the overcoming of the standard conception of modern science. The paradigm shift involved criticizing the mechanistic ideal of knowledge based on linearly defined causal relationships and rigid input/output ratios in favor of approaches based on attention to the complexity of the network of possible relations that affect phenomena. The traditional idea of nature changes: no longer a perfect machine decomposable into abstract parts detachable from their context, but an organism rich in relationships with outcomes that are not immediately predictable. To support the new theories of complexity, the author refers to specific field research. On one hand, the autopoietic systems described by Maturana and Varela, in which the system is based on a circular process that generates its own organization, functioning as a system that produces its own components. On the other hand, dissipative structures highlighted by Prigogine in non-equilibrium thermodynamics, which sees processes in a world of instability with collisions, decompositions, and fluctuations. The conclusion is promising and stimulating for researchers: the thinking of complexity encourages looking within the network of phenomenal relations beyond the usual patterns and pursuing the unexpected.
Is it possible to think of the complexity of the mind outside a framework that reduces it to a dualistic approach, where the mind is seen as the other of the body? And if so, is this approach necessarily physicalist or materialist, viewing the mind as a sort of phantasmal double of the brain, the only actual reality? Cristiano Calì addresses these questions in his contribution From Physicalism to Expanded Minimal Naturalism: Towards an Ontology Capable of Accounting for Mental Complexity. The author’s proposed solution consists of safeguarding the specificity of non-physical properties of the mind through a new ontological synthesis. To account for the mind, one must strive to conceive of an expanded minimal naturalism. Naturalism because the human being, as a thinking animal, is part of nature: a natural being subject to the same system of laws and necessities that govern other entities, and whose mental performances necessarily depend on brain activity. However, this naturalism is expanded, as it takes into account a dualism of properties that can never be obliterated. Therefore, it is necessary to consider human beings as part of matter, even though properties or activities that elude mere material description can be found in them. The point of equilibrium between opposing theoretical perspectives is almost imperceptible, but grasping it, or at least indicating it, is the challenge that the complexity of the mind continues to pose to contemporary scientists and thinkers.
In Radical Empiricism and Organic Empiricism: The Experience of Obstinate Concreteness in James and Whitehead, Christian Frigerio finely analyzes the criticisms that the two thinkers direct at Hume’s classical empiricism. In particular, James and Whitehead criticize two Humean dogmas: on one hand, the decision to exclude the practical dimension from philosophical reflection (especially concerning skepticism and access to truth), and on the other hand, Hume’s conviction, later shared by Kant, that relations are an artificial addition, made by some higher-order faculty, to impressions of an atomistic character, disconnected from each other, which would be the only reality actually experienced. Against this double dogma, James and Whitehead invite us to acknowledge practice in the realm of rational inquiry, and even to make practice the privileged place where truth itself is defined. Furthermore, relationships are not parasitic; on the contrary, they are internal, defining the very nature of each entity by inscribing it within a connected network of reciprocal determinations. Empiricism will be all the more radical the more organic it proves to be, allowing us to conceive of sensory data as organically structured, interconnected to form a whole in a manner that depends on their very nature and not only by principles, even if they are pure a priori forms put into operation by the perceiver. The invitation is once again to think of complexity in its obstinate concreteness, always to be articulated, as a challenge to the realm and not as an easy refuge in irrationalism.
Giovanni Altadonna’s article, On the Unity of Knowledge in Edward Osborne Wilson, allows us to engage with a thinker completely removed from the virtues of complexity, in favor of a canon inspired by the most rigorous reductionism. Wilson’s most wellknown and controversial work is undoubtedly Sociobiology, which has also been accused of racism associated with its sociobiological approach. Altadonna’s merit lies in focusing primarily on another work, Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, which helps us understand the theoretical premises that support the author’s main work. Wilson argues against the fragmentation of knowledge and calls for consilience, a unifying concordance of different disciplines based on a small number of natural laws. Philosophy should agree with this and conform to science, becoming a kind of positivist metaphysics eventually absorbed by it. To Stephen Jay Gould’s criticism that Wilson’s bio-determinism fails to properly acknowledge biocultural diversity, the author responds that the determination of emergent properties does not raise epistemological questions but only technical obstacles that can be overcome. Here are the pillars of sociobiology vexed question: universality, evolutionary continuity, and adaptability. Many scholars strongly and unequivocally criticize Wilson’s reductionism, a position fully shared by Altadonna, who nevertheless allows some mitigating circumstances for Wilson and implicitly recognizes some positive aspects. Although written 25 years ago, in the final chapter of Consilience, Wilson calls for a unity of all knowledge to confront the risks of the ecological question, which he outlines clearly and lucidly. On this point, he anticipated a shared awareness that has emerged in the last two decades.
Massimo Mezzanzanica, in Learning from Phenomenology: Emilio Renzi as an Interpreter of Paci and Ricoeur, aims to remember and pay tribute to Emilio Renzi, highlighting his position regarding the two philosophers he considered his masters, Paci and Ricoeur. Mezzanzanica chooses the original Caro Ricoeur, mon cher Paci as a reference – a sort of theatrical dialogue that allows Renzi to be an interpreter of both his masters, as he himself confesses. The general title Learning from Phenomenology underlies the interpretation of phenomenology by Paci and Ricoeur, and Mezzanzanica’s article presents a complex and meticulous reconstruction of the thoughts of both authors, who themselves were interpreters of the same author, Husserl, who stands behind them. Multiple themes are addressed, on which similarities and dissonances are observed from time to time: the theme of personhood, otherness, nihilism, evil, and time. These comparisons are scrutinized through Renzi’s philosophical sensitivity. In general, Ricoeur’s phenomenology moves towards hermeneutics, while Paci’s moves towards critical Marxism, but both find common ground in the valorization of the person, one engaged in combating their fallibility as fragile beings and endowed with an intentional inclination towards truth.
In “Intersezioni”, Rossana Veneziano illustrates, in her contribution Life and Fate: A Philosophical Journey Among the Plural Voices of Freedom, the aspects of philosophical reflections embedded in one of the most illustrious and important novels of the 20th century, Life and Faith by Vasilij Grossman, drawing on references to philosophers such as John Stuart Mill, Isaiah Berlin, and particularly Lévinas, who, like Grossman, has Jewish origins and greatly supported the first translation of the book in France. The main theme from which a series of others branch out is freedom opposed to the homogenizing totality of political power. The collective good asserted by totalitarianism is nothing but oppressive fanaticism that persecutes the individual. A connection is established between the force of truth and the force of freedom that nourishes knowledge. An intriguing passage on which Grossman dwells is the alternative between triumphant evil and the good that is capable of opposing it. It is not so much the theoretically proclaimed Good, but rather the good of the singular and unexpected gesture, such as that of an old woman who offers bread to an enemy soldier taken captive. The whole reflects the tragic events of World War II, of which the novel is a powerful and poignant portrayal.
“Controversie” features the stimulating text by anthropologist Nadia Breda, A Breath of Animism: Regarding ‘Controversies’ on the ontological turn, in which the author presents her criticisms of the interpretative arguments expressed in the same section of our issue 14 by Francesco Remotti. Based on her own field experience, Breda, the main Italian interpreter of the ontological turn advocated by Philippe Descola, argues for the opportunity to describe ontologically characterized plural worlds. This leads to overcoming the conception of cultures separated by ethnographic barriers and finding analogies in ways of life interwoven with natural elements, ontologically significant and analogically articulated in different areas of the world where humans and non-humans coexist. The interesting debate opened by Remotti and Breda deserves the continuation of a fruitful critical exchange between the different positions they validly represent.
“Pratiche filosofiche” presents the testimony of a remarkable educational initiative, discussed by Annalisa Caputo in ABC of Democratic Citizenship. Building networks between universities, schools, and local communities – a project born within the University of Bari and extended to many institutions in the city. The initiative, directed at a network of schools from early childhood to high school, involved 150 classes and a total of 2,000 students, with differentiated proposals based on age but with a common focus on citizenship and the task of creating a final product. In a two-day final event, the students took center stage in sessions lasting about two hours each, where they presented their conclusions, occupying not only university spaces but also other areas of the urban fabric, with significant collective participation. This exemplary experience deserves reflection and replication by other universities in our country.
In “Corrispondenze”, Piergiorgio Consagra describes his experience of studying and researching in Iceland. The unexpected and unpredictable starting point is the realization of a “secret correspondence” between the inhabitants of two extremely distant islands: Sicily, Consagra’s place of origin, and Iceland, where his passion for Nordic languages and mythologies has led him. Confronting a cultural tradition that is so distant means rediscovering common European roots, and the language barrier, among the most exotic to our Romance ears, becomes an opportunity to look at our categories and archetypes with fresh eyes. Situated at the extreme limits of Europe, Iceland has long been a repository of the oldest and most evocative texts and narratives on the continent. Consagra brilliantly and precisely illustrates how it is possible to appropriate and recognize such a diverse cultural heritage as profoundly our own.
Finally, “Letture e eventi” includes two reviews on Pascal in celebration of the 400th anniversary of his birth: Gianni Trimarchi’s review of Dal Pra’s Pascal averroista? and Manlio Antonio Forni’s review of Caldarone’s La filosofia in fiamme. Saggio su Pascal. Following them are Marco De Paoli’s review of Toulmin’s Cosmopolis, Stefano Piazzese’s review of Biuso’s Chronos, Filippo Iselli’s review of Latour’s Dove sono? Lezioni di filosofia per un pianeta che cambia and Francesca Marelli’s review of Campanella’s La città del sole edited by Marco De Paoli.