Francesca Brezzi was selected for the 2011 Women Inspiring Europe Calendar.
If ever it were possible to be born a scientist, Francesca Brezzi would be your proof. And if ever a scientist had just the right blend of scepticism and faith, Francesca Brezzi has found it.
From the time that she was a little girl her questioning mind, unquenchable desire to learn and immense thirst for knowledge grew so intense at times that it was exhausting - even for her. Along with a scientist’s natural doubt and scepticism, Brezzi has revealed that she is deeply spiritual, compassionate and of great morality. On top of all that, she has an exceptional ability to express herself – Brezzi brings her most complex thoughts to the point in an instant. She needs one word where others would need many, and despite her fine intellect, Brezzi speaks in a subtle voice, never tempted to provoke her interlocutor.
With her sharp mind and the ability to think beyond boundaries, Brezzi outdid her classmates – and sometimes even her teachers – throughout her education. Often, her thoughts were just too big for others. She did not always gain respect or good grades for her talents, and at times she faced isolation and marginalisation, especially as a girl. It was her parents and two siblings that became her strongest supporters. “My childhood was very happy”, she says. “I remember how much my parents always encouraged me to pursue my studies. They did everything they could for me to realise my ideals.”
After finishing school, Brezzi decided to study the queen and foundation of all science – philosophy – something that might finally sate her hunger for knowledge. “There are many things I could say about why I chose philosophy. But in short, I would say it is the ability to always question yourself, to always be on the search and to be able to always ask yourself questions that make sense.”
Today Brezzi is a Professor for Moral Philosophy and the Philosophy of Differences at the University of Rome. She is one of the most celebrated thinkers in her country and the author of several groundbreaking books.
Scientists are by definition sceptics and Brezzi is just that – reluctant to believe just about anything. However in many respects she does not fit the mould of a typical scientist. Her intellectual journey is never satisfied with the scientific work itself. Rather, she always aims for her research to contribute to the greater good and be of value to many, if not humanity as a whole.
Initially focusing on French Philosophy, she soon dedicated much of her time to the development of moral studies and pioneered new research on the philosophical foundation of human rights.
The idea of introducing the fundamental concept of pluralism into philosophical research itself crept into her mind as she was concentrating on contemporary philosophy. It suddenly became striking to her that among all the great minds and thinkers of our times only a few, if any, were women. But pluralistic thinking and pluralism in the self and mind are at the very heart of modern philosophy. A contradiction, she still believes – and one of the most insightful moments in her rich academic life.
“When I understood that gender is to be considered as an inescapable factor of understanding and that the gender difference which is still considered an accident, actually determines female specificity of thought itself and that diversity is a criterion in reading and interpretation of facts of reality – I believe it revolutionised my whole mindset.”
Following her own scientific revolution, she introduced the Philosophy of Gender and finally “Women’s Studies” at her university. Only then did she come in touch with feminist thinking and threw herself into the research of feminism of both the past and the present. “There are two kinds of feminism; the first was to fight for fundamental rights, to make women equal with men. The second, today, is about stressing the differences between men and women. We are different but we’re equitable.”
For eight years Brezzi, who is married and the mother of a boy and a girl, served as head of the philosophy department. She left the post to dedicate herself more fully to her research.
“I think of myself as very happy and blessed. All the studies, the experiences, wonderful students – both women and men – have helped me grow and become who I am today. Without this circularity of support I would be quite poor spiritually.”
International Editor – auFeminin Group