Benedetto Croce

(1866—1952) Italian philosopher and politician

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Italian idealist philosopher and the leading Italian intellectual of his day.

He was born in Percasseroli, the son of a rich landowner, and lost his parents in an earthquake in 1883. Educated at the University of Rome, Croce spent the rest of his life, mainly in Naples, working as an independent scholar. He published about seventy books and in a review, Critica, which he founded and edited for forty years, he attempted to revitalize Italian thought and to restore it to the mainstream of European philosophy. Croce was also active politically, serving as minister of education (1920–21) and senator in the Italian government. Initially he was sympathetic to Mussolini but after 1925, with the collapse of parliamentary rule in Italy, Croce withdrew his support and began to organize the intellectual opposition against him. See Gentile, Giovanni.

Croce presented his system in his major work, Filosofia dello spirito (4 vols, 1902–17). The various volumes have been translated into English as Aesthetic (1909), Logic (1917), Philosophy of the Practical (1915), and Theory and History of Historiography (1921). Reality, Croce argued, was spirit, and whatever could not be found in the mind or its activity must therefore be fictitious. Mental activity could be either theoretical or practical. Theoretical activity was either conceptual (studied by logic) or intuitive (the study of aesthetics). Practical activity could be concerned with the particular (the domain of economics) or the universal (the ethical domain). Philosophy itself, for Croce, could only be a description of the principles observed by the mind as it operated within the four already identified levels. How the mind actually works is the province of history; the principles that govern its operation must therefore belong to the philosophy of history. Consequently, for Croce, philosophy could only the methodological study of history.

Subjects: Literature.

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