Alessandro Pizzorno, my beloved teacher from the European University Institute in Florence just died. The world has lost another true intellectual.
In 1992 I sat in his office trying to explain what I wanted to do for my PhD. “Let’s walk,” he said, and we went out into the courtyard of the medieval monastery that is the EUI. We must have walked around it 50 times. Then he suddenly turned to me and said in that distinguished, Milanese, English of his, “It sounds to me like you are working on recognition.” It didn’t now it until then, but it was obvious when he told me. My PhD dealt with recognition.
Professor Pizzorno (I could never quite bring myself to calling him “Sandro”) was an intellectual the way they were made before mass education and Google Scholar. He published some, but not all that much. He was a teacher above all, and a remarkable performer in academic seminars. The joke was that he only used 40% of his brain, but that that was enough. He made minced meat out of rational choice theorists and all pretentious academics. Always courteous of course, but for that reason all the more devastating.
Professor Pizzorno taught me what it is to think and what it is to reason. He has been with me ever since that first day in his office. He is with me when I write and he is with me when I lecture. Although it is well over 20 years ago I can still hear his voice. I hope my students can hear his voice too.