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Averting the End of Tradition: Ernesto Grassi

Averting the End of Tradition: Ernesto Grassi

Chapter Three (p.170) Averting the End of Tradition: Ernesto Grassi
The Other Renaissance
Rocco Rubini
University of Chicago Press

This chapter reviews and contextualizes the early career of Ernesto Grassi (1902-1991), a longtime associate of Heidegger who, in the interwar period, was self-consciously dedicated to fostering a dialogue between Italian idealist philosophy and German existentialism. Central to Grassi’s mission was the reevaluation of Renaissance humanism as an original and heretofore unheeded movement of philosophical and not just literary or historical import. Grassi reconnected Italian Renaissance humanism to the intrinsic “dialogism” he, in cooperation with Hans-Georg Gadamer, was among the first to identify in Plato by applying Heideggerian hermeneutics to ancient sources. At the same time he reconnected Italian Renaissance humanism to the philosophical philology of Vico, Nietzsche, and Heidegger. This chapter sheds new light on the circumstances that led to the publication, entrusted to Grassi himself, of Heidegger’s “Letter on ’Humanism’” (1947), a text usually read as a response to Sartre, one that would prove instrumental, in its French reception, to the emergence of “antihumanism” (and subsequently our “postmodern” consciousness). This text, however, was also the product of a longer history and a wider conversation, a conversation that Grassi encouraged between the interpretive approaches of his mentor and others (Stefan George, Werner Jaeger, etc.) in the German academy with regard to ancient sources.

Keywords:   Hans-Georg Gadamer, Stefan George, Ernesto Grassi, Martin Heidegger, hermeneutics, Werner Jaeger, antihumanism, Friedrich Nietzsche, Plato, philology

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