Politics and theories of the human (2017/2018)

Course code
Name of lecturer
Olivia Guaraldo
Olivia Guaraldo
Number of ECTS credits allocated
Academic sector
Language of instruction
Sem. IIA dal Feb 26, 2018 al Apr 21, 2018.

Lesson timetable

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Learning outcomes

The course aims at providing critical and methodological tools for reading and discussing politico-philosophical texts dealing with subjectivity and the definition of the human. Students will be guided in a thorough reading of philosophical texts dealing with the complex relationship between ways in which subjectivity is configured and ways of organizing a political society. Particular attention will be devoted to the relationship between concepts and experiences. Students will be accompanied through a critical and analytical path that will be followed by an individual critical work (written and oral) on the issues of the course. The training in critical-argumentative thinking will enable students to engage with some of the main issues of contemporary political theorization , while achieving advanced conceptual skills. These skills will enable them to face autonomously philosophical-political problems of our times (i.e. dilemmas regarding the relationship between equality and difference, subjects and power, individual freedom and political order)


Heroes of subjectivity? Ulysses in 20th century philosophy.

The course aims at analyzing Ulysses’s figure as it appears in two famous 20th century philosophical readings: Max Horkheimer and T.W. Adorno’s Dialectic of Enlightment is undoubtedly the most famous philosophical reading of Odysseus who, according to them, represents the cunning instrumental reason already drenched in exploiting and appropriative ideals. Odysseus, according to the Frankfurt philosophers, is the prototype of the bourgeois capitalist individual who will rule in modernity. Moreover, Odysseus is polytropos – the multi-resourceful hero – who uses his ratio to reduce everything to inert matter in order to dominate it: by annihilating nature through reason Odysseus annihilates himself too. A death instinct runs through the evolution of the Enlightment rationality, shaping its dialectic.
The second reading will be that of Hannah Arendt who, in various texts – The Human Condition, Between Past and Future, The life of the mind – reads Ulysses as the emblem of a subjectivity that is prey of circumstances and contingencies, and who acquires awareness of self and world through the narrative form that his adventures obtain thanks to the words of the bard, the teller of tales. With Ulysses, according to Arendt, history is born. And history, in the original Arendtian reading influenced greatly by ancient Greek culture, is a way to save, to redeem human finitude from futility and forgetfulness.
In light of these two different readings of the character of Ulysses, the course will analyze how different ways of conceptualizing subjectivity entail different ways of conceptualizing history and politics.
Students will be asked to actively participate in the course, with presentaitons – written and oral – and class discussion of the texts. Further in-depth analyses of Ulysses figure in literature and poetry will be given during the course.

Reference books
Author Title Publisher Year ISBN Note
M. Horkheimer, T.W. Adorno Dialettica dell’Illuminismo (1947) Einaudi, Torino 2010
S. Petrucciani Introduzione a Adorno Laterza, Roma-Bari 2007
Omero Odissea ( a cura di M.G. Ciani e E. Avezzù) Marsilio, Venezia 2000 lettura consigliata
H. Arendt Ta passato e futuro Garzanti, Milano 1999 Pagine in programma: Il concetto di storia: nell’antichità e oggi, pp. 70-129.
A. Cavarero Tu che mi guardi, tu che mi racconti Feltrinelli 2001 Pagine in programma: Il Paradosso di Ulisse, pp. 27-45
Hannah Arendt Vita activa Bompiani, Milano 1999 Pagine in programma: Cap. V. L’azione, pp. 127-182.

Assessment methods and criteria

Oral examination
To students attending the course it will be asked to actively participate in class - through oral and or written presentations. Such active participation will count as partial fulfillment of the course.