The logic of gift: is it always the useful versus the costless?

Salvatore Natoli

The logic of gift: is it always the useful versus the costless?

may sat 26, 2012 - 11.00 a.m.
piazza dello Spirito Santo
 admission euro 3.00

Is giving for free a donation of a socially useful good? Almost everyone would answer is certainly is. If it were not, it would not bring any good, so it would be irrelevant or, worse still, exhibitionistic and futile. So usefulness is not necessarily opposed to costlessness, but is congruous to it although it does not coincide with it. This simple observation challenges the cliché opposition between useful and costless. Moreover, it counters that rhetoric of gift that pathetically equates it with a sort of inevitable spoliation. On the contrary, one cannot understand the nature and greatness of the gift unless the order and the value of usefulness is clarified with reference to the good. But this would demand a definition of usefulness which, contrary to common belief, does not coincide with the quest for personal advantage. Rather, it is an inclination to act without any quid pro quo for the common usefulness, thus for the common good. Spinoza called it generosity. 

Salvatore Natoli, teaches Theoretical Philosophy at the Università Statale di Milano-Bicocca and the History of Ideas at the Vita-Salute San Raffaele University in Milan. He has contributed to many journals such as Prospettive settanta, Il centauro, Democrazia e diritto, Religione e società, Leggere, Bailamme and Metaxù. His books include: L’esperienza del dolore. Le forme del patire nella cultura occidentale (1986); La felicità (1994); Dizionario dei vizi e delle virtù (1996); Parole della filosofia o dell’arte di meditare (2004); La salvezza senza fede (2007) all published by Feltrinelli; La felicità di questa vita (Mondadori, 2001); Sul male assoluto. Nichilismo e idoli del Novecento (Morcelliana, 2006); La mia filosofia. Forme del mondo e saggezza del vivere (Ets, 2008); Il buon uso del mondo (Mondadori, 2010); and L’edificazione di sé. Istruzioni sulla vita interiore (i Libri del Festival della Mente, Laterza, September 2010); I comandamenti. Non ti farai idolo né immagine (with Pierangelo Sequeri, il Mulino, 2011).

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