Benedetto Croce (essay date 1921)
SOURCE: An introduction to The Reform of Education, by Giovanni Gentile, translated by Dino Bigongiari, Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1922, pp. vii-xi.
[In the following essay, which was published as the Introduction to Gentile's study The Reform of Education, Croce discusses the work he did with Gentile and Gentile's contribution to the field of Italian philosophy.]
The author of this book [The Reform of Education] has been working in the same field with me for over a quarter of a century, ever since the time when we undertook—he a very young man, and I somewhat his senior—to shake Italy out of the doze of naturalism and positivism back to idealistic philosophy; or, as it would be better to say, to philosophy pure and simple, if indeed philosophy is always idealism.
Together we founded a review, the Critica, and kept it going by our contributions; together we edited collections of classical authors; and together we engaged in many lively controversies. And it seems indeed as though we really succeeded in laying hold of and again firmly re-establishing in Italy the tradition of philosophical studies, thus welding a chain which evidently has withstood the strain and destructive fury of the war and its afterclaps.
By this I do not mean to imply that our gradual achievements were the result of a definite preconcerted plan. Our work was the spontaneous consequence of our spontaneous mental development and of the spontaneous agreement of our minds. And therefore this common task, too, gradually becoming differentiated in accordance with the peculiarities of our temperaments, our tendencies, and our attitudes, resulted in a kind of division of labour between us. So that whereas I by preference have devoted my attention to the history of literature, Gentile has dedicated himself more particularly to the history of philosophy and especially of Italian philosophy, not only as a thinker but as a scholar too, and as a philologist. He may be said to have covered the entire field from the Middle Ages to the present time by his works on Scholasticism in Italy, on Bruno, on Telesio, on Renaissance philosophy, on Neapolitan philosophy from Genovesi to Galluppi, on Rosmini, on Gioberti, and on the philosophical writers from 1850 to 1900. And though his comprehensive History of Italian Philosophy, published in parts, is far from being finished, the several sections of it have been elaborated and cast in the various monographs which I have just mentioned.
In addition to this, Gentile has been devoting special attention to religious problems. He took a very important part in the inquiry into and criticism of “modernism,” the hybrid nature of which he laid bare, exposing both the inner...
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