Possenti, Vittorio. Nihilism and Metaphysics: The Third Voyage

By Pozzo, Riccardo | The Review of Metaphysics, December 2015 | Go to article overview

Possenti, Vittorio. Nihilism and Metaphysics: The Third Voyage


Pozzo, Riccardo, The Review of Metaphysics


POSSENTI, Vittorio. Nihilism and Metaphysics: The Third Voyage. Translated by Daniel B. Gallagher. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2014. 398 pp.--This volume is concerned as much with nihilism as with metaphysics. It is a translation of a seminal book published in Italian by Possenti under the title of Terza navigazione: Nichilismo e metafisica (Roma: Armando, 1998, 2004). The author has been motivated to write it not so much "by moral concerns about the negative ethical results of nihilism, but rather by the core confusions that arise from the antirealistic, and hence more or less theoretically nihilistic, character of many modern philosophical schools." In fact, "the critique and abandonment of theoretical nihilism and the postmodern reassessment of the philosophy of being (or Seinphilosophie ...) correspond with one another point by point in a stitchwork that can be tricky to untangle."

The phenomenon of nihilism, the attempt at experimenting in theory and practice the potency of nothingness, cannot readily be expressed by a clear and univocal definition; no wonder, then, that all its investigators have brought to light a multifarious variety of names, concepts, and events. Nihilism is not confined to German and French thought. In the second half of the twentieth century, it has matured elsewhere. Italian philosophers have been particularly attentive to the problem of nihilism and have offered a number of substantial analyses. The 1970s and 1980s registered an efflorescence of nihilistic literature, in which the need for overcoming nihilism remains very clear. This was the case for thinkers like Luigi Pareyson and Alberto Caracciolo, who came to nihilism starting from an outspoken sensitiveness for the religious dimension. It holds also, though in a different sense, for Gianni Vattimo, who tried to evaluate positively the emancipatory potentiality of nihilism, and for Emanuele Severino, who charged nihilism and the whole of Western philosophy for accepting time and the becoming of things, thus their "not being yet" and their "not being anymore," which is no different from thinking being as nothingness.

In the perspective of global research, Possenti is certainly the most authoritative contemporary philosopher considering the consequences of nihilism. His effort goes toward understanding "the essence of nihilism and its long history if we begin with the guiding concepts of metaphysics and gnoseology: hence, our reading of nihilism is carried out in front of the tribunal of first philosophy: "Nihilism is not primarily an event through which the most noble values are disvalued, nor is it primarily the announcement that 'God is dead'; rather, it is the forgetting of being, the crisis of the idea of truth, the abandonment of unchanging realities and truths, and the paralysis of meaning. …

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