39424 - History of Contemporary Philosophy (1) (LM)

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2020/2021

Learning outcomes

The teaching of the History of Contemporary Philosophy has as its object the still open horizon of a reflection that, in the 20th century, came changing signs. Its aim is to introduce the student to the themes of post-metaphysical thought which, while they connote the latest developments in philosophical debate and extend into the most diverse cultural spheres, are rooted in the experience of today's man. The ideas of the end of the subject, of God's death, of overcoming the foundation, of denouncing logocentrism, which decide contemporary philosophy, and are also embodied in our existence, will, from time to time, find themselves at the centre of the course. The aim then is to introduce the student to a past that is being asserted in the course. Precisely because it has as its object the world in which we are involved, the course aims to contribute to the student's acquisition of awareness and critical capacity.

Course contents

The course questions the outcome of the 20th century debate between France and Germany on the status and limits of modern rationality in the light of the Kantian motto Sapere aude!, "have the courage to use your intelligence". Answering the question What is the Enlightenment?, Immanuel Kant summarises in 1784 the speculative-practical normativity of an entire century: the Enlightenment is that period of history which in the principle of the public use of reason recognises its uniqueness with respect to the past. In the course of the twentieth century this movement became the target of controversy, attacks, idealisations: between those who conceive it as a closed period of history, those who conceive it as an unfinished project, and those who conceive it as an eternal category of thought. What is the legacy of the cultural revolution that questioned the status of knowledge and its limits, the relationship between state and religion, the origin of power and language? Following the analysis of some of Kant's texts (to which the first part of the course will be dedicated), two fundamental interpretations of the twentieth century will be examined: Michel Foucault's historical-epistemological and anthropological reflection, which re-launches Kant's commitment to a critical philosophy by turning it against the humanistic structure of modern rationality; the Frankfurt School's meditation on the destructive character of the Enlightenment as a process of increasing power and totalitarian overthrow of the emancipatory thrusts of reason. Two reflections in comparison, between France and Germany, which recover the Kantian request of philosophizing critically understood as the faculty of asking what is the relationship between power, truth and subject.


We recommend participation in the four-meeting seminar cycle to be held on-line on the Teams platform, directed by Prof. Marcello Musto (York University, Toronto), entitled "Alternatives to Capitalism in the 19th Century: From Early Socialists to the First International".

Calendar and detailed information on the web page on "Online teaching resources".



Primary Bibliography

(selected parts of the following texts, part of which will be collected in the handouts of the teaching materials):


1. Kant, Dottrina trascendentale del metodo, in Critica della ragione pura, Bari, Laterza, 1981, pp. 509-52 

Che cos’è l’illuminismo, Scritti Politici, Torino, Utet 1998, pp. 141-151

Il Conflitto delle facoltà, a cura di D. Venturelli, Brescia, Morcelliana, 1994, pp. 57-93.

Antropologia dal punto di vista pragmatico, Torino, Einaudi, 2010,pp. 99-102; 109-124.

2. M. Foucault, Introduzione a Id. (a cura di), Antropologia dal punto di vista pragmatico, Torino, Einaudi, 2010, pp. 30-94.

Le parole e le cose, Milano, Rizzoli, 1988,

Prefazione; I parte: III Rappresentare; II parte: VII I limiti della rappresentazione (§§ 5-6); IX: L'uomo e i suoi duplicati. X Le scienze umane, pp. 5-14; 61-92; 256-269; 330-413.

Illuminismo e critica, Roma, Donzelli, 1997

Che cos’è l’Illuminismo?, trad. it. di S. Loriga, in Archivio Foucault, 3. 1978-1985, Estetica dell’esistenza, etica, politica, Milano, Feltrinelli, 1998, pp. 217-232, 253-261.

3. M. Horkheimer, T. W. Adorno, Dialettica dell’Illuminismo, Torino, Einaudi, 2010, pp. 11-129.



On Kant (optional):

O. Höffe, Immanuel Kant, Bologna, il Mulino, 1986

G. Micheli, Kant storico della filosofia, Padova, Antenore, 1980

E. Weil, Problemi kantiani, Urbino, QuattroVenti, 1976

P. Manganaro, L’antropologia di Kant, Napoli, Guida, 1983

A. Guerra, Introduzione a Kant, Bari, Laterza, 2013

A. Burgio, Strutture e catastrofi. Kant, Hegel, Marx, Roma, Editori Riuniti, 2000

A. Potestà, La pragmatica di Kant. Saperi al confine tra antropologia e criticismo, Milano, Franco Angeli, 2004

G.M. Tortolone, Esperienza e conoscenza. Aspetti ermeneutici dell'antropologia kantiana, Milano, Mursia, 1996.


Critical Studies (2 text to choose from):

M. Fimiani, Foucault e Kant. Critica clinica etica, Napoli, Città del Sole, 1997

R. Leonelli, Illuminismo e critica. Foucault interprete di Kant, Macerata, Quodlibet, 2017

M. Gros, J. Dàvila, Michel Foucault lecteur de Kant, Venezuela, Universidade de Los Andes, 1998

M. Iofrida, D. Melegari, Foucault, Roma, Carocci, 2017

A. Honneth, Critica del potere. La teoria della società in Adorno, Foucault e Habermas, Bari, Dedalo, 2002

R. Wiggershaus, La Scuola di Francoforte. Storia, sviluppo teorico, significato politico, Torino, Bollati Boringhieri, 1992

D. Donna, Dispersione Ordine Distanza. L’Illuminismo di Foucault Luhmann Blumenberg, Macerata, Quodlibet, 2020

G. Leghissa, Per la critica della ragione europea. Riflessioni sulla spiritualità illuminista, Milano-Udine, Mimesis, 2019

P. Virno, Avere. Sulla natura dell'animale loquace, Torino, Bollati Boringhieri, 2020.

Teaching methods

Frontal lectures and reading of texts in the classroom, together with discussion of the most important topics and direct participation of the students.

Assessment methods

The attendance of the entire course corresponds to 6 credits. The programme is unique for both attending and non-attending students.

The oral examination takes place in the teacher's studio and tends to verify:

the historical-philosophical knowledge acquired through attendance at the lessons, the study of the basic texts and the relative bibliography
the degree of understanding and critical reworking of the proposed content
expressive skills and the ability to orient oneself among the main lines of interpretation
The registration for the exam is online on the ALMAESAMI website.


Verification criteria

30 cum laude: excellent proof, for solidity of knowledge and critical processing skills

30: excellent proof, adequate knowledge and expressive richness

27-29: good proof, satisfactory knowledge, correct expression

24-26: discrete proof, non-exhaustive and partially correct knowledge

21-23: sufficient proof, general knowledge, confused expression

18-21: barely sufficient proof. Poor articulation and relevant theoretical gaps

<18: insufficient proof, missing or incomplete knowledge, lack of guidance in the argument

Teaching tools

A collection of texts will be made available to articulate the debate on the legacy of the Enlightenment in the history of contemporary philosophy.

Office hours

See the website of Diego Donna