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Giovanni Gentile

(1875—1944)


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(1875–1944)

Italian idealist philosopher, supporter of Mussolini and proponent of the philosophy of ‘actualism’.

Gentile was born in Sicily and held academic appointments at the universities of Palermo, Pisa, and Rome. A supporter of fascism, he served as minister of education (1922–24) under Mussolini and as president of the Fascist Institute of Culture. Between 1929 and 1937 Gentile held the demanding post of director of the 35-volume Enciclopedia italiana. He was assassinated in Florence at the hands of the partisans after Mussolini's overthrow.

Benedetto Croce, the leading Italian philosopher of Gentile's day, had distinguished between theoretical and practical activities of the mind. In his most important work, Teoria generale dello spirito come atto puro (1916; translated as The Theory of Mind as Pure Act, 1922), Gentile rejected Croce's distinction and argued instead that only the pure act of thought was real. Nature itself thus became what was thought. Any other approach, Gentile argued, would lead to the conclusion that nature must remain something forever unknown.

Subjects: Philosophy.


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