Date of Award
Open Access Dissertation
School of Arts and Humanities
Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member
Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.
© 2022 Daniel W Ambord
Gianni Vattimo, Luigi Pareyson, Metaphysics, Postmodernity, Violence, Weak Thought
Gianni Vattimo is often regarded as a purely negative, eliminativist thinker, defined by the weak thought that he articulated over the course of his storied career. Our temptation to read him in this way is encouraged, not only by an extensive and growing body of secondary literature in the Anglophone world, but by Vattimo’s own consistent focus on weakening as represent an alternative to the strong and violent metaphysical systems that have defined much of the philosophical legacy of the Christian West. What often go unacknowledged, therefore, are the positive elements in Vattimo’s work. Indeed, weakening is, from the start, a politically motivated project, tied up in an effort to reduce (not to say eliminate) violence. This political motivation, in turn, is not merely about reduction but is instead tied to an ethico-aesthetic-religious complex, a vision of the world in which the barriers to community are broken down, in which the previously silenced might call for justice and organize against injustice, and in which we are no longer chained to the necessities of a harsh and repressive metaphysical order but are instead free to pursue voluntary associations in the spirit of love and charity. At stake in this alternative reading of Vattimo is, naturally enough, his utility as a social, political, and religious thinker and his resistance to the concern that his thought leads to a counterproductive quietism, at best, and to a destructive relativism, at worst. Once we have engaged with both the temptation to read Vattimo in a purely negative way and with the reasons to resist this temptation in favor of a more positive reading, it is important to reckon with the never-unproblematic character of the latter effort. Indeed, we cannot simply integrate the positive and negative moves we identify into a coherent and solid whole without reinstantiating the sort of totalizing and violent metaphysics that Vattimo critiques. Rather than succumbing to the temptation to seek such closure, we instead can recognize the (productive and interesting) tensions between the positive and negative elements in Vattimo’s thought and, in so doing, recognize that there is no radical escape from metaphysics or from violence offered here. Metaphysics is weakened, and yet persists, and violence is reduced and reconfigured, but not banished altogether. Part of the project of weakening, perhaps the most vital part, is precisely this willingness to occupy positions of discomfort or, put another way, a willingness to proceed speculatively and to take risks in confronting the problems that face our shared world. In the spirit of this sort of willingness to proceed speculatively, we advance, at last, to the final section of the work, which seeks to take Vattimo beyond his own limits. We examine, firstly, the implications of the positive reading of Vattimo for religious thought, putting Vattimo into discourse with his mentor Luigi Pareyson to examine what role religious institutions and religious practices have to play in a world defined by a weakened metaphysics. Proceeding from that particularity, we confront Vattimo’s own situatedness in a particular cultural position and attempt to address the question of the utility of his thought for cross-cultural discourse and, relatedly, for resistance to systems of oppression. Finally, we place our speculative reading of Vattimo’s thought into discourse with thinkers such as Donna Haraway, Catherine Keller, and Michael Marder to consider the implications weak thought holds for the discourse of the more-than-human world.
Ambord, Daniel Whitcomb. (2022). Towards a Philosophy of Least Violence. CGU Theses & Dissertations, 499. https://scholarship.claremont.edu/cgu_etd/499.