Alessandro Ferrara

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Alessandro Ferrara
Alessandro Ferrara, Dublin 2013.jpg
Alessandro Ferrara in Dublin, 2013
Born 1953 (age 63–64)
Trieste, Italy
Nationality Italian
Occupation Philosopher

Alessandro Ferrara (born 1953 in Trieste) is an Italian philosopher,[1] currently Professor of Political Philosophy at the University of Rome Tor Vergata and former President of the Italian Association for Political Philosophy.

He is also the founder and Director of the Colloquium Philosophy & Society in Rome and the Director of the Center for the Study of Religions and Political Institutions in Post-Secular Society at the University of Rome "Tor Vergata".


Ferrara graduated in Philosophy in Italy (1975) and later, as a Harkness Fellow, received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley (1984). He conducted post-doctoral research in Munich and Frankfurt with Jürgen Habermas as a Von Humboldt Fellow and later at Berkeley again (1989), leading to the publication of his first book.

Academic life[edit]

He was Assistant Professor in Sociology at the University of Rome "La Sapienza" between 1984 and 1998, then 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 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 also of Charles University.

Since 1990 he has been a founder and a Director of the Seminario di Teoria Critica, which used to meet yearly in Gallarate and since 2008 takes place in Cortona, in 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.

Ferrara serves as co-editor (with David Rasmussen) of the series Philosophy and Politics – Critical Explorations (Springer), as editorial consultant for a number of journals including Constellations, Philosophy and Social Criticism, Krisis, Balsa de la Medusa, Iris and The European Journal of Philosophy, and serves 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 Boston College, Harvard University, Columbia University, Rice University, Cardozo Law School, Yale University, New School for Social Research, University College London (UCL), Oxford University, the Chinese Academy of Social Science in Beijing, Sapienza University of Rome, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Bilgi University and Sehir University in Istanbul, and the Universities of California (at Berkeley), Madrid, Chicago, Potsdam, Amsterdam, Mexico City, Exeter, Manchester, Johannesburg, Rio de Janeiro, London, Exeter, Dublin, Belfast, Coimbra, Lisbon, Frankfurt, Copenhagen, Berne, Bordeaux, Barcelona, Krakow, Porto Alegre, Lyon III.


Ferrara's work revolves 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 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 his book, 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. 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.

In The Democratic Horizon. Hyperpluralism and the Renewal of Political Liberalism, Ferrara argues that democracy faces unprecedented challenges worldwide, some of which ironically stem from its own success in establishing itself as a horizon, namely as the only one fully legitimate form of government, for well over half of humanity. He investigates the contribution toward meeting those challenges that can be drawn from the framework developed by Rawls in Political Liberalism, once its full potential is released in the triple direction of a) rethinking and pluralizing the democratic ethos, b) handling, through a 'conjectural' alternative to public reason and the idea of 'multivariate democratic polity', the hyperpluralism that pervades our political spaces, and c) finding the proper ways, through conjectural arguments, for political justification to reach and include the "partially reasonable". In the course of the argument, the aesthetic sources of normativity that have formed the object of Ferrara's earlier work—exemplarity, judgment, the normativity of identity, and the imagination—are often called on to supplement the conceptual resources of a revisited political liberalism.

Books Authored[edit]

  • The Democratic Horizon. Hyperpluralism and the Renewal of Political Liberalism, New York, Cambridge University Press, 2014 (transl. into Spanish)
  • The Force of the Example. Explorations in the Paradigm of Judgment, New York, Columbia University Press, 2008 (transl. into Italian and Spanish)
  • Justice and Judgment. The Rise and the Prospect of the Judgment Model in Contemporary Political Philosophy, London, Sage, 1999 (transl. into Italian)
  • Reflective Authenticity. Rethinking the Project of Modernity, London and New York, Routledge, 1998 (transl. into Italian and Spanish)
  • Modernity and Authenticity. A Study of the Social and Ethical Thought of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1993 (transl. into Italian)

Books edited[edit]

  • with D.Rasmussen and V.Kaul, The Promises of Democracy in Troubled Times, special issue of Philosophy and Social Criticism, vol. 39, 4-5, 2013
  • with D.Rasmussen and V.Kaul, Overcoming the Trap of Resentment, special issue of Philosophy and Social Criticism, vol. 38, 4-5, 2012
  • with D.Rasmussen and V.Kaul, Realigning Liberalism: Pluralism, Integration, Identities, special issue of Philosophy and Social Criticism, vol. 37, 4, 2011
  • with D.Rasmussen and V.Kaul, Postsecularism and Multicultural Jurisdictions, special issue of Philosophy and Social Criticism, vol. 36, 3-4, 2010
  • Ritual and/or Sincerity, special issue of Philosophy and Social Criticism, Vol. 36, 1, 2010.
  • The Uses of Judgment, special issue of Philosophy and Social Criticism, Vol. 34, 1-2, 2008.

Recent articles[edit]

  • "Varieties of Transcendence and Their Consequences for Political Philosophy", in The European Legacy, Vol. 20, n. 1-2, 2015, pp. 109–119.
  • "La autenticidad y la normatividad de la identidad en Rousseau", in Signos filosóficos, Vol. 16, n. 31, 2014, pp. 159–190.
  • "Judging Democracy in the 21st Century: Crisis or Transformation?", in No-Fo - An Interdisciplinary Journal of Law and Justice, n. 10, 2013.
  • "Hyperpluralism and the Multivariate Democratic Polity", in Philosophy and Social Criticism, 2012, vol. 38, n. 4, pp. 535–444.
  • "The Idea of a Charter of Fundamental Human Rights", in C.Corradetti (ed.), Philosophical Dimensions of Human Rights, Dordrecht, Springer, 2012, pp. 173–87.
  • "Ferrajoli's Argument for Structural Entrenchment", in Res Publica, Vol. 17, n. 4 (2011), pp. 377–383.
  • "Politics at its Best: Reasons that Move the Imagination", in C.Bottici and B.Challand (eds.), The Politics of Imagination, London, Birkbeck Law Press, 2011, pp. 38–54.
  • "Reflexive Pluralism", in Postsecularism and multicultural jurisdictions, in Philosophy and Social Criticism, 2010, vol. 36, n. 3-4, pp. 353–64.


  1. ^ "Libri novità, La forza dell'esempio". Encanta (in Italian). Retrieved 20 July 2012. 

External links[edit]