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Not Being God: A Collaborative Autobiography

by Gianni Vattimo, Piergiorgio Paterlini and William McCuaig Columbia University Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 200 pages
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Gianni Vattimo, a leading philosopher of the continental school, has always resisted autobiography. But in this intimate memoir, the voice of Vattimo as thinker, political activist, and human being finds its expression on the page. With Piergiorgio Paterlini, a noted Italian writer and journalist, Vattimo reflects on a lifetime of politics, sexual radicalism, and philosophical exuberance in postwar Italy. Turin, the city where he was born and one of the intellectual capitals of Europe (also the city in which Nietzsche went mad), forms the core of his reminiscences, enhanced by fascinating vignettes of studying under Hans Georg Gadamer, teaching in the United States, serving as a public intellectual and interlocutor of Habermas and Derrida, and working within the European Parliament to unite Europe.

Vattimo's status as a left-wing faculty president paradoxically made him a target of the Red Brigades in the 1970s, causing him to flee Turin for his life. Left-wing terrorism did not deter the philosopher from his quest for social progress, however, and in the 1980s, he introduced a daring formulation called 'weak thought,' which stripped metaphysics, science, religion, and all other absolute systems of their authority. Vattimo then became notorious both for his renewed commitment to the core values of Christianity (he was trained as a Catholic intellectual) and for the Vatican's denunciation of his views. Paterlini weaves his interviews with Vattimo into an utterly candid first-person portrait, creating a riveting text that is destined to become one of the most compelling accounts of homosexuality, history, politics, and philosophical invention in the twentieth century.

1. Incipit
2. Last Things
3. Closeness
4. The Untied Shoelace
5. Rorschach Test
6. Plateau Rosa
7. Being
8. Epochs
9. The Impossible Return
10. Debut
11. On the Banks of the Neckar
12. "Mad, utterly desperate study"
13. Vampires
14. Paradigms
15. Popular Novel
16. Oratory
17. Catholic Action
18. Beyond the Horizon
19. Working-class School
20. Demonic Possession
21. Ulcer and Mao
22. The Dream of a Thing
23. Take a King and Thrash Him
24. Porta Palazzo
25. From Heidegger to Marx
26. The Movement
27. State of Grace
28. The Bicycle Left Behind
29. Lukács's Slippers
30. Forced Out
31. In America
32. The Two Boys
33. Death Threats
34. Revolutionary Moralism
35. Weak Thought
36. Roots
37. Terraces
38. A Safe Pair of Hands
39. The Volunteer for Weak Thought
40. The World
41. In History
42. In Human Conversation
43. Barbarians
44. Science's Positive Side
45. Obituaries
46. Obituaries Two: Cacciari
47. Obituaries Three: Eco
48. Under a Bad Sign
49. With the Younger Son
50. The Frankfurt School
51. The Rich Fiancée
52. The Little Old Lady in New York
53. Almost a Mayor
54. The End of Prehistory?
55. Joachim of Fiore
56. At a Certain Hour
57. Return to Christianity
58. Some Reality, Please
59. If Stalin Had Been a Nihilist
60. Evil, What a Pity
61. If I Weren't God
62. Compline
63. The Treasure Chest of Being
64. Flashes

Not Being God is a pleasurable stroll through one corner of the Italian intellectual world.
Gianni Vattimo (PhD, Philosophy, Turin) is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Turin. He is the author of a large number of books, most of which have been translated into English, including Of Reality (Columbia, 2016), A farewell to Truth (Columbia, 2011), and The Responsibility of the Philosopher (Columbia, 2010). He is also known for his political activism in support of gay rights and has served as a member of the European Parliament. As a philosopher he is known for his espousal of nihilism, his rejection of truth in favor of interpretation (hermeneutics), his adoption of weak thought as a withdrawal from metaphysics, and his situational Marxism.