‘Country Philosopher’ has been mentioned often in this blog so it is time I introduce him to readers.
Free from doubt, he has total faith in the absolute power of rationality and his philosophical manner is natural and naïve. He applies his ancient-like method to both big issues – the existence of God or how we can reach happiness – (see Vivere alla massima espressione) – and everyday problems, in an effort to provide answers to our contemporary void by making use of techniques similar to those utilized by Epicurean and Stoic thinkers 2000 years ago (see his image below, the best I could find to date.)
Therefore, with all due respect to professional philosophers like Fernando Savater (who will probably be invited to our Symposium,) Bernazza will be here as well though with caution, having a few flaws in my opinion, last but not least the tendency to manipulate or influence readers a bit.
The Jap Soldier in the Jungle
Bizarre example of philosophical genuineness – and cultural isolation as well, which kind of preserved him – Country Philosopher is the Japanese soldier who keeps on fighting in the jungle since ages, having no other weapon than his argumentation and being almost unaware of the fact that the times of Socrates, Plato or Zeno of Citium are no more.
CP is a survivor of the classical world.
That all this could happen is both romantic & tragic. And perhaps in no place other than this – the countryside around Rome, (Priverno, Latina), or in the Mezzogiorno – a person like him could spring.
Living Fossils of Antiquity
How many are the Italian country intellectuals? Sparse over the territory they publish their works with their own money by using small local publishing houses and having no great number of readers (the Web didn’t exist at the time of CP.)
This phenomenon is not exclusively Italian.
Here though 1) historical layers are extremely rich and 2) an important part of the classical world originated in this country, which allows us to legitimately speak of living fossils of Antiquity.
In some way, in the Central and especially South regions of Italia, many of us are like fossils, with all the inadequacies towards modernity that this may imply (corrupt patronage systems, amoral familism, clientelism etc.). We retain good qualities as well, which are not dried up yet, I do hope.
The better part of our tradition should be revalued. In the present crisis of the West, due to a great uncertainty regarding our fundamental values, these cultural fragments of the classical world – such as philosophy replacing religion to provide full meanings in life etc. – should be re-examined and updated.
We need to achieve – at a high culture level – what has already been done with peasants’ cultures at a folklore level - for example in Latium and Campania, where, recently rediscovered and re-performed ancient folk dances and tunes, reveal fascinating residues of the rites of Dionysus, among the rest.
See this Tammurriata dance from the South of Italy, of possible Greek descent.
A type of research which is actually on the way. The Festival of philosophy in Modena for example (see picture below) has been a great success with 120 thousand presences during only 3 days last year and a seventh successful 3-days edition which ended this last September 16 2007. This formula, thanks to contributions of the European Community, has been exported to both France and the Czech Republic.
As a conclusion, the great philosophers of all times can certainly guide us towards a more meaningful life, beyond any doubt. Nonetheless, these living fossils surviving in niches of a forgotten sea – of lesser value and possibly deteriorated, like prehistoric sequences of DNA – represent survivals of a past that keeps on talking to us.
They keep the fascination of our knotty olive wood, of our scented myrtle, or of the bright yellow of our ginestras.
And they mean something to us which, in spite of all, we cannot but be proud of.
More on Dario Bernazza: