Why give: altruism or passion?

Elena Pulcini

Why give: altruism or passion?

may fri 25, 2012 - 7.00 p.m.
sala Maggiore Palazzo Comunale - piazza del Duomo, 1
 admission euro 3.00

What motives drive us to give? Giving is mostly explained by altruism, and it is contrasted with self-interested, utilitarian, individualistic motives. An opposition is thus established between a self-centered attitude asserting the priority of the Ego, and a selfless attitude asserting the priority of the Other. Instead, Elena Pulcini proposes to read the gift as both a concrete and a symbolic manifestation of being with the Other. The gift presupposes a subject recognizing his/her debt to the Other—a subject who is well aware of his/her vulnerability and dependency, and is consequently driven by the desire to establish bonds and mutual belonging. In other terms, the giver is someone who is capable not only of acknowledging, but also appreciating the condition of being in debt, as he/she is motivated by a passion for the Other that promotes his/her self-enhancement and enrichment.

Elena Pulcini is Full Professor of Social Philosophy at the Philosophy Department of Florence University. She has studied extensively the subject of passions, of modern individualism and social bonds. She is currently investigating the possible emotional foundation of a new ethic and proposes an innovative philosophy of caring. She is a member of the scientific committees of several Italian journals: Iride, La società degli individui, Iris, Politica e società. She is also among the coordinators of the Florence Seminar on Political Philosophy, and the Gallarate-Cortona Seminar of Critical Theory. She has co-founded the Social Philosophy Seminar (Florence-Turin-Rome) and is vice-president of the Bureau of MAUSS, the Anti-Utilitarian Movement in Social Science. She has authored a number of books including: L’individuo senza passioni (2001), Il potere di unire. Femminile, desiderio, cura (2003), La cura del mondo. Paura e responsabilità nell’età globale (2009), all published by Bollati Boringhieri; and a study of envy, Invidia. La passione triste (il Mulino, 2011).