WHITEHEAD AND THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE CONCRETE
Philosophers have often been accused of being too abstract, not concrete enough. In a well-known passage, Plato relates the anecdote of Thales falling into a well while contemplating the stars. A Thracian servant girl saw what happened, burst into laughter, and promptly taunted the philosopher: “You are so eager to know the things
in the sky that you could not see what lies before your own feet!”. But what does it mean, for philosophy, to be “concrete”? That it must necessarily become political or practical – it must stop interpreting the world, and start changing it? Or, that philosophy should always be able to adapt to the everchanging social and historical (and ecological) conditions in which it is embedded, if not even steer their transformation? Or, again, perhaps a less abstract, more concrete philosophy does not forget the body and the affections of which it is often prey, and resists to the temptation of reducing the thinking human being to a disembodied mind?
The urge for concreteness, the related questions, and the resulting perspectives in philosophy lie at the centre of many contributions featured in this issue of InCircolo. The section “La Questione Filosofica”, edited by Maria Regina Brioschi, is dedicated to “Alfred North Whitehead and the philosophy of the concrete”. Mostly known as the co-author, along with Bertrand Russell, of the Principia Mathematica, Whitehead was a polyhedric and prolific philosopher who inquired deeply into the notion of “concrete”. The urge for concreteness morphed, in Whitehead, into the need of framing nature and knowledge as processes, as events in which relationality accounts for the characteristic trait of co-development. No philosophical or scientific theory is born perfect and fully armed, like Athena was. On the contrary, rationality emerges as a pattern in a tapestry: out of intricated and often contradictory weft threads of conceptual and material instances.
But concreteness is also synonym of body and embodied thought. The first essay of “Laboratorio”, by Elia Gonnella, examines the notion of the affective body and discusses the auditory experience as an important factor in the constitution of personhood. Drawing on observations by Heidegger, Scheler, Damasio, and Sloterdijk, the author underlines the role of emotional states in the experience of listening, which suggests a reconsideration of the constitution of the self as a process that is structurally – and affectively prior to conceptually – open to the other. Moreover, Edoardo Raimondi explores the practical and far too concrete effects of mass media and propaganda by commenting on Eric Weil’s 1953 essay “Propaganda, Truth, and Mass Media”. Finally, Ilenia Russo focuses on Tommaso Campanella’s De sensu rerum et magia and reads its complex, multilayered composition against the concrete background of his alleged religious crisis during the first years of the XVII century.
In the following section, “Culture”, Simona Gallo discusses the life and work of Gao Xingjang, Nobel prize for Literature of Chinese origins, now declared persona non grata by the Chinese Government and living in France. His human and political story is deeply entangled with his works, in which the nature of writing is traced out as a relationship with the self and its effort to establish itself as an entity separated from the collective “we” of the nation. In “Intersezioni” Luigiandrea Luppino proposes a thorough reading of Franco Basaglia’s La maggioranza deviante in light of his Conferenze brasiliane. In “Controversie”, Francesco Remotti adds another piece to the debate on Eduardo Viveiros de Castro opened in issue 13, while in “Corrispondenze” Vitalii Mudrakov shares his precious testimony as a Ukrainian scholar in such horrifying times of war. Finally, the section “Letture e eventi” hosts four book reviews: Gianni Trimarchi on L. Scheller, La force collective et l’individu and P. Severac, Puissance de l’enfance; Stefano Piazzese on M. Ferraris, Agostino. Fare la verità; and Giulia Zaccaro on R. Madera, Lo splendore trascurato del mondo.