Philosophy as vocation

di Salvatore Veca

Opening Lecture FINO (North-West Italy Ph.D. Philosophy Consortium) held by Prof. Veca at University of Turin on March 11, 2014. The English translation is edited by Ian Carter.

I am going to use four images taken from the repertoire of our varied philosophical tradition in order to account for some relevant features of philosophy as a vocation. Each image singles out a distinctive and persistent trait of philosophical inquiry as I understand it. The relative importance of each of these images can vary, but what interests me here is their variable combination taken as a whole, my aim being to sketch a comprehensive portrait of the activity of ''doing philosophy".


Allow me to begin by paying homage to the School of Turin. In 1898, Giuseppe Peano, eminent representative of formal philosophy and author of the well-known Formulario, coined the phrase ''Leibniz's dream" in reference to an early expression of ''one of the most extraordinary and progressive research programs in the history of human thought: mathematical logic". Marco Mondadori, the Italian logician and philosopher of science, called attention to the twofold nature of Leibniz's dream in his inaugural lecture at Ferrara University in 1986: that of the deductive machine, on the one hand, and of the inductive machine, on the other. Concerning deduction, Leibniz states: ''Studying this problem I arrived, as if compelled by an internal necessity, at the following extraordinary idea: that it must be possible to construct a universal characteristic of reason on the basis of a method of calculus as in arithmetic or algebra. Once this has been achieved, when controversies arise between philosophers there will be no more need for a disputation. It will be enough for them to pick up their pens, sit at their abacuses, and say to each other: ''Let us calculate!".

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