Trieste, Italy, 11.03.1953



Uni: tel. + 39 06-72595052
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Alessandro Ferrara

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Facoltà di Lettere e Filosofia
Università di Roma “Tor Vergata”
Via Columbia, 1, 00133, Roma


Alessandro Ferrara, Professor of Political Philosophy at the University of Rome “Tor Vergata” and currently serving as President of the Italian Association for Political Philosophy, has graduated in Philosophy in Italy (1975) and later, as a Harkness Fellow, received his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley (1984). He has conducted post-doctoral research in Munich and Frankfurt with Jürgen Habermas as a Von Humboldt Fellow and later at Berkeley again, leading to the publication of his first book Modernity and Authenticity (1993).


He has been an Assistant Professor in Sociology at the University of Rome “La Sapienza” between 1984 and 1998, then an Associate Professor in Sociology at the University of Parma between 1998 and 2002, and since 2002 is Professor of Political Philosophy at the University of Rome “Tor Vergata”.  Since 2007 he also teaches “Multiculturalism and Theories of Justice” at the Università Vita-Salute San Raffaele in Milan.


Since 1991 he has been a Director of the Yearly Conference on Philosophy and Social Science, initially part of the regular activities of the Interuniversity Centre of  Dubrovnik, but since 1993 relocated in Prague, under the auspices of the Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Science and later of Charles University. 

Since 1990 he has been a founder and a Co-Director of the Seminario di Teoria Critica, which meets yearly in Gallarate, Italy.

And since 2007 he is on the Executive Committee of the Istanbul Seminars on religion and politics, held at Bilgi University in Istanbul under the auspices of the Association Reset – Dialogues of Civilizations.


He serves as editorial consultant on the board of a number of journals including Constellations, Philosophy and Social Criticism and The European Journal of Philosophy, and on the Advisory Board of the series New Directions in Critical Theory at Columbia University Press.


He has taught and lectured in various capacities in a number of universities and institutions, including  Harvard University, Columbia University,  Rice University,  Cardozo Law School, The New School for Social Research and the Universities of  Berkeley, Madrid, Chicago, Potsdam, Amsterdam, Mexico City, Exeter, Manchester.


His research has consistently revolved around the formulation of an authenticity- and judgment-based account of normative validity, which by way of incorporating a post-metaphysically reconstructed version of the normativity of Kant’s “reflective judgment”, could be immune to anti-foundationalist objections and yet represent a viable alternative to the formalism of standard proceduralist accounts of normative validity.  In Reflective Authenticity this conception of normativity is outlined in general and in Justice and Judgment is developed in the direction of a political-philosophical notion of justice. 


In his 2008 volume The Force of the Example the paradigm of judgment is further articulated and situated within the contemporary philosophical horizon.  One of the important issues confronting moral and political philosophers is the question of justification. During the 20th century, the view that assertions and norms are valid insofar as they respond to principles independent of all local and temporal contexts came under attack from two perspectives: the partiality of translation and the intersubjective constitution of the self, understood as responsive to recognition. Defenses of universalism have by and large taken the form of a thinning out of substantive universalism into various forms of proceduralism.  In The Force of the Example, instead, Ferrara tries an entirely different strategy for showing how the particularity of context can be transcended without contradicting our pluralistic intuitions: a strategy centered on the exemplary universalism of judgment. Whereas exemplarity has for long been thought to belong in the domain of aesthetics, this book explores the other uses to which it can be put in our philosophical predicament, especially in the field of politics. What is exemplarity? How can something unique possess universal significance? What is the nature of the force exerted by exemplarity? What is the nature of the judgment that discloses exemplarity? How can the force of the example bridge the difference between the various contexts? 


Drawing on Kant’s Critique of the Power of Judgment but also on Arendt, Rawls, Dworkin and Habermas, Ferrara outlines a view of exemplary validity designed for today’s dilemmas, showing how it can be applied to central philosophical issues, including public reason, human rights, radical evil, sovereignty, republicanism and liberalism and religion in the public sphere.


His current research includes four main foci of interest: the distinction of speculative and deliberative reason and the different role played by judgment in each; rethinking the separation of religion and politics in a post-secular society as well as the justification of tolerance and pluralism; the case for multicultural jurisdictions; the contribution of the judgment paradigm to the justification of human rights and the solving of problems connected with their enforcement.


Among his publications: