IDSVA News

Leading Italian Philosopher Gianni Vattimo Awarded IDSVA Honorary Doctorate

Torino, Italy
Friday, June 22, 2018
Presented by Professor George Smith
Founder and President

 Gianni Vattimo and George Smith, June 2018

Gianni Vattimo and George Smith, June 2018

Preliminary Remarks

Gianni Vattimo’s contribution to philosophy in general and to hermeneutics in particular comprises a rich and luminous stream of thought that spans many decades and continues to unfold before the mind of the world. In order to symbolize our recognition of this contribution to what must be described as our only possible future, the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts will momentarily award Professor Vattimo an honorary doctorate of philosophy. This degree will be awarded in behalf of our students, our faculty and staff, and in behalf of the board of trustees, from all of whom I convey to Professor Vattimo the warmest of wishes. 

To say the least, the honorary degree we are here to confer in the name of the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts is hardly the most illustrious of the many honors and prizes by whichVattimo has been recognized as one of the great thinkers in the world today.

I mention, for example, the Gifford Lectures, which Vattimo delivered in 2010. As Vattimograciously acknowledges in thanking his hosts at Glasgow, the invitation to present the Gifford Lectures is philosophy’s version of the Nobel Prize.

I harbor a personal, shall we say native, appreciation for Vattimo’s Gifford lectures, so close in spirit do they come to the American philosopher William James’s Gifford Lectures, published under the title The Varieties of Religious Experience. For one thing, Vattimo’s Gifford Lectures, given a little over a century later and published in his collection of essays entitled, Of Reality: The Purposes of Philosophy, open up, for me at least, a trajectory of thought that runs from Vattimo, to James, to Rorty and Ricoeur, and back around again to Gadamer and Heidegger.

The Gifford Lectures and so many other of Vattimo’s awards and prizes (I will only mention here the 2002 Hannah Arendt Prize for Political Thinking and the 1996 Max Planck Award for Humanities Sciences) stand out in the world as truly notable encomiums to the life and thought of Gianni Vattimo. Even so, perhaps there is to be noticed a difference in type between these venerable emoluments and the far humbler honorary degree that we are about to confer.

I venture to say this because in these ceremonial proceedings Professor Vattimo is being welcomed into a circle of IDSVA faculty and honorary degree recipients, as well as students, each of whom in one way or another has given his or her life-work and thought to the future of a human consciousness that is free of metaphysics, an emancipation that is the singular promise of Vattimo’s concept of hermeneutics.

In that spirit, these artist-philosophers have long-since joined ranks with Vattimo in defending the human species against the spoliation of the earth. I would like to think that now, with Vattimo’s becoming directly identified with their ongoing hermeneutic conversation, their dialogical encounters will become a gathering of thought all the more steadfast, all the more dedicated to whatVattimo calls “a philosophy of praxis.”

From the standpoint of IDSVA, we are speaking here of a philosophy of praxis centered on the idea of the artist-philosopher as practitioner—a maker of poiesis, a maker of poeticized philosophy. Likewise, we are saying that the poeticized philosophy that works to overcome Western metaphysics, lives in art. Both of these principles are grounded in “art’s claim to truth,” the hermeneutic thinking that Vattimo teaches us to live by.

In opening ourselves to what Vattimo teaches, to what he has constituted as a hermeneutic conversation dedicated to the overcoming of metaphysics, we recognize our debt to him.

Never-ending, this debt, this ever-returning obligation, can never be repaid in full. But it can be repaid in kind.

And so, let me resolve here and now that our teaching at IDSVA will pursue the future of GianniVattimo’s thinking for what it is: the overcoming of metaphysics through edification.

More, let me pledge here and now that our collective pursuit of hermeneutic praxis, will be as unceasing as is our debt to Vattimo.

Lastly, let us never forget that there is imperative and indeed inescapable cause for assuming this debt, for taking up this relentless task of repaying Gianni Vattimo. As Vattimo puts it, “What is at issue is nothing less than a reformation of the world.”

Therefore, by the authority invested in me by the Board of Trustees, it is for me to present the Honorary Doctorate of Philosophy to Gianni Vattimo. Signed under the seal of the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts, and dated this day, June 22, 2018, I now pass this degree into the hands of Professor Vattimo.