It took more than a year to organise. And it will take more than one year to be completed. It starts with Julius Cesar and ends with Yongzheng, more than eight thousand kilometres away and seventeen centuries later. And it is all about matter!!
Here’s the poster of The Elusive Substrate: Prime Matter and Hylomorphism from Ancient Rome to Early Qing China. It’s going to be quite a journey, historically and philosophically.
Finally, 2020 is almost finished. It felt like a decade. Just thinking that January, when I was moving to Oxford for my research stay, was only eleven months ago, well, it just doesn’t seem right. In the months following the beginning of the pandemic many things have happened. Many more were supposed to happen (from the second Berlin workshop on matter to my trip to Asia), but they didn’t. And between the first lockdown and lockdown 2.0, I didn’t feel like it was the right time to give any updates. Needless to say, now I have to give many news at once – lots of good news, actually. I will do my best to be as concise as possible.
ALEXANDER VON HUMBOLDT
Sometimes, one has to take life with a bit of Aristotle and admit that “totum et completum est quod habet principium et finem”. Started two years ago, my experience as Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellow is complete and the fellowship over. In my life, I have never felt like this before. The Berlin years have given me so much in terms of research, creativity, friendship, and much more. Thinking of how my approach was when I moved there from Durham and how it is now, well, the comparison is impressive, at least to me. I will be forever grateful to Dominik Perler for his gorgeous guidance and remarkable patience during these past two years. And I will keep with me for the rest of my life a sweet and thankful memory of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.
It is true what they say, that “once a Humboldtian, always a Humboldtian” – the Associazione Italiana Alexander von Humboldt will be my new home now. The spirit and example of Alexander von Humboldt will continue to inspire me and so many others in the world. Yet, something will be missed. It is the unparalleled sense of belonging to something truthfully unique and good in the widest meaning of this term. It is the memory of days spent between Bonn and Berlin with my Humboldtian friends, plans to explore Germany that never were concretised, chats with professors, researchers, and MPs while sharing some canapés in beautiful building in Mitte. Proudly and gratefully, I will keep these sweet memories with me for the rest of my life and taste them every now and then to counter the usual bitterness of academia.
A new adventure has started. I have left Berlin and moved to Leuven, where I am FWO Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Philosophy of KU Leuven. Amazing, isn’t it? And in fact I am excited, delighted, and still struggling to believe that I am really here (also because the pandemic is having me working from home). Lots of new ideas and plans are currently been shaped – you will see. New promising collaborations shall be mingled with old ones into a boiling cauldron the likes of which have never been seen since Hermann of Carinthia’s. Above all, I am thrilled at the opportunity to work with scholars like Russell Friedman, Andrea Robiglio, Pieter d’Hoine, and Jan Opsomer – the best of the best!
The new project, The Shadow Within Nature: Epistemology and Ontology of Prime Matter in the Late Middle Ages (1250-1430), follows the outcomes of my Berlin project but with a different perspective. Ontology comes back at the centre of the stage. And with it, the trickiest of all hylomorphic problems: how can hylomorphism be applied to the study of nature and explain a plurality of natural phenomena and theoretical assumptions that seem to contradict it? Moving within the coordinates set by Pasnau and Maier – but sometimes daring to break them – I will try to disentangle matter from matter and element from element of this long history of ontological controversies.
The last big piece of information of this Autumn is very good news, too. Working in academia is often weird, especially during this pandemic. You do your research, write your articles, give your talks on Zoom. But you are so very often alone – even when you are not. I guess another specificity of non-tenured scholars is to wonder whether other scholars truly appreciate your work beside the good feedbacks one receives. This is why it has been unusually delightful for me to have been habilitated for associate professorship in history of philosophy by the Italian Ministry of Education! Terrific news, I know, and it means so much to me. Most importantly, I now feel like I do belong. Many will think that such formalities are not important, that it is the work we do that define us both as people and academics. And that being habilitated doesn’t give you a tenure. Both points are true, but they do not have any impact on the unique moment of being finally habilitated. It is a matter of recognition and acknowledgement, something of which I am deeply grateful and honoured.
I said above that I had two pieces of information. And I do. I have also been certified as assistant professor of philosophy by the Spanish Ministry of Education! Such a fantastic news, I am proud and flattered. Another demonstration that sacrifice and work are never in vain. I look forward to collaborating even more with my Iberian colleagues in the near future. And duly celebrate with them this good news and the others!
There would be much more to say: more news, ideas, and updates. There will be time for that, as I will try to update this section more often.
Finally, the first copy of my book has arrived!
After two years, it’s time for me to leave lovely Durham and move to the big city, Berlin. This is going to change so many things. I feel proud and honoured to become a Humboldtian and am so grateful for this opportunity. I have just started my German course at the Goethe Institute and, so far, it’s quite weird to be back to the other side of the desk. Can’t wait for the proper thing (i.e., my new job) to start in a few weeks. But I am also having much fun with my fellow Humboldtians at school – all together in this linguistic and cultural adventure. Wish me good luck, or better, viel Glück!
I just moved to Durham, United Kingdom for my Junior Research Fellowship! The timing could not be worse (i.e., Brexit), but I am so excited! And my first impression of this tiny medieval town could not be more outstanding!
I am sure the next two years are going to be fascinating! More soon, as I explore the area and start my new job here…
After a very long discussion in three languages (Italian, English, and Spanish), it’s done!! I have defended my thesis. And now, transformed, I have become Dr Polloni!