Living Thought Book Event: Esposito, Vico, and the Question of the Origin

This is a guest post by Kirill Chepurin, a senior lecturer in philosophy at the Higher School of Economics, Moscow. – APS

The way I see it, at the heart of Roberto Esposito’s Living Thought is the principle of a creative polarity, at once diachronic and synchronic. While there are many examples of such a polarity to be found in Esposito’s erudite readings of individual Italian philosophers, it manifests itself most fundamentally as the polarity of origin and actuality, the two key terms used in the book’s subtitle to broadly define the “Italian” problematic as advocated by Esposito. The same polarity also applies to the book’s premise itself: the “Italian difference” exists as a difference precisely within its marked tension with what Esposito takes to be the “normative” tradition of European philosophy. As such, Living Thought isn’t content with merely offering a history of Italian thought; this isn’t just a book of and about history, but also (as others have already pointed out in their contributions to this book event) an “actual”, living philosophical project seeking to construct “Italian thought” itself, so that the origin of this tradition is informed for Esposito by its contemporary relevance, and vice versa. In line with that, “Italian thought” originates not so much with any particular thinker or set of ideas, or the historical triad of Vico-Bruno-Machiavelli as such, but rather with the very constitutive gap between the two traditions, which includes non-philosophers as well as philosophers and acts as a safeguard against these traditions fully coinciding. The origin lies in the polarity itself, and indeed, some of the most fruitful potentialities arise when the two traditions intersect while preserving the difference, as in the case of Spinoza, that “most Italian of modern philosophers” (30). The kind of interplay between origin, history, and actuality that Esposito puts forward – in which attualità reveals itself as the living power of the origin that accompanies and renews, but also disrupts history – seems to me to be highly Vichean in nature; for that reason, I will take Vico as the point of reference for this blog post. What follows is a very brief attempt to engage, via Vico and Esposito, some of the issues I’m currently working on in German Idealism. Continue reading Living Thought Book Event: Esposito, Vico, and the Question of the Origin”

Living Thought Book Event: Italian Philosophy, a Distinction that Fails to Hold

This is a guest post by Alex Dubilet, a PhD candidate at UC-Berkeley in the Department of Rhetoric. – APS

I want to begin with a reflection on the overall framework that gives Living Thought its internal consistency. In his genealogical reconstruction of modern Italian thought from Machiavelli and Bruno onwards, Roberto Esposito argues that the specificity of Italian philosophy is located in its intensive exploration along several theoretical axes – the immanent relation between order and struggle, the interaction of the unhistorical origin and history, the tensions between life and subjectivity. Esposito frames this innovative power of Italian thought, in both its contemporary and historical forms, in relation to the deadlocks of twentieth century European and Anglo-American mainstream philosophy. In contrast to the impasses and exhaustion of both analytic and continental philosophy in their linguistic turns – caught between Heideggerian exultation of language, Wittgensteinian language games and deconstructive textuality – Esposito proposes Italian philosophical thought as engaging in a set of conceptually-innovative investigations that entirely evade this field, elaborating instead the nature of biopolitics, the common and the proper, the reversibility of immanence and life, etc. Continue reading Living Thought Book Event: Italian Philosophy, a Distinction that Fails to Hold”

Living Thought Book Event: The Boundaries of Philosophy and Life

Roberto Esposito’s Living Thought is exquisitely written work, filled with delightfully poetic turns of phrase that bring his philosophical subjects to vivacious life. It genuinely is a joy to read and I would gladly commend it to even non-specialist readers. Like other books of its type, in introducing an number of figures I had previously not been exposed to in detail as well as being furnished with rich footnotes, the work represents a jumping off point for further consideration of Italian philosophy, perhaps even mapping out a distinctive future programme of research. One could consider reading other claims of the “Italian difference” that preceding this work, for example Michael Hardt and Paolo Virno’s collection (Virno is interestingly is unmentioned here) Radical Thought In Italy through the various constructs that Esposito presents here. Indeed, the discussion of Antonio Negri and Mario Tronti appears to suggest this strategy. For example, Esposito states that Italian philosophy was a form that was distinctively anti-state in its orientation due to the historical lack of a centralised Italian state – Italian radical politics appears to similarly orientate itself against the state.

In an earlier post, Adam asked if other philosophers could be potentially be consider “honorary Italians” by virtue of their philosophical writings illustrating the same factors that Esposito locates as being especially Italian characteristics and traces from the renaissance to the present day. I wonder more if there is a danger of Esposito’s claim that Italian philosophy presents a unique relationship between philosophy and life that would encourage readers to believe that for the remainder of European thought can be read through the Heideggerian quip on the lives of philosopher: “He was born, he thought, he died”. For Esposito, Italian philosophy situates itself uniquely by collapsing the relationship which allows him in part to include artists (Leonard da Vinci), writers (Dante) and film makers (Pasolini) in his canon precisely because Italian thought is about the lived life, the political life, even biological life, not abstract thought that divorces from the conflictual, historical or corporal dimensions of living. Which is to say, Esposito’s canon of philosophers lived lives. One can think of the political involvement in the life of court of the key figure of Machiavelli here as an exemplar.

Continue reading Living Thought Book Event: The Boundaries of Philosophy and Life”

Living Thought Book Event: Other “Italians”?

Roberto Esposito’s Living Thought is a strange hybrid of a book. On the one hand, it’s an extremely erudite and yet readable history of Italian philosophy, but on the other hand, it’s also a creative and constructive work of philosophy. The burden of the argument is that there is something about the Italian experience of the late and never fully constituted arrival of a nation-state that allowed for the development of a style of thought that sits askew relative to the mainstream discourses of modernity — and that this is the reason for the contemporary success of Italian thought under the conditions of globalized late capital. He proceeds by pointing to a series of distinguishing traits that mark the tradition of Italian thought from its beginnings in Bruno, Vico, and Machiavelli: an ambiguous relationship to the question of “origin,” resulting in a curiously bi-directional concept of history; a mutual “contamination” of philosophy with other discourses and practices; and an emphasis on immanence and life.

Continue reading Living Thought Book Event: Other “Italians”?”

Is there an Italian Difference?: Introducing Roberto Esposito’s Living Thought: The Origins and Actuality of Italian Philosophy

Firstly, I need to start with an apology. We have had to push back our book event on Esposito’s Living Thought as some of the original participants had to pull out due to time constraints. The updated schedule is now:

August 26th – APS
August 28th – Adam Kotsko
August 30th –  Alexander Andrews (TBC)
September 2nd – Alex Dubilet
September 4th – Kirill Chepurin
September 6th – Daniel Colucciello Barber
September 8th – Mark William Westmoreland
In Roberto Esposito’s Living Thought: The Origins and Actuality of Italian Philosophy (AmazonUK) we are presented with the notion that there is an “Italian difference” that marks out Italian philosophy from its other Continental cousins. As mentioned before the variance of this has been marked out perhaps most clearly in The Italian Difference: Between Nihilism and Biopolitics, to which Esposito himself makes reference as well. Esposito’s book goes on to make the case for the existence of this difference and it is one that we would be wise to take note of. Continue reading “Is there an Italian Difference?: Introducing Roberto Esposito’s Living Thought: The Origins and Actuality of Italian Philosophy

Book Event Announcement: Roberto Esposito’s Living Thought: The Origins and Actuality of Italian Philosophy

I am happy to announce our next book event to begin late next month. At the suggestion of friend of the blog Kirill Chepurin we have decided to read Roboerto Esposito’s Living Thought: The Origins and Actuality of Italian Philosophy (Amazon, UK) recently published in English translation by StanfordUP. The book is organized around the idea of an “Italian difference”, the variance of which has been marked out perhaps most clearly in The Italian Difference: Between Nihilism and Biopolitics. In Esposito’s book this “geophilosophy” is explored in a more focused manner, allowing for a unique text that merges history of philosophy with a philosophical project in its own right. Below is the schedule for the posts and I encourage our readers to get the book in anticipation of the discussion. Following our new format there will be an initial introductory post and then our other participants will provide us with a more focused response. Each of the individuals asked to respond to the book have their own interactions with Italian philosophy and their responses to Esposito are bound to be of interest.

 Schedule of Posts
August 19th – APS
August 20th – Adam Kotsko
August 22nd – Joshua Ramey
August 24th – Dave Mesing
August 26th – Kirill Chepurin
August 28th – Daniel Colucciello Barber
August 30th – Mark William Westmoreland