Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
At the turn of the century, two philosophers and public intellectuals in Italy, Benedetto Croce and Giovanni Gentile were rising up as the leading thinkers of a uniquely Italian school of philosophical Idealism that sought to expand upon and move beyond the Absolute Idealism of G.W.F. Hegel – each attempting on their own terms to develop a monistic system of metaphysics arguing that all of existence – that is, reality, actions, thoughts, past, present, and future – is contained within the Idealist notion of the Spirit. The end results were of different uses – Croce developed the radical understanding of historicism at the base of this metaphysical argument, but Gentile was ultimately more successful at using that historicism to develop a unique monist theory of action, which he called Actual Idealism.
These developments, the heights of their intellectual and political lives, coincided, however, with the development of Fascism. Starting first with the question of Italy’s intervention in the Great War, the very beginning of a break begins to become visible between the two thinkers, just as the first glimpse of the forces that would come together over the next decade to form the Fascist movement are witnessed too. As the rise of Fascism is traced throughout, leading up to the March on Rome and culminating in the assassination of Giacomo Matteotti, the two philosophers and their increasingly divergent Idealisms come to be separated. Croce became perhaps the most significant anti-Fascist intellectual, while Gentile joined Mussolini’s government and became “the Philosopher of Fascism. Ultimately it came down to a division between Croce’s commitment to pragmatism and Gentile’s will to radicalism.
Mattes, Thomas G., "Croce, Gentile, and the Question of Fascism: Divergences in Italian Idealism, 1815-1925" (2015). Honors Theses. 133.