• IF

  • Activities


DOCUMEDIALITY 1. and 2. (Lectures by Prof. Maurizio Ferraris)

From: 2016-05-10 To:2016-05-11

Go back
  • Thematic Line

    Modern & Contemporary Philosophy
  • Research Groups

    Aesthetics, Politics & Knowledge
    Mind, Language & Action
  • Maurizio Ferraris (University of Turin)*
    10 and 11 May 2016


    10 May 2016 | 15h30
    Sala de Reuniões (Piso 2)


    11 May 2016 | 10h30
    Sala do Departamento de Filosofia (Torre B - Piso 1)

    Followed by comment by:
    Alberto Romele
    (Post-Doc - Instituto de Filosofia/Univ. Porto)


    Thirty years – a generation – have passed since Calvino’s death and his unfinished American Lectures. His keywords (Lightness, Quickness, Exactitude, Visibility, Multiplicity and "Consistency", the evocative but enigmatic word, as not accompanied by a text) speak of a world in which reality is constructed by thought and dissolves in virtuality. Calvino wrote at the dawn of postmodernism, while now its sun has set: construction has revealed its limits, and lightness, or liquidity, has turned out to be rather heavy indeed. What happened? Asking this question, and proposing six new keywords for our millennium (or, more likely, for the next thirty years), I believe is in line Calvino’s intention. Giving the posterity the possibility to re-read and integrate his work, indeed, he wrote: “none of the values I choose as a topic for my conferences claim to exclude the opposite value.”

    Documentality. It is interesting that “globalization” was not one of Calvino’s keywords. The reason is very simple: true globalization took place through the World Wide Web, which was only born in 1989. This is important: globalization has not to do with jets but with writing, a form of craft older than pyramids. Indeed, writing is the only means by which to transfer not only physical object, but also social objects like money, laws, politics and identities. There’s more. Writing – as a form of recording – accomplishes a miracle: it constructs social objects (verba volant, scripta manent: written words have always had this characteristic). This is why, to everybody’s surprise, writing hasn’t disappeared – as was prophesized half a century ago – but has become the omnipresent tool regulating the politics, society and economy of our time. This surprise also reveals the deep nature of social reality, which is made up by documents. That is why the first keyword for the new millennium is “documentality”, by which I mean the sphere of documents that has come to the fore through the Web.

    Unamendability. Everything that can be considered a document (that is, anything recorded) has a particular consistency which makes it different from a simple intention, fancy, or chit chat. And the omnipresence of writing and recording in the technical devices we are surrounded by exponentially multiplies the number of documents: that is why the document society is anything but liquid and evanescent. Rather, it is solid and hard to change, dramatically manifesting the character of unamendability, resistance and consistency that constitutes the core of reality. Our words on the social media, our interactions online, become as solid as trees or chairs, and it is vital to be aware of this. Cars have stopped getting faster half a century ago. They have become more secure, silent, ecological. That is, they have embodied risk assessments and responsibility principles. None of this has been done with regards to the Web, which has only been exalted (collective intelligence), despised (mass stupidity) or greeted with obsession for privacy – which bizarrely disappears when people act on social media. What is needed is a practical reason of the Web.

    Mobilization. The first postulate of this practical reason is that the image of the human being as a free and autonomous agent is largely an overstatement. Sure, we are social and rational animals, but the Web has shown that we are mostly mobilized animals willing to submit to external solicitation (and especially to the injunction to reply that comes from everywhere on the web). Hence my third keyword: mobilization. From the new media we expected emancipation from work, or at least from repetitiveness. We didn’t get the former, but the latter, although in exchange for a total mobilization of human resources. This phenomenon goes beyond economic profit itself, and therefore begs for a re-thinking of human nature in the light of the growing need for recognition and weight of responsibility manifested through documental mobilization.

    Emergence. This unamendability and this mobilization have largely emerged outside of human intentionality. Those who projected the first PCs did not foresee in any way that they would change human life forever. Likewise, those who inserted the keyboard in mobile phones didn’t think that most forms of communication via phone would be written. Novelty does not come by thanks to human planning or construction: it is techne itself that is autopoietic and decides what we are to do. This, however, shouldn’t be seen as a negative thing: rather than a vehicle of alienation, technology reveals true human nature. The great epochal turn, which hasn’t been fully perceived yet, is the passage from construction to emergence: a concept that forces us to wholly rethink the category of “project” as the realization of conceptual coordinates. That’s why my fourth keyword is “emergence”– in the sense that projects, intentionality, and construction do not come from above but emerge from the world (natural, social and, in this case, technological).

    Exemplarity. The reference to emergence and techne does not mean – as it did in the twentieth century – resignation. The novelty and exemplarity of a singular action are always possible, and indeed they do take place. Only, one has to be aware of the singularity of these actions, which involve individual responsibility, and overcome the animism inclined to attribute the evils of humankind to numinous and often abstract entities such as the Market, Europe, and the Capital. The great illusion of modernity has been the promotion of absolute individualism and the consideration of the world as prey to great collective intentionalities. The challenge, rather, is to elaborate a notion of “exemplarity”, which is my fifth keyword: the single case that, in its very singularity, creates a new norm and lends itself to new formulations, constituting – in the technological, artistic-expressive and moral-practical spheres – the eminent form of the project, as well as the first step to a new responsibility and a new practical reason.

    Documediality. My mysterious word, the equivalent of “Consistency”, let’s say my word to come is “documediality”. The fact that social reality is made up of documents (documentality) and that today there is not much difference between the map and the land, between social reality and media reality (so that documentality is also documediality) entails a radical rethinking of old contrapositions, and especially of the now obsolete distinction between science and humanities. It’s not longer the nineteenth century, and not even the twentieth century, in which too limited sciences and too conservative humanities vied for a field and were opposed as enemies. Today more than ever, science as a specialized sphere needs the humanities, and today more than ever the humanities are at the same level as science. This is due to the new space of documediality, in which the letter and the spirit, nature and literature, social, natural and ideal objects as well as technological artifacts are new forms of interaction, dialogue, and projectuality.

    * Maurizio Ferraris (born February 7, 1956 in Turin) is an Italian philosopher and scholar. His name is attached to the philosophical current named new realism (he wrote the Manifesto of New Realism in 2012, forthcoming for SUNY Press), that shares significant similarities with speculative realism and object oriented ontology. A pupil of Gianni Vattimo, and influenced by Jacques Derrida, he started as a theorist of hermeneutics before turning his attention to the analytic strand. Over the years he has been able to create an effective synthesis between the two approaches, creating a new ontological realism that rejects Kant's schematism in the cognitive area.

    Since 1995 Ferraris has been full Professor of Philosophy in the Department of Literature and Philosophy at the University of Turin, where he also runs the CTAO (Inter-University Centre for Theoretical and Applied Ontology) and the LabOnt (Laboratory for Ontology). He studied in Turin, Paris and Heidelberg and has taught at major European Universities. He is the director of the Rivista di Estetica and is part of the directive committee of Critique and aut aut. From 1989 to 2010 he has written for the cultural supplement of Il Sole 24 ORE; since 2010 he has been writing for the cultural section of la Repubblica. His main areas of expertise are hermeneutics, aesthetics and ontology.

    Research Group Mind Language and Action Group (MLAG)
    MLAG Seminars 2015-2016 (Sofia Miguens, João Santos, Luís Veríssimo e Brena Fernandez)
    Research Group Aesthetics, Politics & Knowledge

    Instituto de Filosofia da Universidade do Porto - FIL/00502
    Financiamento: FCT

    Go back