“Cosa vuoi?”/ “What do you want?”: Jacques Lacan on desire
McKeever / 15 Gennaio 2021

            In the mouth or under the pen of Jacques Lacan the simple question “cosa vuoi?” becomes a bomb. The bomb is intended, as so often in his case, to explode our illusions about ourselves. In what follows I wish to share with the reader a few, almost arbitrary, reflections on this simple but potent weapon.             A first line of reflection concerns the use of the Italian language. Lacan was very theatrical, indeed histrionic, in his therapeutic and didactical styles. Switching for two words out of French into Italian, whether written or spoken, certainly would have had a certain dramatic effect. Pronounced with the strong intonation of a question in Italian and accompanied by an insistent hand gesture, this question immediately puts the interlocutor under psychological pressure on various fronts. The two most obvious of these concern the two words of which the question is composed.             “Cosa”, or better still “Cosa?”, in the context of Lacan’s thought, is an extremely loaded term, loaded like a gun. The word succinctly poses questions and insinuates judgements. The first question is: “Do you know what you want?” or “Do you really think what you want is…

Fraternità universale e amicizia sociale: Utopia o Realpolitik? Una lettura della Fratelli Tutti in ottica politica (parte 2/2)
McKeever / 4 Dicembre 2020

Avendo presentato in un post precedente la posizione della Fratelli tutti sul populismo e sulla migrazione, vogliamo ora considerare i temi della fraternità universale e dell’amicizia sociale come la base della risposta del Papa. La parola chiave qui è “base”. Questi due termini non costituiscono una proposta politica specifica e neanche una valutazione morale concreta, ma esprimono due atteggiamenti fondamentali che dovrebbero essere alla base di ogni politica e di ogni etica. Per capire i termini fraternità universale e amicizia sociale bisogna capire prima fraternità familiare e amicizia personale, o prima ancor fratello e amico. Che cosa è un fratello? Ne ho tre nella mia famiglia.  Siamo figli dello stesso padre e abbiamo giocato, litigato e condiviso come fanno fratelli. La parola “fraternità” in contesto familiare esprime tutta una costellazione di affetti, emozioni, sentimenti, atteggiamenti, disposizioni e usanze. Che cosa è un amico? Ne ho perso uno due anni fa, morto a 60 anni. Siamo stati amici fraterni per 40 anni, in tempi felici e in tempi duri. La parola “amicizia”, anch’essa, esprime tutta una gamma di attitudini, aspirazioni, condivisioni e reazioni.  Notiamo bene che l’atteggiamento iniziale necessario per lo sviluppo di tutte queste qualità è una postura di apertura…

Fraternità universale e amicizia sociale: Utopia o Realpolitik? Una lettura della Fratelli Tutti in ottica politica (parte 1/2)
McKeever / 20 Novembre 2020

    Per felice coincidenza o forse per divina provvidenza in Accademia Alfonsiana abbiamo avuto recentemente nel corso sul socialismo una bella discussione sull’Utopia di Tommaso Moro.  Abbiamo riflettuto sulla forma di vita idillica che si conduce su questa famosa isola.  Se avete letto le prime reazioni alla Fratelli tutti, avrete notato che l’enciclica è spesso accusata d’essere utopistica.  Così nasce il titolo di questo breve intervento: Fraternità universale e amicizia sociale: Utopia o Realpolitik?  Nella seconda parte di questo post darò la mia risposta a questa domanda. Prima vorrei fare una breve lettura dell’enciclica in ottica politica. L’ermeneutica ci insegna, e non da ieri, che la prima cosa da fare nell’interpretazione di un nuovo testo è di individuarne il genere letterario: non si può leggere una poesia come fosse un trattato di fisica.  Il genere letterario “enciclica sociale” è abbastanza conosciuto nelle specificità del suo scopo, del suo stile, dei suoi contenuti e dei suoi destinatari. Spesso una tale enciclica tratta di una questione sociale specifica: la situazione degli operai nella Rerum Novarum, l’auspicabile modello economico post-sovietico nella Centesimus Annus o l’ecologia nella Laudato si’. Naturalmente, mentre trattano la questione specifica queste encicliche toccano vari altri argomenti. Orbene, qual…

Words of Wisdom from Gilles Deleuze
McKeever / 24 Aprile 2020

  Gilles Deleuze (1925-1995) was one of the most prominent French philosophers of the 20th century.  Before he died, he agreed to grant a long interview of a rather special kind – but on condition that it would not be released until after his death!  In French the title of the interview, released in two DVD’s, is L’Abécédaire de Gilles Deleuze because in it Deleuze commented on a term beginning with each letter of the alphabet (Animal, Boisson…etc).  Conversational in style, the interview contains quite a range of stimulating reflections and indeed an amount of real wisdom.  The purpose of this post is to share his comments when he got to the letter P for Professor!             The lady conducting the interview asked: “Professor, you were once a teacher in a lycée and you are now professor of philosophy at the Sorbonne.  Can I ask you what is the main difference between the way you prepared your classes for school and the way you prepare your lectures for the university?”  Deleuze smiled, shook his head, and said: “Absolutely none.  When I was teaching in the school I read and I wrote until I had found something that I had to…

1/6.000.000: Etty Hillesum (Middelburg 1914 – Auschwitz 1943)
McKeever / 7 Febbraio 2020

    Scientists tell us that the human mind is capable of imagining quite a small number of individual entities: between 6.000, 60.000, 600.000 and 6.000.000 we can distinguish rationally but at the level of imagining such numbers our powers run out at 6.000 (or some such figure). This is not a major handicap when talking about cigarettes or fruit-flies, but becomes very serious when we are talking about people, particularly about victims of violence. The purpose of this blog is to introduce those who do not know Etty Hillesum to this marvellous person and to suggest a way of combating the dangerous tendency to massively underestimate the difference between 6.000 and 6.000.000. Etty (Esther) was born into a “liberal” (i.e. non-practicing) Jewish family in Holland at the beginning of the First World War. Her mother was of Russian origin and transmitted much of this culture to Etty. Her father was a professor of classics and something of an introvert. There were two boys in the family, Jaap and Mischa, the former a medical doctor, the latter a gifted musician but afflicted with psychiatric problems. Everything changed for this family when the German army invaded Holland in May 1940. From…

The Ethics of Migration and Hume’s Law
McKeever / 20 Dicembre 2019

    In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remark’d, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary ways of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when all of a sudden I am surpriz’d to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, ‘tis necessary that it shou’d be observ’d and explain’d; and at the same time that a reason should be given; for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it». David Hume, Treatise, III.i. Anyone with some experience in reading theses in moral theology will probably have had a reaction similar to that described by David Hume (1711-1776) in this famous paragraph.  In fact, words such as “ought”, “should” and “must” are often introduced without further explanation. Thus far, it is hard to disagree with…

How does the Bible help us to think about migration?
McKeever / 17 Maggio 2019

How does the Bible help us to think about migration? The relationship between the Bible and morality is notoriously complex (see the document of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Bible and Morality, 2008). Looking to the Scripture for enlightenment and guidance on any moral issue requires prudence, intellectual honesty and humility. All of this is true in a particular way concerning the contemporary question of migration because it is such a sensitive and controversial issue. In this brief reflection we will consider just one biblical text, perhaps the most important verse in the Bible on this question: “The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I the Lord am your God” (Leviticus, 19,34). The verse can be broken down into three parts: a moral obligation concerning the treatment of strangers, the historical fact that the people of Israel were once strangers and the assertion by God of his authority over his people. The key word linking these three parts is the word “for”. Taken literally, this term expresses the idea that one assertion follows logically from another, but…

The Politics of Migration: a Total Eclipse of Faith by Ideology?
McKeever / 29 Marzo 2019

  The Politics of Migration: a Total Eclipse of Faith by Ideology? On the 25th February 2019 there was a panel discussion in the Alphonsian Academy, Rome, on “Faith and Ideology”. It is a vast question which embraces many forms of faith, many forms of ideology and the various forms of interaction between the two. This interaction, often conflictual in nature, manifests itself in the context of numerous concrete questions of our time: the environment, Islamic terrorism, nuclear rearmament and so forth. In this short piece we will consider how faith and ideology interact when faced with the question of migration. There is a real danger that ideology, in its various forms, is in danger of producing a total eclipse of Christian faith on this question. To understand this metaphor we may think of the Christian faith as the Sun (the “light of the world”, in scriptural terms). This Sun sheds light on all human history, including the contemporary history of migration. It allows us to view this immensely complex question with faith, hope, charity, justice and truth. The metaphor of the total eclipse suggests that the light of the Sun is blocked out by the Moon, which intervenes between…