Remo Bodei

Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Los Angeles


Remo Bodei is University professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Los Angeles. He taught for many years at the Scuola Normale Spueriore and at the University of Pisa (where is now emeritus professor). He studied in Italy and in Germany and taught as visiting professor in various European, American, and Australian Universities. His scientific interest were initially focused on German classical philosophy, and on the culture, politics and aesthetics of the the “Goethezeit” and of the late Nineteenth Century; then on political philosophy; in the last decades, in particular, on aesthetics, on the theory and the history of memory, delusion, individuality, and on the nature of passions and desires.

His books, which have been translated in fifteen countries, include Le logiche del delirio. Ragione, affetti, follia (Laterza, 2000); Destini personali. L’età della colonizzazione delle coscienze (Feltrinelli, 2002); Piramidi di tempo. Storie e teoria del déjà vu (Il Mulino, 2006); Paesaggi sublimi. Gli uomini davanti alla natura selvaggia (Bompiani, 2008); La vita delle cose (Laterza, 2009); Immaginare altre vite. Realtà, progetti, desideri (Feltrinelli, 2013); Generazioni. Età della vita, età delle cose (Laterza, 2014); La civetta e la talpa. Sistema ed epoca in Hegel (Il Mulino, 2014); Ordo amoris. Conflitti terreni e felicità celeste (Il Mulino, 2015); La filosofia nel Novecento (e oltre) (Feltrinelli, 2015); Limite (Il Mulino, 2016) Scomposizioni. Forme dell’individuo moderno (Il Mulino, 2016); Geometria delle passioni (Feltrinelli, 2017, fifth edition).

Thinking, Meditating


In Western culture, meditation is a practice of thought, initially monastic, which consisted in dwelling on the page of a sacred text – reflecting on it several times and going back and forth – in order to let it impregnate the reader. Descartes will introduce this method in philosophy with his Metaphysical meditations, taking on an older tradition that crosses the Stoic model of Seneca’s “spiritual exercises” with the Spiritual Exercises by St. Ignatius, a book he read as a student of the Jesuits. Unlike what is commonly believed, the Cogito, ergo sum should not be translated and understood as “I think, therefore I am”. In fact, cogitatio does not only mean “thinking,” but also stirring together, co-agitating, of what (simultaneously or occasionally) occurs to our conscience. It is a swirl of thoughts, tastes, and feelings that incessantly occupy the soul. Whoever cogitat does not confine himself to thinking in abstract form, but (as it is said in the second of Metaphysical Meditations) he should acknowledge that he is “something that doubts, understands, affirms, denies, wants, does not want, imagines, and, moreover, feels”.
Later, and up to the Cartesian Meditations by Husserl, meditation is a purely mental act that does not involve the body. This – as an Aristotelian vegetative soul or a Cartesian res extensa – does not participate in meditation and is not involved in an unitary process, as is the case in Buddhism, where relaxation, breathing, posture, flowing thoughts and other body techniques constitute an essential part of its teachings. The disembodied thought (striving for self-control and, in asceticism, aimed at mortification of the flesh) that characterizes the main tendencies of the philosophies and the religiosity of our civilization contrasts thus with the awareness of the body that inspires Buddhism.