Bob’s Body: What do Enlightenment intellectuals do with their flesh?

FBK Aula Piccola

Fondazione Bruno Kessler - Polo delle Scienze Umane e sociali
Aula Piccola

FBK Aula Piccola

Fondazione Bruno Kessler - Polo delle Scienze Umane e sociali
Aula Piccola

As taught by Descartes, in a wholly rationalistic and mental conception of intellectual work, the thinker’s physical body is an obstacle or, at best, the useful (and necessary!) but negligible support of thinking. What happens when thinkers discover their body? What happens when they realize that their “mighty brains” are not the only things that matter? Using unpublished materials, diaries, and correspondence written by the late American intellectual, Robert Bellah, this seminar attempts to address this issue from a pre-postmodern point of view. The question is not: “What did the thinkers who explicitly theorized the link between body and thought make of their bodies?” but rather: “What did an intellectual from the rationalist tradition who discovered his own body at fifty make of his body?” In this sense, Bellah’s peculiar biography lends itself to be used as a kind of“natural experiment”: as we shall show, his oscillation between lived experience (including and especiallythrough his body) and even radical processes of symbolization (mediated, idiosyncratically, by an importanttext such as Norman O. Brown’s Love’s Body) is symptomatic of an attitude of embarrassed awareness (and,perhaps, pride) of what one could do with a body, “if only I could…”

Scientific coordination:
Massimo Leone, Director FBK-ISR


Cycle of seminars: “(Dis)Embodiment in Religion and Ethics

The seminar will be held in Italian

The presentation will be in-person in the FBK Aula Piccola while seats last and online

Registration by March 20, 2023 at 12:00 a.m. is required in order to arrange the connection



Affresco di Schweitzer


  • Matteo Bortolini - Guest Speaker
    Università di Padova
    Matteo Bortolini is a sociologist and a member of the DiSSGeA Department of the University of Padua. His research as a historical sociologist focuses on the production of expert and non-expert knowledge in the 20thcentury, on transatlantic exchanges between Italian and American intellectuals, and on the history ofanthropology and ethnography during the Cold War era. His latest book, "A Joyfully Serious Life. The Life of Robert Bellah " (Princeton UP, 2021) on the Distinguished Publication Award of the History of Sociology and Social Thought section of the American Sociological Association. He is currently working on a biography of American anthropologist Clifford Geertz and some micro-studies of Italian intellectual history centered on the Giovanni Agnelli Foundation and its first director, Ubaldo Scassellati Sforzolini.


Registration to this event is mandatory.

Registration closed on 15/06/2024.

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