Phenomenology and ontology of care (2019/2020)

Course code
Guido Cusinato
Teaching is organised as follows:
Unit Credits Academic sector Period Academic staff

Learning outcomes

The course aims at helping the students to achieve the following targets, while it handles mainly the themes regarding the theory of affective experience and that of ontology of relation.

From the viewpoint of knowledges:
1) it provides conceptual, methodological, and cultural bases to promote phenomenologically oriented researches on the theory of affective experience as well as on the importance of emotional sharing for the care relationship, the formation process of individuals and the foundation of social ontology;
2) it shows and examines the structures which are necessary for the concept of “relationship” and for the identification of its practical realisation.

From the viewpoint of abilities:
at the end of course the students should demonstrate adequate knowledge of the texts, autonomy of judgment and good ability to master the philosophical terminology encountered, as well as faculty to critically build up and develop, also interdisciplinary, connections between acquired notions.



Wesen und Formen der Sympathie (1913/23), one of the most important texts of twentieth-century philosophy, has been in recent years increasingly at the center of the international debate on the phenomenology of otherness and corporeity as well as on the philosophical foundations of psychiatry. In this work Scheler continues to develop the project of Bergson's Évolution créatrice (1907), aimed at rethinking philosophy with reference to categories of life, managing to open up new and unexpected perspectives to the phenomenology of emotional life, biosemiotics and the relationship between philosophy and psychiatry. The course aims to provide the indispensable and necessary bases for reading and understanding Wesen und Formen der Sympathie, a particularly complex text. To achieve this, in addition to an in-depth introduction to the text, a comparison will also be made with the original text in German to verify the correctness of the Italian translation of the central terms. Finally, the relevance of this text for the current phenomenological debate will be examined. The interpretations given by Scheler and Heidegger to Uexküll's text, Animal Environments, and Human Environments, will also be discussed. On this theme, it is necessary to point out, especially for non-attending students, that the Introduction by Marco Mazzeo to the text of Uexküll is useful e.g. in relation to the distinction between "Umgebung" and "Umwelt", but it turns out to be incorrect, for it traces the distinction between "Welt" and "Umwelt" to Heidegger's course in 1929 (see Mazzeo, p. 18 and following), ignoring that this distinction had already been widely developed by Scheler before 1913; it is also incorrect to say that Heidegger introduced in 1929 Uexküll into the German philosophical debate: in reality, Scheler had already dealt with Uexküll’s biology since 1909 and in a much more detailed way so that he develops in Formalismus an alternative proposal to Kant's transcendental Aesthetics.

Gilles Deleuze described his speculative thesis as a "Transcendental empiricism", a proper philosophical cyborg that deserves to be investigated on its consistency. "Difference and Repetition", published in 1968 is book most "systematic" book by Deleuze and the one, which is most clear and structured about his thought. In some ways, everything that Deleuze published after, is nothing but an articulation of the structures of thought, which are presented in this book for the first time. "Difference and Repetition" takes a close analysis of the metaphysical tradition of philosophy, from Plato to Hegel, in which the thought of Nietzsche, Bergson and Freud is used as a crowbar to open the closed doors of “identity” and proposes a new understanding of "difference": a "difference" which is not a defective experience of "identity" and whose possibilities don’t rest on "judgment" and "law". But in this book Deleuze also discusses the basis of Structuralism, which dominated the French philosophical scene. The Deleuzian concepts of "virtuality" and "Idea" function as resurrection of "structure" from its ashes: a "fragmented" and nomadic structure that, in order to be understood, must produce Being an unprecedented "image of thought" and a new philosophy.

Assessment methods and criteria

For attending students: A personalized program will be set together at the beginning of the course. For non-attending students: The exam is in oral form and aims at verifying the adequate knowledge of the scheduled texts. In order to access the oral examination, students must submit a paper of 20000 characters. The paper must be previously agreed on with the professor during his office hours – after students have read the texts – and is to be submitted at least 7 days before the exam. The paper must be submitted via email, with a .doc document containing the student’s name, surname and identification number.
Written report of at least 10 pages whose subject must be previously agreed and which will be discussed orally. The report will serve to evaluate the vocabulary, the critical-argumentative capacity, the ability to autonomously rework what has been learned. The vote is expressed in marks from 18 to 30/30. The test is identical for attending and non-attending students. Non-attending students are invited to contact the lecturer at least one month before the date of the exam in order to decide together the topic of the report.

Reference books
Author Title Publisher Year ISBN Note
Jacob von Uexküll Ambienti animali e ambienti umani Quodlibet 2010
G. Cusinato Biosemiotica e psicopatologia dell'ordo amoris. In dialogo con Max Scheler FrancoAngeli 2018
M. Scheler Essenza e forme della simpatia FrancoAngeli 2016
G. Deleuze Differenza e ripetizione Cortina 1997 scelta di capitoli
G. Deleuze Il bergsonismo e altri saggi Einaudi 2001 scelta di capitoli