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Between Nihilism and Politics

The Hermeneutics of Gianni Vattimo

Silvia Benso, Brian Schroeder

Publication Year: 2010

Essays describe Italian philosopher Gianni Vattimo’s unique and radical hermeneutic philosophy. This is the first collection of essays in English that deals directly with the philosophy of Gianni Vattimo from a purely critical perspective, further establishing his rightful place in contemporary European philosophy. Vattimo, who first came to prominence as the translator of Gadamer’s Truth and Method into Italian, is now considered to be more than a philosopher and prolific author. As a former member of the European Parliament (1999–2004), he is also a public intellectual. This book takes up his call to advance the crucial active and affirmative engagement with thinking and society. More than just interpretations of Vattimo’s thinking, these essays are expressions of the new impetus given to hermeneutic philosophy by “weak thought,” the term he coined for how we think now in the wake of Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Gadamer. The development of Vattimo’s thinking is reflected in the organization of the volume, divided into three main parts: Hermeneutics and Nihilism, Metaphysics and Religion, and Politics and Technology.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Between Nihilism and Politics

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pp. v-vi

List of Abbreviations

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. 1-11

One of Italy’s leading contemporary philosophers for more than forty years, Gianni Vattimo has exercised a significant effect on contemporary debates in hermeneutics, political philosophy, and religious thought. A student of Luigi Pareyson at the University of Turin, under whose guidance he wrote a dissertation on Aristotle, Vattimo found his own philosophical ground during the course of his studies with Karl Löwith and Hans-Georg Gadamer...

Part One. Hermeneutics and Nihilism

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pp. 13

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1. The Experiment of Nihilism: Interpretation and Experience of Truth in Gianni Vattimo

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pp. 15-32

In an essay contained in The End of Modernity, Vattimo offers what can be considered as the cornerstone in his philosophical proposal: the nexus between hermeneutics and nihilism.1 This nexus is theorized in relation to the way in which, in the fundamental text of contemporary philosophical hermeneutics—specifically, in Hans-Georg Gadamer’s Truth and Method—the problem of the truth is posed from out of the experience...

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2. Vattimo’s Theory of Truth

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pp. 33-45

In The End of Modernity, Gianni Vattimo suggests that truth should be seen in a rhetorical rather than logical perspective. Actually, what we call “truth” is the intersubjective agreement on some topics of common use. When we inquire into truth, we are in fact exploring the nature and extension of our agreement. In Beyond Interpretation and in Vocazione e responsabilità del filosofo, Vattimo points out that friendship is the foundation...

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3. Vattimo’s Hermeneutics as a Practice of Freedom

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pp. 47-62

Gianni Vattimo’s interpretation of Heidegger and Nietzsche leads him to propose an ontology that is less dogmatic than traditional metaphysics about the structures that shape our existence. These structures are, in his view, historically variable, but rather than obeying some deep-seated law in their development, they are more open, more fractured, and more responsive to the practice...

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4. Weak Thought and the Recovery of Reason

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pp. 63-78

In the 1980s Gianni Vattimo introduced the idea that hermeneutics had become a koine or general idiom of Western culture.1 Vattimo’s claim is neither theoretical nor descriptive; rather, as much of his work over the past two decades bears out, Vattimo’s statement reads more like a diagnosis and prescription. Recovery from this illness requires, above all, an assessment of philosophy’s role...

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5. Beyond Interpretation? On Some Perplexities Following Upon Vattimo’s “Turn” from Hermeneutics

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pp. 79-97

For more than forty years, Gianni Vattimo stood fast to the notion that ours is the age of nihilism, of the dissolution of all values, metaphysics having turned into a technoscientific “image” of the world.1 Critical witness to complex social and political climates, a militant critic, in his scholarly publications he dwelt on these issues consistently and imaginatively, as the signature...

Part Two. Metaphysics and Religion

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pp. 99

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6. Metaphysics, Violence, and Alterity in Gianni Vattimo

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pp. 101-119

An important trend of twentieth-century philosophy has identified a link between metaphysical thought and the practice of violence. Some historical facts that occurred in the last century have probably helped to deepen such a connection. The reflections by Theodor W. Adorno, Emmanuel Levinas, and Jacques Derrida may be of great importance in the process of exploring the hidden correlations between metaphysical truth and violent actions. Gianni Vattimo...

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7. Thinking the Origin, Awaiting Salvation

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pp. 121-134

Vattimo’s thought certainly weakens the origin, yet it does not forget it.1 In “The Trace of the Trace,” Vattimo writes that “the philosophy that poses the problem of overcoming metaphysics is the same as that which discovers the positivity in religious experience. Yet this discovery signifies precisely the awareness of provenance. Can or must such an awareness come down to a return to its own origin?” (R 90). The answer...

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8. Postmodern Salvation: Gianni Vattimo’s Philosophy of Religion

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pp. 135-148

To those philosophers and public intellectuals who went through the 1990s convinced that, finally, they had all earned access to a purely secular age the beginning of the millennium must have come as a shock. From the declarations of the masterminds of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, which justified their motives on extremist religious grounds, to the ideological underpinning of the American response to those attacks, which also...

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9. Secularization as a Post-Metaphysical Religious Vocation: Gianni Vattimo’s Post-Secular Faith

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pp. 149-164

Whether we accept secularization as being sui generis to the West is not as important as whether we recognize that secularization has been central in the constitution of the West itself. Yet, the so-called resurgence of religion in contemporary societies, after centuries of putative secularization, urges us to ask whether secularization is actually unique to the West, a type of Sonderweg, that is, a societal process autochthonous to the West, and thus unlikely...

Part Three. Politics and Technology

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pp. 165

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10. Philosophy and Politics at the End of Metaphysics

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pp. 167-182

In his articulation of hermeneutics as the koine of contemporary thinking, Gianni Vattimo has established himself as a central figure not only in the current outlook for hermeneutics, but also for philosophy in general where today it must face its own question regarding its nature and its task. Vattimo’s initial approach to hermeneutics centered on the idea of “weak thought,” an idea that is more indebted to Heidegger and Nietzsche than to Gadamer. It is the idea of the end of metaphysics in which the stability of metaphysical...

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11. Deciding to Bear Witness: Revolutionary Rupture and Liberal Continuity in Weak Thought

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pp. 183-202

In February 2007 Vattimo published a new book titled Ecce Comu. Come si ri-diventa ciò che si era [Ecce Commie: How One Becomes Again What One Was]. Who could foresee the revolutionary turn of weak thought? I remember the debates in the 1980s, when Vattimo’s postmodernism tried to purge violence from the Italian extra-parliamentary left. Within this most radical horizon, Vattimo was always questioned about the current order. He also...

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12. Emancipation and the Future of the Utopian: On Vattimo’s Philosophy of History

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pp. 203-220

“The opening of an epoch is also the French Revolution. Of course! Then why should not one also say that truth happens also in electoral results—in addition to in some other mysterious word that only few can understand?” So writes Gianni Vattimo in his almost autobiographical work titled Non essere Dio [Not to Be God].1 The underlying conviction is that of a deep connection, even continuity between philosophy and politics, or at least the political...

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13. “Postmodernity as the Ontological Sense of Technology”and Democratic Politics

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pp. 221-239

Reflections regarding the existence of correspondences between theses about the end of modernity and the new communicational and informational technologies have produced a variety of impressionist postmodern accounts of technology or of technological accounts of postmodernity, without, however, providing a coherent philosophical-historical frame that, by being mindful of its own provenance, addresses their ontological meaning for the present constellation of thought. It is for this reason...

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14. What’s Wrong with Biotechnology? Vattimo’s Interpretation of Science,Technology, and the Media

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pp. 241-256

“The world has become a fable,”1 Vattimo states with Nietzsche, meaning that Plato’s dualistic model of two worlds, the one being that of timeless ideas up in the topos huperuranios and the other that of mere appearance, is no longer valid. But if there is no more real world behind the appearing one, we have to give up the whole difference between a true and an only apparent world, because the only world that remains is the apparent...


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pp. 257-260


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pp. 261-266

E-ISBN-13: 9781438432861
E-ISBN-10: 1438432860
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438432854
Print-ISBN-10: 1438432852

Page Count: 274
Publication Year: 2010

Edition: 1