Giovanni Gentile Criticism - Essay

Benedetto Croce (essay date 1921)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 1151 words.)

Romolo Murri (essay date 1921)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Religion & Idealism, as Presented by Giovanni Gentile,” in The Hibbert Journal, Vol. XIX, No. 2, January, 1921, pp. 249-62.

[In the following essay, Murri discusses Gentile's ideas about religion in modern Italy as outlined in his Discorsi di religione.]

The great modern nationalities sprang up, in the course of the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries, out of a religious revolution. But Italy's religious revolution is yet to come; and attention to this fact will go far towards explaining the vacillations, the weaknesses, and the internal contradictions that afflict her and so strangely encumber her path.

There is more. Throughout...

(The entire section is 6059 words.)

A. C. Garnett (essay date 1926)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Modern Thinkers III: Giovanni Gentile,” in The Australian Journal of Psychology and Philosophy, Vol. IV, No. 1, March, 1926, pp. 8-17.

[In the following essay, Garnett explains and analyzes major ideas in The Theory of Mind as Pure Act.]

In The Theory of Mind as Pure Act Gentile has rendered the student of philosophy the valuable service of setting out in comparatively brief form a reasoned statement of his mature philosophical thinking. It is not an easy work to read, for the author has packed into it in concise form the thought of many years, and he revels in brilliant paradoxes which are intensely stimulating, but the meaning of which is not...

(The entire section is 4706 words.)

W. G. de Burgh (essay date 1929)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Gentile's Philosophy of the Spirit,” in Journal of Philosophical Studies, Vol. IV, No. 13, January, 1929, pp. 3-22.

[In the following essay, de Burgh examines Gentile's theory of Actual Idealism.]


Gentile's philosophy merits the attention of every serious thinker, for it presents the doctrine that reality is spiritual in a more uncompromising form than is to be found elsewhere, and claims to solve on this principle all the great problems that have beset the history of metaphysic. His own name for it is Absolute or Actual Idealism (Idealismo assoluto or attuale). For Gentile, nothing is real but the Spirit, and by...

(The entire section is 9721 words.)

Valmai Burdwood Evans (essay date 1930)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Philosophy of Giovanni Gentile,” in The Personalist, Vol. XI, No. 3, July, 1930, pp. 185-92.

[In the following essay, Evans presents an overview of Gentile's philosophical system.]

Philosophy should yield a concrete notion of the meaning of reality. This is the aim of Gentile. His philosophy, he tells us, is actual idealism, for it considers the absolute idea to be an act; or equally well it may be described as an absolute spiritualism, for only if the idea is act is all reality spirit. He sets out from the identification of the Hegelian Becoming with the act of thought, for Becoming and not Being is Hegel's first concrete logical...

(The entire section is 2811 words.)

George de Santillana (essay date 1938)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Idealism of Giovanni Gentile,” in ISIS, Vol. XXIX, No. 79, November, 1938, pp. 366-76.

[In the following essay, de Santillana contrasts the thinking of “scientific philosophers” with Gentile's actualist idealism.]

Whatever we do know about the ways of knowing, and whatever clarification the scientific philosophers may have reached in their endeavors, one thing seems fairly certain, i. e. that common sense goes on being at a discount. Theoretical physics in the past thirty years has done much to discourage the simple-minded type of scientist who approached theory in the state of mind of the gadgeteer. A recent attempt at rigorous thinking—we refer...

(The entire section is 4153 words.)

Giovanni Gullace (essay date 1957)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Gentile Versus Croce: A Comparison of Two Rival Aesthetic Systems,” in Symposium, Vol. XI, No. 1, Spring, 1957, pp. 75-91.

[In the following essay, Gullace contrasts the aesthetic theories of Benedetto Croce with those of Gentile in his La filosofia dell'arte.]

Gentile's name has been completely neglected in this post-war period, for reasons not hard to fathom. But whatever the sentiments or resentment toward Fascism's official philosopher, his vigorous contribution to the development of Italian thought in the past fifty years cannot be ignored. If Croce has dominated the Italian cultural scene since the turn of the century, Gentile has stood a close...

(The entire section is 7574 words.)

Merle E. Brown (essay date 1970)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Respice Finem: The Literary Criticism of Giovanni Gentile,” in Italica, Vol. 47, No. 1, Spring, 1970, pp. 3-27.

[In the following essay, Brown discusses Gentile's literary essays analyzing the poetry of Dante and Leopardi.]


If the primary purpose of literary criticism is to convey a sense of the unique individuality of a poet and his poems, as most Italian critics since Francesco De Sanctis have believed, then Giovanni Gentile is a much finer critic than has yet been recognized. Although Gentile's main interests, from the turn of the century until his death in 1944, were in philosophy and educational reform, he also wrote a...

(The entire section is 9236 words.)

Ernesto G. Caserta (essay date 1974)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Gentile's Educational Theory: A Revaluation,” in Italian Quarterly, Vol. XVIII, No. 70, Fall, 1974, pp. 20-36.

[In the following essay, Caserta posits that Gentile's educational theories were based in spiritualism and argues that they continue to be relevant.]

The educational theory of Giovanni Gentile1 was born of a strong faith in man and felt with the force of a religion, a mission aiming to accomplish the regeneration of the Italian people and of the whole of mankind. School was thought to be a sacred temple where souls are made, the entire world a place of soul-making. The teacher, in fact, was often exhorted to become the new apostle, the...

(The entire section is 5659 words.)

Richard Bellamy (essay date 1987)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Giovanni Gentile,” in Modern Italian Social Theory: Ideology and Politics from Pareto to the Present, Polity Press, 1987, pp. 100-14.

[In the following essay, Bellamy questions whether or not Gentile's concept of actual idealism always leads to fascism.]

Giovanni Gentile was born at Castelvetrano in Sicily on 30 May 1875, and assassinated by communist partisans on 15 April 1944. Best known as the philosopher of fascism, he was as important as Croce, with whom he collaborated until 1924, in reviving the idealist tradition in Italy. In some respects his influence was greater than Croce's, since his university position gave him more opportunities for building...

(The entire section is 7402 words.)

Darrow Schechter (essay date 1990)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Gramsci, Gentile and the Theory of the Ethical State in Italy, 1918-1920,” in Italian Quarterly, Vol. XXXI, Nos. 119-120, Winter-Spring, 1990, pp. 43-56.

[In the following essay, Schechter discusses the political philosophies of Gentile and Gramsci, finding that “the desire to unite the state and the civil society” links the two.]

Modern political philosophy has sought to deal with the relation between freedom and authority by invoking a range of concepts to explain how individuals might pursue their extremely diverse interests without at the same time undermining the presuppositions that make living together in society possible. The foundation which...

(The entire section is 7606 words.)