Edited by Diana Baroni

English version supervised by Michael Martin-Smith

Voices does not follow an alphabetical order, because it arises from the necessity, at least at the beginning, to follow the reasoning of Amartya Sen, and to be able to discuss critically different themes and authors, to elaborate our conceptions and to propose them with a clear perspective.

Voices does not aim to be the nth philosophic dictionary... for philosophers, or a political manual... for politicians, or an economic book of prescriptions... for economists, or a manual of jack-of-all-trades... for handy men.

It is, first of all, an introduction to a collective work, to share what we know and to research what we don't know, but need to know. Everyone who wishes to contribute to our growth and effectiveness can develop this tool.

Our deep need is to be able to be accessible to different people, in at least two languages, so that discussions can be substantial and not flounder in mutual incomprehension. It must be possible to discuss a variety of subjects, without being specialized in this or that field, to communicate not only with specialists, but even with laypeople, and to be comprehensible and to make comprehensible, overcoming problems of jargon and snobbery. Voices is therefore also intended to develop a dynamic, non-sectarian, unitary and fertile language, as simple as possible a tool - not banal - for study and comparison. Any contributions and ideas are welcome, with the aim of opposing powerful and very insidious enemies - inaccuracy and ignorance (our own and other peoples') - and to replace them with open-mindedness and open horizons.

We aren't interested in winning verbal victories in barren discussions, nor in crushing "adversaries" with the full weight of obscure language, nor with meaningless political jargon or bureaucratese. We should equip ourselves with a transparent and incisive method of elaboration (I dare say management) of concepts (literature, theatre, poetry, dreams... included) aimed at speedy and co-operative actions, in the interest of mankind.

Sen refers back to the source of notion "capability of operation", to Aristotle, let's then look firstly at the word Neoaristotelianism.


NEOARISTOTELIANISM: this doesn't define a philosophical current, but means the philosophers of XX century, who refer to Aristotelian theory, in various fields. For metaphysics, the Oxford schools of Analytical Philosophy and Neoscholasticism. For Logic, we owe to Poles Neopositivist the first modern Syllogistic Axioms, regarded as Laws of Logic. Symbolic logic is described as a theory of rigorous inference in the development of the Ancient and Mediaevalist logic. For Politics and Ethics, many British philosophers representating Practical Philosophy and Neocommunitarianism make reference to Aristotelian Ethics and Politics.

ANALYTICAL PHILOSOPHY: it is possible to solve philosophical problems, only by analysing the language used to formulate them. There is a strict link between language and thought, as only language can clarify thought.The attempt is made, with clarity and rigour, to eliminate false problems and confusions between linguistic rules of different contexts or levels. It is based on the tradition of English Empiricism, and is similar to the Scientific Process, also because it is a collective work. In 1970, from only linguistic analysis it also went on to problems of content, and then with great care to the pragmatic dimension of rational action. In Ethics, the theme of Virtues is being rediscovered.

NEOSCHOLASTICISM: was propagated in the XIX century, in the cultural atmosphere of Romanticism and under the direction of the Jesuits. It includes also New-Thomism (the revival of Tommaso d'Aquino's philosophy, consecrated by Leone XIII as the Official philosophy of the Catholic Church, subordinated to theology) and also the studies of the Franciscan School and of the Augustinian matrix, and, general Mediaeval Studies.

NEOPOSITIVISM OR LOGICAL EMPIRICISM: arose in Austria in 1900, it proposes, like Positivism in the nineteenth century, the pre-eminence of a quasi -scientific model of knowledge. It rejects Metaphysics, and regards as basic the principle of verification, i.e. a process of definition of truth or untruth of a postulate by empirical proof. It use Symbolic Logic (or Formal or Mathematical, also called Logistic, i.e. provided with a symbolic language modelled on that of mathematics). In ancient times Aristotle produced a Logic of Terms, while the Stoics created the Logic of Propositions. Formal Logic has reunited these two fields of research, systematizing the stoic contribution as a Calculus or Logic of Propositions, and the Aristotelian - with many enrichments - as a Calculus or Logic of Predicates. The calculus is presented as an axiomatic system.

Proposition: meaning of a statement , for example, it is possible to say "it's raining" (meaning) in different languages (statement).

Predicate: links properties of a single subject, for example Socrates is a wise man, and states relations between individual subjects, for example Plato is taller than Socrates.

Syllogism: a structure of reasoning where, given two premises, expressed with propositions formed of a subject and predicate (Aristotle), lead to a third proposition, the conclusion, which follows necessarily from them. For example: A all men are mortal; B all barbarians are men; so C all barbarians are mortal. A is the major premise, B the minor premise, C the conclusion. Men is the middle term, barbarians the minor term, mortal the major term. The validity of a syllogism is shown by the fact that it isn't possible to assert the premises and to reject the conclusion without contradicting oneself. Now, the Syllogistic is seen as a part of Logic of Predicates.

The syllogism can be:

Then there is Practical Syllogism or Practical Inference, also invented by Aristotle, it concerns human conduct. The premises give an objective and the means to attain it, the conclusion describes an action intended to attain the objective. The Analytical Philosophers have taken it up again after 50 years. The practical syllogism is of two principal types: intentional and prescriptive.

PRACTICAL PHILOSOPHY: synonymous with Ethics, an expression which has come back into fashion after the first half of the XX century for rediscovered reasons of politics, legal and social sciences, as superior to theoretical and value-free ideas.

ETHICS: a philosophical discipline concerned with human action, and with values and rules to which it conforms (or should conform ). The term originates from the Greek ethos = custom. It is a Theory, i.e. research concerning the principles of deliberate human action. There are two fundamental models:

  1. Teleological Ethics, i.e. based on the Ends (Aristotle)
  2. Deontological Ethics, i.e. based on the Duty (Kant)

In present-day discussion, there is a trend to see ethics as the basis for creating an the accord between men which theories about the sense of totality of being cannot provide any more. But it is a risky short cut because a Universal Consensus is lacking sufficient force to prevent violence amongst Mankind.

NEOCOMMUNITARIANISM: a trend of political thought which has been promoted in the USA since the '70s. It opposes that Liberalism which over-stresses human individuality and which proposes a falsely universalistic human society. It high-lights the constant interaction between civil society and political society and it considers inalienable the pre-eminence of civic virtues (government of men rather than of laws, as in the liberal tradition). Traditional criticisms of modern individualism are stated again:

Civic humanism, born in Florence (Machiavelli), came to T. Jefferson himself, as well as to Rousseau. According to the historiographic interpretation, it underpins all political modern thought, in parallel and in conflict with liberalism. Neocommunitarianism opposes both the utilitarian ethics and the Kantian, which is centred in the individual and in the rights and duties of the individual seen as of universal value and based on impersonal rules. In contrast, Neocommunitarianism is based on virtues, i.e. the expressions of culture and of tradition shared by various members of a society, of a res- publica, which is for this reason alive and fertile.

UTILITY: In the beginning, the property of an object to satisfy a need. The utility of a good, from the Marginalianism? Marginalism? became the basis of the value instead of the production costs. At present the utility appoints the place of a good in a order of preferences.

UTILITARIANISM: school of Ethics originated by Bentham, basing the moral judgment on the "principle of utility", then called "principle of the greatest happiness of the greater number" and, finally, on the "principle of greatest happiness". This principle values each and every action according to whether it can be shown to increase or decrease the happiness of the part whose interest is in question. This moral judgment is based on a calculation of the results to the all affected parties of these actions measuring in terms of utility (in respect of either mental state or sensation, such pleasure, happiness, welfare, or lack of harm; or else in respect of a reality ranked in order of preferences of these characterisitcs). Utilitarianism raises to a basis of rational choice the moral ideal of fairness, as distinct from ethical egoism (neglect of the interests of other people) and also from psychological egoism (the idea that human motivations are always egoistic). An utilitarian theory, in suumary is:

  1. a conception of Good , (or intrinsic value, i.e. that promotes happiness, pleasure and so on) as unit of value of the results;
  2. a conception of the relation between right and good so as to enable a valuation of the relation between what is morally due or allowed and what is good in reality.

According to the differences of conception of the two elements, there have been different types of utilitarianism. The good is always the individual good, other things are "good" only in so far as they lead to the good of individuals. The various utilitarianisms take for granted an ability to weigh the balance of advantages and disadvantages accruing to different individuals in determining the overall utility; it presupposes a uniform unit of measurement, not only of benefits or disadvantages, for individuals but for whole groups of people. Many people deny the possibility of comparation of utilities between people, and so deny that utilitarian theories are able to solve the majority of moral problems, because they for the most part present conflicts of interests between individuals.

RATIONAL CHOICE: in economics, a choice is considered a rational one if the chosen solution implies an optimal use of the disposable resources (Pareto-efficiency, i.e. an optimal allocation is characterized by the fact that, with normal assumptions on demand or technology, it is impossible to improve the standard of welfare of anybody else, or the production of any further goods ). The rationality of the economic agent (for a consumer, the idea of freedom of choice, based on understanding of his needs, or in the case of a producer, accessibility to the opportunities given by current technology), is taken for granted.

PRINCIPLE OF RATIONALITY: the agents always act in rationally, i.e. appropriately on the basis of the situation (valuation of tecnological situation, minimization of costs, maximization of profits). In this way (hypotesy+principle of rationality) the identification of an optimal balance is obtained.

NEO-CLASSIC ECONOMICS: nowadays ruling, is it based on Marginalism from the beginning to the present day developing.

MARGINALISM: method of economic analysis based on marginal measuring (last unit of consumed good or of used production factor). According to the marginalism, each subject compares the incremental variations of two variables (the utility or the profit with the cost, and so on) and optimizes his consumption or production plans to make them equal (condition of optimality). Economic activity is the result of these maximizations. Considerations of social and institutional nature are excluded and are solely based on rationality of the economic agents according to the indications of the methodological individualism, (doctrine according to which the explanation of social behaviour has to start from individual behaviour). Marginalism has put an end to the period of the classic political economy in order to elaborate a new pure Economics. It has launched a scientific revolution with a subjective theory of value connected to the marginal utility, instead of the classic standard based on a objective theory of the value related to production cost (value-work). The accession of the neoclassic school has deluted the success of the marginalism? At the end of the XIX century, a subjective theory of value arose, deducing, for the principle of decreasing marginal utility, the relations of exchange between goods (relative prices) from the structure of preferences of the consumers. Afterwards production and distributive dimensions were improved and marginalism was characterized itself as a general analysis of an economic system. Several theorical limits in the marginalism were identified, such as the incompleteness of the concept of perfect competition, in deciding prices , the use of key variables such as the structure of preferences or technology, assumed as sole determinants. In particular the valuation of capital goods and the validity of the rule of optimality of economic balance are open to question.

LIBERALISM: political doctrine which takes the individual freedom as maximum value. Such political tradiction has great importance and influence. Its origin is the achievement of the individual person in Humanism and doctrine of natural law, in Religious conflict caused by the Protestant Reformation and in the consequent problem of tolerance, in the formation of an open and competitive market, in the progressive laicization of institutions and culture. Fundamentally we define freedom as the condiction of absence of subjection to any arbitrary coercion. This doesn't coincide with the idea of "natural freedom" of an isolated individual person, but with the freedom compatible with in society, limited by rules which guarantee the freedom of other people. In this meaning liberalism is completely different from anarchism because it doesn't advocate the total elimination of this coercion, but it aims to reduce it as far as possible to prevent individual persons or groups from exerting an arbitrary coercion against other people. In relation to different political challanges, liberalism assumed different and contradictory characters, today only the method of dissent and critical comparison of a plurality of conceptions is universally held, bringing out free competition of diversity as source of common good. Liberalism means the state as a result of a social contract, as a guarantor of liberty, and always perfectible, so it's different from political doctrines proposing the state originating and self- perpetuating as a result of social embezzlement.

FREE-TRADE (or LIBERISM): it is not an independent doctrine, it consists of a subset of Liberalism, i.e. the economic theory of Liberalism. Free-trade considers free enterprise fundamental for the functioning of an economic system, because the interests of individuals are regulated in the market through free competition and free trade, leading to a condition of maximum general welfare. The state must not interfere directly within the economy, it must only ensure the working of economic mechanisms and prevent imbalances originating in the excessive concentration of economic power in few hands.

ENLIGHTENMENT: vast movement which has as its main purpose the direction of all the aspects of human life under the "light"; of reason. It consists of a rising against all forces tending to suppress free thought , leading people into error, into prejudice, into superstition, all defined as "darkness". Paris in eighteenth century was the heart of enlightenment which spread into almost all European countries and adapting to the traditions it met. French enlightenment radicalized itself in a revolutionary way, in Germany it had a moderate character combining strands of Sturm und Drang and of classicism, flowing into Philosophy of Humanity, which had an organicistic conception of reason and which doesn't followed conviction that there is an abstract linearity of progress, but recognised the peculiarity of different epochs. The main value of the Enlightenment is Reason, considered as a guide either of the individual person or of society. Is a reason of earthly life, it is pragmatic and daily too, it isn't by change that it assert itself during the age of industrial society’s development with key-words as happiness and utility. This kind of rationality secularized human relations and the need for tolerance spread together with liberty and equality. The attention turns it-self mostly to science and technique, instead of the preceding "systems" the concrete research with experimental test, together with trust in the progressive aspect of the achievements of reason in man’s and nature’s examination. Enlightenment was not only the driver for reform in the economy, law and policy, but also in pedagogy because educational theory is considered as a prime instrument of progress. The notion of progress represents also the basis for judging and valuating historical epochs: it is on the one hand a process to bring all peoples to the level of rationality achieved during the eighteenth century, on the other progress becomes absolute and it must be defined as an illimitable and inexhaustible duty of reason. The conception of history is universalized, secularized, but this universality reaches a substantial abstractness of perspective, i.e. it is intrinsically antihistoricist. Enlightenment's influence was basic, and was fertile in a lot of different areas; it was also a very big stimulus in every sector of human activity.


To Be Written