Conosci te stesso, Γνῶθι σεαυτόν, Nosce te ipsum. Pitagora, Apollo (e Hegel)

Flavia Diva Sanctissima

Flavia at the House of the Vestal Virgins. Photo by MoR. Given to the people

[hard to understand - also for he who is writing - and a notebook draft in both style and content]

Ψ

πρῶτον μὲν εὐχῇ τῇδε πρεσβεύω θεῶν τὴν πρωτόμαντιν Γαῖαν

Flavia è laureata in filosofia della scienza. Visione un po’ matriarcale la sua, un po’ patriarcale la mia, cozziamo spesso ma alla fine ne usciamo diversi.

Dice Flavia ieri:

“Ma tu che dici, ma che dici, ma che diici! Stai sempre a pensare a te stesso!”

Ψ

Dopo aver discusso insieme il post su Radhakrishan ripostato ieri (The most unique is the most universal) ne è venuto fuori questo:

 

“In fondo conoscere noi stessi – nel senso dell’oracolo di Delfi, in senso socratico, nel senso anche di Montaigne: noi stessi, dice il francese, siamo la cavia ‘umana’ che possiamo osservare più da vicino – ci porta ad aprirci anche agli altri”.

“Questo lo vediamo nei grandi classici, come dice Radhakrishan. Kalidasa, Radhakrishan osserva, esattamente come Sofocle, Shakespeare, Platone ecc., è legato alla realtà locale indiana ma più si è profondamente dentro noi stessi (come Montaigne, come Saffo), legati cioè al mondo culturale proprio, sia individuale-locale che collettivo-locale, PIU’ CIOE’ SIAMO NOI COME UNICUM essenzializzato (essenza umana della specie Homo, direbbe Olaf Stapledon; Geist o Mind, direbbe Hegel) E PIU’ SIAMO UNIVERSALI”

“Perché a questo punto il messaggio humanus risuona, son come corde pitagoriche sparse per il mondo che cominciano a vibrare, e vibrano vibrano vibrano vibrano e si crea come una sinfonia, e questo è il superuomo pitagorico collettivo, l’entità collettiva di Olaf Stapledon.

Anche il Leonardo da Vinci di massa di Antonio Gramsci; solo che con Stapledon (Odd John, Star Maker ecc.) e con Pitagora si traversano i cosmi grazie alle reincarnazioni”

Dunque, chiarendo meglio, i vari superuomini si connettono attraversando ere e universi e gli infiniti mondi (di Giordano Bruno anche? Check) … e allora abbiamo, in un caso più ristretto (o forse no?) Pitagora, Orfeo (il grande Musico), Apollo (riprendere quel bel brano di Shakespeare su Orfeo; rileggere Diogene Laerzio – Διογένης Λαέρτιος – dove parla delle reincarnazioni di Pitagora) che a livello di telepatia, di vibrazioni mistiche, si fondono come in un turbine.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Wikipedia. Click for credits and to enlarge

Del resto Hegel lo dice con sinteticità prolissa (Update. Con sinteticità. E’ prolissa la traduzione di William Wallace, Oxford 1894) :

[Philosophie des Geistes (Η φιλοσοφία του πνεύματος) or, Philosophy of Mind (Hegel's introduction, § 377)

 

The knowledge of mind is the highest and hardest,
right for its being the most “concrete” of sciences.

[Die Erkenntnis des Geistes ist die konkreteste, darum höchste und schwerste]

[Ndr. Infatti per i Vorsokratic Eleatici, per Platone, Hegel etc. conta solo l'essenza, l'essere, le idee-mente-Geist, a complex notion and onthology (link1, link2) that goes on and on - getting too wide-ranging, I know - up to Heidegger's Dasein (there-being,) to Quine and to William James]

The significance of that absolute commandment,
Know Thyself,
(whether we look at it in itself, or,
under the historical circumstances of its first utterance)
is not to promote mere self-knowledge in respect of the particular capacities,
character, propensities, and foibles of the single self.

[Erkenne dich selbst, dies absolute Gebot
hat weder an sich noch da, wo es geschichtlich als ausgesprochen vorkommt,
die Bedeutung nur einer Selbsterkenntnis nach den partikulären Fähigkeiten,
Charakter, Neigungen und Schwächen des Individuums
]

The knowledge it commands means that the man’s genuine reality
(of what is essentially and ultimately true and real)
is Mind as the true and essential being.

[from Ancient Roman mens, English Wiki; see wider entry mens in German Wiki; O.Stapledon's novels, incidentally, narrate the bringing into being of the Homo's Mind across the Universe(s): for such splendid narration Darwin is of course there to help him]

[sondern die Bedeutung der Erkenntnis des Wahrhaften des Menschen
wie des Wahrhaften an und für sich, - des Wesens selbst als Geistes
]

Equally little is it the purport of mental philosophy
to teach what is called knowledge of men,
the knowledge whose aim is to detect the peculiarities,
passions, and foibles of other men,
And lay bare what are called the recesses of the human heart.

Information of this kind is, for one thing, meaningless,
Unless on the assumption the we know the universal:
man as man, and, that always must be, as mind.

And for another, being only engaged with casual,
insignificant and untrue aspects of mental life,
It fails to reach the underling essence of them all:
THE MIND ITSELF.

[corsivi e maiuscoli non di Hegel]

 

Love Never Did Run Smooth. Dialectics (1)

HUGUES

“The path of true love never did run smooth” by Talbot Hughes, English Painter (1869–1942). Many paintings from the Victorian era referred to literary quotes, like this one, whose title is from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I, 1, 134

“Mai al mondo fu piano e senza ostacoli il sentiero dell’Amore”

[Shakespeare-Talbot Hughes, in Italian]

ψ

Uomo e donna, complementarietà discordante, sopravvivono meglio in perenne dissonanza.

[Magister-διδάσκαλος; see his ikon, if not his face, below]

Olaf Stapledon.
“Like two close trees whose trunks …”

“ONE night when I had tasted bitterness I went out on to the hill … Overhead, obscurity. I distinguished our own house, our islet in the tumultuous and bitter currents of the world. There, for a decade and a half, we two, so different in quality, had grown in and in to one another, for mutual support and nourishment, in intricate symbiosis [...]

True, of course, that as a long-married couple we fitted rather neatly, like two close trees whose trunks have grown upwards together as a single shaft, mutually distorting, but mutually supporting. Coldly I now assessed her as merely a useful, but often infuriating adjunct to my personal life. We were on the whole sensible companions. We left one another a certain freedom, and so we were able to endure our proximity.”

[Olaf Stapledon, Star Maker, Ch. I, The Earth]

ψ

αἴνιγμα (riddle)

Why Darwin and Hegel
Enter into the Equation?

An old sage. Image is not mine but copyrighted. I have bought it

ψ

Note, to be read when despaired :-)

ψ

Tough, (and to the writer too.)

Well, I’ll let you know (as a consolation) that despite the fact that thanks to Magister, 40 years ago, I was able to absorb (in a few months only) a tiny bit of the essence of Plato, Croce, Gramsci, eg various sides of the weird dialectics possibly invented 2,400 years ago in Athens (we’ll skip Indian dialectics.)

Despite I mean this sudden germination … I got into the Hegel’s block.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel‘ (well, just the name is hard) dialectics, proved too hard to me.

My Mentor, incidentally kept telling me Hegel was no inferior to Plato or Aristotle. Magister being Magister – I was frustrated.

ψ

In later years I absorbed Hegel a bit by reading some Gramsci and Croce, although I was kinda sensing that Hegel’s deep core, plus the capacity (more importantly) to have fun reading this Master’s works – I never quite fathomed.

A New διδάσκαλος

Now one year ago it turned (just a few months, again) that reading Hegel though still hard was suddenly FUN.

Moreover, Hegel plus evolution - eg biological science + philosophy - were unexpectedly, rocket-like, jostling me around in outer space (on my puffy armchair, I mean) towards infinite cosmos, or κόσμος τὸ πᾶν, should one prefer.

What had happened? Another Μέντωρ-διδάσκαλος, had shown?

ψ

Well, yes.

Shy, decent (and brilliantly creative) Olaf Stapledon, a British philosopher from the Wirral Peninsula.

Olaf Stapledon (1886 – 1950)

Copyrighted image of Olaf Stapledon (1886 – 1950). Fair use. Click for source file

Man of Roma. Un bilancio (assessment)

Man of Roma a piazza Navona

MoR in Piazza Navona. Click for a larger view. Pic taken by Devinder Singh with my brand new Galaxy Tablet. Dev, an Indian blogger, was in Rome last May. He had presented a short (and great) film at Cannes. See 2 links on Piazza Navona at the foot of the post

[Per i lettori italiani.

Un nuovo blog, Pagine del Man of Roma, in cui sto mettendo brani significativi del MoR in italiano.

La soap sull'antica Britannia la sto scrivendo anche in italiano]

ψ

Thus said, cercando di non fare i tronfioni e di essere obiettivi (English translation in progress) il 9 settembre 2007 cominciai un blog in inglese perché:

1) era difficile

2) dopo 16 anni di IT volevo riprendere gli studi umanistici

3) la lingua di Shakespeare, meravigliosa, speravo aprisse a una varietà di interlocutori eccitante

4) volevo praticare la dialettica, mito della mia generazione ma di valore universale

5) volevo focalizzare il lavoro sulla romanness, verificando eventuali nessi, di qualsiasi tipo, tra i romani dell’antichità e i romani – italiani (e oltre) – di oggi (la romanitas si dispiegò infatti su un impero vasto).

Piazza Navona today. Via Wikipedia. Click for a larger view

Piazza Navona, Rome, former Circus of Emperor Domitian located to the north of the Campus Martius. Via Wikipedia. Click for a larger view

Come è andata?

Io credo bene. In modo non sistematico:

214 scritti (non tantissimi forse nell’arco di quasi 4 anni ma molti sono saggi ben sudati), 5.281 commenti (tanti, molti dei quali più lunghi del post che li aveva stimolati). Praticamente, tra articoli e commenti, “un librone di diverse migliaia di pagine” in cui gli interventi (al 99% in inglese) sono spesso più elevati degli scritti stessi. Ci sono anche i miei commenti e, wel well, i miei lettori sanno che sono un bel chiacchierone (chatter-box).

Estrema varietà degli interlocutori. Eccitante dicevo. In ordine alfabetico:

America, Australia, Austria, Brasile, Canada, China, Francia, Germania, Gran Bretagna, India, Irlanda, Italia, Messico, Nuova Zelanda e Svezia.

Bust of Roman Emperor Domitian who reigned from 81 to 96 CE. Roma, Musei Capitolini

Viaggio di esplorazione. Questo per me e spero per i lettori è stato il Man of Roma:

Un girovagare imparando cose belle insieme, un dialogo continuo (estenuante a volte), uno studio tosto da parte di chi scrive (fa bene, ok, ma ‘na faticaccia …).
Nel fondo ero e rimango un insegnantefiero del mestiere che ho fatto per più di 30 anni, un dare e soprattutto un ricevere che riscalda il cuore prima della mente.

Verifica dello strumento dialettico. La tecnica dialettica – inventata forse da Socrate e Platone 2400 anni fa (ma esistono dialettiche orientali efficacissime, vedi il link subito sopra) – per come la vedo io è:

A. dialogo con noi stessi sui temi che ci appassionano

B. Dialogo con libri testi e pagine (anche web) validi (non si cresce senza dialogare con menti migliori della nostra).

Consiglio lo studio attento di scritti frammentari o zibaldoni (l’efficacia dell’esempio vivo!) poiché il pensiero in progress ci fa teste pensanti (thinking people) per naturale imitazione, piccole teste o grandi chissenefrega (who the hell cares),  l’importante è pensare con la nostra testa, diritto sancito da ogni costituzione democratica.

Domitian's Stadium, built in 86 CE conceived for Greek athletics that the Romans considered immoral (nakedness etc.). Later become 'Circus Agonalis' the population watched there agones (games, from αγών: any contest), whence 'agone', which possibly merged into 'navone' (big ship), whence Navona. Voilà, Piazza Navona! Click for credits

Personalmente ho imparato tantissimo dallo Zibaldone di Leopardi, dai saggi di Montaigne e soprattutto dai Quaderni del carcere di Antonio Gramsci, autore oggi riscoperto a livello globale (dalla destra e dalla sinistra americana, in India, in Inghilterra ecc.) non per il suo essere marxista (il marxismo è morto, pace all’anima sua) ma per il suo essere pensatore geniale, utilissimo.

Presto vorrei meglio approcciare gli essais (1rst & 2nd series) & lectures di Ralph Waldo Emerson, forse il più grande intellettuale americano che, for some weird reason, è a me molto affine.

[Anche la poesia, attenzione, di ogni genere e popolo, è strumento -cognitivo e artistico- micidiale]

C. Dialogo con gente in carne ed ossa, dovunque è possibile (amici, caffè, strada). I blog? Per loro natura dilatano il dialogo e naturalmente con l’uso di una lingua franca il livello di tale dilatazione è potenzialmente altissimo.

Piazza Navona, air view. Click for credits

Infine, ‘romanità’ ieri e oggi. E qui concludo perché credo che l’audience del blog (not too far from half a million hits, specie considerando argomenti non proprio semplici direi) sia dovuta proprio a questo:

al meraviglioso mondo di Roma raccontato da un ‘uomo medio’ in tutte le salse possibili. Da uno cioè nato e vissuto quaggiù, ie a witness from right there.

ψ

Ringrazio con affetto tutti quelli che mi hanno seguito e che ho seguito nei loro blog.

THIS IS NOT A FAREWELL, IT’S A NEW BEGINNING! [had to add this since a few readers were worried: see comments below].

That the journey continue! I do love you ALL (and you know it damn!)

Yours.

Man of Roma

Nota. Per piazza Navona vedi queste notizie storico-archeologiche in italiano e in inglese.

ψ

Post correlati (bilanci, audience e temi, man mano che il blog cresceva):

[Related posts (assessment, audience & themes as the blog progressed in time]

Are We Going Anywhere?

This Blog’s First Birthday

Post sul Metodo (see the English original of this, well, wild post)

100 Posts. I’ll Celebrate My Own Way. 1

100 Posts. I’ll Celebrate My Own Way. 2

Merry Saturnalia! And a Roman New Blog

Locking Horns with a Young Roman

Themes from Man of Roma: a site map

Is America Too Young to Maintain its Cultural Hegemony in the Long Run?

Sarah Palin. Click for credits and to enlarge

This is the end of a series on Antonio Gramsci. I am beginning here where I left in my previous post.

The title and the post are meant to provoke a bit, and I know I risk being considered a snobbish, or a chauvinist, European.

The United States – I was saying – exert today a cultural hegemony over the planet at a high and a popular level of culture [for the high level, suffice it the sheer excellence of their universities in the scientific, technological and humanities fields, not to mention the number of Nobel prizes attained by Americans]

One can speak of a new American Renaissance, with fantastic contributions offered to the world – the Internet, a great revolution, being just one of them.

Which affects both the American culture and those cultures exposed to American influence – basically ALL of them, at diverse degrees.

[By culture I mean both:

1) the set of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features of a group (the Unesco definition);

2) the general knowledge, values etc. an individual can attain through education (linked to the Ancient concepts of Humanitas & Paideia.)

Also culture quality has to be considered. If I enjoy Shakespeare better than soap operas, I am not a snob, I am simply better educated and my mind is more powerful]

Gramsci, reflecting on the US soon after the 1929 depression, considered America culturally hegemonic already at his time (the 1930s) although to him such world-wide hegemony presented a few cracks for being, the US, too virgin and too young as a nation, with a melting pot of too many ‘cultures’ (see above the meaning 1 of the term.)

Now, following Gramsci’s reasoning – and considering his notions of ‘intellectuals’, ‘cultural hegemony’ and ‘national-popular’ culture (see our posts on Gramsci 1, 2 and 3)– we can ask ourselves:

In our rapidly changing world, with powerful civilisations about to re-surface, is America seductive enough at a world-wide scale [ie 'culturally hegemonic' world-wide]?

I’ll say my opinion right away: the cracks Gramsci was mentioning seem today particularly evident (at least to many Europeans) at a pop culture level [update: whatever the reasons for this.] A civilization doesn’t export its high culture only. It exports the sentiments of its whole people with its books (quality works and blockbusters), films, TV serials etc. and when its tourists, business people, soldiers & the men of the street wander about the planet.

[A Gramscian national-popular notion of culture is where the intellectuals - artists, writers etc. - express at a higher level the elementary sentiments of the common people who thus emotionally and intellectually participate. The examples he indicates of 'national-popular' may clarify this Gramscian crucial concept: the Elisabethan theatre, the Greek tragedy or the Italian opera.]

I mean, when Rome conquered Gaul, Romanization occurred deeply without any organized effort by the Romans. That is, the Roman ‘culture’ was felt as superior and seduced the Gauls who became the French - not only the culture of the ‘intellectuals’ (big politicians, generals, writers etc.) was seducing, but that of the merchants, of the soldiers, of the simple citizens as well.

Do you also think that American world-wide hegemony’s weak point is a low-level and too pervading pop culture (due to consumerism, to making money being what only matters nowadays etc.) and also the “erasure of any high-pop culture distinction”? [see Lichanos' comment on this]

Trekkies at Baycon, 2003. Click for credits

Do you also think that, to quote Andreas Kluth, a ‘high culture’ perceived as snobbish only “is a tragedy” and that – I’d add – the tea parties, the Sarah Palins and US widespread anti-elitism will make America pay a price in the long run in terms, again, of world cultural hegemony?

Finally – be patient, I dislike Star Trek – what do the Indians, the Chinese, the Persians, the rest of the world population – often belonging to ancient civilizations – think of the thousands of Star Trek conventions and clubs that have spread all over the globe? Will it benefit America’s image?

Note. I had discussed ‘West and US Seduction’ with my commentators (among other themes) at the time of Culture, Kultur, Paideia and The Last Days of the Polymath. Those discussions were among the best in this blog in my opinion.

Here just a few ideas from those discussions.

As for culture (in the sense of individual general knowledge & refinement) Lichanos had lamented the erasure of a high-pop culture distinction in the USA. To him more than the ‘youth factor’ a role may be played by America being often “the first to represent trends that are going world-wide”, ie America is just ahead of Europe in mass-culture and consumerism, which explains why a superficial pop culture is so pervasive in the US.

To Andreas Kluth a ‘high culture’ perceived as ‘snobbish only’ is “a tragedy” and due to many factors among which a too widespread anti-elitism (“Sarah Palin and all the rest”).

ψ

Other posts on Gramsci:

American Engineer, German Philosopher & French Politician: Gramsci’s Ideal Blend for the Modern Leonardo da Vinci
Seven Aspects of Antonio Gramsci’s Thought
America, the Greatest Collective Effort Ever existed”. Antonio Gramsci

Related posts:

Democracy, Liberty & the Necessity of a Solid Education of the People
Culture, Kultur, Paideia
The Last Days of the Polymath


“America, the Greatest Collective Effort Ever existed”. Antonio Gramsci

New York. Click for credits and to enlarge

While replying to Thomas Stazyk‘s comment on a post on Antonio Gramsci I realised it was more convenient to write a new blog post instead.

I usually reply to my readers one by one. Tomorrow it will be the others’ turn.

Explaining Paris Hilton

Thomas. Thank you for an interesting and insightful 795 words! For me, Gramsci adds the needed dimension to Marx that is required to understand/explain contemporary culture. I think his ideas of cultural domination and hegemony go far to explain everything from the Tea Party to Paris Hilton, and maybe Facebook and Twitter as well, but the whole technology thing needs more thought. I’m worried that saying that social media (and reality TV) are vehicles of cultural domination might sound too much like a conspiracy theory. But they certainly do support Gramsci’s view that hegemony is achieved and maintained by consent of the subordinate class.

MoR. “Gramsci adds the needed dimension to Marx that is required to understand/explain contemporary culture.”

You may refer to Gramsci’s study of Marx’s superstructure. Gramsci criticises the notion of a superstructure as simple ‘skin’ of a society, and of a socio-economic base, the ‘skeleton’, that is what really matters by determining the conscience etc.

“Women – Gramsci said – fall in love with the skin, not the skeleton”. Seduction, again, ie cultural hegemony.

[Update: ie people are ‘seduced’ by the ‘skin’ or cultural elements (superstructure) more than by the ‘skeleton’ – socio-economic class structure. It is a metaphorical way of stressing the importance of cultural hegemony, of men’s choices – free, non mechanically predetermined by the economical class structure – and of 'intellectuals' in history.]

I think his ideas of cultural domination and hegemony go far to explain everything from the Tea Party to Paris Hilton, and maybe Facebook and Twitter as well.

I’ll get to Facebook and Paris Hilton. But I’ve got to follow a long forgotten reasoning.

Since the core of Gramsci’s reflection is the superstructure – intellectuals being like the agents of it –, by analyzing both the high and the pop culture(s) of several countries he strongly advocates a blend of the two levels.

The intellectuals, he argues, should not be separated– as it always was the case of Italy – from the ‘elementary passions’ of the common people. A folk should be culturally united, as a tendency at least.

Greek Tragedy & Shakespeare

Such culture [update: of a high level, where the 'intellectuals' and the common people interact in a two way process] he calls ‘national-popular’ (complex notion to say the truth.) Among the best examples of it Gramsci indicates the Greek tragedy and the Elizabethan theatre, where the majority of the people were involved in a great experience. To him the only Italian example of such ‘artistic unity’ of the people [update: high-low interaction] is the Italian opera (I may possibly add, since I saw it with my eyes, the ‘popular’ love for Dante one can still experience in many parts of Tuscany and elsewhere.)

The Italian Renaissance to him, though sublime, was too elitist [update: ie no participation of the populace, no high-low interaction] and one cause in the end of the Italian decline. The protestant Reformation saw instead great popular participation (Renaissance-Reformation are to Gramsci also dialectic metaphors – in the Hegelian sense of thesis and antithesis – that he uses abstractly.)

Even if at first the Reformation – Gramsci argues – was like a return to the dark ages, it later liberated people’s energies by reaching higher levels of culture and contributing to the construction, among the rest, of the American nation.

US Cultural Hegemony

San Francisco Fire Department Engine 22 (1893). Click for credits and to enlarge

The first British immigrants to the New World were in fact an intellectual and especially moral elite – Gramsci argues. Defeated religiously in their fatherland but not humiliated, they brought to the New World great will, moral energy and “a certain stage of European historical evolution, which when transplanted by such men into the virgin soil of America, developed – and continues to develop – the forces implicit in its nature but with an incomparably more rapid rhythm than Old Europe”, where the relics of the past generated opposition giving to every initiative the equilibrium of mediocrity …

We all know what happened, how Europe went down and how the US have become the dominant power.

Following Gramsci’s reasoning, the United States exert yet today a cultural hegemony over the world, at both a high and a popular level of culture. Their universities are excellent in all fields (they even have among the best Dante’s specialists!) etc., intellectuals are not that detached from the people (they tend to ‘disseminate’ knowledge in their books, not like here in Italy although things are changing a bit – while France, a not at all bad ‘national-popular’ place in the 19th century – see 19th-century French literature! – is nowadays possibly even more elitist than we are, but I’m not sure.)

Capitoline She-Wolf. Rome, Musei Capitolini. Public domain

Not concluded. Tomorrow, Thomas and you folks. I am European, not American. And my dog Lilla is recovering but she is 15 years old.

ψ

See next installment:

Is America Too Young to Maintain its Cultural Hegemony in the Long Run?

More on Antonio Gramsci:

American Engineer, German Philosopher & French Politician: Gramsci’s Ideal Blend for the Modern Leonardo da Vinci
Seven Aspects of Antonio Gramsci’s Thought

Related posts:

Democracy, Liberty & the Necessity of a Solid Education of the People
Culture, Kultur, Paideia
The Last Days of the Polymath

Seven Aspects of Antonio Gramsci’s Thought

Andreas Kluth, the Hannibal man, asked me to write something about Gramsci in 300 words. I failed. These are 795 words.

ψ

I studied Gramsci in my twenties and he surely helped me greatly. I think important to say his thought to be:

1) in progress, more formative to me than any sedentary conclusions, building up upon a list of themes & reflecting on them in fragmentary notes from thousands of different viewpoints and within a dreadful context – fascism arising, jail isolation, uncertainty for his own life. All so compelling and mind expanding;

2) dialogic and dialectic.

Dialogic.
G’s ideas bounce on one another also in relation to other authors’ even-opposite ideas – Gramsci ‘discusses with the enemy’ so to say. A solitary dialogue though, since jail solitude brought him to solipsism, which creates like a tragic, bewitching (and a bit claustrophobic) atmosphere.

The many ‘tools’ he created such as ‘cultural hegemony’ (close to ‘seduction’), or his notion of ‘intellectuals’, stem from such inner dialogue, which can be baffling to people used to clear definitions – I well understand – but, such brain storming is contagious and the attentive reader is taught to form his / her mental dialogues on anything he / she researches.

Dialectic. It refers to Heraclitus & Hegel, implying that all in history is ‘becoming’ & a contradictory process with actions, reactions, conciliations etc. Gramsci’s dialectic is concrete, anti-idealistic. For example, the Rousseauesque pedagogy – the ‘laissez-faire’ of ‘active’ schools – was seen by him as a reaction to the coercive Jesuitical schools, so not good or bad ‘per se’. But he tried to favour an education where both the elements of discipline and fascination were present.

Antonio Gramsci’s ashes in the Protestant ‘Cimitero degli Inglesi’ in Rome

Any idea had to be seen in its historical context and was hence transient (Marxism included.) When the Russian revolution burst he wrote it was a revolution ‘against the Capital’ (ie against Marx’s theories,) a scandal within the Comintern.

In many respects he considered America much more progressive than Stalin’s Russia;

3) polymathic. Gramsci is wide-ranging, like the men of the Renaissance. Besides there are similarities between his ideas and Leonardo da Vinci’s, and their writing styles too;

4) anti-platonic. Nature is ruled by blind forces, with no intelligent design. He follows the Italian tradition of Lucretius, Vico, Leonardo, Machiavelli, Leopardi, in contrast with the Platonic (and hegemonic) tendency expressed during the Renaissance by Marsilio Ficino and Pico della Mirandola;

5) anti-élite. Anti-chic, and certainly not the ‘smoking Gitanes and wearing black turtlenecks’ type of intellectual – to quote Andreas -, to him knowledge & refinement are not classy and must be spread to everyone. Born to a backward Sardinian peasant milieu he had succeeded in becoming a great European intellectual, which made him believe that everyone could be a philosopher at various degrees, and that a solid education of the working class was possible;

6) greatly written. Croce, Gramsci, Gobetti, Gentile were all great writers, like Hegel and Marx were. G’s texts are like permeated by a Hölderlin’s Heilige Nüchternheit (sacred sobriety.) As Giorgio Baratta observes, “his style, sober and exact, opens wide spaces that make the reader fly, but the flight is not grandiloquent.” His works have been recognized since they were first published as masterpieces of our language and literature. His Prison Letters have the depth of Tolstoy, an author close to him in many respects;

7) historic. Italian, European and world history are considered, from the end of the ancient Roman Republic onwards, and innumerable aspects are analysed. For a young Italian like me it meant an invaluable know-yourself experience. What I had passively learned at school could finally bear some fruit, also the teachings of my father, that I could fully appreciate only after reading Gramsci.

Gramsci’s history is as close to us as family’s history can be. It’s his magic. It touches the soul deeply.

It is also the concrete history of ideas circulating in the various socio-economic groups at a given time, with catalogues of magazines, newspapers, movements, intellectuals (often categorized with humorous nicks: it’s his peasant culture showing now and then), with the aim of understanding the currents and exact mechanisms of cultural hegemony.

He does that as for Italy, other European and non European countries. He analyses the elements that, in his view, make the United States the ‘hegemonic force’ in the world and also identifies like some cracks in this hegemonic structure, in their being too virgin and too young as a nation, with a melting pot of too many cultures.

Too long a story. Americanism in Gramsci is so crucial I’m thinking of a post where, in a dialogue occurred in the 30s, a few fictional European characters try to explain to readers their view of America, ie Gramsci’s view.

The United States – as Gramsci put it – are “the greatest collective effort ever existed to create with unheard of rapidity and a consciousness of purpose never seen in history a new type of worker and man.”

Note. An inspired introduction to Gramsci is Giuseppe Fiori’s Antonio Gramsci: Life of a Revolutionary (1970).

PS. Gramsci and Croce are well known in the English-speaking countries. The British ex prime minister Gordon Brown said Gramsci was one of his mentors. No idea if this is complimenting Gramsci or not… :-)

ψ

More on Antonio Gramsci:

American Engineer, German Philosopher & French Politician: Gramsci’s Ideal Blend for the Modern Leonardo da Vinci
“America, the Greatest Collective Effort Ever existed”. Antonio Gramsci
Is America Too Young to Maintain its Cultural Hegemony in the Long Run?

Related posts:

Democracy, Liberty & the Necessity of a Solid Education of the People
Culture, Kultur, Paideia
The Last Days of the Polymath

American Engineer, German Philosopher & French Politician: Gramsci’s Ideal Blend for the Modern Leonardo da Vinci

Our conversations take us wherever they like so before talking about my instructional experience in Russia I’ll present a few passages by Antonio Gramsci (1891 – 1937) written in the 1930s while he was in prison.

Gramsci is considered the father of democratic communism [a thing, to say the truth, that remained in his mind and was never realised.]

All his works, and notably his Prison Letters and Prison Notebooks, are not only amazingly valuable for their intellectual & moral depth – acute analyses of Italian & European history, literature, theatre, philosophy, linguistics, political strategy etc. -, they have also been recognized since their appearance in 1947 as masterpieces of our language and literature.

His powerful brain was feared by both the Fascists and the Russians, and it pained me so much to learn that his Russian wife Julka or Julia Schucht (see her below with their sons, Delio and Giuliano,) together with her sister Tatiana Schucht, were probably spies for the Gpu (Kgb.) [Also a few of Gramsci's and Julka's descendants confirmed that.]

[Magister and Gramsci were the mentors who saved me from being a savage - although I am still a bit: you migh read here]

I was surprised to find the words – Gramsci’s words -, that to me best describe the importance of classical education in our country – ie the connection to our roots, this blog’s theme -, in the inspiring web pages of a certain Max Gabrielson, a Latin & Greek teacher at the Wilton High School in Wilton, Connecticut, considered one of Connecticut top performer schools according to the Wikipedia.

With such words from his Prison Notebooks Gramsci refers to the classical education delivered in the Italian Ginnasio and Liceo that, compared to his school days, had been changed a bit by the first important reform of Italian education (Gentile‘s & Croce‘s, 1923) after the unification of Italy 60 years earlier (1860-70.)

[An education that didn't change much even until my days and my daughters' days. No change at all? Well, it progressively became comprehensive mass education (with its pros and cons) so that its solidity, like a merum from the ancients, was diluted in the years - the wine being still there, but its inebriating effects having almost dissolved]

Let us listen to Antonio Gramsci describing the deep meaning of such education:

“In the old school the grammatical study of Latin and Greek, together with the study of their respective literatures and political histories, was an educational principlefor the humanistic ideal, symbolized by Athens and Rome, was diffused throughout society, and was an essential element of national life and culture. Even the mechanical character of the study of grammar [criticised by Croce and Gentile, MoR] was enlivened by this cultural perspective. Individual facts were not learned for an immediate practical or professional end. The end seemed disinterested, because the real interest was the interior development of personality, the formation of character by the absorption and assimilation of the whole cultural past of modern European civilization [...] Pupils learned Greek and Latin in order to know at first hand the civilization of Greece and Rome — a civilization that was a necessary precondition to our modern civilization: in other words, they learnt them in order to be themselves and know themselves consciously.

‘In order to be themselves, to know themselves consciously …”

ψ

Gramsci criticises in 1932 the multiplication of vocational schools that in his view aimed at perpetuating social differences. Moreover, a true democracy needed adequate people:

“The labourer can become a skilled worker, for instance, the peasant a surveyor or petty agronomist. But democracy, by definition, cannot mean merely that an unskilled worker can become skilled. It must mean that every ‘citizen’ can ‘govern’ and that society places him, even if only abstractly, in a general condition to achieve this. Political democracy tends towards a coincidence of the rulers and the ruled (in the sense of government with the consent of the governed) …”

As for K-12 education we see today a tendency to focus on 3-4 subjects only in countries such as Great Britain with students aged 15, a big mistake in my view especially now that we have to compete with lands that do most of the basic manufacturing to the extent that we need extra added-value creativity in our products.

Gramsci would certainly have agreed. Born to a backward Sardinian peasant milieu, with big family and health problems, his intellectual success influenced his view that a more comprehensive education of the working class was possible.

He was in fact irritated by his wife’s inclination to guess specialised interests in their 2 very young sons (one time she thought Delio could become an engineer, another time a poet etc.)

Gramsci’s wife, Jiulia Schucht, with the 2 sons, Delio (on the right) and Giuliano. She was – hideous detail – a spy for the Gpu (Kgb). Amazing how Giuliano resembles his father.

Gramsci wrote to her from his cell:

“To say the truth, I don’t much believe in such precocious display of tendencies and I haven’t much faith in your capability of discerning what professional aptitudes they might have. I should think that in both our sons, as in all children, there are likely to be found all sort of inclinations - the practical side, the theory and the imagination, and that it would consequently be more appropriate to guide them towards a more harmonious blend of all intellectual and practical faculties, since the time will come when specialisation in one or the other of these will occur on the basis of a personality vigorously formed and totally integrated.”

Gramsci then continues, expressing to her his humanistic faith in human possibilities and his 1930s ideal of the fully developed man:

“Modern man should be a synthesis of the qualities which are traditionally embodied in these national characters: the American engineer, the German philosopher and the French politician, thus recreating so to speak the Italian man of the Renaissance, the modern Leonardo da Vinci become ‘mass man’ and ‘collective man’ without sacrificing his own strong personality and individual originality.”

Post Scriptum. Gramsci reflected on many aspects of the American society (his notes on Americanism and Fordism are crucial) while he was quite worried about what was happening in the Soviet Union after 1930.

Differently from his mentor, Neapolitan Benedetto Croce, basically Hegelian, Gramsci was very much connected not only to German Kultur (he was into Hegel too and had a perfect knowledge of German – plus French, English, Russian, Latin and possibly other languages) but also to French culture: thanks to ascholarship won in 1911 he had studied in Piedmont at the University of Turin.

In 1921 he co-founded the Italian Communist Party. He then spent 2 years in the Soviet Union where in a sanatorium (his health was precarious) he ‘strangely’ met a beautiful woman, Jiulia (Julka) Schucht, who will become his wife. Back to Italy in 1924 he became head of the party. Being no orator but making use of a one-by-one-persuasion strategy he had won the majority of party delegates by totally fascinating them.

In the same year he was elected at the Italian Parliament. In the Fall of 1926, at the age of 35, he was arrested at 10:30 pm in his home located outside Porta Pia, a nice Roman area efficaciously depicted by the Italian poet Grabriele D’Annunzio. He will die at 46 after 11 years of prison.

Soon after the arrest he wrote to his wife:

“I am sure you will be strong and courageous, as you have always been. Now you will have to be even more than in the past, so that our sons may grow well and be in all worthy of you [italic is mine, MoR.]“

More on Antonio Gramsci:

Seven Aspects of Antonio Gramsci’s Thought
America, the Greatest Collective Effort Ever existed”. Antonio Gramsci
Is America Too Young to Maintain its Cultural Hegemony in the Long Run?

Related posts:

Democracy, Liberty & the Necessity of a Solid Education of the People
Culture, Kultur, Paideia
The Last Days of the Polymath

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