Loving openness towards Nature: Aldo Capitini and the moral value of biophilia

  • Gabriella Falcicchio Dipartimento di Scienze della Formazione, Psicologia, Comunicazione, Università degli Studi di Bari "Aldo Moro"
  • Giuseppe Barbiero Laboratorio di Ecologia Affettiva, Dipartimento di Scienze Umane e Sociali, Università della Valle d’Aosta; Centro interuniversitario IRIS – Istituto Ricerche Interdisciplinari sulla Sostenibilità, Università degli Studi di Torino


Can the loving openness of human beings lead to “the liberation of qualities in animals that would otherwise remain hidden?” This observation made in 1959 by Aldo Capitini, the Italian philosopher and promoter of nonviolent theory and action, not only poses a question relative to neo-Darwinism, but it also offers a new and radical perspective on human evolution, bringing to the fore the moral value of biophilia. According to Stephen Kellert (1996), the relationship between Man and Nature comprises of nine basic values, and together they constitute the biological tendency of Man to affiliate himself with the natural world. The expression of these values has proved to be adaptive over the course of human evolution, developing into genetic inclinations over time. They include the moral value of ‘biophilia’, which concerns Humanity’s ethical and spiritual affinity towards Nature. On the one hand, the formation of a ‘biophilic ethics’ enhances the inclination of Man to protect Nature; on the other hand, it entails the search for underlying meanings in Nature. Aldo Capitini was extremely concerned about the moral value of Nature, revealing very early on a biophilic sensibility that, he believed, fuelled his motivation to promote nonviolence and, at the same time, generated new and profound sentiments towards living creatures. Indeed, the above-mentioned observation by Capitini recalls the unity of all “beings that form life”, each one of which was intended to be treated ethically and to participate actively in a relationship of openness towards the ‘thou’ in everybody. He considered it a human responsibility to engage in joyous friendships with all living beings, an approach which led him to vegetarianism – a liberating act for those who practice it, because it opens up unexpected horizons for Man’s complex association with Nature, opening the way to true ‘Compresence’, that offers insights to achieve new visions for sustainability.
Original Papers