Castello Aragonese d'Ischia

15, 22, 23 September 2023

La filosofia, il Castello e la Torre

International Festival of Philosophy

9th edition: Desire - What are we really missing?
1 - 24 September 2023

Information and programme:

Friday 15 September 2023, Church of the Immaculate Conception, 6.30 p.m.
LECTIO MAGISTRALIS: Andare fuori traccia. Erri De Luca

Friday 22 September 2023, Immacolata Church, 8:30 p.m.
BOOK PRESENTATION: Aldo Cazzullo presents his new book in national preview “Quando eravamo i padroni del mondo. Roma: l’impero infinito”, HarperCollins Editore

Saturday 23 September 2023, Immacolata Church, 8:30 pm
THE INTERVIEW: Fausto Bertinotti. Starting from his latest book “La dissoluzione della democrazia. Scritti 2007-2022”, Castelvecchi Editore


This year, the International Festival of Philosophy of Ischia and Naples offers the opportunity to reflect on one of the themes dearest to the 'sciences of the spirit'.

In the history of Western thought, desire has often played a fundamental role in the orientation of the human condition, because it has determined life ethically and morally.

Desire expresses the existential condition in the relationship of realisation between the ego and the world.

In ancient philosophy, desires are classified as necessary or natural and vain.

Necessary are defined as those that concern the primary needs, the drives of the human being such as hunger, thirst; vain, on the other hand, are those that concern the ego's state of realisation in the world, such as the craving for wealth or what is defined as one of the desires to which the human being tends most of all, immortality.

On the other hand, in both the philosophical and religious contexts, desire has stimulated the birth of existential strategies aimed at constructing a sort of volitional independence towards what one covets, whereby a wise life puts desire on the sidelines of existence itself: in this vision, the philosophical concepts born in antiquity of ataraxia and ascetic life are eloquent, where the body is mortified because it is a carnal vehicle that subjugates human beings.

On the other hand, there is no lack of those forms of philosophical attitudes in which it becomes the ultimate goal.

Desire is also defined as appetite or affection.

Human beings 'demand' and 'feel' something for themselves and constantly seek to achieve a goal. Desire infuses human action with a motivation that aims to satisfy not only natural drives, but also those lofty affections related to knowledge, to activities that we define as intellectual or higher, of the spirit. This appetite is a determining force that drives the subject to self-realisation in a transcendental sense.

It is probably the split expressed in Western philosophies, as the sole driving force behind the realisation of human supremacy over the world, that necessitates a pedagogy of desire, capable of overcoming the fracture between the immanence of an Ego that projects its own desire to the forefront and the transcendence of a We that would like the realisation of a common desire.

We are imprisoned in a structural, exclusionary split that expresses itself in the difficulty of realising the relationship between the individual and society. But it is precisely the question about this split that gives rise to a logical, necessary movement.

How can we decline to desire, in a practical and political perspective, from the I to the We?

Many philosophers, from antiquity to the present day, lead us to consider a sociology of desire in which what is desired stands out on a common horizon: the desire for justice, for equality therefore elevates this drive to an affection, a spiritual transcendence, where desire, expressing a constant lack, a perpetual dissatisfaction of the individual, becomes a drive for sharing, for the improvement of the human condition.

So, while desire implies the 'attainment' of a goal and one's own imprisonment through possession, through the puerile exclusion of the other in contending for an object or a recognised position of the Ego in the world, it also implies the 'perfect' opposite, a productive split in which lack elevates us.

In the very word 'de-siderio' lies lack: the absence of the stars in the firmament.

We look to the sky so that it may be a harbinger of our own realisations, expressed in the fall of a material element. We want a sign to refresh us from the pain of our existence, from the hidden nostalgia that feeds us. If a star falls, then our wish will be granted. However, the sky, to which we often look for signs, makes us forget about the earth on which we live and which we are slowly deteriorating, annihilating, under the heinous blows of a merely human desire, the result of a totalising, uniforming and repetitive economic regime.

Yet, we are determined by this very lack, even more so by the loss that generates nostalgia for something we know we have possessed and then abandoned. We know we are missing something, we know we were the lords or ladies of a now fallen kingdom. We look at an empty throne that is no longer ours, not by right.

Must we then know how to remain in lack? Must we educate ourselves in desiring stasis, in other words, to remain in balance, in the middle of an abyss that has no measure?

To remain in what surrounds the fracture created by desire is one of the revolutionary acts we can strive for. The existential crack generated by desire could become the new abode of an ego that is indeed dethroned, but capable of evading the manic relationship with what we do not possess, with what others possess.

These considerations give rise to questions of crucial importance for our contemporary world: why do we always lack what we cannot have and fail to enjoy what constitutes us? Are we victims of a manic, bipolar existential relationship with ourselves and others? How does our desiring condition and limit the existence of the other in a system of structurally connected living beings? Does what I desire take something away from the other? From the world? From nature, generating catastrophes?

Then we must bear in mind that while there is a lack, there is also an abundance. The resulting synthesis questions highlight the desiring propulsion, and definitively consign it to an ethical dimension: how do we educate ourselves to desire? What do we really lack?