I returned to the medieval Oxford, this time for several days at an international conference on the philosophy of law. I feel it’s not the best moment that I could be here. I am, unfortunately, too tired mentally of the abstract world of theoretical philosophy, and of academia in general. Also, I would have liked my father to have come here with me, or in my place. He seems to feed with the kind of ideas conveyed here, in discussions with his colleagues from all around the world, with reading some new arguments and their critical analysis. I, by contrast, have a very youthful spirit, anxious, disturbed by the apparent immobility and passivity and philosophical ideas, bothered by the lack of any actual impact of these discussions and concerns for the real world. On one hand, I assume responsibility for this moment and I think this attitude has a mobilizing force that drives me to want to do more, now ,at 25. On the other hand, I realize that my attitude is somewhat naive and I’m ashamed of the reductionism which I currently apply to academic thinking – I should be most aware of the best long-term impact on society of intellectual thought, and the importance of such process to maturity of a civilization …
Dear Dad, there are many people here that I would like you to know. Some you already know – Veronica, Delia, Pietro, Alexy, Bulygin, Moresi … But I would like you to meet new faces, but as distinct and distinguishable, as Leslie Green, John Gardner, Stanley Paulson, Martin Borowski, Richard Tur .. There are people who have dedicated, just like you, their lifetime energy to existential questions, of substance, and have tried to bring something new in intellectual discussions of the time. I feel they are paradoxical beings, because on the one hand, as if they aged faster from the low light, and lack of sun and greens, and too much time in the library has weakened their eyesight and their vital force. In a sense, are tired, I have great doubts they make their discoveries with the same passion as before. Could intellectual discovery become routine?
But they remain paradoxical because, at the same time,they are people who have built their own life and career plan. Academic career offers, isn’t it right, the greatest freedom of all professions: the freedom of not doing more than the minimum needed to keep you in the field, or the want to progress continuously, doing what you like from the start – to read, write, to turn an idea on all its sides, to discuss it with others, and feel that it produces something new. At the fundamental level, no one forces you to do anything. Nobody puts you sit in the office 8 hours a day, or to have no mechanical activities that don’t engage you mentally. You choose your own standards of excellence, objectives and work program. You build your academic personality, attitude towards others, and your presence within the community.
I look at my friend Delia now, she is in the 9th heaven: she just learned she will teach the first courses from her academic career. I see her face and happiness to have a dream come true, to be in the environment that fits her. And I cannot help noticing that no matter how petrified and lifeless academic life sometimes seems to me, watching that is led by passionate people who sacrificed a life of immediate material reward for a goal that remains, no matter how the rest of us feel, higher and worthy of admiration.