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L. Grion (ed.), La differenza umana. Riduzionismo e antiumanesimo, «Anthropologica», La Scuola, Brescia 2009

L. Grion (ed.), La differenza umana. Riduzionismo e antiumanesimo (Human Difference. Reductionism and anti-humanism), «Anthropologica». Annuario di studi filosofici 2009, Editrice La Scuola, Brescia 2009.  

The anthropological quest, crucial to philosophy from at least Modernity, has reached the paradoxical conclusion of forecasting the dissolution of humanity and its reduction to a number of factors. This observation constitutes the basis of Anthropologica, a yearly review of philosophical studies published by La Scuola and promoted by the Centro Studi Veneto Jacques Maritain, on the assumption that it is possible « to think of a new unitary texture of types of knowledge capable to overcome the fragmentation of the different specializations […] through a plurality of outlooks able to complete one another, as they are supported by a unitary world vision, that is, Christianity. » (Presentazione, p. 11). The yearbook’s general perspective can be considered anthropological and given an “in between” space: «if anthropology lies at the crossroads between ontology, experimental sciences, ethical, socio-political or psychological perspectives, etc., the question is to find a way to value this “in between” position » (G. Grandi, Appunti per un programma di ricerca, p. 13). The research team’s work programme opens an articulated, integrated and generative approach (Grandi, p. 20) in order to bring about an authentic trans-disciplinarity, a rich interweaving which allows a creative crossover of specialist fields.




The first issue of Anthropologica analyzes a variety of reductionist elements on the assumption that the emergence of reductionism can benefit the study of the irreducibility of human difference. To understand how this difference is documented it is useful to start from Paolo Pagani’s contribution (Appunti sulla specificità dell’essere umano, pp. 147-161) in which man is defined as openness towards the transcendental, within a discontinuity where the human cannot be limited to biology or to a machine; the four conclusive questions intend to relaunch the debate rather than close it. (Note conclusive. Quattro domande sull’uomo, 179-182).




a. What is man’s place in the evolutive process?


Many of the contributions made to the yearbook revolve around this question. Through a study of old and new debates on naturalism and evolutionism, Luca Grion (Sulle tracce dell’animale simbolico, pp. 23-37) has found that symbolical elements form a system which tends to re-write reality’s dimension. Carlo Cirotto (L’emergenza nella vita, 55-67) goes back to the emergence issue viewed from a biological perspective. Spanning from biology to jurisprudence, Fabio Macioce (Le frontiere giuridiche del riduzionismo, pp. 69-84) seems to suggest that some aspects of traditional juridical philosophy may jar with the present situation, thus creating barriers. Through Quine’s analysis, Roberto Presilla (Linguaggio e naturalismo. Il caso di Quine, pp. 101-112) highlights the question of reductionism within the modern linguistic turn; while Antonio Allegra (Identità personale e crisi del naturalismo. Su un legame problematico, pp. 129-145) outlines a short history of the relationship between naturalism and identity.


b. Could the opening towards transcendency, as shown by the religious phenomenon, be reduced to a mere evolutionary strategy?



Considering the relationship between evolution and religion, Post-modern philosophy has produced new criticism of the religious phenomenon. Andrea Aguti (La critica naturalistica della religione in Richard Dawkins e Daniel Dennett, pp. 85-99) attempts to respond by elaborating a metacriticism of the naturalist criticism of religion, according to which it is necessary to go back to some issues relevant to the history of philosophy and referred to by the naturalist criticism of religion. Edmund Runggaldier (Anima e speranza nell’immortalità, pp. 163-177) touches upon evolutionism negatively, through the study of questions to do with immortality and the soul which, having made a comeback in the last few decades in connection with the neurosciences, risk being missed unless they are placed in their correct dimension.



c. What kind of link forms the structure of the relationship between man and machine?



The question of the relationship between man and machine is a particularly topical version of reductionism, as shown in Angelo Montanari’s contribution (Riduzionismo e non intelligenza artificiale, pp. 113-128), showing how the mind risks to be reduced to either a calculator or the brain.



d. Could true environmentalism exist without a new anthropocentrism?



Last to be considered in connection with the problem of reductionism are environmental issues. These are presented by Alberto Peratoner (Quale antropocentrismo? Ripensare la persona umana in relazione all’ambiente, pp. 39-53) as symptoms denoting a double movement, from the person to the environment and vice-versa.


Far from defining the elimination of humanity, old and new forms of reductionism reveal both its emergence and its irreducible difference.


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