Philosopher Graziella Luppo (back, C) leads a philosophy debate in the village of Corigliano d'Otranto in southern Italy via AFP
Italian townspeople ponder existential questions in new civic focus
Socrates, Plato and Aristotle are the new unlikely heroes of a remote Italian town where local authorities are promoting philosophical thinking for a better way of life.
A philosophy trail leads past a sofa that pronounces deep thoughts when you sit on it, a park with no lights to encourage pondering and posters in the town’s streets ask questions like “Why were you born?” and “What is fear?”
“This is a revolutionary experiment,” the ebullient mayor of Corigliano d’Otranto, Ada Fiore, herself a philosophy teacher.Fiore said her mission was to get the 5,800 residents of this town in the southern Puglia region to take time out to ponder existential questions.
“All we are saying is ‘look at the direction the world is heading in, it’s not okay,’ she said, adding that Italy’s real problem was not the economic crisis but “the crisis in the relationship between man and his surroundings”.
She admitted the project which she launched in June had “objective difficulties” noting that some schoolchildren had not proved very receptive.But the philosophical consultations she helped organised are proving popular, with around one in five of the mediaeval town’s inhabitants flocking to the 15 euro ($19) an hour sessions hosted by philosopher Graziella Lupo...
The town council also organises regular philosophy debates and seminars in schools and public buildings to keep residents on their toes.Not everyone appreciates the initiatives, with psychologists in particular warning that it could be dangerous to look into people’s subconscious.
The mayor dismisses such misgivings, saying the philosophy she is encouraging is “exclusively on the conscious level” with no probing into people’s pasts.
Marianna Burlando, a psychologist at a local hospital, is also in favour since “psychology owes a debt to philosophy”.
“Philosophy is the mother of all humanistic disciplines. I think we should try and dialogue!”