Healthy Life                          9/5/2007          8/16/2007

Matjaž Potrè

University of Ljubljana, Slovenia (matjaz dot potrc at guest dot arnes dot si)


Healthy life may be approached either by the closed question or by the open question. Closed question tends towards a universally shaped goal, whereas open question proceeds from the quality proper to each one engaged in pursuing it. Two views of relevance are in the offing. Relevance may be determined by definitory means. Definitory relevance is misguided as a separate quest, whereas it is an important constituent as it comes disciplined by the intertwining with the cipher of the open question.



Healthy life is an important issue, so it seems. One would say: if there is a relevant thing, then that’s it. Therefore, it is a natural expectation that each one is engaged into a battle for healthy life, and that answers are proposed about how to achieve it. These answers are usually shaped in the following manner: “You have a problem concerning your health? Then you do this and exactly that and your problem will be solved.” In the background of such approach of healthy life tends to stand an aimed-for final answer, and the closed question as proper to it. Another go at the issue of healthy life is the open question which proposes an unending battle for intellectual quality. Closed question and open question about the healthy life are two ways about how to achieve relevance: by the proposed general pattern or by the striving towards quality of the particular. The precondition of the open question is relevance as the open space, the cipher in its three clearing dimensions of enabling the series to get written from the memory, the scrambled message and the instance of nomination. The definition of relevance needs to be treated as an open question by the recognition of its intertwining nature.



We will proceed as follows. In the first section, we will ask ourselves about what healthy life seems to be. This will lead us to the answers that usually tend to be given to the quest for healthy life. These answers aim at a fixed goal that tends to be achieved, and such an approach we will call the one of the closed question. It the next section then we will take a look at the rather difficult to recognize open question in respect to the healthy life, summarizing recent books by Armando Verdiglione on the issue. We will also ask for reasons about difficulties that are there in recognizing the open question. In this manner, we are engaged with two concepts of relevance: the generalist and the particularist. The generalist concept of relevance can be captured by definition. If taken as a separate issue, it is left wanting. If taken as disciplined with the open question relevance and as intertwined then this open question has a chance. Healthy life then proceeds from two, from the interval, and not from the foreclosed path.


1. Healthy life: the very idea

Wouldn’t you wish to be stinky rich? Then, you could buy anything you always wanted: a car and a house, your social influence, excessive holidays and all that you can think about right now. This would seem to be an ultimately rewarding life.

            Yes, provided that another small condition is fulfilled: you being healthy. Just imagine yourself living in everlasting pangs of wincing pain, being immobile and lacking hands or feet, burning with fever or getting gripped with the lunatic overhauling obsessions. Then all the money that you have will only be of a limited importance, indeed it may be obsolete in respect to the early sketched desiderata. Even being far too thin or far too fat may already do the trick, or being constrained to live in an extremely uninviting environment, such as prison. Yes, you may be alive, and also you might be wealthy, but what do life and richness mean without your health and freedom? So both life and health seem to be an intertwined precondition for other things, such as richness, to come about in an efficient manner.

            Many people increasingly tend to understand the importance of healthy life. They get aware about the risk of unhealthy foods, of lack of exercise and of strained relations. And about the importance of green and balanced diet, of suitable exercise and of smiley face J involved into dealing with people.

            And why should one be healthy? In order to live longer, and in order to live safer. Healthiness may thus avoid the risk of premature death, and it may avoid the risk of financial distress as one is faced with the condition of illness.

            The idea is thus for you to have a life first, and to have a healthy life. But having a life also means that you have a full and rich qualitative life, a fact whose dimensions are mostly forgotten in the handbooks about various dimensions of healthy life. It is not just enough to have a healthy diet and exercise. The overall quality of your life counts as well.

            But where exactly lays the meaning of your life, the meaning and goal your health is helping to achieve? One way of answering this question is concentrating on the ends or the outcome of your life, correlated perhaps to the origins where it is rooted. The beginning of the life, the disposition to live was healthy, and so the conclusion should be calm and healthy as well. Another way of responding to this question is to concentrate not so much at the origin and conclusion of life, but at the in-between of the active passage, at the lived interval. Then health is determined in respect to the actuality of what is lived through and not by the transcending goals, as it tends to be in the former case. It is this healthy attitude then that makes you having a life, in the sense of relevance, as if in the case as somebody says: “On your new iPhone you got so many useful buttons, but where is the button that gets you a life?” The requirement is not just that of functionality, but that of quality, of the relevance in respect to what is lived through. 

            In fact concern for healthy life is predominantly guided by the ultimate answers, the answers hinted at by the teleological goals, at the expense and forgetting of the interval of the in which things happen, and where the quality may only be really achieved. One aims at the ultimate healthy state and at the return to the healthy origins, forgetting though the quality of the process in which this happens. So, is healthy life in the achieved ends or in the process of the struggle in its direction?


2. Usual answers about healthy life aim at a specific to be achieved goal and thus they come in a form of a closed question.

            You wish a healthy life? Then you should change the way you live, so goes the usual prescription. You should stop overeating, get out and have some exercise. The books describing such matters tend to be bestsellers. There are recipes involving healthy food and nutrition. You follow this kitchen regime – green, vegetarian, Mediterranean diet – and this will bring you health. But first you detox by following recommendations in another book. The guidelines are diverse, but in all their variability they tend to furnish definite answers. So the question that you have asked yourself, “What should I do in order to achieve a healthy life?” gets finally a definite answer. Similarly for the abundance of books guiding you towards healthy exercise, such as yoga, Pilates, walking, stretching or Thai chi. They all try to provide diversified answers with one ultimate goal, that of leading you to healthy life. In this sense your inquiry about what to do in order to achieve health receives a closed determined answer.

            But the question itself is closed as well, from the very beginning, just because it basically presupposes that there is such a closed answer.

            Besides to this, there are two important presuppositions operating in the way how the closed question about healthy life is functioning, and how life is functioning from this perspective. If the answer is closed, this is because there is the ultimate goal, the teleological end to the health, and the end to the life: to be calm, to be healthy, not to be ambiguous, and to obtain a stage where tensions and confusing differences are obliterated. The happy end of life is then at the horizon, in its being healthy and promising the ultimately peaceful state. Your specific question about how to lead the healthy life is also aimed at in the direction of origins. The presupposition here is that you resolve your embroiled questions by directing them back to the point of the origin, to the beginning of your voyage, be it your birth or to everything that symbolically happened so that you came into being. You turn back to your ancestry. The healthy life is then assured in the promised happy moment in which the beginning and the end of your itinerary come together. This healthy passing of your life that joins its beginning and end resembles the medical snake biting its own tail. In this manner the straight line of your life bends into a healthy circle. The beginning as return to the origin and the ultimate goal form a closed activity, whose resolution is the aimed-for calm. All is in the goal and the road actually does not matter as measured with to be achieved state of the ultimate health. In the pursuit of healthy life something is left out and forgotten though, namely the quality and relevance of the tightrope journey. This is why the question of healthy life appears as closed in this case.

            Reading magazines, listening to the radio and watching TV, the impression is that all people are engaged into the battle for healthy life. Unhappily, the reality turns out to be quite contrary: all too many folks, on a massive scale, are in a rather distressful state in respect to their own health, and in respect to direction in which they lead their life. Obesity or malnutrition, chronic diseases and epidemics seem to plague humanity on a large scale. The promise of quenching epidemics such as AIDS with administering of drugs that assure the ultimate calm seems to be one of the main issues of modernity. In such a manner the closed question is what one gets almost naturally driven at in one’s approach to the healthy life: drogue, the goal or the end of the itinerary, the return to the origins. All this goes contrary to the open question and to the quality of life that is proper toe each one, not to all. The possible quality of life seems to be in its itinerary only, in the interval of the passage, and this seems to be forgotten under the auspices of the closed question. There seems to be an increasing lack in the society, on a massive scale, of the productive solitude that would open the attention to the poetic word, to arts, taking each encountered element in the direction of quality. This lack of attention to the quality that is proper to each one seems to be correlated with the ultimate goals promised by the closed question. Because of the promised easy answers it is not simple to see the quality. But what if health actually lies in the fragile interval of the life and not in the promised goals of life, in the interval thus and not in its ends or beginnings?


3. Open question and the healthy life

Open question is not usually even tackled, given the automatic appeal of simple line-up or circular direction proposed by the closed question. Yet there is an important and not sufficiently appreciated opus promoting the importance of the kind of relevance proper to the open question which announces itself as the learning according to the cipher. Its author is Armando Verdiglione (2007a, 2007b). His work is not an easy reading, although one can learn to enjoy its style and poetic novelty. One problem is that Verdiglione’s writings are very rich in respect to the covered background matter. In order to understand them properly, an extensive acquaintance with the literature, especially renaissance literature and poetry, various brands of psychoanalysis, philosophy, medicine and lot more is required. And even if one would know all the references, the next difficulty comes from the fact that the opus is written in a non-transparent manner. At the first sight it can strike one as a poetic enterprise, although deeper acquaintance discovers an important underlying structure. And finally a certain difficulty in distribution of the promoted ideas lies in the fact that the work is mostly written just in Italian language.[1]

            The not easy to decipher style may have its reason. It tries to convey the idea that the real relevant questions may not be tackled in the manner of conclusion proceeding in one main final direction. Rather, an opulent and meandering way interspersed with allusions and equivocations will hopefully lead you to seize the desired relevance. A careful reading of a poem might well do the trick. But, how often do most of us take our time to be attentive at the original words and at their intertwining such as it appears in a poem? It seems that the correct answer is: not very often.

            We mostly do not pause from our everyday concerns and take our time to enjoy the quality of life. We tend to be conditioned to aim at the final goals while solving problems with which we find ourselves confronted. Engaged in such a manner, we try to escape meandering, and perhaps also ultimately the sense, provided that an important part of it lies along the winded roads. We try to be efficient and so we aim at our designed goal in an as possible as can be direct manner. In name of a secure life the ultimate direct solution often happens to be death as an end and as the finitude. We then live for the Goal as such and we do not ex-sist in the interval.

            But the relevant matters, our life indeed, happen in the interval. This is the message of the open question. The engagement into our life as an interval brings the health with it, the realization that things do not end but that they get directed towards their quality. Then our doing becomes important, the actual infinity of the passage, and not the far fetched goal in the pursuit of which the vivacity of our activity fades out.

            We will approach the topics of healthy life by presenting some ideas of the particular relevance proceeding according to the open question, as keyed to the opus of Armando Verdiglione. These ideas merit to be presented as alternatives to the usual closed-question approach to the topics. Under the new open question perspective, we will first ask where to search for our health. And then we will also inquire where lays the value or the capital of our life. The presented elements will put a new perspective upon the concept of healthy life. Summary of the books’ chapters will provide information of their main direction and of the style used in them without attempting to do a more profound analysis. Given the novelty of the open question this seems to be the beginning work that one can and needs deliver at this stage.


a. Health and the open question

Where should we search for our health? We already discovered that this is an important issue and that there are appealing answers to it offered by the perspective of what we called the closed question. These answers are appealing because they provide promising ultimate tasks: reaching the end of the journey and joining this end to the beginning. But as it happens to be a fact of simple observation that most of the population could be in better health than it actually is, one may doubt that these easy answers may provide really relevant solutions.

            The open question approach to the issue of health is not at the end and in the beginning of the itinerary, be it conceived as a line with a starting point and with the ending point, or as a circle. It rather portrays health as residing in the interval of the journey. The idea may be illustrated by the Parmenidean parable of two routes, although without any reference to ontology, as Verdiglione says. There is the route of night or of the law. And there is the route of the day or of ethics. Parmenides warns you not to take the route of the night or of appearance, but the route of truth or of the day. The basic idea is thus to take one way or again the other way, and that just one of these paths is the correct one. This is then the closed question approach. But the open question approach does not opt for any of separated and opposed routes as leading to your health. It rather opts for the interval between these two routes. We are talking about a kind of interval that may be called productive indecision, in temporary absence of a better name. The idea is thus that health may be achieved in the interval between the mentioned routes, and not in the decision of taking just one of them, the right one. Health may be achieved through directing attention upon the passage itself, upon its infinite actuality, as opposed to its finite teleology, with its end and its beginnings. This may be illustrated by a larger methodological question about how to approach things: not by going just the one way or the other but by finding the roots of the other path in the first one, in the interval. Here is one illustration from the area of epistemology. Reliabilism may first appear as opposed to evidentialism, and so there seem to be two opposed paths to take, between which to choose. But the attention to the actual broader nature of reliabilism shows that its real nature is evidentialist. (Horgan-Potrè in press) The disjunctive decision for one of the routes turns out to be a dead end. The productive indecision between the two and embracing of the interval between them really turns out to be the healthy solution which brings relevance with itself. In respect to the issue of health this means that you should not follow just the path of the law, of what is universally prescribed. Neither should you follow just the path of the ethics or what diverges from the straight lawful path in your conscience in respect to the observed phenomena. Your health lays between these two paths, in the productive indecision between them. It does not lay in what is to be potentially achieved as the end of the journey (law) or as the returning to the origins (ethics), but in the itinerary between the two, where you do not decide finally for either of them, and where you rather recognize the ethic dimension of the law leading your journey. It lays in the actual infinity of the journey. This means that health is in the interval and not at the ends of a closed journey. The interval succeeds between two roads (night or law road, day or ethics road), and not in decision for one of those roads. What does this mean?

            It means that health is to be searched for in the attention turned upon the passage of each one involved. This is what is meant by the interval, with the openness of the route:


            “the interval, between the route of the law and the route of the ethics”. (Verdiglione 2007 b: 92)


Health is forthcoming if things happen according to the occurrence, in the interval and not in the direction of the ultimate goal:


“the interval, between the register of law and register of ethics. Still the contingency, the encounter, whatever draws attention, whatever happens, the chance. There is no teleology of the chance.” (Verdiglione 2007 b: 129)


This does not mean that there cannot be teleology of the chance, of probability. It does well exist and it thrives well according to the approach of the closed question. But according to the open question, there is no teleology of the chance indeed. Health does not consist in glowing yourself to the ultimate points of the route, but in enjoying the openness of the structured interval. Then you realize that things keep on coming your way, not by necessity but in a contingent manner. Your healthy attitude then consists in encountering them, by being attracted to them. This makes you find your health through the interval. In other words, you get attracted to whatever happens and not by what you expect to happen as the ultimate goal.

            An important clarification is needed here. It is not the case that healthy attitude would consist in abandoning every possible structure. To the contrary, the project and your program about what to do, which direction to take, are important for your health. But this project and program proceed from the open question, from the interval, and not from the ultimate goals prescribed by the closed question.

            One of important things to understand here is that the closed question proceeds from the promised ultimate elimination of any risk. If there is the ultimate teleological goal, then your travel seems to be secured, your health seems to be assured. You take drugs, say, and they will bring you to the last peaceful solution of your health. There is no risk and no open path to follow anymore. But this is exactly the closing of the question, elimination of each entrepreneurial effort. If you travel in the interval, you are subjected to the ultimate risk, but this opens the possibility of your project and program that, according to the open question, brings you with the encounter of what contingently happens, and thereby to the healthy attitude. Health is in the openness of your itinerary, in your productive activity, and not in the closed space where everything seems to be decided and prescribed for you. This is perhaps not easy to understand. The simplest manner to explain it may be by stating that health consists in your active attitude and project of life that leads to the quality of your life. And it does not seem to be a real healthy attitude where everything seems to be predetermined for you.

            In the following, we will briefly comment the chapters of the Our Health (Verdiglione, 2007 b), with the leading idea that health is to be attained through the openness, interval, and its quality, and not through the predetermined route. The healthy attitude to the question of the free will, by the way, is compatibilism, according to the positive indecision approach, but there is no place here to dig deeper into this. Let us turn to the job of providing the taste of chapters now, as promised. No attempt at systematicity will be respected at this preliminary stage whose main goal is to provide some accents in the rich developing approach to healthy life as an open question. Indented words indicate chapters’ titles and each chapter gets its own short paragraph.

            The first chapter of Our Health talks about the openness as the precondition of health, namely about the openness happening despite the teleologically prescribed direction, in all of its tranquility and silent forcein between, still and additionally. (Verdiglione 2007 b: 9). This manner of not sticking to the teleological is the route to health. Another name for the interval is semblance, whatever actually just aims at the teleological end but actually leads to openness: it shows open question embedded into the closed one. Recognition of the teleological end as the semblance appears as an obstacle (10). The journey, labyrinth and paradise, intellectual dimension (11) are thereby opened. In-between: catachresis, the poetry, the structure of the other or the industry. In-between requires the interval, contingency and the occurrence. (18) In this way, things proceed towards openness and quality (20), towards health.

            Once the openness of the healthy attitude is discovered, what a joy! One may then ask oneself when, how and why the road is not a routine (25). The road proceeds from openness (31) and the proof of the truth succeeds on the basis of the contingency, in the manner of how things occur (32).

The risk (37) is the title of the third chapter. There is an absolute risk (42) now as the road is opened, without the guarantee of the ultimate end. There is no program (according to the open question) without the risk. Just law and poetry may show something about the risk (47).

There is no Damocles sword of the ultimate solution anymore if the openness, whatever lives, the livelihood (49) is recognized as the point of departure. Just the original word and its adoption gets then recognized as showing the direction towards health (63).

The road to health is opened to the eye and to the ear that may bring you on the other side of the principle of health (64).

Then you taste the health (77). The health is the instance of quality of life. (85) Health is the fruit of the narrative writing. (87)

Sexuality and finance are linked to health (89), all this to be heard under auspices of the open question. The intellectual life opens, without any turning back. It becomes quality. (100)

Openness and proof (102) become important. Memory and family proceed from openness. Two is original and not one (103), in the sense that things proceed from two, from the interval. (105) This happens without the binary logic (113), thus without the constraint that one needs to take a definite choice between the offered routes. Being in the openness means to reside in the interval.

The lacuna (115), a gap or missing part or any minute cavity, becomes important, a question of health and contributing to it. Program and direction lead to the life without fear. (116) A day becomes a healthy battle (119) without the enemy, towards quality.

The encounter and the profit (128) then come to the fore, in the interval (129). The profit in question is intellectual (136).

Loneliness is the private way to health (138), contrary to the closed question treating of loneliness as a way to disaster and oblivion. The intellectual health as the instance of quality (148) is thereby in the offing.

Healing (149) is then in the process of memory valuation (156), in the structure of the experience (162).

The destiny (164) is the life in its pulsation, becoming something relevant (178).

How to live in the open relevance era: numbers, structures, settings, products, messages (179). Activity along these several dimensions brings health in the open space. The numbers of life are particular matters. Structures are arts and inventions. Pulsating settings are intellectual settings. (181)

The health engagement is then on the winning side, results are qualitative (193) and we are in grip of a healthy life. The result is qualitative: the other life is the life that becomes quality. (202)

The health is thus in the intellectual openness, enabled by the open question and the quality of the particular program to which it leads. We then encounter second renaissance that proceeds from two (233) as a mode of openness. This certainly merits to be further qualified. We think that it is actually a phenomenon going in the direction of the intertwined relevance.

Some feeling of the (Verdiglione 2007 b) book is thereby given, via a short overview of the main matters treated in its chapters. The message is that health is really enabled by the open question. So much about giving a quick taste of health as proposed by (Verdiglione 2007 b).


b. Life and the open question

Where to look for the capital of life? This is the main question that we will tackle now, following the book of the same name, The Capital of Life (Verdiglione 2007 a). Again, one main task is to give a quick taste and impression about what is treated in the book, by highlighting themes appearing in its several chapters.

            The main theme is the intellectual capital of life, bound to the life understood as industrious and entrepreneurial project in the manner of the open question. A main idea is that until we live, we are industrious if the road follows the open question – and this leads to the healthy life. Industry and entrepreneurship are intellectual for the open question approach – as opposed to the closed question approach to the industry that happens without intellectual charge. Industry is to be understood in the sense of renaissance style entrepreneurship.

            The simple answer to the above question about where to look for the capital of life is that the capital of life or the value of life is in the life’s enriching activity. We do not simply deal with the value but with the capital, with something that makes life rich. And this is what it really means to have a life.

The enriching activity of life resides in its quality that is not a single point to be reached but comes in a form of a constant struggle. The struggle aims at the relevance whose name is proposed as the cipher.

The open question approach sees the cipher or the relevance as relevance of the particular: the relevance of life pertains to each one particularly and not to all. There are three dimensions of the cipher. It may be understood as the arithmetic precondition of a series, as the scrambled and to be deciphered message and as the instance that exercises the function of naming things. Life deals with infinite series, under the influence of to be deciphered message, and under conditions set by the law. From the intertwining of these, under the perspective of the open question, comes quality and quality is whatever gets written from the memory.

            The industrious struggle for quality is the struggle for life, following the open question. The life is then not something closed or teleologically determined – the possibility that we have dealt with under the perspective of the closed question. Here is a short informative rendering of the voluminous book The Capital of Life, following the distribution of its chapters. Again, we do not aim at a systematic presentation, but rather at delivering the taste of the book to a prospective reader.

            The first chapter deals with the question of the cipher and with its planetary reality (9). It tells us that the cipher inspired movement began in 1973 as a psychoanalytic enterprise. The important question though is its specificity as against other similar associations of the time. This is the search for relevance according to the irony, to the open question, to the mode of two. (10) The open program pursues quality of life by opposing the closed question. The life is not considered from the point of view of its end (11), the goal that it supposedly follows. The movement proceeds from the openness. (13) It follows the arithmetic or the particularity of life (14), being founded not upon the origin of life, but upon the open word, through which the particularity obtains its value. (15) The intellectual journey qualifies itself. (17) One cannot determinately situate oneself in the word. (22)

            The second chapter deals with sanity and besides to that with health (23) that may be also understood as good taste, opulence and luck. Intellectual instance is a way to approach quality of life. It is also the instance of value and valorization. (30) The intellectual value is the cipher (or open relevance) of the life. The capital of life. The intellectual quality. (31)

            The artbanker (34) is the title of next chapter. The intellectual process is narrative process, where memory is research and action. The intellectual value (37) is aimed at. The artistic path is cultural and intellectual itinerary. (41) The intellectual settings of artbanking recognize the value and industrious nature of life, against its Aristotelian exclusion. (49)

            So we come to the intellectual financing (50). Financial setting is also the setting of writing and of quality. Foundation of life lies in particularity and in its numbers, where numbers are dyadic, so that the enterprise proceeds from openness. (65) Things are produced in the story, in the fabric and in the industry. (63)

            The brainfinancing (66) follows. Intellectual question (67) and open relevance or cipher pulsing (69) are guides to the brain and heart (67). Life is narrative and pulsating. (70) Story, industry and hospitality (74) condition it. The life is then in the journey of intellectual direction. (76)

            A simple matter: how to capitalize the memory (78). Things become clear as they are made and they become simple in this manner. Once as a thing is simple, it writes itself, rejoining conclusion and qualification. Clarity is the property of the story, of the dream and of forgetfulness. (82) The intellectual openness follows the mode of two (85). Things are written as they get told, and thus as they get done. But a thing is simple just because it is told and done. Things are made as they occur, but one needs to tell them in order to do them. The thread and the string of the memory are in the interval, the thread and string of the time. Time is division. (89) Memory becomes capital as it is written. Memory becomes capital as a thing becomes simple, in the interval of life, in the interval between the register of the law and the register of ethics. (90)

            The necessity of chance (92) seems to be a positive indecision title, alluding to the open question strategy, in its own right. So the openness and interval (92) are properly alluded to. The irony is of the mode of two, in a narrative journey. The chance is the property of encounter, and the encounter comes to the fore in narration through an abductive process. The encounter is due to the contingency, to the interval, happening between the paths of law and ethics. (96) Infinity is in the act and therefore the chance is never the same. (99)

            The immunitary setting (105) is intellectual (112) and it happens in the interval (113).

            A question of health (118). It is a matter of the open question or intellectual question, along the narrative itinerary. The health is due to the decision while acting, without explicit choice. (127)  The road is narrow, nobody does whatever one wants to. And each time, living and telling is a question of health. (130)

            Auditory (134). Humility is a disposition to hear things. Hearing requires simplicity. (145) The mission is salutary and it is one of quality. In the intellectual setting we find ourselves in the auditory, in the setting adjusted to hearing, in order to hear and to communicate. With a message. (149)

            Intending, understanding and listening to. (150) It is a matter of the interval (151), between two paths, a matter of the politics of listening. You fight in order to listen and to understand. (154) The path of listening is that of misunderstanding, which is a property of acting. Its art is intelligence, the poetic art. (157) Doubt proceeds from the interval. (160, 162)

            How to read (164)? Between the lines. Whatever is written from the memory is read. A book is read, and so are invention and art, tradition and betrayal of memory are written and read. (169) Reading means valorizing and capitalizing – the memory. (170) Experience consists of conversation, narration and reading settings. (177)

            In the case of value (182). Process of valorization is deciphering in order to attain the intellectual value. And if there is value indeed, memory gets capitalized. (189) How to read one’s own life? The health question is question about the value. The value of itinerary is its cipher. (190)

            The woman question and sexual reasoning. One cannot reach the ultimate sense, because equivocation, cheating and misunderstanding are structural: this is the woman question. (192) It is the question of the structure of the word, of the itinerary, between the walking trail and between the route. (193)

            The future (203). Tale telling introduces the doing. And the time does not end. (210) The opening from two is the cause and condition of the journey. (211) The future is in act, in the writing of things that are being done. (212) The captain is the setting of the battle, of writing and of communication. The future is narrative (213), it is a mode of openness, the irony as an open quest. (214) Roots of life (215) pertain to the open question.

            Revolutionary settings in the matters of economy and of the finance: the intellectual mission of Italy and of Europe. (216) Charter of word and of journey is revolutionary because it is intellectual, the journey towards quality. (222) Jurisprudence, poetry, art and culture, law (216), politics, diplomacy and communication (226) are important here.

            The calculation (27) is the fruit of the chance and not the other way round (242).

            Doubt, faith, truth (245). Two is openness and doubt is its mode (250) from where the intellectual setting proceeds. (251) Faith is in the act. (256) Truth is an effect of the cipher (258) or of the open question relevance.

            Rebus (259), enigma or puzzle. What is there to decipher? Each element of the word becomes an element of valuation (259), in the interval of life (263). Intellectual process profits from being led to the rebus (264), openness, to the cipher of the word. Rebus is between the irony of destiny and chance and between destinies of life. (265) Rebus requires ciphering, quality, writing, trace, it requires a program. (266) Rebus: the life becomes a cipher. (268) Life is written, it qualifies and valorizes itself. (273)

            A rose is not a rose: why the world is sad and why the sentiment of the limit becomes a universal category. (275) This is a chapter dedicated to the poetry, as the counterpoint to the alluded closed question. The interval, openness and the arithmetic of life (290) come to the fore. Arithmetic is understood in the sense of the open question, as opposed to the closed algebraic or geometric calculation, and so is intellectual enterprise (291) as the battle setting (292).

            The charter of modernity (293). Virtue as constitutive of the principle of word, its particularity, journey and cipher (294) start the story. The charter of the word is an intellectual charter, charter of modernity, charter of the arithmetic and of the ciphratics. (296) Modernity is original, the modernity of the word. (300)

            The modern city (308). The capital is the cipher of the city. (316) With the renaissance city leans on the industry as the structure of the other. The setting of the city is that of the industry and of the word. (318) There is no mute and deaf city, the city is intellectual, and in it each one is in the journey of her life. (320) City is an enterprise (321) that writes itself (322).

            Narrative memory is the pleonasm of the life (324). Things are told, they are made and they are written. (328) Memory does not fix or represent; it rather consists in paths and borders. It proceeds from the future as the mode of two, according to the logic of the particular. (329). Memory is conversation and it has to write itself. (330)

            Modern wording is the gerund of life (338). Things that are made are written: this is the poetry as the spoken word. (339) Things are told, made, written, ciphered, qualified. Each element is in the intellectual process, it aims towards quality, in the valorizing process. (349) One needs the other function, not a yes or no reply. How to live? By living: that’s the journey, the written and qualified experience, memory in act, process of valorization. (351)

            The authority and the power (355). The nominating (356) role of the cipher is important here. And the appearance (364), i.e. things that are teleologically directed towards the ultimate end are to be approached from the open question perspective.

            Praise. The gathering according to the arithmetic happens when the poetry rests upon the things that are told. (366) If praise appears in the interval of life, tragedy and comedy disappear. (372)

            Law, ethics and clinic. (376) Things proceed from two and from the interval, but the interval also includes tripartite structure of the sign. (383)

            Device of life. (417) The naming function proceeds from zero, from openness, or from two.

            Ciphering exercise. Ciphering is the science of life or of the original word. (477) There is no territory of the ciphering enterprise and each element in the original word becomes intellectual. (516).

            The science of life (520). The interval (523) is important here. The ciphering enterprise is the science of the second renaissance, the science of the word. (531) The life of science is word without the idea of the origin, the original word. (534) Things that enter into the research and into the acting are told, and they are written in view of their construction. Project and program are important. (536)

            The fear of the future (537). Here we recognize the basics of the closed question. Intellectual voyage, research, enterprise (539) are opposed to them. So is the life or the original word, the word in action. (547)

            Anguish, nightmare, the landing place. (548) This is all opposed to the interval and openness, to the intellectual valuation of each element (550) along the open question journey.

            The taste of hospitality (596). The paradise, garden, the garden of the guest (577). The intellectual and the guest supporting settings (579) are related.

            The installments of the paradise. Acting, selling and writing come together in an intellectual tension and in the conclusion. (584). The garden proceeds from the mode of openness. (586) There is the brain of the paradise, immunity and healing of time, labyrinth and its writing. (593)

            The weaving. Conversation, narration and reading enter into it as three registers of the journey. (595)

            The life’s promissory note. (606) Where is it? In the acting word, in the number and in ciphering of the word. We do not change and neither do we mediate the original: the object, the time, the word and the life. (607)

            The arithmetic of clouds (621). The sky is body and scene, it is two. The cloud is as the original word: the voyage, the rhythm, the scansion. (622) The artistic path and the cultural passage, the intellectual itinerary, proceed from the sky. (626) The clouds and the waves. (633)

            Ciphering the wind (635). Is the captain of the ship the expert of the wind? (643) Operational side is in that the experience gets written, because it proceeds from the openness, following the integration along the triadic logic. (644)

            The absolute badness (645). The good and the bad are oxymoron, the mode of two or of the openness. (657)

            The trans-parents. Who beats the child? (659) The transparent parents avoid the question of the nomination and of the original openness.

            The life is not standard. Or about the indifference in the matter of business. (673) It seems that the valuation and entrepreneurship is essential to the life, to its project and to its health. So the intellectual capital is basic in the journey towards the quality. (676) Openness and health of life are achieved by the rhythm of things that proceed bit by bit. (678)

            So that was a short summary, rather an impression of the (Verdiglione 2007 a) book, following the flow of its chapters. It is to be hoped that even this quick impression reveals the richness of the underlying text. On the one hand paragraphs may be read as so many poems. But one also naturally feels invited to analyze all the concepts in the presented text and to lay down the structure that underlies them. This is unfortunately not possible in this writing that just assumed its task to be a short presentation. Each of the mentioned concepts would itself deserve a chapter where it could be clarified. So the basic question is the message. The novelty of the message, in as far as we are able to find out, is in proposing the open question, as specified above, against the prevalence of the closed question. The closed question could be illustrated by the teleologically directed line or even with a circle. The open question rather resembles a spiral which escapes simple directions and capitalizes on the openness. Health is in the openness indeed, whereas life also needs to have its capital recognized in its entrepreneurial mode, which is denied by the closed question that also avoids the intellectual quality. Healthy life is an open enterprise.


4. Reasons why it is difficult to recognize the open question

One main claim of the healthy life approach is the novelty of the open question. This question is not recognized because of the ubiquitous and prevalent presence of the closed question. The difficulty of the open question recognition is thus in prevalence of the closed question patterns. We may dub the closed question patterns general patterns, and the open question patterns as particular patterns. And indeed Verdiglione many times stresses vicinity of the open question and of the quality and path proper to the particular, to each one and not to all. We may also speak about generalist and particularist relevance that was recognized in the ciphering enterprise.


a. Particular patterns are less readily recognized as relevant as we search for theoretical answers.

Our theories in general aim to obtain general and possibly exceptionless patterns, say general laws or lawful connections, definitions. So many times particularist patterns, such as these are proper to arts, poetry, to the clouds and wind, are not considered to be important or relevant at all. This goes first of all for theoretical enterprise.


b. General patterns offer ready-made answers to the question of relevance.

Besides to this, general patterns seem to offer the easy accessible and ubiquitous answers to the questions of relevance. There is a kind of automatism and certainly absence of the intellectual tension in the answers that are provided by general patterns in the direction of what is relevant.


c. Particular patterns are experientially and phenomenologically recognized as relevant, though.

Although patterns that are typical for the approach of open question are not theoretically and automatically appropriated, they are recognized as relevant in our experience, including the phenomenology of that experience. A poem, a narrative story, a painting are experientially and phenomenologically recognized as leading somewhere. But it is many times difficult or seemingly even impossible to theoretically explicitly recognize what that direction would be. The answer to this important consideration is proposed now by the open question and by its relevance. This is the reason then for the importance of the ciphering enterprise.


d. Summary: generalist and particularist patterns of relevance.

We can summarize the above short presentation in claiming that there are generalist and particularist patterns of relevance, following either the strategy of the closed question or that of the open question.

            Open question, we will recall, however, does not consist in the simple opposition, in exchange of one of the disjunctively proposed paths for another one, the exchange of good or correct path for the bad and the incorrect path that comes opposed to it. Open question requires disciplining of dualities. In order that things would proceed from two and not from one, a special dialectics of open question that joins the interval needs to be followed and respected, and not in an automatic manner as this is often the case for generalist patterns supported approaches in the style of the closed question.


5. Definition of relevance and the open question

In order to tackle the specific dialectic of the just mentioned open question, we will now proceed as follows. We will take the concept of relevance that is central here both for recognizing the open question impact and for the interval guided approach. We will first propose a general definition of relevance that was sketched by Seppo Sajama.[2] Then we will shortly state that this definition is left wanting if we take it to figure as a separate issue, under the closed question aspect. But additionally and importantly, this definition becomes an indispensable ingredient if it is disciplined with the open question and if it comes disciplined with it.


a1. The attempt at the definition of relevance may start with some semantic clarifications. Random House Webster’s College Dictionary says that, if something is relevant, then it “bear[s] upon the matter at hand”. In this way the nature of relevance is tackled. The Finnish language agrees: the synonym of ‘relevantti’ is ‘asiaankuuluva’ [‘asiaan’ = to the matter & ‘kuuluva’ = belonging, pertaining <but also ‘hearable’, which is not a relevant meaning here, despite its originality>]. In Slovene language you have the expression ‘ustrezno’ (‘sittlich’ in German) (say in the sense of relevant opportunities to speak). Here is a provisional definition of relevance:


Relevance is a three-place relation: R (A,B,C) = A is relevant to B in respect to (in relation to) C.

(Cf. resemblance with Pierce’s definition of the sign; this definition is just the first attempt though, and may be improved.)


What can be relevant? If you want to know this you may ask what can be irrelevant.  This is the question about the bearer of relevance. A remark, a proposal are typical examples. For example, an irrelevant remark (or comment) is one that doesn’t hit/fit the question under discussion. A relevant remark is one with potential ability to change the conclusion of the discussion. In short, what is relevant makes a difference; what is irrelevant doesn’t make a difference. What is relevant can change the course (conclusion) of the discussion. Therefore a prime example of relevance will be a speech act (or its content).

            A Platonic dialogue can be seen as a co-operative search for an idea (a meaning, a concept). His Republic is an extended attempt at discovering <’removing the cover of’ [a la Heidegger]> the concept of justice. A Platonic dialogue can thus provide an example of ‘relevance’.

            Thrasymachus’s definition ‘justice = advantage of the stronger’ is rejected on the ground that what is just might be disadvantageous to the stronger. E.g., a stupid tyrant will issue laws that do not maximize his profit/advantage. In short, ‘the advantage of the stronger’ doesn’t belong to the essence of the matter, although it may come quite close to it. (“The advantage of the whole community” comes much closer to the issue at hand, and is, therefore a much more relevant remark than that of Thrasymachus.) There is something relevant and something irrelevant in Thrasymachus’s definition of justice (“justice being in the interest of X” is relevant) (adding “stronger party” does nothing to add to relevance). Something like this might be found at the root of the word ‘relevant’. Conclusions that may be drawn from here are as follows:


(1) Relevance is not a property of a proposition taken in isolation. A proposition might be highly relevant to one discussion but quite irrelevant to another. That is, attributions of relevance are context-dependent.

            (2) Relevance is a matter of more-or-less (degree), not of all-or-nothing.

            (3) Whether a proposition is relevant to a discussion/discourse is something that (often) cannot be seen directly. It may be questioned, argued for and maybe proved. A proposal’s relevance often is not obvious.


The thesis that relevance is a three-place relation can now be cashed in. Thrasymachus’s proposal is relevant to the discussion in respect to justice.


            R (T’s proposal, Discussion, Justice)


Concerning the above attempt on the definition of relevance, we have the following fillers in the just discussed case:


A = proposition/proposal (Thrasymachus’s thesis)

B = the matter at hand (discussion of justice).

C = justice.


            Proposal A is relevant to discussion (B) on justice (C).


This may be taken as the original, “discourse-theoretical” meaning of relevance. It may now be shown that this triadic structure is fundamental to other uses or applications of relevance as well. These uses include perception and the application of general principles to particular cases.


a2. Perception and relevance

A frog visually perceives only what it really needs to perceive, i.e. what is relevant to its survival in some respect.


            R (perceiving moving black spots, frog, survival)


It is especially good in spotting (i) moving (ii) black spots against a light(er) background. But most other aspects of “the” external world escape its visual “awareness”.

“Moving black spots” are reliable signs of “something edible around”. Therefore they are relevant to the frog’s survival. Therefore, it only perceives what is relevant. (A frog interested in non-moving large red and yellow surfaces would die of hunger.)


a3. Principles and relevance

A totally different example of relevance can be found in the application of general principles <’general principle’ is a tautology> to concrete cases <’concrete case’ is a tautology too>. This constitutes one of the central issues of ethics and of the philosophy of law.

For example, it is totally irrelevant whether the suspected murderer wore a green cap or not. The criminal law doesn’t have any special rules for the wearers of green caps. (Yet showing that A wore a green cap can be evidence of A’s guilt.)

            But whether A intended to kill B is highly relevant in deciding whether B’s death is a case of murder or manslaughter or a mere accident.

In applying a principle, a fact may be relevant to the matter at hand, to the conclusion of the “discussion” (in such areas as legal philosophy and ethics).

Both in ethics and in the law we have general rules of the form, principles (cf. Kelsen):


            If condition A, then consequence B.

               (moral, legal)        (moral, legal)


            “Stealing is wrong”. (If this is stealing, it deserves moral blame).


For instance: if you take something that is not given, you deserve moral blame (or you did something wrong). That is a general principle that should be followed in most cases.

            But that principle cannot be followed in all cases. You ought to take boat of your neighbor even without his permission if the boat is the only available means of saving the life of a drowning swimmer in the river. The important question is not whether stealing is wrong, but whether this case of taking someone’s spoon is a case of stealing.

            Ross would put it thus: You have a prima facie duty “not to take what is not given” <a norm of Buddhist ethics, by the way> but in some rather exceptional cases this duty will be cancelled/overridden by some other norms like “Do your utmost to save human life”.

The fact that the drowning person wore a green cap or that he is black is totally irrelevant in this case. But the fact that you would put your own life at a very considerable risk is a very relevant consideration.


b. Questioning the definition

Definition of relevance certainly clarifies things. But it is also not self-sufficient or ultimately undisputable matter, as the last discussed case of interaction between general principles and their specific applications shows. We also remember that definition has the characteristic of being ultimately just a provisional proposal. Compare definition and its applications to the principles and their applications.

            One could then say how it is possible that form the very start there is some intertwining between generalist and particularist relevance, such as it is recognized by Rawls’ method of continuously changing interaction between principles and moral judgments:






In the above definitory approach relevance can be a property of principles (these may be/are linguistic entities). Discussion is the most central case. As the discussion unfolds, judgments concerning particular cases constantly exercise their feedback upon principles. So the above figure of principles/judgments interaction would need to be diachronically extended. One is in constant dynamical search for equilibrium.

            The richness of the situation might come in yet much stronger terms. A known problem for relevance comes in the area of models of mind as the frame problem, or the problem that one cannot find the relevant direction upon the basis of classical computational algorithmic models. A robot with a bomb attached to it whose cognitive resources involve classical algorithm-based calculations will be unable to find a solution to his predicament in a finite time. But we humans often find such solutions. So a conclusion to draw from here is that we humans, in our cognitive quest for relevance, are not guided by algorithmic rules.

            Now consider that definition, such as the above proposed definition of relevance, does provide algorithmic procedure as an answer to the question (the question is “What is relevant?”).

            We do not say that this definitory algorithmic quest is misguided. It should not be discarded from the scene, but disciplined. The other side of definitory quest would be poetic experience, similarly a linguistic engagement, but not in an algorithmic and rather in an a-rhythmic, arithmetic manner. The way to the real relevance is not just in a constant dialectic interaction (as this is proposed by Rawls for the dialectic between principles and judgments), but in the productive interval between the definition and poetic experience. We may think that such a direction can not be reached at all. But in this way, we just embrace the closed question approach. Just to the contrary, the fragile equilibrium between the definitory and poetic engagements is forthcoming any time we reach relevance, and this is what we do in a constant engagement during our lives, which joins their program in the case as they are lived in a healthy manner.


c. Definition is left wanting if taken as a separate issue, under closed question aspect.

We have proposed a definition of relevance and some discussion concerning it. Following our former discussion of cipher relevance we can say that definition itself is an instance of the closed question approach. The idea is that you provide the final, i.e. definitive (algorithmic) solution to your question. But such an approach in the sense of the closed question we have found wanting, if not otherwise then by the ultimately provisional nature of definition.


d. Definition though is a welcome ingredient if it is disciplined through the open question and if it comes as intertwined with it.

            The definition though is a welcome ingredient of an overall approach if it is taken under the aspect of the open question. This simply means that relevance may be itself taken as generalist or again as particularist, but that its adequate determining requires the approach according to the interval between these two paths. Definition disguises itself as a poetic quest. And the answer is in the structure laying in the interval between the definitory and poetic paths.


6. The interval of the healthy life according to the open question: open question provides relevant healthy life by the intertwining and by proceeding from two.

What about the healthy life? It is forthcoming if it proceeds from the interval between the generalist and particularist relevance. Then we obtain the open question relevance. We enjoy the infinity of the moment, our senses follow the quality of art and each thing in our particular journey becomes an intellectual challenge.




Horgan, Terry and Potrè, Matjaž. (In press). “Evidentialist Reliabilism”.

Verdiglione, Armando (2007 a). Il capitale della vita. Spirali: Milano.

Verdiglione, Armando (2007 b). La nostra salute. Spirali: Milano.




[1] A fair enough chunk of Armando Verdiglione’s work is also published in French language, and there are several, mostly shorter, translations in some other languages. He wrote more than thirty books, and edited or published a whole range of books and publications.

                Armando Verdiglione is not the only one engaged into the enterprise which began in the early seventies of the twentieth century, and has continually changed its form of search for what is relevant in pursuit of the open question. The early employed and still persisting term is semblance, which we understand as just apparent but relevant approach to the closed question, in such a manner that it operates as the open question. So, the goal which just seems to be ultimate or final really disguises itself as something happening as one proceeds, as something happening on-the-go. In other words, the goal is not the ultimate goal. Is rather happens as the path unfolds. Whatever actually does might be relevant, and not the ultimate end of it. While pursuing the ultimate end, the actual effort of what one does matters. The goal is thus not the always evading end of the road but the actual infinity of the evolving and richly structured effort.

                The early forms of pursuing the logic of semblance happened in the foreign, French territory, with afflux of many collaborators from the Italian side. Later, the enterprise became mostly Italian, with, however, a perduring presence of international collaborators. The employed idiolect was close to Lacanian psychoanalysis. In last years, Villa Borromeo close to Milano, Italy, became a seat of the ciphermatic enterprise.

[2] The definition of relevance was sketched by Seppo Sajama following a discussion succeeding between him and Matjaž Potrè, on August 10th, 2007, under a mountain in Gorenjska region in Slovenia. The question of relevance also was in their conversation during a week that preceded this event. The sketch of the definition of relevance is shaped here to fit requirements of this paper.