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In the Greek polis the meaning of the term “democracy” implied the government of a vast majority of the people, the “plebs”, as opposed to the aristocracy.

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Few concepts are both so controversial and recurrent within the philosophical and cultural debate as the concept of relativism.

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The Honor Code

Appeals to personal honor often seem to belong to the past, conjuring images of gentlemen in wigs dueling at dawn; or worse, of blood-soaked Achaeans storming the walls of Troy.

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All types of thought –also those of scholars and scientists – proceed according to established models, stereotypes and prejudices.

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Fundamentalism means the literal and dogmatic interpretation of holy texts (but these may also be secular texts), the prescriptive indications of which are considered the foundations of all action.

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A month of ideas.
Giancarlo Bosetti Editor-in-chief
Association for dialogue and intercultural understanding

Visual Arts

Syrian playwright

Saadallah Wannous or The Elephant Era is Over

Brahim El Guabli

Saadallah Wannous is unlike any other playwright or intellectual. He is of a unique type “governed by hope.” He belongs to the brand of intellectuals who relish challenging difficulties and do not surrender despite successive defeats. The defunct invented the most beautiful shelter for anyone who tried to make change and felt overtaken by despair. This wide open, borderless space is hope.

IT Literature

«We are the children of the ancient peninsula»

An interview with Ahmed Abodehman

Author, journalist and poet, Ahmed Abodehman was born in 1949 in Alkhalaf, a mountain village in the south of Saudi Arabia (did you know that mountains here are three thousand metres high?). After studying in Riyadh, he moved to Paris where he currently lives with his family. Since 1982 he has been writing for the Saudi daily newspaper ‘Riyadh’. His novel La Cinture is considered the first by a Saudi author written in French. In this book he takes us to discover the village where he was born, an enchanted place, poetic, and still governed by ancestral rules. This book is above all a quest for time gone by, a slow gaining of awareness by the narrator of his own identity, of the conflict between love for one’s roots and the need to integrate with other cultures. Interview by Elisa Pierandrei.

IT Culture

The Arab world’s one thousand forms of literature

Isabella Camera D'Afflitto talks to Elisa Pierandrei

A professor of Arab Language and Literature at ‘La Sapienza’ University in Rome, Isabella Camera D'Afflitto is one of the most important Arab language scholars in Italy. For many years she also taught at the Oriental Institute in Naples and now writes for newspapers, publishers and magazines to promote knowledge of Arab literature in Italy. She is a member of the prestigious international jury at the Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture promoted by UNESCO, an award she herself was a finalist for in 2003. In 2006 she won the Grinzane Cavour Award for translations and the Cairo Literary Award for Translation. She has translated some of the greatest Arab authors, among them Nobel Prize winner Nagib Mahfuz, ‘Abd al-Rahman Munif, Ghassan Kanafani, Emil Habibi and Latifa Zayyad.

IT Music

«We, the globetrotters of diversity»

Mario Tronco (Orchestra di Piazza Vittorio) talks to Sabrina Bergamini

From Piazza Vittorio to the world, from the Esquiline to the capitals of Europe. It began with a challenge and a dream to transform the sounds of this legendary square in Rome’s Esquiline district, a crossroads of people, with an Orchestra uniting the sounds of the whole world and thus musicians from many different countries. Things were not easy when we started but the results are there to see for all those with a passion for music. Ranging from the search for musicians to the first performances at the 2002 Romaeuropa Festival, the Piazza Vittorio Orchestra has been able to create a niche for itself.

IT Galileo

A tragic mutual incomprehension

George Coyne

The Galileo Commission was constituted on behalf of John Paul II by a letter of the Cardinal Secretary of State of 3 July 1981 to the members of the Commission. On 31 October 1992, John Paul II in a solemn audience before the Pontifical Academy of Sciences brought to a closure the work of the Commission. The Pope’s address was preceded by that of Cardinal Paul Poupard who had been invited by the Cardinal Secretary of State by letter of 4 May 1990 to coordinate the final stages of the work of the Commission. An analysis of these two addresses reveals some inadequacies. 

IT Galileo

In Dante’s Inferno

Jean-Marc Lévy-Leblond

Called on to resolve the controversy about the true geography of Dante’s Inferno, Galileo used science to settle a highly discussed literary question of the day. He was actually wrong, but it may well have been this error that provided inspiration for Dialogue, considered to be his scientific masterpiece. Galileo wished to demonstrate that mathematical physics need not consist of only technically efficient calculations, but can also contribute to upper level cultural debates and discussions, thus acquiring an intellectual status comparable to classical and artistic studies

IT Science

The modernity of Galileo

Enrico Bellone

Galileo never wrote a treatise on true scientific method and his modernity does not lie in a presumed experimental method. In fact, as he conducted his research, Galileo consistently oscillated between acceptance of measurements that were not corroborated by theorems and praise of theorems lacking experimental confirmation. At the beginning of the 17th century Galileo accidentally discovered that the speed of descent of a small sphere on an inclined plane is not constant. In January 1610, he aimed his telescope at Jupiter and, over the course of just a few nights, he discovered the four Medicean stars. But we know from his manuscripts that he was not controlling any prediction regarding the possible number of satellites of this planet – all he did was see them. These two episodes, in their simplicity, highlight how a few events that are fundamental to the birth of modern science are not the results of rigorous logic within the growth of knowledge; rather, they represent unexpected twists that were independent of expectations, intentions or predictions.

IT Literature

«My “inappropriate” stories, between Texas and Kuwait»

A conversation with Randa Jarrar

A translator from Arabic, a blogger and author, Randa Jarrar was born in Chicago in 1978 to a Palestinian father and Greek-Egyptian mother. When she was only two months old she moved to Kuwait with her family only to then flee to Egypt after the 1990 Iraqi invasion. From here they moved to America where she still lives today. Her life has been very similar to that of Nidali, the leading character in her first novel entitled The Map of Home. Described as one of the best first novels in recent years, in 2009 it won the Arab-American Book Award for best fiction. She is the only American author of Arab origin to have been a finalist at Beirut39, a Hay Festival project organised in cooperation with UNESCO and that selects the best 39 Arab authors under the age of 39. Interview by Elisa Pierandrei.

AR Science

Over the moon

Hatim Salih

The Apollo 11 Mission and Galileo’s observations, whose respective 40th and 400th anniversaries we celebrate this year, confirmed discoveries with the naked eye around a millennium ago by the Arab polymath Alhazen - a man ahead of his time who determined the future of astronomy. Working near Al-Azhar mosque in Cairo, he answered one of the most intriguing questions faced by science: what gives rise to the dark figure in the Moon’s face.

IT News

Seyla Benhabib awarded the Ernst Bloch Prize

Seyla Benhabib, the Eugene Meyer Professor of Political Science and Philosophy and a member of the Scientific Committee of Resetdoc, was awarded the Ernst Bloch Prize in Ludwigshafen, Germany, on Sept. 25. The prize, one of Germany's most distinguished philosophical honors, is given every three years with a 15,000-Euro honorarium in the name of the German-Jewish social philosopher Ernst Bloch (1885-1977) by Ludwigshafen, the city of his birth. Previous recipients include Leszek Kolakowski, Pierre Bourdieu, Jurgen Moltmann and Eric Hobsbawm, among others. The Bloch Prize selection committee praised Benhabib's work "for taking its inspiration from the contradictions of a globalized world. She analyzes the relationship between citizens' rights and human rights and opens our eyes to the need for an ethics of discourse. She proposes a culture of civil and civic creativity, reminding one of the Blochian utopia of the multiversum." (From the Yale Bulletin)

FR IT Islam

«Religious Instruction helps in the battle against Islamophobia»

M. C.

Religion has made a comeback in modern society. However, universities, institutes and schools do not appear to be up to the challenge and thus communities suffer the dichotomy between the powerful presence of religion in the public sphere and the lack of religious instruction within the academic one. According to the philosopher Mustafa Cherif, the very presence of almost 20 million Muslim citizens in Europe should provide a reason for an in-depth study and knowledge of Islam. An article by Marco Cesario

FR IT Religion

How Berliners voted

Last April 26th Berlin voted ‘no’ in the ‘Pro Reli’ Referendum, which proposed the introduction of compulsory religious instruction for those aged between 12 and 16. Should these courses have been introduced, they would have had the same status (and effect) as the classes on secular ethics introduced in 2006. The advocates of this referendum wished Berlin students from religious families to be provided with an alternative to the classes on ethics. The massive campaign however did not provide the hoped-for results. An article by Marco Cesario.

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