Meditations on Freedom. Autonomy in the Mirror of Vulnerability, between Paranoia and Responsibility


The Great Prisoner. Freedom, Limit, and the Boundaries of the Psyche


Conference: "The Great Prisoner. Freedom, Limit, and the Boundaries of the Psyche"

Lecturer: Prof. Claudia Baracchi (University of Milano-Bicocca, Milan)

Cycle: Eranos-Jung Lectures: "Meditations on Freedom. Autonomy in the Mirror of Vulnerability, between Paranoia and Responsibility"

Date: April 23, 2021, 6:30pm

Place: Auditorium, Monte Verità, Ascona

Chairman: Prof. Fabio Merlini (Eranos Foundation, Ascona, and Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training SFIVET, Lugano)


As part of the measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic and on the basis of cantonal directives, a maximum of 33 listeners will be allowed in the Auditorium. The registrations will be accepted in chronological order of adhesion. Registration, to be done by email, is thus mandatory. Those who will not be able to attend the lecture (held in Italian language) will still be able to follow the conference in real time through Zoom. The recording of the conference can be viewed on the official YouTube channel of the Eranos Foundation.


In recent times we have returned to speak, with increasing anxiety, of deprivation of freedom. Debates on the state of emergency and on a concomitant contraction of civil and individual liberties have been circulating in various fields, in an authoritarian drift that has been enhanced by the technologies of control. However, beyond the unavoidable considerations of a juridical, institutional, or political-economic nature, freedom should also be recognized as a phenomenon of a completely different order-as a category of the spirit, we would dare to say, or in any case rooted in the depths of the human being, in the boundlessness that mysteriously characterizes it. H.D. Thoreau wrote: "It is not many moments that I live under a government, even in this world. If a man is thought-free [free in his thinking], fancy-free, imagination-free, that which is not never for a long time appearing to be to him, unwise rulers or reformers cannot fatally interrupt him." With reference to figures of myth and thought from Greco-Eastern antiquity through modernity (Spinoza) to the 1900s of Jung, Warburg, Weil, and Bernhard, she will propose a meditation on freedom beyond liberalism, that is, beyond the celebration of individualism, the private, and intolerance of limits. On the one hand, the task is to think about freedom according to necessity, therefore in the light of interdependence, belonging, responsibility, and not omnipotence; on the other hand, it is an invitation to grasp freedom in a certain psychic-characteristic structure, even before the juridical-legal one.


Claudia Baracchi, Ph.D. in Philosophy (Vanderbilt University, 1990-1996), former Professor of Ancient Philosophy and European Philosophy at the University of Oregon (1996-1998) and at the New School for Social Research in New York (1999-2009), since 2007 is Associate Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Milano-Bicocca. Her publications include Of Myth, Life, and War in Plato's Republic (Indiana University Press, 2002), Aristotle's Ethics as First Philosophy (Cambridge University Press, 2007), Amicizia (Mursia, 2016) and the more recent Filosofia antica e vita effimera. Migrazioni, trasmigrazioni e laboratori della psiche (Petite Plaisance, 2020). She is co-founder of the Ancient Philosophy Society. She carries out research on ancient philosophy in relation to myth, poetry, and theater, on Eastern traditions (especially Indo-Vedic), on psychoanalysis and practices of the self. She teaches at Philo-School of Biographical Analysis with Philosophical Orientation, Milan.

The 2021 edition of the Eranos-Jung Lectures is dedicated to the topic, “Meditations on Freedom. Autonomy in the Mirror of Vulnerability, between Paranoia and Responsibility.” Abandoned to its sole desire for affirmation, freedom runs the risk of becoming an instrument of oppression. For this reason, freedom must be protected from itself. And the only way to do this is to associate the exercise of freedom with a sense of responsibility. Faced with our vulnerability, in the complication of the multiple crises to which we are exposed today (economic, health, ecological, interior...), we must learn to rethink the idea of freedom in the light of the obligations that make each of us a "being of relationships". Committing ourselves to this path means giving a chance to our unassailable fragility, so that it can consciously resist the temptation of paranoid behavior: a temptation, after all, always lurking, whose final outcome is tyranny.

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