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Holding It Together: Eugenio Garin

Holding It Together: Eugenio Garin

Chapter Four (p.228) Holding It Together: Eugenio Garin
The Other Renaissance
Rocco Rubini
University of Chicago Press

This chapter reviews and contextualizes the early career of Eugenio Garin (1909-2004), who, alongside Hans Baron and Paul Oskar Kristeller, is considered one of the foremost Renaissance scholars of his generation. It tells the story of Garin’s irenic efforts to reconcile the rift in the Italian academy between Gentile’s brand of idealism (philosophy) and the Italian positivistic school (philology) during the Fascist ventennio. As Garin himself suggested, his early scholarship can be read as an exercise in “honest dissimulation,” aspiring, that is, to a covert critique, political and intellectual, of interwar Italy. This trend is visible in Garin’s scholarship in his groundbreaking works on Pico (1937) and the British Enlightenment (1941), and, most famously, in his interpretation of the Renaissance in Italian Humanism (1947), a work originally commissioned by Ernesto Grassi to support the “existential humanism” he was promoting in Germany with the approval (or so he thought) of Heidegger. In this chapter, moreover, Garin’s career provides the context for defining Hans Baron’s interpretation of Quattrocento humanism as a “civic” movement and for reconnecting estranged but strikingly similar philosophers like Gentile and Ernst Cassirer, as well as for understanding the postwar interest in Antonio Gramsci, of whom Garin was an early and enthusiastic reader.

Keywords:   Hans Baron, Ernst Cassirer, Enlightenment, existentialism, Giovanni Gentile, honest dissimulation, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, positivism, Antonio Gramsci

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