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Accreditata MUR con D.M. 02/12/2005
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Scienze e tecniche dell’educazione e dei servizi per l’infanzia, classe L-19

History of philosophy I


Anno accademico: 2021/2022



Crediti: ECT: 6 CFU

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Alessandro Pagnini (1949) has taught History of Contemporary Philosophy at the Department of Philosophy of the University of Florence and since 2012, he has been President of Uniser (Pistoia University Campus).

Since 1985, he has been the director of the Florentine Centre for the History and Philosophy of Science; he is a fellow at the Center for Philosophy of Science in Pittsburgh; he is the founder and current editor of the journal “Mefisto” (formerly “Medicina & Storia”); he is chief editor of the international philosophical journal Philosophical Inquiries; he is a founding member and president of BIOM (Italian Society for History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Biology and Medicine); he is the director of the Mefisto series on the history and philosophy of medicine (ETS); he is a contributor to “Il sole 24 ore” and a columnist for “La repubblica”.

He is a member of the Tuscan Regional Bioethics Commission. He has been a visiting scholar at various European and American universities (Pittsburgh, St. Andrews, London, Berlin, Rio de Janeiro). His publications include Teoria della conoscenza (TEA) and Filosofia della medicina(Carocci).

The course consists of two modules and focuses on the history of rhetoric and its relationship with philosophy from the fifth century BC to the “renaissance” of rhetoric in the twentieth century.


  • In the first module (Rhetoric and philosophy: from the Sophists to post-truth) we will focus on the legal and “literary” origins of rhetoric, on the rhetoric of the Sophists, on Plato’s criticism of Protagoras and Gorgias, and above all we will read, in Aristotle’s Rhetoric, the most influential attempt to systematise an “art” that is both an analysis of discourse and an investigation into the means of rational argumentation, constituting on the whole a vision of theconnections between epistemology, anthropology and politics in the perspective of a sort of ante litteram “practical philosophy”. Mention is also made of the decline of rhetoric, above all due to its separation from logic in the sixteenth century (with Pietro Ramo), which in subsequent centuries led to its reductive identification with the art of ornament, of eloquence, at best of beautiful style; so much so that Aristotle’s Rhetoric is frequently interpreted as a sort of complement to Poetics, when perhaps its most coherent place in the work of the Stagirite is next to Politics. In the second half of the nineteenth century it would be Nietzsche who would speak of ancient rhetoric, and above all of Aristotle’s rhetoric, as one of the most important reflections on the nature, origins and use of human language; and in the twentieth century it would be the great German philosopher Martin Heidegger who would indicate, in Being and Time, the second book of Aristotle’s Rhetoric as the basis of a hermeneutic view of our daily being together and our communication. Nietzsche’s and Heidegger’s call for a rebirth of rhetoric is particularly felt and cultivated in a “post-modern” philosophical climate. However, besides this, it is also important to note the transformation into a theory of argumentation that rhetoric underwent in the analytical field in the second half of the last century. The programme may seem overloaded and perhaps better suited to a philosophical consultation. In reality, it is possible to bring the philosophers of the past and their paradigmatic positions on the subject of the relationship between rhetoric and philosophy into dialogue with that sort of “applied philosophy” or “experimental” philosophy which is of great interest today in the most diverse fields: from advertising, to political propaganda, literary criticism, psychology and jurisprudence.  Up to the point of verifying its historical relevance and topicality in didactics and education in general.
  • In the second module (Rhetoric and Philosophy: Case Studies and Insights), more space will be given to exemplification and theory than to history. Cases will be chosen, readings and materials (including videos) will be commented on, in order to encourage students’ elaboration and participation in the Forum, and to deepen their knowledge of “cases” and authors.


The course will cover the following contents:

  • The origins of rhetoric
  • The use of human language
  • The evolution of rhetoric since the second half of the last century
  • The relevance of rhetoric in communication (advertising, political propaganda, literary criticism) and in education
  • Memory between rhetoric and science
  • Rhetoric and paideia

Is it possible to let the ancient philosophers with their paradigmatic positions talk about the relationship between rhetoric and philosophy with a sort of ‘applied philosophy’?

This course will first deepen the following contents:

  • The origins of rhetoric
  • The use of human language
  • The evolution of rhetoric, starting from the second half of the last century, and the relevance of rhetoric in communication (advertising, political propaganda, literary criticism) and in education.

The History of Philosophy course will enable students to use the discursive and communicative dynamics of rhetoric in the context of human science, acquiring a critical analytical ability that will enable them to split communication and have a critical method for reading and reflecting on formative processes.

Another learning outcome expected concerns the ability to apply the knowledge acquired in the complex social and working life in which the student is immersed, questioning the knowledge and skills acquired in order to use them in the educational action.

Ability to apply knowledge and understanding

The student will be enabled not only to handle knowledge independently but also to strengthen an autonomous attitude, by developing:

  1. argumentative skills;
  2. the ability to apply the methods of reflection to professional contexts that affect them personally.

A. Knowledge and understanding of rhetoric as it applies to different types of discourse

B. Ability to apply knowledge and understanding to the topics covered in the course

C. Autonomy of judgement and critical analysis

D. Communication and argumentation skills

E. Learning ability

A. Use of advanced textbooks, knowledge of some current topics within the course contents

B. Professional approach to one’s own work and acquisition of appropriate skills to conceive arguments, support them and solve problems within the subject studied

C. Ability to critically interpret texts and forms of communication (e.g. advertisements, texts, political speeches) and to produce independent judgements.

D. Ability to undertake further studies with a high degree of autonomy.


  • 6 hours of video lessons.
  • 3 lessons in video conference (synchronous mode).
  • Podcasts of all the above-mentioned video lessons.



  • 1 orientation forum;
  • 2 thematic follow-up forums (1 for each module).
  • 2 structured e-tivity.
  • 2 synchronous interactive meetings with students.

Teaching materials are provided for each module: in-depth thematic studies, articles proposed by the lecturer, open access readings, online resources. A specific bibliography will be indicated for further study.


  • Aristotle, Retorica, Oscar Mondadori.
  • Nietzsche, Su verità e menzogna, Bompiani.


In order to respond flexibly to the specific needs of each student, the lecturer reserves the right to recommend alternative or additional readings to students who ask for them during the lessons.


Access to the final examination is subject to the following e-activities:

  • post in the thematic forum;
  • ability to analyse and critically reflect in interventions, consistent with the vocabulary and themes addressed in the course.

The assessment of learning will take place through a face-to face oral interview on the contents of the course, expounding at least three of the relevant disciplinary topics.

The grade (min 18, max 30 with possible honours) is determined by the level of performance for each of the following dimensions of the oral interview: mastery of contents, appropriateness of definitions and theoretical references, clarity of argument, command of specialist language.