by Marco Malaguti

The decision of the Sanchez government to cancel the teaching of philosophy in Spanish secondary schools was made a few days ago. The decree seems to be in the home stretch and there seem to be no major obstacles inside one of the most left-wing majorities in the history of post-Francoist Spain. It matters little that the subject gives way to delusional ideological indoctrination such as "ecofeminism" and "lgbt rights": propaganda has always existed in schools and the study of philosophy, moreover, has never hindered it and often constituted its pivot.

Why abolish philosophy?

The absolute eloquence of the act, which would not have surprised even if implemented by moderate or liberal forces, lies in the abolition itself. If at one time philosophy was seen as a privileged instrument of divulgation of official culture (think of dogmatic Thomism in medieval universities or of Soviet dialectical materialism) and of the narratives assembled by power, today it is revoked even that role that it had always played, albeit with praiseworthy exceptions. Never in Europe had philosophy been judged useless. Bended, amputated, censored, often vilified and accused of intellectualism, philosophy has continued to be taught even in Adolf Hitler's Third Reich and Stalin's Soviet Union. In today's Europe, on the contrary, they want to cancel it. Why?

The reasons put forward by the Madrid government seem vague. They range from a generic Sixty-eight approach (in a country that, moreover, never knew the 1968 movement), directed against "mnemonic notionism", to pseudo-justifications of a utilitarian kind, according to which, in order to be citizens, it is enough to have good ethics, without necessarily asking how and why one ethic is chosen over another and how these ethics came about.

Anyone hypnotized by an anti-liberalism out of time would be wrong if they claimed that the Spanish decision was dictated by the wishes of economy, the interests of which have always clashed with the school teaching of the humanities. Ecofeminism and lgbt rights, in fact, are no more useful to the business world than Descartes' method or Kantian categories. The reason is evidently deeper.

Today thinking is subversive

If philosophy has always had the task of teaching how to think (it matters little, here, whether we are talking about a generic "thinking" or a "thinking like power") then it is clear that the enemy is the very act of thinking. Martin Heidegger, who had dedicated several university lectures to the act of thinking, collected in the text Discourse on thinking (1952), had clearly explained how the practice of thinking was something radically different from the scientific method oriented to the mere resolution of a problem. For Heidegger thought is not method but praxis, a training in the progressive opening of the intellect to the problems of the world, within which to travel without the presumption of solving them immediately, to experience first of all the problematic nature itself. In the Heideggerian perspective thought is therefore the practice of opening to the world in its intrinsic problematic nature, as well as, primarily, to the experience of that same problematic nature.

This opening is only a preparatory act to meditation on Being, the reality of which saves all things from the abyss of becoming. Being, in its immutable ontological presence, soars infinitely higher than scientific truths, which instead qualify, by their very definition, as provisional paradigms. If thought qualifies as training and preparation for the reception of Being in its true immutability, it is clear that the priests and believers of science, who have wished to transform it from a method into absolute truth, cannot tolerate the affront. There can be no coexistence between two absolute truths, on penalty of both insignificance. It is for this reason that Heidegger, in the same collection, admonishes his Fribourg students reminding them that "science does not think". Science and thought are incompatible, precisely because science is problem solving while thought is nothing but approaching the Being.

Cosa c'è davvero dietro "l'urgenza" del Ddl Zan?
Cancelling philosophy to impose scientism

To sustain the uselessness of philosophy, in the contemporary West, although aberrant, is absolutely consistent. In order to abolish the concept of ontologically understood eternal truth and to impose the concept of provisional scientific truth, modern scientism cannot but lead the attack on philosophy, and consequently on thought, which does not allow access to the essential core of truth, but rather to ascertain its existence beyond generic phenomena. To prevent the encounter of man with the truth of Being, therefore, it is necessary first of all to demolish, or at least make more bumpy, the road, already tortuous in itself, that leads from man to being, philosophy, and cripple the legs that lead man to his goal, thought. Whether this process occurs consciously or not is irrelevant for the purpose of reflecting on the condition of philosophy and thought in present-day Western Europe.

Italy, moreover, has not stood idly by, and as reported by "Avvenire" at the end of last November, for the first time since the post-war period, the Ministry of University and Research has decided not to fund any university research project (out of 253 presented) with regard to philosophy. This is, probably not coincidentally, an unprecedented affront to what was once the queen of humanities, and moreover in a period of political debate about measures of coercion and vaccination pass during which philosophers were, not by chance, the spearhead of the sparse front of those opposed to the measures introduced by Draghi and Speranza.

We understand, in this sense, how philosophy is more and more inconvenient. If the alternative thinking has always been repressed by all kinds of governments of any latitude, never it had come to want to suppress the ability to think tout court. And yet, someone still remembers it, freedom of thought remains guaranteed by our laws, even by those with which we would like to replace the old religions and the same old philosophy.

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Research fellow at the Machiavelli Center. A philosophy scholar, he has been working for years on the topic of the revaluation of nihilism and the great German Romantic philosophy.