Interview with philosopher Luca Pantaleone

When it comes to philosophers, unfortunately, common thought and bad information tend to imagine odd and sad men, lost in their thoughts … Perhaps inconclusive or even crazy. To reinforce this belief there has always been mass ignorance and its tendency to consider negative those who are not homologated to others and all of that is not known. The old photos were also probably accomplices, they almost always show people with a strange expression, with a blank stare, dusty in a “vignette” format. In reality, philosophers are not like that, and who we interviewed is a pleasant example of this.Since 2017 he has been a member of Petrarca Academy of Letters, Arts and Sciences in Arezzo. From December 2020 he is an external member of the Bioethics Committee of the South-East Tuscany Local Health Authority, as an “expert in philosophy”. He is the author of works about philosophy and fiction, including “La Gabbia Logica”(the logic cage) (Aracne, 2009-2019), “Il problema della verità. Dal corrispondentismo al pluralismo”(the problem of truth – from correspondence to pluralism) (Aracne, 2018), “Saggi Logico-fenomenologici” (logico-phenomenological essays ) (Clinamen, 2019),” Husserl and Frege “(Ombre Corte, 2020) and the novel” Il Franco Cavaliere “(the frank knight) (Boxes Talking, 2019). In 2019 his logical-phenomenological essays make him the winner of the national philosophy competition “The figures of thought”, organized by the National Association of Philosophical Practice Professionals, in the “unpublished essay” section.Pride of the wonderful Apulia, Luca Pantaleone graduated in Pharmacy, Philosophy and Philosophical Sciences. This is an interview to get to know him better and to find out more about his activity in spreading philosophy. It has been a pleasant chat during which he also has answered the questions that the students from the classic/scientific high school “Renato Descartes”, in Villaricca (Napoli), have posed in relation to their future. Questions that are common to adult as well (find them at the bottom of current page).

Luca Pantaleone is son of emigrants from Southern Italy. Since he was a child he has always frequented his parents’ places of origin but has lived all his l ife in Tuscany.He plays the piano and is a fan of Chopin, Schubert, Listz, Verdi. Although his greatest love is Mahler. In his spare time he devotes himself to sports. He loves running and he follows football as a fan of Juventus. He defines himself as a fervent user of pop culture: he follows Netflix TV series, manga, and is crazy for the adventures of Monkey D. Luffy in “One Piece” by Eiichiro Odae. He also likes to play video games. However what he puts in front of everything is spending time with his family. In love with his wife, together with her he observes the progress of his youngest son,who was born, in the unfortunate 2020, and he plays with the eldest daughter who seems to follow in the footsteps of dad. His childhood saw him participating, as an extra, in Roberto Benigni’s film “La Vita e’ Bella “. He was among the “balilla” children who welcome Benigni during the scene in which the protagonist jumps on the benches surprising everyone. Today, at the age of 32, Luca Pantaleone has a pleasant and amusing memory of this experience. He remembers the energy of Benigni on the set and the light-heartedness of the acting, but at the same time he was impressed by the deep seriousness of the artist in the backstage.As a teenager he was inclined to teaching, but the critical evaluation of a particular moment, 2008, in which Italy was already showing signs of subsidence, directed him towards a path that would guarantee him a good job, which would allow him to live in dignity and that would allow him to start a family. However, despite of his priorities, he has never abandoned his interest in philosophy, an interest that he now spreads and shares through his publications as well as on his YouTube channel. Luca Pantaleone’s YouTube channel features philosophy. From Kant to Husserl from Heidegger to Frege, it includes also analysis and commentary videos on politics and society, and it offers a playlist dedicated to the philosopher’s non-fiction activity. The clarity and grace of the young philosopher in addressing these issues make philosophy understandable even to those who are just approaching it. The philosopher argues that while still remaining a niche sector, in recent times the interest in philosophy seems to grow. Perhaps out of curiosity, perhaps out of necessity. According to him, despite the trend towards cultural decadence, there is still interest in culture and some people still has desire to know. Therefore on the one hand we have a great cultural poverty especially due to the Italian school which in recent years has been reduced to the limit, in fact it does not help to think, it does not help to develop a sense of criticism; on the other hand we find those who are directed towards knowledge and openness but they do not have the means, sometimes the skills, to do so.The web technology can be a useful medium but, in the philosophical field, many issues are treated with banality and superficiality. Precisely for this reason Mr. Pantaleone is engaged in the study of issues that are generally treated superficially. There are philosophers on the web who deal with philosophy, few are those who deal with the complexity of philosophy.

He intends to help those who approach philosophy to enter the complexity of philosophy itself. In philosophy, as in all things, it is necessary to search in depth and you have to work hard.The gaze shifts towards the cultural relationship of Italy with the United States: the model of society where the latest iPhone model counts and immateriality counts less and less. We are getting sick of the same disease in the emulation of this model in all respects. We have learned very soon to trivialize. As the philosopher emphasize that American philosophy has eliminated what “is not useful”, what is “superfluous”, and it has developed more in the philosophy of language. This opens up to a technical dimension of philosophy that can be applied in the field of mathematics, of computer logic, but that lets philosophy lose that “feeling of the unknown” that belongs to human beings.While, according to Aristotle, logic is an organon, that is, a means, in England and in America instead it has become the dominant philosophy, therefore the method itself has become the whole philosophy. This is probably one of the reasons why for some decades, following this direction, we have been losing everything good we had done and that we have been once able to build. We are in full despair. The philosopher’s fear is that nothing could follow from this discouragement in young people. It may not follow a movement of revenge, nor a movement of social revolt. He sees a resignation that leads to a depressing greyness. Many young people decide to go abroad in order to earn for living then forced to suffer from the lack of their land and family. On the other hand those who remain do not seem to care about the future. They limit themselves to drawing on the family heritage, for those who have it, and they just want to have fun. It is a hedonistic society dedicated to direct consumption. There is no more planning for the future. There is no longer, as in the past, the will of young people to create a family, there is no longer the need to be independent, to evolve. In all this the parts at stake are the nihilism and hedonism that characterize our time, destroying our social identity, our awareness. And things are getting worse. He observes that young people do not have the means to dare because the figure of the father has been downgraded in the family. The father is no longer, as he once was, a model to refer to. And so it comes that young people are fragile and insecure because they lack guidance. This fragility will manifest itself in adulthood and this will make them unable to make decisions and choices.Another limitation of many young people today, according to the philosopher, is the property of language. They are good in technical subjects (we continue to emulate the United States) but they do not know how to express themselves, they don’t even know how to talk correctly. So we are full of graduates with very high marks and high-level masters who, however, not knowing how to express themselves they seem mechanized automatons.This affects the formation of character. If you do not know how to express yourself you cannot communicate and everything is more difficult.It is true that by reading these words we are disheartened but we have once for all to face reality. It is necessary that men begin to make choices for the future through methods that are not invasive. It is necessary that men begin to make choices that are ethical and that are aimed to the establishment of a society that has not to be so sadly empty, unaware and without identity. Certainly these are things we must not look elsewhere. It is the case, however, that we dust our history and learn, as in the past, to practice “thinking”. We have a great culture that holds everything that belongs to us in its lap. Through knowing who we are we can discover who we want to become and this is possible with the help of philosophy.

IP – What relationship do you have with your land of origin?-

LP – It is a fluctuating relationship. My parents (my mother is from San Marco in Lamis, my father from Castiglion Messer Raimondo, a small village of few people perched on a mountain in Abruzzo) emigrated from Southern Italy before my birth. My mother is a biologist who gave up her profession to raise my sister and me, my father is a construction engineer who found a job in the State Railways, where he worked until few months ago as a manager.Since I was a child I have always frequented my parents’ villages, where I still have a large part of the family, but I have actually lived my whole life in two beautiful cities of Tuscany, Arezzo and Siena, and in the Valdichiana of Arezzo, where I currently reside with my wife and my two beautiful children. Like many children of emigrants, I have always felt a sense of disorientation about me, the frequent feeling of not living in my original space. After all, as Heidegger recalls, living (Innan) is the distinctive feature of being-in-the-world, that allows man to be able to live an authentic existence. This is why I usually define myself, just like composer Gustav Mahler did, as “three times without a country”. To partially recover this distance, I dedicated to the Gargano, my homeland, a series of short stories (“Apnea, The mysteries of the Gargano”) published in Italy in 2017.-

IP – What prompted you to undertake philosophical studies after graduating in Pharmacy? –

LP – A double dream: on one hand there was the need to have a stable and well-paid job, with the consequent possibility of being able to support a family, and on the other hand there was the desire to cultivate what is more than a passion, which has arisen during the high school years. At the age of 18 (in 2008, at the beginning of the great economic crisis) I was perfectly aware that by immediately starting my studies in philosophy I would have had great difficulty in guaranteeing economic stability for myself and my future familyI had too high ambitions to be satisfied with high school teaching (among other things very difficult, given the scarcity of public competitions, and with meager salaries) plus, in Italy university careers are blocked at all levels. It goes on in almost all cases only if you submit to the power games of the baronage, and you seriously risk spending 30 years of your life with a precarious contract (starvation) renewed annually. I therefore preferred to create another path, first completing my studies in Pharmacy and then starting all over again, and taking the same path with Philosophy and Philosophical Sciences. Today I can say that I made the right choice. I have a great job in an important multinational pharmaceutical of plasma derivatives and I can cultivate my philosophical studies free from economic worries. Basically I followed Kant’s suggestion: I exercise a public freedom, obeying the company I work for and my social role, and at the same time, a private freedom, which in “What is the Enlightenment” Kant defines as the possibility of behave like a scholar in front of an audience of readers.I also met my wife at Pharmacy, which makes me even happier with the choice I made. –

IP – Do you remember as a teenager how you imagined your future? –

LP – This is an important question, but one that if dropped in today’s world can only fill with sadness. Like all teenagers when I was young I had only one desire: to be “felice” (happy). Anyone who knows the etymology of the word knows that “felicita’”(happiness) comes from the Latin agricultural term “felix”, which in ancient times indicated the tree that bears good fruit.I believe that all young people have nothing at heart other than giving their fruits, blossoming, exercising their talents. Plato also remembers this in “La Repubblica”: a right state must allow anyone to exercise the art for which he has a talent. Today in Italy this is an operation that very few succeed. For example, when I was young, I felt inclined to university teaching, but I was forced to adopt a pragmatic approach, aware of the fact that the risks were far greater than certainties. I believe that many young people in Italy find themselves in the same situation: blocked, unable to express what they really know how to do, what they love. It is no coincidence that many graduates simply pack their bags and leave. And obviously the one who loses the most is the country system. A state that is unable to reward merit and talent has no future. –

IP – How did you experience the Lockdown? –

LP – The company that I work for has allowed me to work in smart working from March 2020. Being a Pharmaceuticals company it has not suffered much from the economic crisis followed by the various lockdowns. Fortunately, the company my wife works for, which produces fruit for large-scale distribution and an exceptional Tuscan Syrah (Maestà di Santa Luce), has also done quite well. We are therefore among the “privileged” who have been able to spend time at home with their families without major changes in their standard of living. However, I have lived and continue to experience Italy’s political difficulties with intense concern, thinking precisely of the young people we were talking about before, who will pay the greatest price of the crisis. –

IP – Is there an English version for the book “Husserl and Frege. Psychologism, antipsychologism, logic, phenomenology.” ? If it doesn’t exist, are you planning to publish it? –

LP – I have not yet been translated abroad, and I wouldn’t mind. I believe that this book in particular, which analyzes the problem of objectivity by delving into the thought of two great thinkers, the last Frege and the first Husserl, may be somehow interesting for the Anglo-Saxon philosophical debate, very focused on an “analytical “Of philosophy. –

IP – Can you briefly tell us about your novel “Il Franco Cavaliere” (the frank knight)? –

LP – The Franco Cavaliere is a novel set in 732, the year of the battle of Poitiers between the Franks of Carlo Martello and the Arab army of al-Ghafiqi. The protagonist is a reader knight, who loves books more than the sword. After receiving the call from Charles he decides to join the battle with his faithful squire. However he does it to understand the reasons of the war, more than to take up his helmet and sword. The idea was to try to imagine how a reader would behave towards one of the great events in the history of Europe: would he succumb to hatred of the different or would he try to mediate between the two opposing factions? –

Philosopher Luca Pantaleone answers to the students’ questions.

S – As part of the restrictive measures adopted by the Government for the management of the Covid-19 emergency, some sectors have adopted smart working. Will we still be able to talk to each other and do something practical in the future or will technology take over all of us? –

LP – Surely we will still be able to communicate, indeed, as a direct user, I see in smart working a great possibility, that of recovering energy, health and free time, all things put at risk by commuting and working hours too rigid, especially in big cities. However, I also see a risk, connected to the disappearance, in contemporary societies, of those social gathering centers once indispensable to community life. I am referring to the churches, the circles, the party sections. For many people today the office remains the only true possible form of extra-family sociality. And completely depriving man of this latest institution could lead to an incredible increase in the sense of loneliness and social frustration. As usual, governments are not reflecting properly, indeed they are not reflecting at all, on the type of society we will have in our hands after the end of the pandemic. However, given that smart working will increasingly take hold, it is urgent to put together community mechanisms capable of preventing and combating discouragement and isolation. The only solution I see is in culture. We have to go back to making culture together. Crowding music schools, painting courses, museums, theaters, libraries and cultural events. Governments must return to investing in culture, giving rise to a new Renaissance of the arts and thought. Only in this way we will not get lost. –

S – Can the study of philosophy, over the years, defeat our insecurities, make us feel free from any bond and help us find a place in the social and working world? –

LP – Good question! (laughs) If there is one thing that I have increased precisely by studying philosophy, it is my sense of insecurity and inadequacy. Through Socrates Plato remindes us that the real philosopher is not the one who knows, but the one who is aware of his own ignorance.Anyone who studies philosophy can only feel crushed by how much knowledge has been produced by man over the centuries, especially by the often very high level of this knowledge.For each book read, an exponentially growing number of questions about the “self”, the “world”, the “other” and an equally growing number of other books to read and study are brought home. It is a Promethean effort, which never ends, fueled by a bulimic and incessant sense of curiosity that knows it will never be able to find fulfillment. Surely this is able to free us (see the myth of the Platonic Cave) from pre-concept bonds, both of a social, moral and cognitive nature. Real freedom is exercised starting from placing the world in parentheses, which must be followed by investigation and testing ourselves. Gnōthi Seautón (know yourself), said the Delphic adage. Regarding the relationship between philosophy and the working world, a separate book should be written. Philosophy cannot and must not help find work, in the sense that it cannot help man enter the ever smaller and narrower funnel of technical-scientific specialization, because it is simply not a natural science. It, as Husserl believed, must be independent of the sciences and at the same time aspire to found them. As a “basic science”, philosophy must have the task of achieving its own autonomy based exclusively on objective rules of thinking. To answer, therefore, I would say that it is not philosophy that must help to enter the world of work, but it is the world of work and the professions that cannot do without philosophy. In the future, unfortunately, I believe that in the long run a university dedicated to the exclusive study of philosophy will disappear (which is already happening in Italy), but I hope that philosophy will continue to live on in other degree courses: from bioethics, to neuroscience, to artificial intelligence, the philosophy of law, the philosophy of natural sciences, etc… Every course of study in a natural science should have as its foundation the preparatory teaching of philosophy. –

S – Given the situation we are experiencing with the consequent development of the so-called “smart working” should we expect the birth and spread of new activities that are more suited to remote work and worry about a probable disappearing of traditional work activities? –

LP – I think I have already answered this question in a rather exhaustive way. Certainly with the end of pandemic we will experience a radically changed world compared to 2019. This will have repercussions above all in the work and social sphere. The work of the spirit, however, as Massimo Cacciari defines it, borrowing the words of Max Weber, will continue to animate the intellectual and political life of the world. The challenge lies precisely in allowing thought to continue to function in a free and non-prejudicial way. Husserl believed, must be independent of the sciences and at the same time aspire to found them. As a “basic science”, philosophy must have the task of achieving its own autonomy based exclusively on objective rules of thinking. To answer, therefore, I would say that it is not philosophy that must help to enter the world of work, but it is the world of work and the professions that cannot do without philosophy. In the future, unfortunately, I believe that in the long run a university dedicated to the exclusive study of philosophy will disappear (which is already happening in Italy), but I hope that philosophy will continue to live on in other degree courses: from bioethics, to neuroscience, to artificial intelligence, the philosophy of law, the philosophy of natural sciences, etc… Every course of study in a natural science should have as its foundation the preparatory teaching of philosophy. –

S – Will a robot ever surpass the human intelligence of who programmed it? Will Artificial Intelligence replace or support the human being? –

LP – As a good philosopher I can not let that term go unnoticed “overcome”. In what should Artificial Intelligence overcome man? And, first of all, what is “man”? If we stick to the calculation functions, for many years there have been computers that can do better than us. Here, however, I believe that we are talking about the crucial transition from “instrument” to “creator”, following a bit of what is told in the wonderful Westworld series. The crucial point therefore is to establish what a creator has different from a tool. –

S – Given the situation we are experiencing with the consequent development of the so-called “smart working” should we expect the birth and spread of new activities that are more suited to remote work and worry about a probable disappearing of traditional work activities? –

LP – I think I have already answered this question in a rather exhaustive way. Certainly with the end ofpandemic we will experience a radically changed world compared to 2019. This will have repercussions above all in the work and social sphere. The work of the spirit, however, as Massimo Cacciari defines it, borrowing the words of Max Weber, will continue to animate the intellectual and political life of the world. The challenge lies precisely in allowing thought to continue to function in a free and non-prejudicial way. –

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