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    Sebastiano Timpanaro, The Pessimistic Materialism of Giacomo Leopardi + On materialism

    Johnathan R. Razorback
    Johnathan R. Razorback

    Messages : 12740
    Date d'inscription : 12/08/2013
    Localisation : France

    Sebastiano Timpanaro, The Pessimistic Materialism of Giacomo Leopardi + On materialism  Empty Sebastiano Timpanaro, The Pessimistic Materialism of Giacomo Leopardi + On materialism

    Message par Johnathan R. Razorback Lun 20 Mar 2017 - 16:37



    "Leopardi’s pessimism does not have romantic-existentialist origins, and therefore differs profoundly from that of Schopenhauer, or that of more recent writers. It is often said that Leopardi was a great ‘romantic’ poet, and this is an acceptable description if by romanticism one understands a ‘state of mind’ deeply dissatisfied with reality, a nostalgia for a happier past epoch, and a yearning for a world other than that found actually existing. But with romanticism defined as that historically specific cultural–political and literary movement that arose in reaction to the Enlightenment and to the French revolution, Leopardi was at odds in every way, both during the Rousseauist phase of his thinking, and more decidedly than ever in the succeeding phase with which we are here concerned. Leopardi always remained convinced that the 19th century represented a regression relative to the 18th. His pessimism had a materialistic and hedonistic motivation, and its sources (in its second stage) must be sought in the anti-providentialism of Voltaire’s poem on the Lisbon Disaster, in Maupertius’ reflections on pleasure and pain and in the work of Pietro Verri. But while these authors continued to maintain various bridges to deism (and here one thinks of Voltaire in particular), Leopardi consistently pursued his chosen course to its ultimate conclusion, displaying an intellectual courage that is unique in the European culture of this period. His radical materialism also had 18th century origins in the thought of La Mettrie, Diderot, Helvétius and D’Holbach. But the 18th century materialists, in the fervour of their struggle against obscurantist and religious prejudice, were persuaded not only of the truth of their doctrine but also of its power to promote happiness. Leopardi, though he, too, felt that ‘proud contentment’ (to use his own words) in the destruction of the myths and dogmas of spiritualism, considered materialism to be a true but doleful philosophy. These ideas find their rational and artistic expression in Leopardi’s Canti, in the Operetti morali and in the vast collection of writings that he addressed to himself over a number of years in a series of notebooks which he entitled Zibaldone and which were not published until long after his death."

    "Despite his extreme democratic views, his commitment to egalitarianism, and his hostility not only to absolutism but also to constitutional monarchy (positions adhered to especially during the years 1818–1823, and again in his last years), he did not maintain, as did the Tuscan and Neapolitan liberals, that socio-political regeneration could be accomplished on the basis of a religious ideology."

    "The theory of pleasure—the hedonism which is an essential element in Leopardian thought—that provides the link between materialism and pessimism. His uncompromising materialism is not in conflict with his assertion that man’s physico-psychical constitution is such that far more suffering than pleasure accrues to him: Leopardi himself defined his own materialism as ‘an unhappy but true philosophy’. The human unhappiness of which Leopardi speaks is not a romantic mal du siècle, nor a vague existentialist angst: it is (and the more materialist he became, the more acute was his recognition of this fact) above all a physical unhappiness, based on highly concrete givens: illness, old age, the ephemerality of pleasure. Leopardi is, of course, fully aware that it is hedonism which provides the bases for the development in man of a higher order of demands (emotional, moral, cultural, etc.). But even at this more elevated level, pessimism has its rightful place, since the sophisticated values of human civilisation are fragile in the extreme, and nature is no less destructive of them than she is of biological organisms."
    -Sebastiano Timpanaro, "The Pessimistic Materialism of Giacomo Leopardi", New Left Review; I/116, July–August 1979: 29-50.


    « La question n’est pas de constater que les gens vivent plus ou moins pauvrement, mais toujours d’une manière qui leur échappe. » -Guy Debord, Critique de la séparation (1961).

    « Rien de grand ne s’est jamais accompli dans le monde sans passion. » -Hegel, La Raison dans l'Histoire.

    « Mais parfois le plus clair regard aime aussi l’ombre. » -Friedrich Hölderlin, "Pain et Vin".

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