Cover Sloth
series "Intersezioni"
"I sette vizi capitali"
pp. 194, Brossura, 978-88-15-12686-3
publication year 2008



The Passion for Indifference

Pride / Greed / Lust / Wrath / Gluttony / Envy / Sloth These seven words sum up the universe of sin. They featured prominently in ancient Greek culture, where they defined the manifestation of evil, and are used in Judaic-Christian culture to map out immorality. What do these terms call to mind today? What remains of their former tragic and dangerous nature? Do they still play a role in contemporary society, or have they become obsolete in a world where anything goes, in which every boundary has been violated? Can they be re-interpreted and given new life, and perhaps incorporated into psychological and psychoanalytical therapy? One thing is certain: guilt and sin are again current topics. In this new series edited by Carlo Galli, seven scholars seek out new answers, attempt to examine the capital sins in a novel context that does away with the religious tradition in which they were originally developed, interpret them as enduring human passions, as expressions of humanitys ability to tell the difference between right and wrong.

Each of the seven books describe the social and historical evolution of one of the traditional sins, highlighting continuities between past and present and its shifting meanings over time.

Sloth is not merely laziness, but also sadness, despair, anxiety, anguished indifference, boredom, and especially depression. Although it originally arises as a mortal sin in religious terms, sloth becomes a psychiatric illness in its modern, secular version. The author of this volume, thanks to engaging writing skills, guides the reader among the various ages, movements, and thinkers who have influenced the Western interpretation of this fundamental ailment of the human soul; the medieval monks asceticism, Baudelaires spleen, Leopardis romantic melancholy, the ennui of living experienced by many characters in Russian literature (such as Oblomov or Chekhovs anti-heroes), the existentialist angst of Heidegger, Sartre, and Camus, and the dark void that engulfs the mind of todays depressed individuals who seek help from psychoanalysis and mind-altering drugs. This journey into melancholy attempts to identify analogies between disorders that are related to each other but not identical, showing that they are all basically a manifestation of a failure, a deficiency, a lack of concern for the world and for others a painful and devastating temptation that challenges every individual in any historical context.

Sergio Benvenuto, a psychoanalyst and philosopher, is a researcher at the National Research Council in Rome and is editor-in-chief of the Journal of European Psychoanalysis.