Mario Perniola, a philosopher of aesthetics renowned both in Italy and abroad, has indulged himself with a volume in which philosophy takes a back seat to reflections and inquiries concerning the condition of those who experience religious feelings and yet have few contacts with ecclesiastical institutions. In recent debates over religion, Catholics and secularised scholars have confronted each other with radically polarised arguments: tertium non datur. But how do you define or place a person who rationally participates in worldly philosophies and yet feels that he/she is a heir of the extensive cultural and spiritual legacy of Catholicism, which dates back through the middle ages to ancient times? What about individuals who are firmly placed in modernity and yet experience religious sentiments? In this volume Mario Perniola draws upon a constant but secondary tradition of Catholic thought, which emphasises experience over observation and places a premium on affection and perceptiveness. This leads to the identification of a religious dimension, characterised by less orthodoxy and more ecumenism, which is not incompatible with the current world. The Church's dogmatic attitudes, according to which being Catholic coincides with subscribing to orthodoxy, is perhaps a consequence of the impassioned and tainted cultural and religious climate which the Church has had to face, that is, the anti-Roman, anti-papal and anti-ecclesiastical complex which has agitated the last few centuries of European history. The starting point is the late 16th century, when the cultural climate resembled today's - incredulity toward transcendence, value decay, manifestations of nihilism - and two great thinkers were active: Guicciardini and Ignazio Di Loyola, who didn't know each other and were in many ways quite different, but who nonetheless had similar intuitions and experiences.
Mario Perniola teaches Aesthetics at the Tor Vergata University in Rome.