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Philosophy and Revolution: Italian Vichianism and the ‘Renaissance Shame’

Philosophy and Revolution: Italian Vichianism and the ‘Renaissance Shame’

Chapter One (p.30) Philosophy and Revolution: Italian Vichianism and the ‘Renaissance Shame’
The Other Renaissance
Rocco Rubini
University of Chicago Press

This chapter narrates the emergence of a self-consciously construed Italian philosophical tradition from the time of the Risorgimento, the nineteenth-century political and cultural unification movement, to the early twentieth century. Among the protagonists of this transgenerational conversation are: Vincenzo Cuoco (1770-1823), who was the first to turn to the philosophy of Giambattista Vico programmatically in reaction to the French Revolution; Vincenzo Gioberti (1801-1852), the champion of Italy’s intellectual and cultural “primato” (or preeminence) and of a renewed political Guelphism; Bertrando Spaventa (1817-1883) and Francesco De Sanctis (1817-1883), who together introduced and “naturalized” Hegel in Italy; and their self-avowed heirs, Benedetto Croce (1866-1952) and Giovanni Gentile (1875-1944), the sponsors and guardians of the so-called idealist “hegemony.” Through a parallel investigation of these thinkers’ work, this chapter shows Italian philosophy to be a Vichianism, that is, an enduring application of Vico’s humanism as it sustains the Italian modern or Risorgimento intellectual’s self-defining confrontation with his Renaissance prototype. Indeed, this chapter argues that Italian intellectual identity (or lack thereof) was founded on a Renaissance “shame,” the Renaissance moment, with its enduring political failures, being the specter that Italy must chase out in order to achieve the “modernity” it heralded but never itself enjoyed.

Keywords:   Vincenzo Cuoco, Benedetto Croce, Francesco De Sanctis, Giovanni Gentile, Vincenzo Gioberti, idealism, Risorgimento, Bertrando Spaventa, Giambattista Vico, primato

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