Sergio Franzese

photo neededIn existographies, Sergio Franzese (1963-2010) (CR:2) was an Italian moral philosopher noted, in human thermodynamics, for his 2008 work on William James’ energy-based ethical views.

In 2008, Franzese, in his The Ethics of Energy: William James’ Moral Philosophy in Focus, recounted American psychologist-philosopher William James’ ethical view arising out of a valorization of the energy theories of his day, e.g. reserve energy, in the context of the growing, then perceived, counter tendency of Darwinism framed against what Franzese calls the “pessimistic ideologies of social entropy.” On the basis of James’ notion of philosophical anthropology hinged on the primacy of action, Franzese upgrades this with the modern notion that human activity needs to be understood in relation to energy as the fabric of the universe, pervading the whole spectrum of being in a continuum in which, as Franzese puts it, “humanity and divinity are intertwined”. [2]

The last pages of Franzese’s book, of note, are all filled with tributes to god, e.g. “god full exists and the energy human beings draw from their religious experience of the divine is real”, and ends with mention to Balfour Stewart and Peter Tait’s unseen universe model. This ending on tributes to god, may have resulted, similar to James Maxwell and his last dying poem "A Paradoxical Ode", possibly knowing he was on his last legs, finished two years before his termination from cancer, and needed to make some kind of last statement on his religious views, appeasement, or something to this effect. Religious digressions aside, the meat of the book seems to have value.


Sergio was one of the most active William James scholars in Europe, which guided both his incursions into the work of Nietzsche as well as the examinations of the conversations between pragmatism, Darwinism and phenomenology. He obtained a PhD in philosophy from the University of Pisa and one from Vanderbilt University. [2]

Franzese was assistant professor of history of philosophy at the Department of Social Science and Communication at Università del Salento (Lecce – Italy). He is the author of L’uomo indeterminato. Saggio su William James (Roma: D’Anselmi, 2000), the editor of Nietsche e l’America (Pisa: ETS, 2005) and the co-editor of Fringes of Religious Experience (Frankfurt a. M.: Ontos Verlag, 2007).

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The following are quotes by Franzese:

Thermodynamics, like Darwinism, became a reservoir of metaphors and arguments that were transposed from physics to social thought so that, to the same extent it is possible to speak of a social Darwinism, it is possible to speak of a ‘social thermodynamics’ as well. By the same token, the ideology of thermodynamics becomes mythopoieic, and the term ‘energy’ is borrowed from its scientific context to be turned into a mythical notion able to explain everything without any single counterfactual evidence. Thus, thermodynamics is interpreted — for example in Henry Adams [1910] and Gustave le Bon [1895] (ΡΊ) — as a philosophy of history and as an explanation for the increasing disorder of society.”
— Sergio Franzese (2008), The Ethics of Energy (pgs. 156-57)

1. Franzese, Sergio. (2008). The Ethics of Energy: William James’ Moral Philosophy in Focus (social thermodynamics, pg. 157; thermodynamics, 12+ pgs.). Ontos Verlag.
2. (a) Sergio Franzese (1963-2010) –
(b) Marchetti, Sarin. (2010). “Sergio Franzese (1963-2010): reader of James”, European Journal of Pragmatism and American Philosophy, II(2): 225-29.

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