Gianni Vattimo reexamines the roots of modernism and postmodernism in Nietzsche, Benjamin, and Heidegger. Exploring the links between concepts of nihilism and destiny in nineteenth-century humanism, Vattimo follows these trends in aesthetic and scientific theory from Benjamin to Bloch, Ricoeur, and Kuhn.
"This book is of major importance to the debate on the postmodern question."--Jean François Lyotard. "This is Vattimo at his best--and at his best he is very, very good, which is to say, erudite, witty, engaging, and precise. I do not think anyone comes close to Vattimo in his ability to correlate complex philosophical issues and arguments, such as those of Heidegger or Benjamin on such topics as &.
In this book, Gianni Vattimo examines the notion of "difference" in scientific knowledge and contemporary mass society and illustrates the importance of Nietzsche and Heidegger in both formulating the concept and exploring its implications for current debates on the nature of modernity.
Hermeneutics has had a pervasive influence on contemporary philosophy, social and cultural theory, literary criticism, and aesthetics. In this book one of Europe's foremost contemporary philosophers provides hermeneutics with a fresh relevance and a substantive account of its philosophical meaning for science, ethics, religion, and art. Vattimo argues for a reading of hermeneutics that radicalises it according to what the author calls its 'nihilistic vocation', a term referring to the interpretive character of truth and taken from Nietzsche's statement that there (...) are, in the modern period, no facts, only interpretations. Modernity, for Vattimo, is conceived as the advent of nihilism, and the central question of the book is to ask what it means to take this nihilistic vocation seriously. This involves not simply accepting the current status of hermeneutics, but evaluating why it appears when, and where, it does. (shrink)
Through an exchange that is both intimate and enlightening, Vattimo and Girard share their unparalleled insight into the relationships among religion, modernity, and the role of Christianity, especially as it exists in our multicultural ...
In these original essays and interviews, leading hermeneutical philosophers and postmodern theorists John D. Caputo and Gianni Vattimo engage with each other's past and present work on the subject and reflect on our transition from ...
This paper considers whether transgender women should be permitted to compete in female categories in sports. Trans* women are often criticized for competing in female categories because they are seen as having an unfair advantage. Specifically, they are seen as having high levels of testosterone that unfairly enhance their performance in comparison to cisgender competitors. In this paper, I argue that trans* women should be permitted to compete in female categories. I suggest that if we want to maintain the skill (...) thesis as a guiding principle of sports and allow trans* women to compete in female categories, then we need to take relevant genetic advantages into consideration by introducing a handicap system. I claim that a handicap system should consider both cisgender and transgender women’s effective testosterone levels. (shrink)
Famously, both Saul Kripke and Keith Donnellan opposed description theories and insisted on the role of history in determining the reference of a proper name token. No wonder, then, that their views on proper names have often been assimilated. By focusing on reference borrowing—an alleged phenomenon that Kripke takes to be fundamental—we argue that they should not be. In particular, we claim that according to Donnellan a proper name token never borrows its reference from preceding tokens which it is historically (...) connected to. On the contrary, its reference is always fixed anew on who or what the speaker has in mind when he or she produces it. In fact, what is important to realize is that Donnellan and Kripke took two different histories to be relevant: that of the proper name token produced by the speaker , and that of the cognitive status of the speaker when he or she produces it . We end by suggesting that this difference between Kripke’s and Donnellan’s accounts of proper names rests on a more general difference in their approach to language. (shrink)
Semantic theory in linguistics cannot retain its traditional purity, free of pragmatic contextual considerations. Agreement with the preceding claim, generally shared by this volume's contributors, provides the setting for a presentation of various provocative approaches toward a precise definition of pragmatics along with a reconciliation of pragmatics with semantics. Here is a collection of leading-edge work that examines the semantics/pragmatics dispute in terms of phenomena such as indexicals, proper names, conventional and conversational implicatures, procedural meaning, and semantic underdetermination. Examples show (...) how these phenomena reach from the linguistic realm to the fields of psychology, philosophy, literature, and anthropology. (shrink)
Around 1970, both Keith Donnellan and Saul Kripke produced powerful arguments against description theories of proper names. They also offered sketches of positive accounts of proper name reference, highlighting the crucial role played by historical facts that might be unknown to the speaker. Building on these sketches, in the following years Michael Devitt elaborated his well-known causal theory of proper names. As I have argued elsewhere, however, contrary to what is commonly assumed, Donnellan’s and Kripke’s sketches point in two rather (...) different directions, by appealing to historical or causal facts of different sorts. In this paper, I shall discuss and criticize Devitt’s causal theory, which confuses things, I shall argue, by mixing, so to speak, Donnellan’s and Kripke’s sketches. (shrink)
In my paper, I present two competing perspectives on the foundational problem (as opposed to the descriptive problem) of quantifier domain restriction: the objective perspective on context (OPC) and the intentional perspective on context (IPC). According to OPC, the relevant domain for a quantified sentence is determined by objective facts of the context of utterance. In contrast, according to IPC, we must consider certain features of the speaker’s intention in order to determine the proposition expressed. My goal is to offer (...) a plausible and fair reconstruction of IPC. Drawing a parallel between quantifier domain restriction and standard cases of context dependence as indexicality, I argue that the speaker’s intentions can play a semantic role only if they satisfy an Availability Constraint: an intention must be made available or communicated to the addressee, and for that purpose the speaker can exploit any feature of the objective context (words, gestures, relevance or uniqueness of either the quantificational domain or of the referent in the context of utterance). An intention satisfying the Availability Constraint must be something that a hearer in normal circumstances is able to work out by relying on the physical surroundings of the utterance situation, on utterances exchanged during the previous conversation, and on background knowledge shared by speaker and addressee. (shrink)
In the last twenty years, recorded messages and written notes have become a significant test and an intriguing puzzle for the semantics of indexical expressions (see Smith 1989, Predelli 1996, 1998a,1998b, 2002, Corazza et al. 2002, Romdenh-Romluc 2002). In particular, the intention-based approach proposed by Stefano Predelli has proven to bear interesting relations to several major questions in philosophy of language. In a recent paper (Saul 2006), Jennifer Saul draws on the literature on indexicals and recorded messages in order to (...) criticize Rae Langton's claim that works of pornography can be understood as illocutionary acts – in particular acts of subordinating women or acts of silencing women. Saul argues that it does not make sense to understand works of pornography as speech acts, because only utterances in contexts can be speech acts. More precisely, works of pornography such as a film may be seen as recordings that can be used in many different contexts – exactly like a written note or an answering machine message. According to Saul, bringing contexts into the picture undermines Langton's radical thesis – which must be reformulated in much weaker terms. In this paper, I accept Saul's claim that only utterances in contexts can be speech acts, and that therefore only works of pornography in contexts may be seen as illocutionary acts of silencing women. I will, nonetheless, show that Saul's reformulation doesn't undermine Langton's thesis. To this aim, I will use the distinction Predelli proposes in order to account for the semantic behaviour of indexical expressions in recorded messages – namely the distinction between context of utterance and context of interpretation. (shrink)
Having lost much of its political clout and theoretical power, communism no longer represents an appealing alternative to capitalism. In its original Marxist formulation, communism promised an ideal of development, but only through a logic of war, and while a number of reformist governments still promote this ideology, their legitimacy has steadily declined since the fall of the Berlin wall. Separating communism from its metaphysical foundations, which include an abiding faith in the immutable laws of history and an almost holy (...) conception of the proletariat, Gianni Vattimo and Santiago Zabala recast Marx's theories at a time when capitalism's metaphysical moorings -- in technology, empire, and industrialization -- are buckling. While Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri call for a return of the revolutionary left, Vattimo and Zabala fear this would lead only to more violence and failed political policy. Instead, they adopt an antifoundationalist stance drawn from the hermeneutic thought of Martin Heidegger, Jacques Derrida, and Richard Rorty. Hermeneutic communism leaves aside the ideal of development and the general call for revolution; it relies on interpretation rather than truth and proves more flexible in different contexts. Hermeneutic communism motivates a resistance to capitalism's inequalities yet intervenes against violence and authoritarianism by emphasizing the interpretative nature of truth. Paralleling Vattimo and Zabala's well-known work on the weakening of religion, _Hermeneutic Communism_ realizes the fully transformational, politically effective potential of Marxist thought. (shrink)
This essay undertakes a reexamination of the notion of the receptacle/chōra in Plato's Timaeus, asking what its value may be to feminists seeking to understand the topology of the feminine in Western philosophy. As the source of cosmic motion as well as a restless figurality, labile and polyvocal, the receptacle/chōra offers a fecund zone of destabilization that allows for an immanent critique of ancient metaphysics. Engaging with Derridean, Irigarayan, and Kristevan analyses, Bianchi explores whether receptacle/chōra can exceed its reduction (...) to the maternal-feminine, and remain answerable to contemporary theoretical concerns. (shrink)
Founding our analysis on the Geneva-Brussels approach to quantum mechanics, we use conventional macroscopic objects as guiding examples to clarify the content of two important results of the beginning of twentieth century: Einstein–Podolsky–Rosen’s reality criterion and Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. We then use them in combination to show that our widespread belief in the existence of microscopic particles is only the result of a cognitive illusion, as microscopic particles are not particles, but are instead the ephemeral spatial and local manifestations of (...) non-spatial and non-local entities. (shrink)
Determining whether and/or how to enable older persons with disabilities to engage in sex raises several ethical considerations. With the goal of enabling the sexual functioning of older adults with disabilities, Jecker argues that sex robots could be used as a helpful tool. In her article, ‘Nothing to be Ashamed of: Sex Robots for Older Adults with Disabilities’, Jecker acknowledges the importance of sexual functioning and the fact that ageist assumptions incorrectly classify older persons as asexual. Additionally, older adults may (...) experience disabilities that negatively influence their sexual functioning, which is problematic since sex may be linked to the following capabilities: developing a meaningful life narrative; being healthy; experiencing bodily integrity; feeling and communicating emotions; affiliating with others and reflecting on and choosing a life plan.1 In accordance with Nussbaum’s capabilities approach,2 Jecker says that society has a duty to support these capabilities at a minimal threshold. And insofar as sexual functioning may be relevant to the capabilities for older adults with disabilities, then we need to respond accordingly. One way of achieving this aim is by providing access to sex robots. I agree that sex robots ought to be made available for older adults with disabilities. Nevertheless, the article inspires several areas for further exploration. As Jecker rightfully mentions, older adults are often incorrectly labelled as non-sexual. For instance, in their analysis of older individuals’ views on sex and quality of life, Gott …. (shrink)
Madhusūdana Sarasvatī wrote several treatises on Advaita philosophy. His magnum opus is the Advaitasiddhi, written in order to reply to the keen objections moved by the Dvaitin Vyāsatīrtha’s Nyāyāmṛta. Advaitasiddhi is verily a turning point into the galaxy of Vedānta, not only as far as its replies are concerned, but also for the reutilization of earlier vedāntic material and its reformulation by means of the highly sophisticated language of the new school of logic. This article is an attempt to contextualize (...) Madhusūdana’s works in a broader context through three looking glasses: the analysis of how Madhusūdana refers to his own works, in order to reconstruct a relative chronology among them; Madhusūdana’s adherence to the tenets of the previous Advaita tradition, how much he is indebted to Vyāsatīrtha, how he quotes him and how he replies to him; Madhusūdana’s acquaintance with other textual traditions, mainly Vyākaraṇa, Pūrva Mīmāṃsā and Nyāya. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to evaluate which context determines the illocutionary force of written or recorded utterances—those involved in written texts, films and images, conceived as recordings that can be seen or heard in different occasions. More precisely, my paper deals with the “metaphysical” or constitutive role of context—as opposed to its epistemic or evidential role: my goal is to determine which context is semantically relevant in order to fix the illocutionary force of a speech act, as distinct (...) from the information the addressee uses to ascertain the semantically relevant context. In particular I will try to assess two different perspectives on this problem, a Conventionalist Perspective and an Intentionalist Perspective. Drawing on the literature on indexicals in written texts and recorded messages, I will argue in favor of the Intentionalist Perspective: the relevant context is the one intended by the speaker. Bringing intentions into the picture, however, requires qualification; in particular, I will distinguish my Weak Intentionalist proposal from a Strong Intentionalist one. I will show that the Weak Intentionalist Perspective is flexible enough to deal with cases of delayed communication, but not so unrestricted as to yield counter-intuitive consequences. (shrink)
In this paper, I focus on the alleged distinction between speaker’s reference and semantic reference. I begin by discussing Saul Kripke’s notion of speaker’s reference and the theoretical roles it is supposed to play, arguing that they do not justify the claim that reference comes in two different sorts and highlighting that Kripke’s own definition makes the notion incompatible with the nowadays widely endorsed Gricean project, which aims at explaining semantic reference in terms of speaker’s reference. I then examine an (...) alternative account of speaker’s reference offered by Michael Devitt within his causal theory and express some doubts about its suitability for explaining proper name semantic reference. From all this, I conclude that there is at least some tension between Kripke’s chain of communication picture and the attempt to explain (Griceanly, so to say) semantic properties in terms of speakers’ mental states. (shrink)
We consider the classical concept of time of permanence and observe that its quantum equivalent is described by a bona fide self-adjoint operator. Its interpretation, by means of the spectral theorem, reveals that we have to abandon not only the idea that quantum entities would be characterizable in terms of spatial trajectories but, more generally, that they would possess the very attribute of spatiality. Consequently, a permanence time shouldn’t be interpreted as a “time” in quantum mechanics, but as a measure (...) of the total availability of a quantum entity in participating to a process of creation of a spatial localization. (shrink)
The question of whether transgender athletes should be permitted to compete in accordance with their gender identity is an evolving debate. Most competitive sports have male and female categories. One of the primary challenges with this categorization system, however, is that some transgender athletes may be prevented from competing in accordance with their gender identity. The reason for this restriction is because of the idea that transgender women have an unfair advantage over their cisgender counterparts; this is seen as a (...) problem since sports are typically guided a principle called ‘the skill thesis’, which suggests that sports are supposed to determine who is most skillful by maintaining a fair starting point. In this paper, I argue that if the skill thesis ought to be maintained and there continues to exist no conclusive evidence in support of unfair advantages possessed by trans women, then we may want to re-consider the gender binary in sport. Rather than having male/female categories, it may make more sense to categorize athletes based other sport-specific factors. This may help to maintain the skill thesis while at the same time removing potentially unfair and discriminatory barriers against transgender athletes. (shrink)
The paper emphasizes the inadequacy of formal semantics, the classical paradigm in semantics, in treating contextual dependence. Some phenomena of contextual dependence threaten one central assumption of the classical paradigm, namely the idea that linguistic expressions have a fixed meaning, and utterances have truth conditions well defined. It is possible to individuate three forms of contextual dependence: the one affecting pure indexicals, the one affecting demonstratives and "contextual expressions", and the one affecting all linguistic expressions. The third type of dependence (...) is top-down: context, and not only linguistic material, shows which variables must be instantiated, relying on context itself. The generalization of underdetermination to all linguistic expressions is in fact a kind of metadependence: the mode of dependence itself depends on context. (shrink)
In The Explanatory Dispensability of Idealizations, Sam Baron suggests a possible strategy enabling the indispensability argument to break the symmetry between mathematical claims and idealization assumptions in scientific models. Baron’s distinction between mathematical and non-mathematical idealization, I claim, is in need of a more compelling criterion, because in scientific models idealization assumptions are expressed through mathematical claims. In this paper I argue that this mutual dependence of idealization and mathematics cannot be read in terms of symmetry and that Baron’s non-causal (...) notion of mathematical difference-making is not effective in justifying any symmetry-breaking between mathematics and idealization. The function of making a difference that Baron attributes to mathematics cannot be referred to physical facts, but to the features of quantities, such as step lengths or time intervals taken into account in the models. It appears, indeed, that it does not follow from Baron’s argument that idealizations do not help to carry the explanatory load at least for two reasons: mathematics is not independent of idealizations in modelling and idealizations help mathematics to carry the explanatory load of a model in different degrees. (shrink)
Contextualism is a view about meaning, semantic content and truth-conditions, bearing significant consequences for the characterisation of explicit and implicit content, the decoding/inferring distinction and the semantics/pragmatics interface. According to the traditional perspective in semantics (called "literalism" or "semantic minimalism"), it is possible to attribute truth-conditions to a sentence independently of any context of utterance, i.e. in virtue of its meaning alone. We must then distinguish between the proposition literally expressed by a sentence ("what is said" by the sentence, its (...) literal truth-conditions) and the implicit meaning of the sentence ("what is implicated" by a speaker uttering the sentence). Over the past forty years, however, an increasing number of linguists and philosophers have begun to underline the phenomenon of semantic underdetermination: the encoded meaning of the sentence employed by a speaker underdetermines the proposition explicitly expressed by an utterance of that sentence. According to the extreme version of this perspective – labelled "radical contextualism" - no sentence of a natural language expresses a complete proposition, or has fixed truth-conditions, even when unambiguous and devoid of indexicals. A sentence expresses a proposition only when completed and enriched with pragmatic constituents that do not correspond to any syntactic element of the sentence and yet are part of its semantic interpretation. More broadly, "contextualism" may be used to refer to a family of views which includes moderate contextualism (also called "indexicalism"), radical contextualism and non-indexical contextualism – and which contrasts with semantic minimalism. (shrink)
In the second lecture of "Naming and Necessity," Saul Kripke presented a new and quite convincing picture of the reference of proper names. At the same time, however, he expressed some skepticism towards the possibility of developing it into a full-blown theory by offering “more exact conditions for reference to take place.” In this paper, after discussing the reasons for his skepticism, I hint at how I think Kripke’s picture could be developed and offer an outline of a theory of (...) reference based on it. One of the key notions my ‘theory’ makes use of is that of repetition, which I take from Kaplan’s “Words.”. (shrink)
Comment les modernes ont-ils été amenés à considérer sous un nouveau jour le problème de la certitude et de la connaissance? L’étude proposée ici vise à mettre en évidence le rôle joué par la renaissance du scepticisme et à montrer comment et par quels détours le “phénomène” du scepticisme pyrrhonien est devenu l’“apparence” des modernes. Dans cette histoire, les sceptiques déclarés n’ont pas seul opéré ce travail de reprise et de transformation : une part décisive revient aussi aux adversaires du (...) scepticisme . Le renouveau sceptique ne tire pas son importance de sa seule dimension critique; par ses objections, il a joué un rôle majeur dans la réforme moderne de la “philosophie première”.Faire de la connaissance un rapport entre le monde interne de la représentation et le monde extérieur des choses, a évidemment une origine sceptique. Mais cette conception a son histoire complexe et multiforme. Elle passe notamment par la dissolution de la doctrine aristotélicienne des species , par la reprise de la conception du phénomène tirée de Sextus , par une réflexion sur les effets destructeurs du scepticisme libertin , mais aussi par la conjonction du relativisme de Montaigne et des résultats de la nouvelle science . Ainsi, en rouvrant le dossier sceptique, Bayle peut mener sa critique des présupposés de la philosophie première en débat à la fin du XVIIe siècle. (shrink)
Automatic conservation of energy-momentum and angular momentum is guaranteed in a gravitational theory if, via the field equations, the conservation laws for the material currents are reduced to the contracted Bianchi identities. We first execute an irreducible decomposition of the Bianchi identities in a Riemann-Cartan space-time. Then, starting from a Riemannian space-time with or without torsion, we determine those gravitational theories which have automatic conservation: general relativity and the Einstein-Cartan-Sciama-Kibble theory, both with cosmological constant, and the nonviable pseudoscalar (...) model. The Poincaré gauge theory of gravity, like gauge theories of internal groups, has no automatic conservation in the sense defined above. This does not lead to any difficulties in principle. Analogies to 3-dimensional continuum mechanics are stressed throughout the article. (shrink)
What scope is there for emancipatory politics in light of the postmodern critique of philosophical foundations? This paper examines the response to this question by Italian philosopher, Gianni Vattimo, who for over two decades has defended the emancipatory prospects of what he terms ‘nihilism’. Vattimo conceives the retreat of metaphysics as a progressive weakening of ontological claims and an opening towards new and diverse modes of being. In his view, far from an exclusively tragic experience of loss or meaninglessness, (...) nihilism is a steadily expanding narrative that invites us to face up to our own radical freedom. The paper sets out Vattimo's central arguments and contrasts the ethical thrust of his ‘emancipatory nihilism’ with the distinctly political take on emancipation presented by Ernesto Laclau. While the two converge on the withdrawal of metaphysics as the premise for a radical and democratic freedom, Vattimo's vision remains insufficiently focused on the dynamics of contestation that a generalized nihilism implies. (shrink)
This book is both a concise and lucid introduction to Nietzsche and an original contribution to critical debates concerning Nietzsche interpretation and reception. This overview takes issue with the prevailing tendency to focus on Nietzsche’s later work, which reaches its extreme with Heidegger’s almost exclusive focus on the group of late notes posthumously collected as The Will to Power. Vattimo aims to mediate between two prominent hermeneutic readings of Nietzsche: Wilhelm Dilthey’s view that Nietzsche’s work fits into the nineteenth-century tradition (...) of the philosophy of life and Heidegger’s belief that Nietzsche is best understood as the author of a pair of ontological doctrines, the will to power and the eternal return of the same. Vattimo aims to show that Nietzsche’s early interest in cultural and historical criticism can be found throughout his corpus and that it informs, and helps to explain, Nietzsche’s later doctrines and writings. This allows us to understand these later doctrines in a deeper way, to see their connections with his wider concerns, and thus to make greater sense of Nietzsche’s philosophy as a whole. This working hypothesis guides Vattimo through his elegant exposition of the basic views of the early and late Nietzsche, from the philological beginnings and the musings on Dionysus through the so-called positivist phase of the middle period up to the philosophy of Zarathustra and the fragmented insights that bespeak the will to power. Throughout, Vattimo’s intellectual agenda is to present the philosophical relevance of a cultural criticism that does not let itself be reduced to a merely literary presentation of the psychology of decadence and nihilism, or to the grand ontological-metaphysical finale that Heidegger had in mind in his monumental Nietzsche studies. As an appendix, Vattimo provides a history of Nietzsche reception in Europe that counters the narrow Anglo-American bias of much English-language Nietzsche scholarship. (shrink)
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