PHILOSOPHY PATHWAYS ISSN 2043-0728
Issue number 14 9 September 2001
I. In Memory of Alberto Capizzano
II. 'On First Reading Sartre's "Nausea"' Colin Amery
III. Admissions to Pathways, and Associate and Fellowship
I. IN MEMORY OF ALBERTO CAPIZZANO
Last week I was saddened to hear of the death of my student Alberto Capizzano, a physician and radiotherapist from Buenos Aires, Argentina who passed away at the age of 73.
His widow, Tessy Botex de Capizzano writes:
"It is with great grief that I must inform you that on the 18th of August at 21:00 Alberto passed away, due to a heart attack. He was at home, sitting in front of the computer, where so many times she had sat to write to you. He leaves a great void, as you might imagine,having filled this house with his personality, so full of projects and new ideas."
Alberto Capizzano had chosen to follow the Pathways Philosophy of Mind program, 'Searching for the Soul', which he commenced towards the end of 1999. I soon discovered that he was truly passionate about his own search in philosophy, and I learned much from our dialogue on the nature of the self and mind, and the place of consciousness within the physical world.
During our correspondence, Alberto mentioned that he had attended the same medical school at the same time as Che Guevara, although they never actually met. This was too good a story to miss! I asked Alberto to write a piece for the Pathways web site, which I reproduce here:
'A page of my past youth to an English youth of nowadays'
"I was born in a little peaceful village near to the shore of the Rio de la Plata, with a fine yachting port, in the neighborhood of Buenos Aires, whose name is Olivos (olive trees).
"My home, a chalet surrounded by a wide garden, stood in front of a long avenue named 'Maipu' which divided two very different places: on one side the elegant English quarter with its typical Tudor houses, and on the other the humble suburb where lived the people who were employed by the English families.
"My friends were boys from the two sides. Crampton, Doelling, Atwood, Hayward, Peacan. Their families came to Argentina with the railway companies, when the English railways spread over our country, or with the banks or other different enterprises. Willy, Eric and Douglas remain here still; Bob, Martin and Freddy departed in the 40's to the Second World War becoming R.A.F. heroes. My wife still keeps the badge of her uncle Robert Harrison who died in the sky of Germany.
"They played rugby and danced jazz.
"My friends of the back yard, Horacio, Raul, Antonio, Carlos, Juancito played soccer, danced tango and went across the avenue to hide themselves and spy, through the grove, the girls of Northland's College (of which my granddaughter Lucrecia is pupil now) playing hockey with their short scotch skirts!
"But in our schools we learnt from childhood about the English invasion of 1806, when a navy commanded by Admiral Beresford landed at Buenos Aires, and was repelled by people throwing boiling oil from the roofs of their homes!
"I still remember ourselves as children, watching proudly the English flags kept in Santo Domingo Convent.
"And also we learnt that the Malvinas Islands are Argentine and had been snatched by England.
"This innocent nationalism became adult.
"In 1945, when I entered in the University's Medicine School, anti-imperialist bibliography filled the corridors. Railways were nationalized and the long Maipu Avenue became 'Presidente Peron'.
"My soul was divided in two schizophrenic portions.
"I am a son of a famous oncologist who taught me a deep personality cult. Certainly, I grew up in a family of Italian origin, with a strong fascist character, but when my father was censored in his own expression of ideas, he turned against the regime.
"Then, the poor relegated people of the provinces, a long time ignored, came to Buenos Aires. An old conservative politician described it as a 'zoological alluvium'.
"Standing on a Buenos Aires' corner, near my father, we watched together the crowd marching with their naked torsos and the leader's image stuck on their foreheads. It was October 17 1945.
"That very same afternoon I came back home, gave flags to Antonio, Carlos and Juancito and we went together to Plaza de Mayo with the 'unshirted' masses.
"I was a medicine student at the time when human pain wasn't yet classified and one thought that misery is an illness like a cancer.
"In Rosario, a big city also, 300 km from Buenos Aires, another boy looked the same scenario and felt the same commotion.
"He played rugby, was medicine student, and descendent of a traditional Argentine family. Guevara (Che is the generic Argentinian nickname) was born at the same date as I and graduated at the same time.
"We both traveled the lonely corners of our huge country and stirred up our selves looking at the humble and marooned people in their hovels. But we never met each other. All I know about him is from Ricardo Rojo, his biographer and common friend.
"He took the way of violence with its tragic end. I became old caring for cancer patients.
"I entered a brief political phase. I believed Peronism would be the way for the recovery of indigent people. Then, my father died and I thought I should take his place. Ernesto found in Marxism his way and died seeking for his own place.
"Many years later other Ches found their death on the South Atlantic's black fog pursuing a dream drawn first on the blackboard of their childhood.
"Last year, a Sunday evening, I went across a long avenue named 'Web'.
And while spying, I found a new English friend. His name is Geoffrey Klempner, from the Sheffield University, who teaches Philosophy, another Searching for Truth...and for Happiness.
"And I went across the Avenue because in my Cancer Institute' s Lecture Hall, under my father's portrait, one can read one of his phrases:
"'Humanity will reach its Health, when it understands that it is but one family, which ought to be in harmony with itself and with Nature that surrounds it.'"
Alberto Capizzano's essay can be found in the section entitled, 'Six of the Best' at:
In a recent e-mail, Alberto said that he was looking forward to taking another Pathways program with me. Sadly, it was not to be. We shall miss you, Alberto.
II. ON FIRST READING SARTRE'S 'NAUSEA'
I remember exactly when I first read Sartre's 'Nausea'. I was thirty. It was l968. A revolution was beginning to erupt in Paris with Sartre active on the barricades in support of the workers and students. I then worked as a night watchman in Sydney at the opposite end of the world. On 25th April, just five days before the students began rioting on May day, I leapt without knowing of the revolution, into the heady world of existentialism. I quit the law where I made a modest living as a criminal advocate with the idea of devoting myself exclusively to the craft of writing philosophical novels. Vague reports of street fighting where Sartre had addressed the masses were reaching the antipodes. After the first month and no pay-checks I was feeling distinctly hungry. I had no mentor to speak of, except for Colin Wilson whose 'Outsider' I had hungrily devoured in one session with a real sense of identification. Reading through his checklist I made the acquaintance of Jean Paul Sartre and his 'Nausea'.
It was like moving into a new and much imagined world. I had always wanted to be a writer. Now I had discovered a man who was both a writer and a philosopher. 'Nausea' occupied the quiet hours close to dawn when I returned from a cleaning job that involved flushing out toilets in hotel latrines that were often clogged with vomit. The book was a wonderful antithesis to what my daily work routine involved. I started to inhabit two parallel worlds, which slowly became intertwined. The characters portrayed in Sartre's fiction I began to look for on the street. Sydney's George Street had one coffee bar run by a Greek with a slightly affected waiter who still imagined he was serving ouzo in Athens' Constitution Square. I put his habits down in my yellow-covered notebook so that one day he could creep into my fiction rather in the manner of Sartre's famous garcon.
At this time I had a girl friend I visited at the end of our mutual night shifts. She also might have stepped from the pages of literature. Her name was Juliet. I wrote poems about her - she was very beautiful - and we spent weekends at Bondi beach, communing about the mysteries of life as the surf beat its way to our door. She liked the novels of Dostoievski and for a while I played the part of her Raskolnikov. I guess this was my first existential relationship. The imagined world of the axe murderer was a dangerous one to stray into. Eventually, there would be a climax that teetered on the edge of our respective realities. I thought about Sartre's woman who wouldn't let on about her sexuality. I wish I could have shown the same restraint towards my Juliet, but we became embroiled in an affair of passionate intensity that made me decide to leave the law and seek solace in the twin beds of love and literature.
I saw my Juliet on our days off and we sat in cafes overlooking the beach at Watson's Bay talking about existentialism. She was a kind of guide and mentor, for she had arrived there first. I went to my job each night rather like the robotic waiter in Sartre's left bank cafe and went through the motions of my work. The pile of yellow pages got higher and higher, as l scrawled my strange signature across a phase in my life that was probably memorable. I walked across new boundaries and found that man was condemned to be free. I had left my wife, the profession of law and I loved my Juliet. I was bold enough to celebrate that freedom and say hang to the consequences.
Unfortunately, I was still married and my wife followed us one night to an apartment in Double Bay that overlooked the harbour's twinkling lights. The sound of broken glass presaged a femme fatalistic fight that I had to umpire and ended with me taking my wife to hospital with some glass embedded just below her left eye. This life of dangerous liasons was not for her. She had married a lawyer and expected bourgeois rectitude not existential angst. Meanwhile, I lived on the edge and loved it. Juliet and my torrid affair lasted exactly one year. By then I had read the major works of existentialism, including Kierkegaard whose Seducer's Diary held me in thrall and no doubt had some influence over the young Sartre in his formative years. 'Nausea' I now saw as his way of creating ideal worlds to contrast with the perceived actual world through the use of imagination.
"Keep a diary", the reader was advised in the first sentence of his book. In my den under the railway overpass across Sydney's harbour bridge, I scribbled away deep into the night's darkest shadows the strange miscellany of thoughts that came unbidden to my mind. I wrote on a yellow pad, which I kept for a long time, with the idea that some day I might organise into a mere coherent form. The opportunity never occurred, for I eventually moved back to Europe and became focused on a different topic - that of Atlantis.
I can still see myself, pen poised over paper, a little like Dostoievski's underground man or Kafka's pseudonymous "K", steering a strange passage through a life that held little meaning for me then. But these books of philosophy had come my way at the right time. They were treasures to take me through the labyrinth of my own unconscious dreads. I had poured over the words in 'Nausea' and found a passage with this guidebook through my strange subterranean life. I stepped on to the thin ice of existential angst. I was living upside down at the bottom of the world where I had dared at last to be free.
(c) Colin Amery 2001
III. ADMISSIONS TO PATHWAYS, AND ASSOCIATE AND FELLOWSHIP DIPLOMA PROGRAMS
After a gap of two long months, I am pleased to announce that admissions for the Pathways to Philosophy, and Associate and Fellowship Diploma programs of the Philosophical Society of England, will be re-opened from 1st October.
We have decided to relax the requirement that students gain the Associate Diploma before proceeding for the Fellowship. This requirement derived from a time when 'Associate' and 'Fellow' were different grades of membership of the Philosophical Society. Today, the titles, 'APhS' and 'FPhS' are regarded, just like University diplomas, as qualifications attained rather than badges of membership.
There has been a modest increase in fees. This is the first increase in four years, and only the second since the Pathways project was launched in 1995.
Visitors to Ask a Philosopher site will have noticed a number of new contributors to the most recent 'Answers' pages. Out of these, we will be recruiting the new batch of Pathways Mentors. The Ask a Philosopher site not only provides Pathways Mentors with a showcase to demonstrate their philosophical talents, but also gives Pathways students the opportunity to learn about their Mentors' personal philosophical interests.
Mentors receive free guidance and supervision for their studies towards the Associate and Fellowship Diplomas of the Philosophical Society of England. Mentors also have free access to all six Pathways programs.
We are always on the look out for new Mentors. If you have a BA in Philosophy and think you have got what it takes, then check out the 'Questions' page!
The latest letter to Pathways Mentors can be found at:
'Ask a Philosopher' can be found at:
- We look forward to hearing from you!