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The (Re)Generation of Italian Thought: The Interwar Period

The (Re)Generation of Italian Thought: The Interwar Period

Chapter Two (p.112) The (Re)Generation of Italian Thought: The Interwar Period
The Other Renaissance
Rocco Rubini
University of Chicago Press

This chapter addresses the demise of Giovanni Gentile’s scholarly and philosophical influence during the interwar period. It recounts how Gentile’s stance and agenda came under attack, from the Catholic quarter, where his archenemy, Agostino Gemelli, sponsored a Neothomism and thus a renewed medievalism, countering the modern mainstream, and also from within, as some of his former students, in line with European concerns, vociferously called for the “problematization” of Gentile’s actual idealism and the philosophical task tout-court. At the same time, this chapter examines the concerted, indeed, collaborative efforts of a younger generation of existentialists who, relying on smuggled French and German sources, succeeded in definitely overcoming, in critical assimilation, the “hegemony” of Italian idealism. Notable among the latter group of young thinkers given to the “deprovincialization” of Italian philosophy are Enrico Castelli (1900-1977), who, inspired by Maurice Blondel, sponsored a Catholic existentialism and, more influentially, Nicola Abbagnano (1901-1990), who, through a newly discovered Heidegger, came to conceive of a distinctively Italian existentialism that would be “positive,” “constructive,” and “civic” as opposed to defeatist and solipsistic. The chapter makes the case that only with this philosophical background in mind can some of the most influential interpretive paradigms in postwar Renaissance scholarship be fully grasped.

Keywords:   Nicola Abbagnano, actual idealism, Enrico Castelli, fascism, positive existentialism, Agostino Gemelli, Giovanni Gentile, Neothomism, problematicism, deprovincialization

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