Emanuele Severino, from technique to fencing
Challenging (even) nothing with the sword.
In the beginning there was the sword. As the legendary Niwa sword master Jurozaemon Tadaaki wrote in the 17th century: “The way of the sword does not have the sole purpose of defeating the opponent. It is the art of dealing with transformation and clarifying the question of life and death». From these words what was said above becomes clear symbolic and metaphysical value of swordsmanship in Japanese culture. On the other hand, throughout its entire history, Western thought has – obviously – turned to reflection on life and death, on the eternal, on being and non-being. From Parmenides, who paved the way to ontological research, through Heidegger to the last Parmenides, Emanuele Severino died in 2020.
Severino, a true giant of Italian philosophy and beyond, understood philosophical thought and truth as essential keys to understanding the entire historical development of humanity, from the revelation of being and becoming to the attempt to master the latter. The whirlpool of illusion and the pace of technical and scientific progress, has enveloped itself for centuries and an extreme attempt has been made to overcome the fear of nothingness and death. Mastering becoming and making it your own, this time through technology where God or tradition has failed.
The prevailing logic is that of the age-old search for a cure. Battiato would have said about a cure. Sport, which has taken on the dimensions of a global collective ritual, therefore represents for Severino one of the dimensions of this remedy, as in a interview For the day’: “The logic of the means is a logic that has existed from the beginning, and it is a concept that I have worked on quite a bit. Compared to everyday work, this is attend a game in the stadium or at a rock concert, it has a more spiritual, higher and human character.
And the greatest humanity lies in the fact that man is afraid of life and looks for something remedy».
Leopardi’s thoughts are reflected in his words, which Severino has studied extensively and which offer perhaps the most comprehensive interpretation of one of the West’s most ignored philosophical systems. The logic of care is the logic of poetry. Poetry is understood as art that is reflected in its contemporary manifestations: in cinema, in music and in sports. Sports become a form of fantasy and no deception, with rituals comparable to religion alone. And what sport could have better represented the character of Emanuele Severino than fencing?
«I’m not a real fan, but I watch some of the national team’s games with interest. Sport in general is not as foreign to me as it seems: my father, a Bersaglieri general, was a fencing master and taught me to shoot». So the symbolism of the sword returns. Thousands of kilometers and a few centuries away Bushido and the Japanese style of sword. Also close to a mystical and spiritual connection of the bodies of the fencers and swordmasters of the world, in a continuous dance between life and death (or between victory and defeat). Severino talks about it in evenly ironic tones on “Il Foglio”:
“Fu the only sport knowing how to do something, until a while ago I could have ripped open someone’s stomach.
Fencing is essentially an individual sport in which you compete alone against your opponent. Fencing expresses the spirit of such a person elegant but ruthless fight against death and nihilism. The sword is a return of thought to the service of man. Almost a metaphor of truth against the fundamental error of Western philosophy. It means becoming fully aware of your body and your movements and merging them with your mind. Very powerful symbol of the true meaning of being alive and being human.
Today, however, truth differs from collective ritual, from the gesture of the sword and from any purely human artistic, poetic or sporting expression. The truth has become a desire for dominance, even in the world of sports. The prediction has been made, the technology is at the service of the unequal and naive struggle of man against the unpredictable and against becoming. It has become the pure destruction of traditions and immutables – where over centuries these have formed so many human systems against the fear of becoming – in an attempt to control this unpredictability that cannot be divorced from the very meaning of sport:
“The history of the West as a history of extreme form will to poweris the story of the conjuring and destruction of the unchanging.”
And it is perhaps no coincidence that there The sport is coming to an end in the sense in which we have always understood it – that is, as a social, cultural, identity-forming phenomenon, as fantasy and poetry, to instead take on the dimension of spectacle and (field) facts – this is inexorably left to technology and science is desperate looking for a handle: «Technology is becoming the most radical form of salvation everywhere, replacing all other means of combating death».
A sword strike, on the other hand, is something completely different than the technical development of the sport. At the end of the duel, you return consciously and to your place. You leave this life, trapped in time and in the platform. The moment he lands or avoids a blow is unpredictable. Red it is the only one that exists. Essential truth in the thought and life of the last Parmenideans.