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Ovi Symposium; fifty-sixth Meeting
by The Ovi Symposium
2015-07-16 09:43:12
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 Ovi Symposium:

“A Philosophical Conversation on the Nature of Art within Modernity
and the Envisioning of a New Humanism”

between Ms Abigail George, Mr Nikos Laios, Drs. Paolozzi and Paparella
Fifty-sixth Meeting: 16 July 2015



Symposium's regular participants (in alphabetical order)

abigailAbigail George is an African activist for human rights, a feminist, writer and poet. She has received writing grants from the National Arts Council, Centre for the Book, and ECPACC (Eastern Cape Provincial Arts and Culture Council). She is not purely devoted to poetry but to pursuing writing fulltime. She has written two volumes of poetry, and her latest book is titled Winter in Johannesburg. Storytelling for her has always been a phenomenal way of communicating and making a connection with other people. All About My Mother (a collection of short stories) was published by Ovi magazine in July 2012.

laios_01Nikos Laios is a poet, artist, lover of philosophy and student of the human condition, currently writing poetry and producing art; he is also a sculptor, a photographer, widely read in the humanities. He hails from the highlands of Epirus in Greece; greatly influenced by the poetic traditions which have been passed down from his poet ancestor on his maternal side from the island of Cephalonia. He currently resides in North Sydney Australia, is an autodidact and a passionate ‘renaissance’ man, has always been a practical philosopher, throwing himself into the hard questions that life has to offer in search of elusive gems of wisdom.

enDr.Ernesto Paolozzi teaches history of contemporary philosophy at the University Suor Orsola Benincasa of Naples. A Croce scholar and an expert on historicism, he has written widely and published several books, especially on aesthetics and liberalism vis a vis science. His book Benedetto Croce: The Philosophy of History and the Duty of Freedom was printed as an e-book in Ovi magazine in June 2013.

papDr. Emanuel Paparella has a Ph.D. in Italian Humanism with a dissertation on Giambattista Vico from Yale University. He currently teaches philosophy at Barry University and Broward College in Florida, USA. One of his books is titled Hermeneutics in the Philosophy of G. Vico, Mellen Press. His latest e-book Aesthetic Theories of Great Western Philosophers was printed in Ovi magazine in June 2013.


 Note to the readers: As of the first of July 2015, the first thirteen meetings of the Ovi Symposium are available as an e-book, and can be downloaded for free in the Ovi Bookshop. HERE!


Subtheme of session 56: “Is Modernity in the West based on a Synthesis of Antiquity with Christianity?” 

Indirect Participants within the Great Conversation across the ages: Dante, Petrarch, Knowles, Voltaire, Schuman, Dawson, Benedict, Cassiodorus, Plautinus, Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Don Scotus, Alcuin, Lupus, Cicero, Horace, Martial, Seutonius, Virgil, Sallust, Terence, Seneca, Desiderius, Ovid, Alfano, Apuleius, Aristotle, Plato, Varro, Aurillac, Lucan, Persius, Hilderbert, Juvenal, Biscop, Wilson, Tacitus, Fleury, Reynolds, Wilson, Frontius, Quintillian, Gerbert, Demonsthenes, Boniface, Origen, Rilke, Updike, Goethe, Salinger, Christ, Luther, Krog, Jonker, Plath, Sexton, Gordimer, Turner, Bulawago, Nicolini, Machiavelli, Vico, Croce, Hegel, Franchini, Turati, Kant, Nisbet, Heidegger.


Table of Contents for the 56st Session of the Ovi Symposium (16 July 2015)

Preamble by the Symposium’s coordinator Emanuel L. Paparella

Section 1: “The Medieval Monasteries as precursors of the Western Cultural Identity” A Presentation by Emanuel L. Paparella

Section 2: A dialogue between Paolozzi and Paparella on the misinterpretation of Machiavelli’s tought, as broached in the previous meeting of the Ovi Symposium.

Section 3: “Is Modernity in the West based on a synthesis of Antiquity with Christianity?” A Presentation by Abigail George

Section 4: A Brief Response from Paparella to George’s Distinction between Spirituality and Religion

Section 5: “From the Abstract to the Concrete: Thought and Action” A Presentation by Ernesto Paolozzi



Preamble by the Symposium’s Coordinator Emanuel L. Paparella 

In this session of the Ovi Symposium we focus on the synthesis of Antiquity and Christianity which formed Western Civilization as we know it. Historically, it begins in Medieval times but comes to fruition in the Renaissance (1400-1600 AD). It was a slow cultural maturation initiated by Charlemagne in the 9th century AD, blossoming in high medieval times and the century of Humanism (14th century), and finally ushering in the Renaissance which literally means rebirth between the 15th and 16th century . What was reborn was not a mere imitation or replica of Greco-Roman civilization. It is something radically new: a synthesis of antiquity with Christianity, not a perfect synthesis to be sure, but a synthesis nevertheless. It would suffice to take a careful look at Michelangelo’s David or his Sistine Chapel, to be convinced of this.


The David of Michelangelo: a synthesis of Antiquity and Christianity

Thus the claim that modern Western civilization has its origins in the age of science, with Galileo, eventually ushering in positivism as the culmination of human progress, is a dubious one at best, given that it ignores historical precedents. In section one, Paparella explores those neglected precedents as found in European monasteries. Monasticism begins in the 6th century AD (529 A.D.) at Montecassino, the first monastery in Europe founded by St. Benedict, Europe’s patron saint. The monks’ scriptorium can be seen as an analogy for the very root of the synthesis of Antiquity with Christianity, the only light of knowledge surviving the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century AD and insuring the survival of civilization as we know it.

Without the dedicated indefatigable work of the monks in the monasteries’ scriptoriums, it is highly unlikely that there would have been a Renaissance and the subsequent European cultural identity. It is also unlikely that Europe would have spread its culture, albeit under the guise of colonialism and imperialism, to the other continents of the world. Those who have an historical ax to grind against Christianity and the Church will of course continue to insist that the contrary is true, that religion, any religion, is the opium of the people. We’d like to explore such a belief and propose that, to the contrary, any viable civilization, even the most rudimentary, needs to possess three essential institutions: language, family, and religion.

In section two, in the tradition of a symposium, we have a spirited dialogue between Paolozzi and Paparella pursuant to the misinterpretations of Machiavelli’s thought already broached by Paolozzi in the previous Symposium’s meeting. It focuses on the ethical dilemma presented by this question: “Does a good end justify the means.” It ends with a direct translation and quote from Machiavelli’s Prince for the sake of those readers who may not be expert on the thought of the first political scientist.

In section three we are presented with a more subjective stream of consciousness reflection and point of view by George on the synthesis of Antiquity and Christianity ushering in modernity. She delineates a distinction between religion and spirituality to which Paparella responds in section four with a brief comment on what George has declared in her presentation concerning that  distinction. In section five we are presented with an excerpt from Ernesto Paolozzi’s book on the philosophy of Croce titled The Philosophy of History and the Duty of Freedom. Paolozzi demonstrates how Croce, inspired by Vico and Hegel unified ancient philosophy with the modern Historical imagination.

In this meeting a number of crucial issues have been placed on the table and, even more importantly, discussed. We trust that they will be picked up and further discussed in future meetings. In any case, it’s up to the readers to judge whether or not we have succeeded in making our case, namely, that to understand modernity, a return to origins and an attentive focus on the meaning of such origins is a sine qua non.




The Medieval Monasteries as Precursors of the Western Cultural Identity
A Presentation by Emanuel L. Paparella


The Reconstructed Replica of the Monastery of Montecassino destroyed in World War II, founded by
St. Benedict patron saint of Europe, in the 6th century AD as the very first European Monastery

The term “Dark Ages” was once erroneously applied to the entire millennium separating late antiquity from the Italian Renaissance (500-1500 AD). Today scholars know better. There is a widespread acknowledgment (see David Knowles’ The Evolution of Medieval Thought, London: Longman, 1988)) that the 14th century i.e., the century of Dante and Petrarch’s Humanism, not only was not part of the Dark Ages but was the essential precursor of the Italian Renaissance. It was the century when ancient Greek and Latin manuscripts preserved in monasteries were discovered, read and discussed once again thus paving the way for the Renaissance, the rebirth of antiquity which in synthesis with Christianity produces a unique civilization.


Statue of St. Benedict at the Montecassino Monastery

Scholars have also become aware that the High Middle Ages (the first three centuries of the second millennium) were far from dark and intellectually retrograde. Those were the centuries of the cathedrals which still stand there as monuments to an incredibly complex and enlightened civilization, despite the designation of “gothic” as a disparaging statement by Voltaire. As the founder of the European Union Robert Schuman used to quip: “I never feel as European as when I enter a cathedral.” That statement is quite a mouthful in itself and throws light on the fact that those centuries shaped the very identity of Modern Western European civilization. We ignore them at the risk of forever losing our cultural identity which, even for Americans, with an ocean in between, is partially rooted in Western Europe.


The Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris finished in 1345

But there is more; the designation “Dark Ages” has been further pushed back; the eight, ninth and tenth centuries (the era of the so called Carolingian Renaissance, from 700 to 1000 AD) have been excluded. So the dubious distinction of Dark Ages properly speaking belongs to the sixth and seventh centuries (500 to 700 AD) which indeed were centuries of meager fruits in education, literary output and other cultural indicators. Those were the centuries of cultural retrogression, the centuries of the Barbarian invasions in Italy and elsewhere which effectively wrecked Roman civilization as we know it. Those invasions destroyed cities, monasteries, libraries, schools, institutions such as law, government, you name. It was in fact the Church that stepped in the vacuum and maintained a modicum of order within a crumbling civilization. As Christopher Dawson aptly writes: “The Church had to undertake the task of introducing the law of the Gospel and the ethics of the Sermon on the Mount among peoples who regarded homicide as the most honorable occupation and vengeance as synonymous with justice.”


How was this accomplished? By the establishment of Western monasticism by St. Benedict of Nursia at Montecassino Italy (some fifty miles south of Rome) in 529 AD. St. Benedict’s immediate intention was not to do great deeds for European civilization but that is what indeed happened. At its height the Benedictine order boasted 37,000 monasteries throughout Europe. No wonder St. Benedicts has been declared the patron saint of Europe.

Besides praying and working out their salvation and preaching the gospel, what else did monks pursue in those monasteries? In the practical arts, agriculture was a significant one. They literally saved agriculture in Europe. They taught the folks how to cultivate the land, especially in Germany where they converted the wilderness into a cultivated country. Manual labor was intrinsic part of their rule which proclaimed “ora et labora” (pray and work). In England they owned one fifth of all its cultivable land. The monks would introduce crops, industries and production methods with which the people were not familiar: the rearing and breeding of cattle, horses, the brewing of beer, the raising of bees and fruits. The corn trade in Sweden was established by the monks, in Parma it was cheese making, in Ireland salmon fisheries, and in many places vineyards.

From the monasteries of Saint Laurent and Saint Martin the monks redirected the waters of St. Gervais and Belleville to Paris. They taught people irrigation on the plains of Lombardy which have always been some of the richest and most productive in Europe. They constructed technologically sophisticated water-powered systems at monasteries hundred of miles away from each other. The monasteries themselves were the most economically effective units that had ever existed in Europe. Water-power was used to crush wheat, sieving flour, fulling cloth, and tanning. Not even the Roman world had adopted mechanization for industrial use to such an extent.


Monastery of St. Martin

The monks were also known for their skills in metallurgy. They became the leading iron producers in the Champagne region of France in the 13th century. They quarried marble, did glass-work, forged metal plates, mined salt. They were skilful clock-makers. One such clock installed in Magdeburg around 996 AD is the first ever. One such sits in excellent condition in London’s science museum. They also made astronomical clocks. One such was at the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Alban; it was designed by Abbot Richard of Wallingford. In short, monastic know-how pervaded Europe and allowed it not to revert to complete barbarism. This of course is not to deny the influence of Moslem Spain with a civilization that was in some aspects superior to what had remained in the West after the fall of the Roman Empire, especially in architecture, philosophy, and medicine. In some way, the Moslems too functioned in Spain as bridges between antiquity and the coming Renaissance, but their influence was marred by the conflict between Christianity and Islam issuing in the Crusades. Nonetheless, the most direct influence on Western Europe was that of the process of Christianization conducted by the medieval monks.

There was one occupation of the monks which, perhaps more than any other, helped in the preservation of Western Civilization: that of copying ancient manuscripts. It begins in the sixth century when a retired Roman senator by the name of Cassiodorus established a monastery at Vivarium in southern Italy and endowed it with a fine library wherein the copying of manuscripts took center stage. Thereafter most monasteries were endowed with so called scriptoria as part of their libraries: rooms where ancient literature was transcribed by monks as part of their manual labor.

The other place where the survival of manuscripts was a priority were the schools associated with the medieval cathedrals. It was those schools which lay the groundwork for the first University established at Bologna Italy in the eleventh century. The Church had already made some outstanding original contributions in the field of philosophy and theology (the various Church fathers among whom Plautinus, St. Augustine, St. Anselm, St. Thomas Aquinas, Don Scotus) but she was also saving books and documents which resulted indispensable later on for preserving and the rebirth of Western civilization.


A Medieval Scriptorium

The best know of those scholars of the Dark Ages was Alcuin, a polyglot theologian who worked closely with Charlemagne to restore study and scholarship in the whole of West-Central Europe. In describing the holdings of his library at York he mentions works by Aristotle, Cicero, Lucan, Pliny, Statius, Trogus Pompeius, Virgil. In his correspondence he mentions Horace, Ovid, Terence. And he was not alone. The abbot of Ferrieres (c. 805-862), Lupus, quotes Cicero, Horace, Martial, Seutonius, and Virgil. The abbot of Fleury (c. 950-1104) demonstrated familiarity with Horace, Sallust, Terence, Virgil.


Alcuin donating a book to Charlemagne

The greatest of abbots after Benedict, Desiderius, who eventually became Pope Victor III in 1086, personally oversaw the transcription of Horace and Seneca, Cicero’s De Natura Deorum and Ovid’s Fasti. His friend Archbishop Alfano (also a former monk at Montecassino) was familiar with the works of ancient writers quoting from Apuleius, Aristotle, Cicero, Plato, Varro, Virgil. He himself wrote poetry imitating Ovid and Horace. Saint Anselm, as abbot of Bec, commended Virgil and other classical writers to his students.

The other great scholar of the so called Dark Ages was Gerbert of Aurillac who later became Pope Sylvester II. He taught logic but also ancient literature: Horace, Juvenal, Lucan, Persius, Terence, Statius, Virgil. Then there is St. Hildebert who practically knew Horace by heart. Thus it is a great fallacy to assert that the Church encouraged the destruction of ancient pagan culture. To the contrary she helped preserve that culture which would have otherwise been lost.

There were monasteries, moreover, which specialized in other fields of knowledge besides literature. There were lectures in medicine by the monks of St. Benignus at Dijon, in painting and engraving at Saint Gall, in Greek, Hebrew, Arabic in certain German monasteries. Some monks after learning all they could in their own monastery would then travel to other monastic schools established during the Carolingian Renaissance. For instance Abbot Fleury went on to study philosophy and astronomy at Paris and Rheims.

There were monasteries, moreover, which specialized in other fields of knowledge besides literature. There were lectures in medicine by the monks of St. Benignus at Dijon, in painting and engraving at Saint Gall, in Greek, Hebrew, Arabic in certain German monasteries. Some monks after learning all they could in their own monastery would then travel to other monastic schools established during the Carolingian Renaissance. For instance Abbot Fleury went on to study philosophy and astronomy at Paris and Rheims.


Philosophy seated between the seven liberal arts
Picture from the Hortus delicarum of Herrad von Landsberg (12th century)

Montecassino, the mother monastery, underwent a revival in the eleventh century which scholars now consider “the most dramatic single event in the history of Latin scholarship in the 11th century” (see Scribes and Scholars by L. D. Reynolds and N.G. Wilson, 1991). Because of this revival manuscripts which would have been forever lost were preserved: The Annals and Histories of Tacitus, The Golden Ass of Apuleius, The Dialogues of Seneca, Varro’s De Lingua Latina, Frontius De Aquis and thirty odd lines of Juvenal’s satire that are not found in any other manuscript in the world.

The devotion to books of those monks was so extraordinary that they would travel far and wide in search or rare manuscripts. St. Benedict Biscop, abbot of Wearmouth monastery in England, traveled widely on five sea voyages for that purpose. Lupus asked a fellow abbot permission to transcribe Suetonius’ Lives of the Caesars and asked another friend to bring him Sallust’s accounts of the Catilinarian and Jugurthan Wars, the Verrines of Cicero and De Republica. He borrowed Cicero’s De Rhetorica and wrote to the Pope for a copy of Cicero’s De Oratore, Quintillian’s Institutiones, and other texts. Gerbert assisted another abbot in completing incomplete copies of Cicero’s and the philosopher Demosthenes. A monk of Muri said it all: “Without study and without books, the life of a monk is nothing.” So, we would not be far off the mark in asserting unequivocally that Western civilization’s admiration for the written word and the classics of antiquity have come to us via the Catholic Church which preserved them in monasteries through the barbarians’ invasions.


St. Thomas Aquinas and his Summa Theologiae

Although education was not universal, many of the nobility were sent to monastery schools to be educated. One such as Thomas Aquinas who was educated by the monks of Montecassino before joining the Dominican order. St. Benedict himself instructed the sons of Roman nobles. St. Boniface established a school in every monastery he founded in Germany; the same was done by St. Augustine and his monks in England and St. Patrick in Ireland. Irish monasteries developed as great centers of learning and transcription of manuscripts. They laid the foundations for European universities and became the bridge between antiquity and modernity. Without them, we might still be running in the forests merely concerned with survival. To mention a work of art that clearly reveals the synthesis, all we need to do is think of Michelangelo’s David (see illustration above). We would be mistaken to think of such a magnificent sculpture as a mere imitation of Greco Roman form. Yes, the echo of the Greco Roman form is there, a beautiful perfect body, but there is also something new and it is the synthesis of Antiquity with Christianity revealed in a spiritual face which has the imprint of some fourteen hundred years of Christianity.


St. Boniface who established a school in every monastery in Germany

A final footnote may be appropriate here for all it’s worth. The monastery of Montecassino was destroyed and rebuilt several times. The last time it was destroyed it was not by the barbarians but by super-civilized, super-enlightened modern man. It was raised to the ground by American bombers in 1944 under order of an English general. The strategic objective was to dislodge the Germans who were thought to have taken refuge in the monastery (but were not). The result was that the Germans found the ruins of the monastery a more ideal place from which to continue to fight.


The 6th century Monastery of Montecassino as destroyed in 1944 during World War II

When one reflects that few if any of those bombers had ever read Virgil or Seneca and were aware of the cultural patrimony they were destroying, one begins to wonder if Vico’s saying about the “barbarism of the intellect,” which he considered more sinister than physical material barbarism (and which expresses itself as disparagement for books and culture in general), may indeed be an appropriate designation for such a sad event. Be that as it may, the monastery, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, is now rebuilt as a replica and it is there beckoning the busy traveler on the “autostrada del sole” to an oasis of Peace and Reason, Beauty and Truth. If those are ever lost, all the wealth in the world will not save Western Civilization.


As a sort of footnote to the above I’d like to include an extended quote from a very interesting and insightful essay by Matjaz Crnivec which appeared on 18 April 1011 under the title “Antiquity and Christianity—A Contestable Conciliation.” It makes for an interesting juxtaposition to section I of this essay, the other side of the coin, so to speak. It is important to understand that at its origins Christianity’s philosophical underpinning were more Jewish than Greek or Platonic. All that changes, according to Crnivec, with the “Christianization,” so to speak, of the Roman Empire with Emperor Constantine and the arrival of Origen and Augustine on the theological scene of what Crnivec calls “Christendom,” as distinguished from original Christianity. In as much as our essay begins with St. Benedict who lived in the 6th century AD, perhaps this footnote and extended quote is relevant here to bridge the gap between the first theologian, St. Paul, and St. Benedict, the father of Western monasticism, for indeed much happened culturally between the origins of Christianity and the Fall of the Roman Empire; it spans five centuries, or a quarter of the history of Christianity and half of the history of Rome.

Here is the excerpt from Crnivec’s essay: “From the 3rd century onwards we can observe how these two very distinct models started merging, to form the typical worldview of what I call ‘Christendom’. I believe the most important figure in this process was Origen. It is true that even before him Christian apologists had used the language of Greek philosophy to describe the Christian faith. With Origen, however, something more important happens: philosophical terminology and concepts are not just used to explain Christianity to others, now they become tools used for Christian internal self-understanding. This change of language was not just superficial.

With great conviction Origen stated that what the prophets were to Israel, Socrates and other philosophers were to Greeks, and thus somehow elevated the texts of the Greek philosophers to the same level as those of the Old Testament. This opened the doors for Christians to explore and employ certain aspects of this great philosophical tradition. With the help of certain Platonic philosophical elements, Origen constructed the first systematic representation of Christian belief and teaching, one that was quite appealing to his contemporary intellectuals. It could be argued that this was the birth of theology, in the sense of the word as is now commonly used, and especially systematic theology.


Origen (182-254 A.D.)

It is, therefore, not surprising that Origen’s speculations about the beginnings of the world run exactly as one would expect from a Platonic thinker: the story of creation is reinterpreted symbolically: the whole material world was due to the fall of the souls from God. The material nature of the world is perceived as merely an episode in the spiritual process of development, whose end should be the annihilation of all matter and return to God. As far as humans are concerned, the first sin is, therefore, understood as the cause for man to acquire the physical body. This ‘sarkosis’ happens at the point where God clothes the fallen Adam and Eve with garments of skins.

Another important consequence of Origen’s approach is seen in the transfer of Greek philosophical notions of what is proper for the abstract deity (theoprepés) to the personal God of the biblical revelation: the characteristics of impassability (incapacity of suffering) and immutability (incapacity for inner change) now become projected into the Godhead. Biblical passages showing God as expressing grief and even changing his mind are now explained away as crude anthropomorphisms that were necessary because of limitedness of the original audience. Constancy of God’s character, which is affirmed in the Scriptures, is now replaced by absolute changelessness and lack of inner motion.

Nevertheless, to be fair to Origen, we must recognize the importance of his achievement. In a time when Christianity had no political backing and was still regarded as a weird and dangerous sect in Greek and Roman societies, his synthesis meant a major apologetic triumph, which clearly showed that Christianity was actually the true peak and fulfillment of the highest aspirations of the contemporary culture. Origen’s brilliant knowledge of the Bible, his learned scholarship, the remarkable intuition of his Christocentric symbolic interpretations and his firm and coherent exposition of the Scripture made it almost impossible for anyone in has age to criticize him. We should also note that Origen repeatedly stressed the difference between the core teachings of the Church on one side and his speculations on the other; in various places he clearly states that his opinion is not a dogma, i.e. it is not normative for all Christians.

It is actually quite amazing that his rejection by the imperial Church happened so late, in 553, three centuries after his death, in quite uncertain circumstances. In the meantime, his approach and his works made a huge impact on almost every significant Christian thinker of the Greco-Roman world, even on the most orthodox ones, who came to be called ‘the church fathers’ in most Christian traditions.

In the time of the emperor Constantine and his successors, Origen’s bold linking of the Greek philosophy with the Judeo-Christian revelation, started to serve a new and important political purpose. The emperors who wanted all their subjects to embrace Christendom certainly found it useful, because it helped to make the transition smoother, especially for the better educated. Furthermore, even the teachers and theologians inside the Church became so accustomed to the use of philosophical terminology and concepts that they seemed to be unable to do without them. It appears that in Greco-Roman world there were almost no objections towards this linguistic and paradigmatic shift. This can be clearly shown from the history of the early Ecumenical Councils, where the dogmas of the nature of Christ and of the Trinity were being discussed.

In the First Council of Nicaea, which took place in 325 AD, the philosophical concepts of homooúsios and homoioúsios were subject to fervent debate as to which of them properly described the relationship of Christ to God the Father. Both of these terms come from the sphere of philosophy and are not found in the Christian Scriptures. It is amazing that for the bishops of the Council there was simply no other way; they had to decide between one of these. It seems it was completely impossible to go back to the biblical language, which was rooted in Jewish worldview and lacked the precision but was, on the other hand, less abstract, more direct and lively than the chosen terms. We can only wonder at the absolute absence of any voice that would try to show that the abstract philosophical terminology was simply inadequate or inappropriate for expressing the paradoxes and intimacy of the personal relations that were in question.

It is important to note that these expressions were not understood as additional explanations of the revelation for the interested individuals; this language was constituted as an absolute norm for every Christian – an important difference since the time of Origen. Accepting the right philosophical term and rejecting the wrong one was a matter of salvation or damnation, all those who did not accept the homooúsios formula were expelled from the imperial Church. Furthermore, although this terminology was thought to supply a level of precision that was not possible with the biblical language, it soon became obvious that it needed more explanation with the same philosophical language to make it more precise.

 Another council was necessary, with new formulations and with a new Church-splitting damnation of those who did not accept the new definitions. This cycle was then repeated several times, and each time a part of Church was cut off from the rest, because of its disagreement with the proposed formulation.
We can see this unquestioned synthesis of Christianity with Antiquity everywhere in the early Byzantine Church, both in its eastern and its western part. It made its way not only into the normative theology, but also in the practical spirituality of Christians. The body was again understood as a cage for the soul and sexuality was again disfavored and reduced to a reproductive function. Instead, stern asceticism and virginity were honored and put on prominent positions.” 



A brief Dialogue between Paolozzi and Paparella on the Issue of the Misinterpretation of Machiavelli’s Thought, as Broached in the Previous Meeting of the Symposium

Paolozzi: Dear Emanuel, your important reflection on the nexus between ethics and politics undoubtedly deserve an in depth discussion. For now let me attempt a quick response. I concur with the issue you raise regarding the Christian vision which does not allow a dichotomy between our actions and our intentions and above all condemns the ethics of winning at any cost. But I’d like to add some details. The critique you mention is certainly applicable to a utilitarian approach to ethics, a system founded on utilitarian calculations which ends up showing its true colors in the end, even when it does not intend to do so. However in the case of our historicist approach to Macchiavelli perhaps we can have a different interpretation.

In such a case, i.e., for the critical dialectical or historicist thought, there exists a relationship of mutual dependence, or to say it with Kant, an a priori insertion in the concreteness of life. That is to say, ethics is sterile without politics, politics is blind without ethics. In this sense the ethical end can only be realized within politics.

Some time ago I wrote that, ultimately, we can have recourse to the evangelical maxim “simple like doves, prudent like snakes” to explain the deeper meaning of the authentic Machiavellism. Here we have an issue that the same Machiavelli put to himself without resolving in a rigorously philosophical mode and it is this: the notion that in reality there may not be any real difference between means and ends, in the sense that to arrive at a definite end in a particular historical moment, only those means could be used. Sometimes it looks as if it were not so, because we are locating ourselves in a different perspective months or years later, in judging the action of a particular political man and imagine all the other actions he could have taken. But the president who ordered the dropping of the atomic bomb, assumed responsibility for that order within the exact conditions of the moment, not within what we can imagine now in the abstract. Where there other means to end that tremendous tragedy of fascist aggression against the free world? Had the war continued for a few more years, what then. These are questions that remain hypothetical and cannot have a definite answer.

Finally, I’d like to say something on Machiavelli for those readers who may not be experts on the topic. Machiavelli was a defeated politician, spend a good part of his life in poverty, which is a witness to his good faith. It would be enough to read the very end of his Prince to become aware of this. The whole book is a rather naïve but passionate request to the prince of Florence in favor of the liberty and unity of Italy. And this was three centuries before the Risorgimento or movement for the liberation of Italy and the beginning of modern democracy for Italy which the Florentine secretary loved so much.

Perhaps, the real “Machiavellian” in the worst sense of that term was Guicciardini who theorized on individual private interests and of a life without turmoil. Hence the great De Sanctis would suggest that what was most consonant for Italy (and indeed any country) was the man Machiavelli, not the man Guicciardini. Christ’s warning to his disciples, that they will be accused of exactly the contrary of what their ideas are, of being guilty of what they were opposing, is also valid for Machiavelli.

I thank you once again for the opportunity you continually offer clearly and passionately with our Ovi friends, to deepen themes which are absolutely important. That is something rare nowadays, even within the world of culture and the academy. If you deem it, we can pick up the issue later on.

Paparella: Dear Ernesto, obviously we both agree with Kant’s ethical principles as elucidated in his Critique of Practical Reason which insists that any ethical action must have three fundamental characteristics: universality, freedom, and intentionality or good faith. To continue the dialogue for the benefit of those who do not know much about Machiavelli’s thought except the misunderstandings that they absorbed, and further clarify some details, I’d like to pause on your mentioning of Machiavelli’s essential good faith, proven by the inconveniences and even persecutions that he had to suffer in his life. Indeed, there is no reason to doubt his good faith; for bad faith always implies bad intentions or a dissonance between what one says and the intentions one has in mind; that dissonance we call deception and is unfortunately designated as “Machiavellism” at times perhaps partly explaining the ongoing misinterpretations of Machiavelli’s political theory. To go to war with the excuse of defending one’s country or fight for liberty, when one has joined the army because one loves killing in itself, is to be deceptive. Externally one may be a hero, internally one is a villain. I think we agree on that; but of course our agreement does not take away the misinterpretations to which Machiavelli’s thought has been subjected over several centuries.

 The issue however, as I see it, remains the issue of good means to achieve a good end, and bad means to achieve the same good end or the moral principle that “a good end may not justify bad means” understood as universally applicable and not relative to the situation or the culture in which one happens to find oneself. No doubt Machiavelli’s end of the unification of Italy was a good and honorable one. It’s the means that remain problematic in the field of ethics. Was it not, after all, what was in fact asserted at the Nuremberg trials when confronted with the excuses of “I was only following orders and the ends were good” or what the Nazi doctors proposed, that what they were doing was only for the progress of medicine and medicine ultimately benefits everyone? The declaration of human rights at the UN which was subsequently adopted declares that it is unethical to justify bad means such as sadistic torture (now euphemistically called “enhanced interrogation).

The example of the dropping of the atom bomb on Japanese civilians that you place on the table is of course more ambiguous since not dropping it would have been equivalent of sacrificing a million soldiers or more in an invasion of the Japanese home land and there was war on wherein one is allowed to destroy military assets and consider civilians killed non-intended “collateral damage.”  But even here, St. Augustine’s principles of proportionality kicks in, not to speak of the fact that, as you know, there are some moralists who fault President Truman for justifying bad means (the targeting of civilians) for the good end of the termination of the war. And so the debate goes on. Indeed, there is a lot of gray in between what is clearly right and what is clearly wrong and you are right in mentioning historical dialectic as something to be considered when making judgments on human event; were it not so we would not need the science of ethics which has been around at least since the times of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. But let our dialogue continue, for after all, the Symposium was originally conceived as a pedagogical instrument to benefit both its participants and its readers.

What follows is an excerpt and a comment from the last page of The Prince translated into English for the sake of those readers who may not be familiar with Italian or with Machiavelli:

“This opportunity, therefore, ought not to be allowed to pass for letting Italy at last see her liberator appear. Nor can one express the love with which he would be received in all those provinces which have suffered so much from these foreign scourings, with what thirst for revenge, with what stubborn faith, with what devotion, with what tears. What door would be closed to him? Who would refuse obedience to him? What envy would hinder him? What Italian would refuse him homage? To all of us this barbarous dominion stinks. Let, therefore, your illustrious house take up this charge with that courage and hope with which all

just enterprises are undertaken, so that under its standard our native country may be ennobled, and under its auspices may be verified that saying of Petrarch:

     Virtue against fury shall advance the fight,
     And it i' th' combat soon shall put to flight:
     For the old Roman valor is not dead,
     Nor in th' Italians' breasts extinguished.”

Comment by Paparella: Dear Ernesto, the above quote does in fact render witness to Machiavelli’s good intentions regarding the unification of Italy which he envisioned three hundred years before its realization in the 19th century. Nevertheless, as you know Guicciardini, whom you mention as a sort of nemesis to Machiavelli, was not very impressed by the reference at the end of the Prince to ancient Roman valor and to Petrarch, the father of European humanism. Given the sort of vainglorious man Guicciardini was, as you also point out, perhaps this discrediting of what Machiavelli was arguing for, can be interpreted as envy pure and simple but his rebuttal that to compare the Italians of the 15th century to the ancient Romans was like comparing a noble horse to a donkey, when pondered carefully and not discarded outright, contains a grain of truth; not however the way Guicciardini meant it. Machiavelli had it on target however; he had actually explained in the Prince why Italian armies performed so poorly strategically even though they did not lack courage on the field of battle; they lacked competent leadership and harmony of intentions among them. For Macchiavelli, before forming a united Italy, it is important to identify what the cultural identity of the Italians is, otherwise the unification will be built on sand. Guicciardini however fails to grant any credit to this acute observation of Machiavelli and in enunciating that outrageous  comparison of the horse and the donkey, proves in a way why it took another 300 years, till the 19th century Risorgimento, to unify the whole Italian peninsula: there was a bit too much dissent and discord among the Italians for the appeal to the glory of Rome to have any effects. Mussolini of course mistook his petty fascistic dictatorship, of what some historians have called “the little Italy” bounded by the straitjacket of nationalism, for the rebirth of the Roman Empire with him functioning as the de facto emperor.

Continuing the discord and the recriminations, there are now some Italians who wish to withdraw from the national union (the Lega party),  and then there are the cynics like Giuseppe di Lampedusa, of Gattopardo fame, who think that in 1860 everything changed so that nothing would ultimately change, and that Victor Emanuel II was no liberator of Southern Italy, just a substitute monarch. Proof of it are the millions of Italian emigrants to the Americas and Australia, 90% of them from Southern Italy. Indeed, the Roman Empire, the Catholic Church, and the Renaissance are all universal experiences which renders the straitjacket of a rabid nationalism ill suited for Italy. I suppose a sincere ongoing dialogue is still to be given closure on this thorny issue. So, let the dialogue continue.



Is Modernity in the West based on a Synthesis of Antiquity and Christianity?
A Presentation by Abigail George


I imagine scholars of trivia all across campuses on this planet engaged in protest, deeply engrossed in research in a university library while doing graduate studies. The Ph. D. student working on a thesis that just has to be done, or the short story for a class. Insight there has to be methodological. All Christians in the society that we live in today have an intensified disenchantment with their faith at some points in their life. They often ask themselves, ‘am I spiritual enough’ instead of that refrain that we hear so often, ‘am I good enough’ but where does the disenchantment come from?

Religion is like traveling to another universe. You have to come prepared with a survival kit for the wilderness history that seems to include antiquity and Christianity. I have found answers in both religion and spirituality. Humanity will always be full of love for antiquity and aware of the sharpening vision coming into focus of modernity. Is religion the future no matter how modern life clashes with it, the tensions that arises alongside the chemistry, the unidirectional crises, and the maladjusted behavior found in humanity and our neighborhood communities?

We can stand on platforms but we will always stand in judgment of each other. We embraced social media the same way we embraced every pop culture icon in the history that preceded it. Christian guises, texts, images, rituals, religion and media has always been a part of modernity. Why stop now right but has Christianity always wanted recognition? She has survived wars. She speaks. She speaks. When it comes to worldviews in the modernity in the West, the synthesis of antiquity and Christianity in the world today and other places. Certainties disappear in the wake of the synthesis of antiquity and Christianity like coins thrown into a fountain.


What is the Christian fall-out in the end? In a way, why has Christianity survived? The only thing that seems most obvious to me is that modernity in the West cannot exist without the history of antiquity and Christianity. We find antiquity in a museum being propped up and groomed into the formation of dust. Only intellectuals and busloads of children on school trips supervised by a teacher or teachers will find it there. Time standing still. The hourglass standing still. What is in the power of my hands? What is in my power? As a Christian, it is to go to church on a Sunday morning, to read the bible, it is always to do good deeds, to have a spiritual nature, to guide children whether or not they are my mine, to say grace before every meal (these of course are rituals).


What does antiquity and the art of modernity in the West mean to men and women in their mid-thirties these days? Do they give it any thought? Think of how far we have come in history to this day, this hour, this very minute. Perhaps in a way they are all rivals. Modernity, antiquity and Christianity. They all have their own identity theory. The grandeur of antiquity is profound. Every man and every woman is a prophet but not every man and every woman is a Christian. At the end of the day after the dust has settled in the cities and the countries of the world, at the end of the memory work of our education, the fact that there are poets and artists everywhere stop us from thinking with an experimental clause in our thinking when it comes to modernity. Modernity will always be there in the same way that antiquity will be there but not Christianity. Why is it different when it comes to religion in my perspective? We will always be washing away our sins by putting up a masked face, putting on a costume, an elaborate stage play, a dramatic pose and going through rituals. Lost souls are we and on the other hand, lost souls we are not. We are not lost yet. We are not the wasted generation yet. In South Africa, the burning fires of the past and a kind of tomorrow land that exists sometime in the future confront us.

This tomorrow land has a kind of domineering attitude as every society ever did. It is the latent past of modernity that brings with it a kind of territorial tenderness. People and poets who live in poverty think nothing of modernity, antiquity and Christianity. The gods they serve are a loaf of bread. Their professors are their hunger pangs. The feminist that we are confronted today either embraces will, religion, or spirituality. There are no longer any heroes waiting for us in parliament or the political climate of the day. There is something beautiful in thinking that modernity in the West is based on a synthesis of antiquity and Christianity. If we continue to think this way, then I think there will come a time when we will re-examine what we have to come to know of power. The struggle between spirituality and the external world. Our environment and climate change. Perhaps then, the feminist’s paradigm will shift when it comes to happily ever after, the sexual transaction, husbands and the reality of them. What does the word ‘synthesis’ really mean?


If we were always going about in life separated from each other, not linking up with other human life and creating chains and catalysts then we all would be poorer for this experience. Human life has her traditions and rituals when it comes to Christianity. I have a mind of my own. Can we be truly lost in the cosmic, can I be lost in cosmic Africa if it was not for antiquity? Modernity’s predicament is this. It is antiquity that   remains the unknown yet there is something distinct and infinite about it and in the end Christianity remains a religion.  What becomes of religion when it can longer feed the masses loaves of bread and fishes? When it can no longer indoctrinate the working classes? When it comes to modernity and the holocaust what was the main emotion there?


Marriage and family in modern times has changed so much. Filled with consequences, overarching dilemmas and overwhelming disappointments. At least humanity can say, ‘we have antiquity’. There is a beauty and an elegance when it comes to the synthesis between antiquity and Christianity for it triumphs over the abstract, the metaphor, camp. All of that dissolves and evaporates and what is left in its place is a kind of distillate. For the female subjects well they feed their babies in the early hours of the morning. They will sew. There will always be shifting patterns in their reality. The relativity of domestic moments, waves of those kinds of domestic goddess themes as she goes through her day. She has her own interrelationships. She has her chores that fills her day. Cooking, cleaning, doing the laundry, exploring her sense of self in the pictures of a glossy magazine. Christianity has her own kind of language rooted deeply in ancient texts. Christianity is a tangled psychological wreck for atheists.

The glare and the illumination of antiquity has its own credentials. It is not religion that dazzles but rather antiquity that does. In the end, it leaves us with a firm sense of isolation. What does Christianity mean to the woman (does it mean much more to the woman than it does to the man)? A woman’s desire is more concentrated and much more focused. She knows exactly what her obligations are. What does Christianity mean to the man? He randomly searches for an epistemological freedom. If it were not for antiquity then we would not have museums or libraries collecting dust. What the present-day self is looking for in religion, well people might not find salutations there but what they will find there are confessional booths, Hail Mary’s, and hallelujahs.

For me personally, spirituality triumphs over religion. I do sense a kind of confinement when it comes to antiquity. I would go as far as calling it ‘an exploration of the lost years’. Years I did not live in. Years before my birth. Generations spent with teachers. Apprentices looking for mentors. On some scale that still happens, but today but people do not go around talking about antiquity, synthesis and Christianity in the same lofty tones or with a kind of satisfaction. We forget to speak about and separate the ordinary intellectual and remove them from the high octane sphere of wealth, banal education and a cultural diatribe is it because sometimes the ordinary intellectual can lead us to disappointment us somehow but never antiquity.


We call forth a woman’s work in today’s society. We look at how she confines herself to the roles that she plays. Mother, daughter, sister, friend, colleague but was it not always like this even ages ago? Mother, daughter, sister, friend, colleague not in any particular order. A woman selling fruit or fish at a marketplace. The church existed eons ago. As did Christianity, antiquity, modernity. For every era, there is a different modernity. New clothes, new food, new writers, new techniques, new styles, a new psychology that permeates the consciousness and dissonance of interpersonal relationships, family and working life. I think when Christianity first came into play that was when humanity began to place restriction on human life. Is religion meant to empower but only to empower and uplift the working classes?

Humanity is meant to be creative. We are supposed to push mental boundaries, discover the imaginative, we should worship, and if we do not worship God or a god or gods then perhaps it brings our very livelihood into question. We would be a very dull species if we were not creative. The major advantage of Christianity is that it brings people together who would otherwise not be together. It constructs a mainstream community but with Christianity, there is always a closely-knit state of fear. With all of the emotion that comes with Christianity there will always be the positive and the negative interlaced like stitches on a quilt, woven like details in a tapestry, images of Jesus Christ on the cross being jeered at by soldiers, a crown of thorns on his head, being denied three times by Peter. Society’s Christians carry that image of Jesus Christ wherever they go. Death and birth. There is always that transcendence that must take place. The human race increases their own suffering. If our work life is disappointing then so will our perspective on society.


My self is my only link to modernity. My ego is my only link to the external link and Christianity is my link to the postmodern world. School was always disappointing. There was no link there to modernity, antiquity or Christianity. In some ways, antiquity is like Christianity. It may happen intrinsically. In the end, I was always disappointing academically. To answer the question of whether modernity in the West is based on a synthesis of antiquity and Christianity, I would have to say yes. When it comes to modernity, I only have to fall back on female writers, poets and artists out of Africa, North America. I just sit in awe wonder at how far we have come from the days of Martin Luther and monasteries. I think of the distance covered as a journey (the destination is not important) other writers, gentle artists such as the South African born poet, Antjie Krog, and Ingrid Jonker, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Nadine Gordimer’s Oral History, Jann Turner’s Southern Cross and NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names.  Whether or not they are gentle with their work leaves much to discovery. Museums are there for a reason. Sometimes fully understanding that is it still to be found in pop culture is a complete waste of time when everybody has access to some technology. People think rock concerts are a part of pop culture never realising that perhaps the day will come when lyrics will be part of antiquity. The day we forget history and welcome this tomorrow land, I worry about our descendants. Left with a plastic fantastic world. Left with Disney as our most redeeming quality. Left at the mercy of the fake art of television. This how we will live in the future without modernity, antiquity and Christianity.


I do think a time will come when we will recycle the words modernity, antiquity and Christianity and all that we will end up with is a distillate. They will be like doves released at a wedding.



A Brief Response by way of a dialogue by Paparella to George’s Distinction between Spirituality
and Religion:

Thank you Abigail for your reflections on the synthesis of Antiquity and Christianity which indeed constitutes the Italian Renaissance and European culture in general, as elucidated in my presentation above. Without grasping that synthesis, as imperfect as it is, it would be difficult to grasp much of the core meaning of the cultural phenomenon called the Renaissance, i.e., the “rebirth” of Greco-Roman civilization in the 15th century, nor will we be able to identify what ails present day Western civilization. As we know, the Renaissance was much more than a slavish imitation of Greco-Roman civilization: it was something novel in as much as it was a synthesis of antiquity and Christianity and it provided a cultural identity to the whole of Western Civilization. I think that Christopher Dawson, whom I briefly mentioned above as the renowned scholar and cultural anthropologist of The Making of Europe fame, would concur with such an analysis and  assessment of Western Civilization.

Be that as it may, as someone who has at one time taught comparative religions, what immediately attracted my attention in first reading your interesting essay was the distinction made between religion and spirituality. By way of a dialogue, I’d like to briefly focus on and discuss that particular aspect of your presentation. Actually, the topic has already been discussed in Ovi’s thematic forum a few months ago, but perhaps it bears a revisiting now by way of a further dialogue and discussion. For one hears much about that distinction nowadays, especially here in America. When I travel to Europe I hear much less of it, probably because religion in its totality has been rejected by the majority of Europeans. Indeed, in other places people seem to be either religious or irreligious, a clear demarcation with nothing much in between. It is a fact that at least 50% of Europe no longer bothers with the practice of Christianity, albeit many continue to consider themselves cultural Christians. But here in America there is gray area, almost as a bridge between the two. We  have created a third category, that of spirituality. The question for a cultural anthropologist naturally arises: is this a purely American cultural phenomenon? I don’t know for sure yet. In fact, as I write this response, I keep wondering how things stand on the continent of Africa in this regard. I do know that Africa is the only continent where Catholicism continues to grow.

In my opinion, a glaring problem in the attempt to separate religion from spirituality is that the former is usually saddled with everything negative, something the positivists of our brave new world consider anachronistic and passé, almost a retrograde superstition, while the latter is exalted with everything positive as being the latest in cultural and scientific progress and enlightenment. Frankly, I consider such an approach slightly biased and not very historically accurate or objective, in the sense that one never hears the designation positive or negative from those who consider themselves religious or irreligious. They either accept or reject religion outright. As we know, Marx, for one, had contempt for religion and considered it “the opium of the people.” It’s only from those who consider themselves “spiritual” that we hear complaints about religion per se, as not being spiritual enough. When I meet people who describe themselves as “spiritual” and reject the designation of religious, I place before them the question as to why any intelligent religious person (and there are billions of them in the world just in the Abramitic religions) would remain faithful to a system which has only negative and retrograde characteristics. Is it reasonable to assume that they have all been duped?

Historically and etymologically it appears that religion has been around for millennia, from the very beginning of any human civilization. Linguistically, the term derives from the Latin word “religare,” which means binding together. The word church, moreover, means “assembly of God.” The term spirituality as a substitute for religion, on the other hand, while being around too for a long while and considered a characteristic of all religions, came to be used frequently only after the 1960s when there were widespread revolts against every form of organized authority, including “organized religion.” Then a new category was created which no longer included the same traditional authority figures and it was dubbed “Spirituality.”  Spirituality was no longer seen as integral part of religion, but became an alternative, a  way of privatizing and personalizing religion, so to speak; a way of designating something different from religion which progressively became a dirty word, that is to say a word to which all kinds of negatives accrued; a way of reducing religion to a private affair between oneself and God, something much more congenial to Protestants than to Catholic Christians.

Yet most courts in America have refused to acknowledge any substantive difference between the two concluding that “spiritual” programs are so much like religions that it would violate the separation of church and state to force people to attend them. The religious beliefs of these “spiritual” groups do not necessarily lead people to the same conclusions as organized religions do, but that doesn’t make them less religious. For example, the courts will point out that as far as personal quests for God, organized religions have made a great deal of room for such quests; as far as personal understanding of God, organized religions have relied heavily not only upon dogma or doctrine but also upon the insights of mystics and saints. One thinks of St. Francis of Assisi and Thomas Aquinas. Moreover, some of the negative features commonly attributed to religion can also be found in so-called spiritual” systems. E.g., as far as religion being dependent upon a book of rules, Alcoholics’ Anonymous, which has describes itself as spiritual rather than religious, has such a book. As far as religion being dependent upon a set of written revelations from God rather than a personal communication, A Course in Miracles is a book of such revelations which people are expected to study and learn from.

Theologically we have the Protestant theologian Dietrich Bonhoffer (who died in a Nazi concentration camp) coin the slogan “religion-less religion,” a catch phrase which caught on like wild fire in the 60s. He made the point that since that word had been abused, caricaturized and distorted beyond recognition, it may prove useful to stop using it altogether, and so he devised the term “religion-less religion. In any case, I have always found it highly intriguing that many of the negative things which people attribute to religions are, at best, features of some forms of some religions (usually Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), but not of other religions (like Taoism or Buddhism). This is perhaps why so much of spirituality remains attached to traditional religions, as attempts to soften their harder edges. The paradox remains however: religion is spiritual and spirituality is religious; the two are inextricably interrelated and need each other. One tends to be more personal and private while the other tends to incorporate public rituals and organized doctrines, for after all, the very word church means “assembly of God” and one can hardly have an assembly of one person communicating with God; that phenomenon can better be characterized as solipsism, not religion, and perhaps it is not even spirituality.

It remains true however that the lines between one and the other are not always clear and distinct, they are all points on the spectrum of belief systems known as religion. I think we would not be going too far afield in affirming that neither religion nor spirituality is better or worse than the other. They go together like two sides of the same coin. I would propose that those who try to pretend that such a difference exists need to reconsider the matter under the light of the overarching definition of religion and its historical and linguistic aspects as above delineated. In any case, let the dialogue continue; as Plato and Aquinas have well taught us, only via dialogue (which is indeed at the core of any symposium) can we ever hope to exit the cave of misguided biased judgments and, under the light of reason, search for the guiding light of the truth on any issue.



From the Abstract to the Concrete: Thought and Action
A Presentation by Ernesto Paolozzi
(Excerpted from his book on the Philosophy of History and the Duty of Freedom: chapter 3)


Logic as Science of the Pure Concept , sketched in 1905 and revised and expanded in 1909, is the fundamental work of Benedetto Croce and, certainly, among the most important in the history of philosophy. To presume to account for the complexity of this work and the possible contradictions left to the living thought of posterity, would be a daring act given the essentially didactic nature of the present work. However, it is necessary to pause on some essential points to account for a philosophy that while not claiming to be definitive is architecturally coherent and tending to be conclusive, by trying to resolve problems and refusing to force them into a sterile intellectual exercise.

Croce’s Logic is strongly positioned on the transcendental logic of Kant and Hegel, even if in time a strong connection with Giambattista Vico will emerge, whose conception of the unity of philosophy and philology can be said to be the logical antecedent to the theory of historical judgment. Closer to Kant than to Hegel, as I mentioned earlier, Croce eliminates any transcendental or realistic residue, puts into motion Kant’s synthetic a priori, situates it in history and “realizes,“ to use Hegel’s terminology, the dialectic of opposites by placing it in relation (but it is a question of more than a simple relation) with the logic of distincts. The foundation of this new logical system, or method, is the assertion of the concept as pure concept, that is, distinct from representations or intuitions and from logical fictions or pseudo-concepts. The true concept arises from representation (previously we have seen that knowledge has for Croce two forms, the intuitive and the conceptual) and without them it could only live as mere abstraction, but it is distinct from it, as it is obvious and natural. But the concept is not the one that we currently designate with this term. It is not an arbitrary abstraction constructed on the concrete representations of reality. This is Croce’s famous example: If we think of the house, we refer to an artificial structure of stone or masonry or wood, or iron or straw, where beings, whom we call men, are wont to abide for some hours, or for entire days and entire years. Now, however great may be the number of objects denoted by that concept, it is always a finite number; there was a time when men did not exist, when, therefore, neither did his house; and there was another time when man existed without his house, living in caverns and under the open sky. Of course, undoubtedly, we shall be able to extend the concept of house, so as to include also the places inhabited by animals; but it will never be possible to follow with absolute clearness the distinction between artificial and natural [...]; or between the animals which are inhabitants and the non-animals, which nevertheless are inhabitants, such as plants, which, as well as animals, often seek a roof; admitting that certain plants and animals have other plants and animals as their houses. Hence, in view of the impossibility of a clear and universal distinctive character, it is advisable to have recourse at once to enumeration and to give the name house to certain particular objects, which, however numerous they are, are also finite in number, and which, with the enumeration complete, or capable of completion, exclude other objects from themselves (L 23-24). Therefore, these types of objects lack the necessary, universal character of the true concept. One can think of a world without houses, or without roses and cats (whose concepts are deduced through abstraction) but a world without the concept of utility or morality is unthinkable.


Any human action is either useful or useless, good or evil. To other types of concepts, which also appear to take on the characteristics of the most striking truths, a fundamental requisite is missing. They are universal in form, or so they seem, but they are empty, deprived of reality, because to the perfection that characterizes them reality is lacking. They are, to use the useful Heideggerian terminology, precise but not true. What is then the function of pseudo-concepts? Are they minor truths, as Hegel and later philosophy claimed, or philosophical sketches waiting for higher realization, are they errors of which one should be wary? No, is Croce’s original reply. They have in fact a practical and not a theoretical character. They are distinct and not opposed to art and philosophy. Now, in order to avoid (for as long as one can) equivocation and misunderstandings, it is good to remember that the pure concept is always also expression, language or whatever else one wants to call it, and that its fundamental character, in fact the only one, is that of being universal and concrete at the same time, so that universality does not degrade into abstraction, and individuality (the concerete!) into mere sensation. The concept has the character of expressivity; that is to say, it is a cognitive product, and, therefore, expressed or spoken, not a mute act of the spirit, as is a practical act. If we wish to submit the effective possession of a concept to a first test, we can employ the experiment which was advised on a previous occasion: - whoever asserts that he possesses a concept, should be invited to expound it in words, and with other means of expression (graphic symbols and the like). If he refuses to do so and says that his concept is so profound that words cannot avail to render it, we can be sure, either that he is under the illusion of possessing a concept, when he possesses only turbid fancies and morsels of ideas; or that he has a presentiment of the profound concept, that it is in a process of formation, and will be, but is not yet, possessed (L 40-41).

Having established this, it remains to be said that the proper character of the concept is its being universal-concrete: “two words which designate one thing only, and can also grammatically become one: “Transcendental” (L 49). The Kantian and Hegelian origins of Croce’s thought are unavoidable, which helps us to understand better our assertion about “putting into mobility” the concept of a synthetic a priori. Croce’s system is a continuous linking together of synthetic a priori (art as aesthetic synthetic a priori, judgment as logical synthetic a priori, will and volition as practical synthetic a priori, and so on) in the most general constitutive synthesis of life, of history (of spirit, to use a terminology that creates too many misunderstandings but which is also the most philosophically rigorous) which is unity and distinction and, precisely, a synthetic a priori of both. Before clarifying this last fundamental passage of Croce’s thought and arriving at the conclusion, to individual judgment or historical judgment, it is best to pause on the universal-concrete concept without which the theory of judgment would not make any sense.


For instance, the concept of utility can be defined by abstraction as volition of the individual (which means, as we shall see, distinguishing it and putting it in relation with other concepts) but in reality as a concept it cannot exists outside of the infinite utilitarian actions that are accomplished. If this were the case, we would be returning to Platonism, to the world of ideas, whose relation with reality can only be explained mythologically with the theory of recollection, the myth of the Demiurge, and so on. But a modern Platonism, present in Croce as in all great philosophers, moves away from mythology and thinks the concept as immanent and not as transcendental. In their turn, the infinite single utilitarian actions would not be such if they were not qualified conceptually and universally as utilitarian. To think of the concept of utility as outside the single useful actions and vice versa, it would be like thinking an empty space or an object that does not occupy a space. It would be, in short, impossible.

The concept, therefore, is universal-concrete. But what are its relations, how can one determine its logical necessity in the world of spirit? We have arrived at the famous determination of the logic of distincts, at the theory of unity-distinction, as it would be best to put it, since we are dealing with the first fundamental polemical qualification with respect to the logic of opposites. Pure concepts, the categories founding human life in its essence, can only be deduced from their implication, from the very necessity that controls its existence, so to speak. There is no external limit that can serve as principle of identification to the number and quality of the categories. Croce, in reply to his critics, stated that there was nothing that forbade them to decrease or increase the number of categories. As long as that the reductions or the increase could occur on the basis of logical demonstrations and not arbitrarily. Croce identifies four categories or pure concepts, to which the infinity of experience can be reduced. Human activity, divided in two spheres, a theoretical or cognitive one, and a practical and volitional one, distinguishes, as we saw, knowledge in two forms (art and philosophy) and practical activity in two more forms (the economical and the ethical). We have used the term “activity”, perhaps redundantly, and not very elegantly, because it is important to always remember that the general character of the categories is always that of their infinite mobility, the only guarantee of liberty.

The fundamental functions through which our life is exemplified are at the same time “powers of action,” constitutive elements of the judgment that recognizes, both Vichian-like and Kantian-like, that action. Even though thought, at the level of logic, is not properly an action, since it is not a practical act, it is in any case an act, namely, a particular way of doing something, namely, thinking. Since all subdivisions of the logical form have been excluded, the multiplicity of concepts can be referred only to the variety of objects that are thought in the logical form of the concept. The concept of goodness is not that of beauty. That is, both are logically the same act, since both are logical form, but the aspect of reality designated by the first is not the same designated by the second (L 74-75). The categories, as they are found in all the summaries of the history of philosophy, respectively, identify the concepts of beautiful (art), truth (philosophy), utility (economics), good (ethics). They are distinct amongst themselves in a precise and rigorous way. At the same time the great theme of dialectics, the motive force of history, if one can say so, arises.

Does Croce deny it? Of course not. It is reformed, according to the principle of distinction, which is placed next to that of opposition and unity. According to Croce, contrast, opposition, and the negative -- absolutely necessary so that the positive may arise and assert itself, be motivated and understood in its not abstract reality -- lives within the concept of the distinct. The error of many philosophical systems, and in particular of Hegel in a very major way, consists in having thought the opposition between distincts. For instance, the opposition between art, religion, and philosophy within the sphere of the Hegelian absolute spirit has led to the absurd idea of the death of art, because overcome and transcended by philosophy. In actuality, utility is not opposed to the good or to truth, rather to the useless, the harmful and so on. Croce’s theory, so far described, appears clear, easily comprehensible and, why not say it, even too simple, and exposed to any type of criticism. In fact, the logic of distincts implies many delicate and complex questions: that of unity, within which alone it is possible to determine if one wants to flounder toward metaphysical or empirical positions; that of the qualification of the negative, of not-being (i.e. the not-beautiful), and that of the real movement of categories or pure concepts, which, because of their universal-concrete nature cannot be thought in abstraction, unless in a purely logical setting, or for didactic purposes. These problems, as is clear by now, run through Croce’s entire philosophy, and return, as we shall see, in History as the Story of Liberty of 1938 and in the later essays on vitality and on Hegel’s dialectic written in the last years and months of his life.

But let us turn to the Logic. [Distinct concepts] are distinguishable in unity; reality is their unity and also their distinction. Man is thought and action, indivisible but distinguishable forms; so much so that in so far as we think we deny action, and in so far as we act we deny thought. But the opposites are not distinguishable in this way; the man who commits an evil action, if he really does something, does not commit an evil action, but an action which is useful to him [...]. Hence we see that the opposites, when taken as distinct moments, are no longer opposites, but distincts; and in that case they retain negative denominations only metaphorically, whereas, strictly speaking, they would merit positive ones. [...] When we talk of negative terms, or of non-values and, thus, of not-beings as existing, existence really means that to the establishment of the fact we add the expression of the desire that another existence should arise upon that existence. “You are dishonest” means “You are a man that seeks your own pleasure” (a theoretical judgment); “but you ought to be (no longer a judgment, but the expression of a desire) “something else, and so serve the universal ends of Reality”(94-98). The vicissitudes of distincts, therefore, becomes more complex and more clear at the same time. Raffaello Franchini has remarked how in this phase of Croce’s thought a platonic reflection is at play , even if Croce does not quote the Greek philosopher directly. The negative, in fact, is considered reality (the mere negative, not-being, is unthinkable) in so far as different.

It is the genial platonic overcoming of the impasse, in which ancient philosophy found itself, because of the unresolved polemic between the followers of Parmenides and Heraclitus. Life, therefore, is unity and distinction because what else could unity be if not the unity of ‘things” distinct, and what else could distinction be if not distinction of a unity? This means that human activity is not really concretely conceivable if it lacks one of its constitutive elements. Only by metaphor we can affirm that one man is practical and another artistic, and so on. In so doing, generally, we are in the habit of qualifying one aspect of the character of a person, judging it eminently devoted to practical or artistic things. But is there perhaps a man that acts without knowing why and how, or who lives contemplating reality without doing anything else? And above all, is any one action ever conceivable (including theoretical ones, that, in their own way, are also actions) independently of life as a whole? The “passages” that occur between the various movements of the spirit (if we can say so without creating further misunderstandings) also qualify the negative and are distinguishable only in judgment because, in actual fact, they are deeply united. Within the concrete products of human activity (a work of philosophy, the foundation of a political party) the distinction that is made must not annul its unity.

In writing the Logic, Croce has performed theoretical acts but also practical acts. He has decided, wanted to write it. He thought of organizing it in a certain way. He has privileged one didactic method over another. In founding the Italian socialist Party, Turati thought, that is, judged when it was the most appropriate historical moment. He believed that it was morally proper to perform that act, and so on. In short, he acted and thought, he performed moral, political and theoretical acts in the unity and indissolubility of life as a whole. Of great importance to what we have been saying is the question of the origin of error, which is strictly connected with it. Thought cannot be wrong. If it were to fall in error once, there would be no longer any guarantee as to the infallibility of thought itself and, therefore, sooner or later, skepticism would triumph. We are aware of how absurd this may seem but if we reflect well on this question it is possible to agree that in and of itself thought cannot err. How, then, can error originate since it exists, irrefutably? For instance, it originates because a scholar intends, wants, to defend Croce and goes out of his way to demonstrate the validity of his thesis even in the face of serious and rigorous critiques. This could also happen unconsciously, of course, when one is moved, as it often happens, by strong and sincere passion. This is how the Catholic wants to defend his dogma; the Marxist his Communism, and so on.

I have emphasized the verb to want more than once. In fact, in the given example, what generates error is an act of will, a practical exigency. This is the practical origin of error to which the example we quoted above gives a noble origin. One can err on purpose, out of fear, ambition, carelessness, for many reasons that have nothing to do with philosophy. I have already alluded to the fact that the question is, in a certain way, even more complex. In fact, there a few cases when the logical error originates, instead, from an excess of intuition, which is what in philosophy we defines as aestheticism. In this case the origin of the error is not of a practical nature. On the other hand, the artist also finds himself in the condition of often having to live the drama of the contrast between his representational world and his general conception of the world. From Dante to Tasso to Manzoni, to cite the most famous examples, it is a continuous coming up against this fundamental contradiction, that in Torquato Tasso’s case became a tragedy.

Something of the same occurs even in praxis. Aestheticism, philosophism, moralism lead inevitably to error even within the sphere of the category of utility. It is important to understand the question well. Morality, for instance, in substance, is what restrains, controls the useful, and, in so doing, accomplishes its necessary function. Another thing is being inhibited from pursuing one’s own utilitarian purpose in the name of moralistic ideals, in short, this is what Machiavelli meant, essentially, when he asserted that States cannot be governed by Our Fathers and Holy Marys. As one can see, the question is complex and intricate and there is no doubt that if one wants to go beyond Croce without running the risk of going backward this is one of the points that offer ample subject for reflection. Among the many other issues, there is one major and fundamental aspect of Croce’s Logic that needs to be examined, namely, the now ancient question, which some interpreters have thought to be superfluous for the same reasons given by Croce, of the unity of the judgment of definition and individual judgment. The descent, as we have called it, from the pure concept to the intuition, or the examination of the relations which are established between the concepts and the intuitions, when we attained the first, and of the ensuing transformations, to which the second are subject, might at first sight seem complete.

The concept, which was first contemplated in abstraction, has been demonstrated in a more concrete manner, in so far as it takes the forms of language and exists as the judgment of definition. Further, we have shown how, when thus concretely possessed, it reacts upon the intuitions from which it was formed, or how it is applied to them, as it is called, giving rise to the individual or perceptive judgment. [...] The judgment of definition is not an individual judgment; but the individual judgment implies a previous judgment of definition. To think the concept of man does not mean that the man Peter exists. But if we affirm that the man Peter exists, we must have first have affirmed that the concept of man exists, or is thought (L 198-99). Croce explains, with a wealth of examples and particulars, that the judgment of definition, the definition, is dissolved in the unique, true judgment which is always an individual judgment. Even the most pure definition is always conditioned by the “individual” (historical) situation in which it is pronounced: “Virtue is the habit of moral actions,” is a formula which can be pronounced a hundred times. But if it be seriously pronounced as a definition of virtue each of those hundred times, it answers to a hundred psychological situations, more or less different, and is in reality not one, but a hundred definitions (L 210) Judgment, therefore, is logical synthetic a priori, real unity of truth of reason and truth of fact, indissoluble union of representation or intuition and concept, subject and predicate, particular and universal. Judgment is individual because it originates in history and is exemplified in history, it is universal because it puts into motion the universal category and because it is in its form (the a priori conjunction of subject and predicate) universal.

From this perspective, it is easier to understand the apparent paradoxical nature of the unification of philosophy and history made by Croce, namely the reduction of philosophy to a methodological moment of historiography. The misunderstandings, even banal, on this theme are countless. Paradoxically, the same educational reform, originated by Croce and Gentile, in which, sole country in the world, the teaching of philosophy was unified with that of history, is in large part a gigantic misunderstanding. In fact, the unity of philosophy and history means essentially that it is useless to conceive a history of objective facts, not thought out. And, vice versa, it means that it is mythological to believe in a pure philosophy which is not always historically conditioned. But to derive from this that the same teacher ought to know the history of philosophy as well as the ethico-political or economic history, the step is great, and it certainly does not correspond to the real, profound demands of Croce’s thought and of didactic “common sense.”

But let us turn to the central moment of Croce’s philosophy, to the theory of judgment as historical judgment, sole form of knowledge because unity of representation and concept. In History as the Story of Liberty, in which, as Croce intimates in the Forward, he takes up the themes of History: Its Theory and Practice, the question is resumed once again and situated further in the perspective of the relation between theory and praxis, thought and action. It is a complex and fundamental shift, so much so that Croce himself could write: ”in writing these pages the author has sometimes had the feeling, in the course of his meditations, of having penetrated into the grueling depths of Goethe’s Kingdom of the Mothers.”(HSL 8) Here emerges the great theme that will preoccupy the later Croce confronted by the dark and yet necessary forces that seemed to shake humanity from its bowels. This is the theme of vitality, raw and green, that will engage the meditations of the old philosopher, gloomy spectator of the drama staged by the totalitarianisms of World War II. This is how Croce puts it with his usual simplicity and clarity: It is not enough to say that history is historical judgment, it is necessary to add that every judgment is an historical judgment or, quite simply, history. If judgment is a relation between a subject and a predicate, then the subject or the event, whatever it is that is being judged, is always an historical fact, a becoming, a process under way, for there are no mobile facts nor can such things be envisaged in the world of reality.

Historical judgment is embodied even in the merest perception of the judging mind (if it did not judge, there would not even be perception but merely blind and dumb sensation). For example the perception that the object in front of me is a stone, and that it will not fly away of its own accord like a bird at the sound of my approach, makes it expedient that I should dislodge it with my stick or with my foot. The stone is really a process under way. Struggling against the forces of disintegration and yielding only bit by bit, and my judgment refers to one aspect of its history (HSL 32). Allowing, therefore, that this cognitive process is real, and distinct from “false knowledges” (which are not found to be false but practical and necessary classifications), what is the relation between thought and action, theory and praxis? Man, as we saw, is always a whole man, he is not divided, split, as could appear from the analytic necessity to describe what in reality is synthetic. Croce, in fact, writes: For if knowledge is necessary to practice, practice, as we have demonstrated above, is necessary to knowledge, and cannot arise without it. There is a circle of the spirit which, when recognized, does away with all need of a primary absolute and a secondary dependent, by continually making the first the second and the second the first (HSL 41). Judgment, therefore, prepares the action (even without determining it, Croce specifies) but from the action, in a certain way, it originates as exigency of knowledge. We realize, for instance, that in a given historical moment democracy is at risk. It is probable, then, that we reread Tocqueville, the great scholar of democracy, and that reading will lead us to assume attitudes of a certain type in the concrete political praxis. This is an example, among many, to be taking with the benefit of inventory, but it is clear that even the most common of our actions requires a reflection, a judgment. But is this how the nexus between judgment and action is resolved and motivated?

Raffaello Franchini proposes an acute rereading of Croce’s thought by trying to take a further step, from historical judgment to perspective judgment, intending in this manner to reinforce the unitarian aspect and to save, naturally, the distinction. Judgment, in placing history always before us, in our perspective, makes history itself happen, even though leaving it free, since judgment “grasps” a part of reality contributing to the creation of new conditions, new subjects of judgment. History and liberty. In conclusion the great theme of the relation between philosophy and liberty presents itself. Croce denies and combats what he calls terminal philosophies (those of Hegel and Marx amongst others) or philosophies of history that subordinate the development of history to absolute principles, stationary and external to history itself. It goes without saying that wanting to read history according to a pre-established plan, or according to laws and causes that would determine it (as in Auguste Comte) means to fall in more or less implicit metaphysical forms. Whether it is the idea or matter that determines history, matters little, what is being denied is that history can be determined, that one can, as Croce put it effectively, put the pants on the world. It is understood that once we accept the idea that history is governed by laws or causes, that a single absolute determines its development, inevitably, at the political level, we arrive at justifying more or less violent forms of totalitarianism, even though one is trying sincerely to defend democracy. In views such as these, the political adversary is not simply an enemy to be abolished because of differing opinions. The political adversary embodies the very enemy of history, who wants to shatter the supreme laws of history and who, eventually, will be crushed by history itself. Man can only suffer this process. In some ways he is de-responsibilized. In the last instance, man is not free. The unity of philosophy and history postulated, or better, deducted by Croce, is of an entirely different nature. Philosophy does not swallow up history (the opposite could be the case, in Croce’s system) but thinks history and with history of which it is a part, it is transformed continuously in the ceaseless, perpetual struggle with the negative. From this viewpoint, Croce’s thought is a severe critique of the philosophies of history and historicism in its nineteenth century version. History, then, is the story of liberty in the sense that liberty constitutes its essence, not because at the climax of history, at a certain moment, without knowing why, the kingdom of liberty would be realized.

Who believed, even kindly, in this dogma, has often contributed to create reigns of oppression and slavery. Croce writes: He sees this and he sees so many other things and he draws the conclusion that if history is not an idyll, neither is it a “tragedy of horrors” but a drama in which all the actions, all the actors, and all the members of the chorus are, in the Aristotelian sense, “middling,” guilty non-guilty, a mixture of good and bad, yet ruled always by a governing thought which is good and to which evil ends by acting as a stimulus and that this achievement is the work of liberty which always strives to re-establish and always does re-establish the social and political conditions of a more intense liberty. [...] Having said this, what is then the anguish that men feel for liberty that has been lost, the invocations, the lost hopes, the words of love and anger which come from the hearts of men in certain moments and in certain ages of history? We have already said it in examining a similar case: these are not philosophical nor historical truths, nor are they errors or dreams; they are movements of moral conscience; they are history in the making (HSL 62). Croce’s complex thought is certainly not exhausted here, and many are the implications that should be discussed and cleared up from the critique of logical formalism, to philosophism and aestheticism, from the pages dedicated to the history of philosophy in the Historical Retrospect, in appendix to the Logic, to the many minor writings, to the reviews, the translations, and so on. The essay on Hegel with the fortunate title of “What is living and what is dead of the philosophy of Hegel” represents a decisive stage along Croce’s long and troubled journey. Even if the dialogue with Hegel will last until the last months of the philosopher’s life, it is without doubt in this early composition that Croce’s hermeneutics is manifest in all its strength, with its capacity to catch Hegel’s most inner meanings. The great themes that we identified in the Logic are also the themes of the dialogue with Hegel: the dialectic, the status of the sciences, the historicity and eternity of philosophy. In acknowledging his debt to the great philosopher, Croce does not spare him his criticism, at times even severe, written in a clear and transparent style that does not avoid an irony, which is sometime a bit too pungent.

But in reading the pages that he dedicates to the last days of the German philosopher, we have the confirmation that Croce, while being less “Hegelian,” as some critics have made him out to be, he always found in Hegel a constant point of reference. We are referring to the tormented pages that accompany the reflections on the category of vitality, to the years of the afterthoughts on the dialectic, to the question of the motor principle of the very same categories. Croce reflects over the essence of Hegel as the author of a great Ethic even more than a great Logic, who made the effort of redeeming evil, acknowledging its essential function. It is the theme of the Anti-Christ which is in us, of the perennial dialectic between positive and negative. Giambattista Vico is Croce’s “author” par excellence, if we take into consideration, within this perspective, what we could also define the affective value, a sympathy, in the etymological sense, for the “misunderstood” genius of the philosopher of the New Science. It is not by chance, that the tenor of his study on Vico is didactic and almost popular. The critiques that this study contains (and how could it have been otherwise), are always respectful and sympathetic. In a few parts, Croce even seems to attribute to the Neapolitan philosopher modern ideas and concepts, and the fine line between Vico’s and Croce’s views is not always apparent. In Croce’s interpretation shines forth Vico’s originality and courage who, in full rationalist era, between Cartesians and Empiricists, announces a new science of history. He anticipates Kant’s synthetic a priori and Hegel’s concrete-universal. He thinks the philosophical character of history and the historical character of philosophy; confronts with independence and a new spirit the great themes of natural law and politics and, above all, he intuits the deep sense of art distinguishing it from philosophy since one is closer to the knowledge of the individual and the other to universal knowledge, thus sanctioning the autonomy of art. From this perspective, therefore, Vico appears the precursor of the great German philosophy, of the renewed historicism of De Sanctis and Croce. Whatever the discussions that may arise on Croce’s various interpretations and whatever the judgment on the place of Vico in his time may be, Croce’s inquiry as well as those of his disciple and friend Fausto Nicolini were decisive for the European and world divulgation of a philosopher who was always more familiar than known, admired but not always understood.




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Emanuel Paparella2015-07-16 16:00:19
As a footnote to my comments on religion and spirituality, readers of this issue of the symposium may wish to take a look at my Ovi article titled "Is Spirituality inherent to Human Nature?" which reviews a by Nancy Morrison and Sally Sevrino titled Sacred Desires and centering on the question "Is the call to spirituality embedded in human biology? A scientific approach to this subject is indeed new, however the thought itself was enunciated by Carl Jung much earlier and it is basically the notion that we have a necessity to worship something, if not God then Nature or money or soccer games or one's car.

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