Laura Candiotto: Homage to the teachers (7 February 2023)

Homage to the teachers


I clearly remember the ambivalent feeling experienced at the end of the first lecture I attended as a freshener at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice: the joy of having met a philosopher in the flesh and the uncertainty caused by the incomprehension of the content he expounded. But also, and more strongly, the desire not to give up and the curiosity to delve into that unheard-of thought, as unusual as it was fascinating. Listening to Emanuele Severino's words, I had the sensation of witnessing the exposition of something extremely valuable, but which was obscure to me: how was it possible to sustain, following Parmenides’ footsteps, that “becoming” was madness and that the inventors of this madness, the mortals, were instead “eternal”?

With some classmates, we decided to establish a 'Severino reading group' with the aim of penetrating together into the depths of the philosopher's thought that we were lucky enough to listen to three times a week. We decided to read together the Struttura Originaria and in our undertaking we were supported by the help of colleagues older than us, such as Francesco Berto, and lecturers, especially Giorgio Brianese and Italo Valent, always ready to respond to our doubts, provocations, and suggestions.

In the second semester, I had the opportunity to meet Luigi Vero Tarca, another lecturer and former student of Severino in the well-established Venetian school. In those years, Tarca was elaborating on the theoretical perspective on the pure positive and pure difference. Also, he was active in the development of philosophical practices in Italy. The philosophical practices were understood by Tarca as a way to evade “the trap of the negative”, that narrowing of the mind that leads one to identify the positive with the negative of the negative. Pure difference is free from this trap and is enacted in practice. Philosophical practices were not proposed by him as a practical response in contrast to an excess of theory in the philosophy of his master Severino, but rather as an attempt to express in experience the truth of being.

How is it possible to acknowledge that “in this humble thing that is the appearance of wood in the fireplace is present the trace of the Whole”[1]? In the relational perspective that I derived from Severino and that I have been developing further through the years, in theory and practice, everything takes on fullness. Everything is no longer the prope nihil that depends on a God to receive its being, but it is a whole being by itself because it is with all the other beings. If the supposed inadequacy of the world derives from the isolation of a thing from its being, then a relational view can be the source of a renewed experience of being with and through significant others. But this renewed experience is not something exotic. It is the clear view free from the mortals’ madness. It is sanity. It is the felt awareness that life is not destined for nullification.

More than twenty years have passed since that first exposure to Severino’s philosophy. And most of the teachers I mention in this paper have passed away. Where are they now? I am not the kind of philosopher who replies to such a question with a metaphysical answer. What I can say is that they are here in my experience, in a very concrete and tangible manner. The personal and intimate encounters we had in the past made me who I am today. Maybe this is the real meaning of becoming. The relationality that brings the whole in a piece of wood is not simply a theory. It is lived experience as becoming in relationship. It is in one’s flesh that one finds all the teachers without whom one cannot be who she is.

Laura Candiotto, 7th February 2023


[1] E. Severino, Oltrepassare, Adelphi, Milano 2007, p. 528.