Maurizio Ferraris is one of the best-known and most important Italian philosophers writing today. A former student of Gianni Vattimo and collaborator with Jacques Derrida—he is perhaps best known to Anglophone audiences for their co-edited Taste for the Secret (Il gusto del segreto, first published in Italian in 1997)—Ferraris has been a longstanding professor of philosophy in the Department of Literature and Philosophy at the University of Turin. His work for some thirty years, dating to the early 1980s, developed through important interventions and reinterpretations of hermeneutics and then poststructuralist philosophy. (See a list of his dozens of works here.)
Peter Gratton, of the Department of Philosophy at Memorial University of Newfoundland, is a former co-editor and current editorial board member of Society and Space. His most recent book is Speculative Realism: Problems and Prospects (Bloomsbury, 2014), and he runs the blog Philosophy in a Time of Error.
The focus of the relatively short interview below is to introduce the controversial turn in Ferraris’ work to what he dubs a “new realism,” which finds him a kindred spirit to the speculative realists (Iain Hamilton Grant and Graham Harman have written forwards to the two English translations of his works this past year), as well as Markus Gabriel, whose realist theory of fields of sense has already made a mark in Germany, Italy, and elsewhere. Thanks to Sarah De Sanctis for translating the answers below.
Peter Gratton: Both the Manifesto and Introduction are clearly written and often humorous expositions of your “new realism” (you are also well served by an able translator), but for readers who have not had the chance to find these works yet, I thought I’d first ask you to summarize what you mean by your “new realism” and how it would be differentiated by previous realisms.
Maurizio Ferraris: My realism differs from previous ones only because it specifically reacts to postmodernism. Other forms of realism reacted to other forms of antirealism: to name one, for example, the 1912 American new realism criticized neo-Kantianism. Each realism has its own anti-realism and responds to specific historical circumstances. As per my new realism, it reacts against the indiscriminate constructivism typical of postmodernism. There was a time when, so to speak, everything, including lakes and mountains, was taken to be socially constructed. Now, I have no difficulty in admitting that, say, an invoice is socially constructed; perhaps in some ways (not all) things like charisma or beauty are socially constructed, too. However, lakes and mountains certainly aren’t: it makes no sense, and to say (or even just suggest) this is to deprive philosophy of all seriousness, turning it into a futile fairy tale.
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