The denial of the Christian faith in Emanuele Severino

– Theologically –



Severino is convinced that he has gone beyond God. Christianity for him is a deception which he has discovered why. Yet one day he too will have to deal with God.



Author John Cavalcoli OP
John Cavalcoli OP



Beware that no one deceives you with his philosophy

[With the 2,8]



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6 thoughts on "The denial of the Christian faith in Emanuele Severino

  1. Reverend Father,

    His article impresses with the philosophical-theological erudition demonstrated. At the same time, I confess that, to the reading of his text, I can't help thinking that his shot misses terribly. The discerning reader what benefit he should or could derive from it, unless he seeks confirmation of what he has already given his approval to ? She sets out, I guess, to carry out a critique of Severino's thought ; now, what we are witnessing here is nothing more than a summary reaffirmation of the Severinian theses accompanied by the simple juxtaposition of theses (neo-) you took, affirmed as apodictic and automatically “refuting” their antithesis. Unfortunately, this rhetorical artifice does not help anyone who tries to understand the core of rationality or irrationality contained in the theoretical positions that are faced. ; In other words, it is useless to say that the position of others contradicts one's own, since nothing prevents the opponent from turning against the same argument. The only criticism that can be called philosophical, relevant and not simply controversial, it is an immanent criticism of the system…
    Now, this type of criticism is far more difficult than the one we see in the article mentioned. In fact, it requires a deepening of the theoretical position of others which may at first sight repel a mind firmly attached to the conceptual holds of its thought.. May it never be that we may perhaps come to the point of acknowledging that, after all, the reasons of the other (and especially if this other is an intellectual of Severino's stature - even if I personally do not support his philosophy) they are not so absurd and candidly wrong - as the text seems to imply ; that the more or less Aristotelian "realism" is not at all necessary for the conceptual stability of the Christian religion - indeed, it would be tragic if divine revelation needed such precarious support ; and what to deny that of the Cartesians, of the Scotists, of the contemporary eckhartians or phenomenologists (just to give one example among a thousand) may consistently be Christians is far more absurd than the theses you attacked.

    Waiting for your kind reply, I offer you my best regards.


    1. Dear Reader.

      I am not repelled at all to study Severino, which I undertook to do from 15 year old. I find some of his writings valid and interesting. I have no difficulty in recognizing in his thought a strong and appropriate reference to the value of a metaphysics centered on the eternal. I like his thinking on his own, as a true philosopher.

      From me, I want nothing more than to be firmly attached to the truth, and it is in the name of this attachment, that I appreciate the part of truth that I discover in Severino. But it is also in the name of the same attachment that I refute his errors.

      Having behind him fifty years of philosophical studies and thirty years of teaching, I know well that the method of philosophical criticism consists in placing oneself within the author's thought e, assuming his point of view, leverage on the truths that he accepts, to show how his errors consist precisely in theses or propositions that contradict those truths. If you read my paper carefully, you will find that this is exactly what I have done in my writing.

      I'm not looking for confirmation of what I say without having proved it, but I demonstrate what I affirm by confirming it. Therefore I do not “juxtapose” with the Severinian theses extraneous arguments, that leave them intact, MA entered into a, destroying them from within, while recognizing the part of truth.

      Severino's theses that I attack, they are very well known and clear, they do not need any "in-depth analysis". What is not immediately clear is their falsity, because they have an appearance of truth. For this I carry out a demonstration procedure. If their falsity were evident, it would not have to be proved.

      I am actually making use of evidence drawn from gnoseology and from the metaphysics of St. Thomas. These, as evidence, they are obvious and do not need to be proven. They are effectively summed up in gnoseological realism, whose fundamental axiom is very simple: "We can know things as they are", or: “Our judgments are true, when they conform to reality ". Severino is also obliged to agree on this when he thinks. Yet he denies it with his idealism. Hence the fact that he refutes himself. My refutation serves to make this understood.

      Realism is not a particular conception of St. Thomas, but the normal functioning of human intelligence. There are various forms of realism, more or less perfect. That Thomist is indeed the most perfect, and for this reason it is recommended by the Church.

      Realism characterizes biblical gnoseology. For this it is a necessary presupposition for the Catholic faith. Idealism is incompatible with faith, as a negation of realism. And for this Severino lost his faith and was expelled from the Catholic University of Milan and censored by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1970.

      Severino is an idealist, as it identifies being with thought and with appearing. For him there is no quota, but only what is necessary, be identical to thought, whereby becoming is not reality, but it is a phenomenon or an appearance or disappearance to the knowing subject.

      I am not saying that Severino's theses "contradict" mine. I say and prove that they are false. For this, I cannot receive any retaliation, since the false cannot overcome it over the true.

      Severino's fame is not due to the fact that he is of a particularly consistent "stature", but to the fact that he, with apparently deep and rigorous arguments, it meets the need of many to perceive one's being as a being that cannot not be, basically a desire to be God.

    2. Dear FrancoisPst, I agree in everything with your remarks.
      To affirm that Severino's philosophy identifies being with appearing, to assert that Severino's philosophy denies multiplicity and becoming (of which the evidence instead affirms, however, remodeling its interpretation in an anti-nihilistic sense) it means either not having studied it or not having understood it (or want to mystify it, but this will not be the case with Father Cavalcoli). Anyone who has some minimal familiarity with Severinian thought can only invite Father Cavalcoli to recompile more carefully the major writings of the thinker who is the subject of this critical intervention., Starting from “Original structure” (and the demanding but illuminating essay that introduces the Adephian edition). Otherwise the character of his criticisms of the Severinian system will remain, which appears here, unrealistic.

      1. Dear Reader.

        As I have already told another Reader, I am a philosopher who has known Severino for fifteen years. While appreciating it in some respects, I don't break my brain to try to understand his abstractions, useless effort, but I limit myself to commenting on his thesis understandable to a normal intellect, thesis that he sets out clearly, repeatedly and with logical consistency.

        These theses are opposed to obvious principles of reason and experience, as well as faith, so it is not excessively difficult to understand and refute them. The rest, the author, to prove them, gets tangled up in such intricate reasoning, that in the end the theses he claims are clearer than the incomprehensible evidence, which he claims to add.

        To become means to appear

        So I begin by observing that, while the becoming, as experience and reason clearly attest, belongs to the horizon of being, that is to the real (to be in power), Severino, instead, it formally denies existence and the very possibility of becoming, that is, the passage from non-being to being (generation, creation) and from being to non-being (finitezza, corruption), and replaces becoming, which he judged impossible and contradictory, with appearing-disappearing, and in this sense he identifies being with appearing.

        But the becoming is not at all contradictory. Becoming is simply the passage from power to act; and both of them belong to reality, in continuity with each other; so there is no need for any "remodeling", that resolves the becoming into appearing, because this means denying its reality and this is nihilism.

        Severino openly replaces becoming with appearing-disappearing, to avoid, he said, nihilism and the absurd. In fact, he says that what seems to us to become is actually an alternation of appearing and disappearing, "Like the stars of the celestial vault".

        But becoming understood as real does not involve any nihilism or identification of being with non-being, since non-being happens first (to be in power) and then the being happens (in place). There would be a contradiction, if we thought them together, simultaneously, which is precisely excluded from the correct formulation of the principle of non-contradiction.

        Believe in the existence of becoming, for Severino, it is absurd, because it would break the principle of non-contradiction, which, According to him, he says that "being cannot not be" and therefore being is necessary and eternal.

        But in reality the principle of non-contradiction says that "it is not possible for being to be and not to be simultaneously". Indeed, what is now in potential, it is not in place. Being in power, therefore, it can coexist without contradiction with not being in place. There would be a contradiction if it were affirmed that a being can be simultaneously in potentiality and in actuality. If the wood is burning, it cannot be simultaneously burned.

        But Severino unreasonably suppresses the "simultaneously" from the formula of the principle, whereby the justification that the principle gives of becoming disappears. Hence the consequence that for Severino admitting becoming as real, that is to place it in the horizon of being, it would mean going against that principle.

        The contingent, the multiple, the possible, knowledge

        Therefore for Severino there is only what is necessary. He formally denies the existence of the contingent, which is precisely the seat of becoming and is the principle of multiplicity. Indeed, a thing becomes inasmuch as it is this, but it can be something else. Now, being contingent is precisely being such, but being able to be something else. In addition to, multiple means that this is not that. A tree is distinct from a lamp. Severino certainly admits the distinction, and in this sense it admits multiplicity.

        But for him it is not a question of the multiplicity of two contingent entities that are truly distinct from each other, but only of different and necessary apparitions of the one being. I see a lamp and you see a tree, because being appears to me as a lamp and to you as a tree. But it is always the only being that appears to you and me in different ways.

        In addition to, Severino, denying the quota, it also denies the possible (we have seen that it denies potentiality), because the contingent is what it may not be. For Severino there is no distinction between the possible and the real, and therefore not even between the real and the ideal, as well as between the real and the rational, but everything is real and at the same time ideal (necessary). And this, an idealistic principle, as we will return to see below.

        In the meantime, for him, everything is in place, everything is now, everything is eternal, everything is implemented ab aeterno, everything is in everything, everything will last for eternity. It is significant that he calls things "the eternals", thus associating the monism of the One Being with the polytheism of the eternals, which are different apparitions of the Eternal, which is like Jupiter reigning over the gods. In addition to, entities are not really distinct from Being, but they are Being. I am Being. I am who I am. We therefore have pantheism.

        But there are also consequences for knowing. For Severino I see immediately, always, everywhere and in any case Being, whatever is the thing I know. Being for him is the only object of knowledge, because there is only Being. It is what Severino calls "Truth of Being". Things appear and disappear. Being does not appear and disappear, but it is always present, it always appears to me. It is the "Background", as he calls it. It is heaven, in which the stars appear, the "eternals".

        Indeed, as we have seen, everything being eternal, what was, it is simply what no longer appears to me. What will be, it has already existed for eternity, but it hasn't appeared to me yet. Things are the appearance of the Appearance. Being therefore is what appears to me, appear or disappear. In this sense, being coincides with appearing. But this appearing to me is being-thought-by-me, is my thought. And therefore being coincides with being thought. Therefore, we have an idealistic gnoseology.

        God's problem

        The Severinian Being would seem to have some resemblance to the Christian God represented byto be very Thomistic, taken from Es 3,14, but actually, as we have seen, we have pantheism, for which every being is eternal, as is my self, and furthermore he is not a Being who carries out something possible outside him, that is, it is not a creator Being, because it has already implemented in itself all that it can be.

        In Severino everything concurs to deny the very possibility of creation. We remember in fact that he excludes the possible. Now, for the creature to exist, it must be admitted that God has made it pass from possibility or from being able to be into actuality or being in actuality. But if everything is already realized in God, God has nothing to create and cannot create anything. Apart from that, as we have seen, for Severino, creating from nothing implies contradiction.

        God is not almighty, that is, he cannot do more than he has done, nor can he do other things than what he has done, but he has already done ab aeterno everything he can do and he could not fail to do, everything happens of necessity, everything is necessary for the Whole, given that "being cannot not be".

        But even the negation of the contingent excludes creation, since the contingent entity is the caused entity. But if the contingent entity does not exist, then there is nothing caused and therefore there is nothing created. There is only the eternal Being, but a supremely selfish and withdrawn Being, that looks only at itself, which lacks all freedom and creative generosity, such a voracious Being, to swallow in its infinite and insatiable belly everything and every being real and possible. For this, Father Fabro believes that Severinian thought is the most dangerous form of atheism that has ever existed [1].

        [1] See his critical study The Alienation of the West, Quadrivium editions, Genoa 1981.

  2. As in an infinite number of other cases, the essence of Severino's philosophy lies in the coincidence of Being and Becoming, or more precisely, in the reduction of Being to Becoming, thanks to which Becoming usurps the place of Being and poses itself as Being. Becoming is no longer Being as participation, it is no longer an inferior form and “corrupted” (although good in itself) of Being. Becoming thus claims its self-sufficiency and completeness. But in doing so it should even deny man's existential suffering at the moment, contradictorily, testifies to it through philosophical research. If Becoming is Being, philosophy is an aberration, on the contrary, it's not even conceivable. But all this is nothing more than an intellectual form of the refusal of the fatherhood of God by the children of God.

  3. Caro Father, congratulations and sincere deep appreciation for his learned dissertation on Severino (I am a former student of the Cattolica), and for the learned exposition on Gramsci by your young and brilliant pupil Jorge Facio Lince, which I also greatly appreciated.

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