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Stupore

For several years, around high school to be precise, I was tenaciously attached to the idea of a radical opposition between the world of ideas and the world of reality. But it would be better to say between ideas and the tangible and visible part of reality, since ideas too – I was convinced then as now – belong to the world of reality.

I was passionate about Hegel’s philosophy, or at least about my adolescent adaptation of it.

It took me a long time in between to accept reality within me, to stop considering it a foreign body, to be exploited, possessed or defended against, in any case hostile. It took me a long time to understand that ideas and visible reality are not in conflict with each other, but are different and both are as important as a mother and a father, there being no point in wanting to choose between one and the other.

Speaking of Isaiah Berlin, the writer Mario Vargas Llosa praised his ability to deal with ideas by making them “shine, die, clash, and change with the vivacity with which all this happens to the heroes of good adventure stories”. So for me the whole world of ideas really exists in a narrative and adventure dimension, meaning ‘ideas’ in whatever creative form they take: so a song can be like a character in a film, and it can meet a painting, talk to a real person, and then make love to a book.

At the meeting point between the real and the ideal there is wonder. This feeling guides every new discovery. Socrates says: “It is the philosopher’s nature to be full of wonder, as you feel it; the philosopher has no other beginning than this” (from Plato’s Theaetetetus). Goethe says that wonder “is the mother of all that is beautiful and good”, while for Bacon wonder is “the seed of knowledge”. To it, the multifaceted Russian philosopher Pavel Florenskij dedicated the essay Astonishment and Dialectics, where dialectics is the inexhaustible and unpredictable dialectic between thought and life, between meaning and reality, a process in continuous change, like music. Florensky notes on page 56 of his essay that the Greek word tauma ‘indicates a high degree of disturbance of the soul: when concentration suddenly becomes rigid, man loses his usual awareness and is petrified at the sight of some unexpected phenomenon: he is astonished, he goes out of his mind, he leaves his usual awareness, he leaves himself… and therefore, being astonished, he goes into ecstasy… in other words, philosophy is a mystical exit from oneself, it is the ecstasy of having reached the prodigy, it is a metapsychological experience’. An orgasm without sex.

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