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Gentile, Giovanni (1875–1944)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-DD022-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved May 21, 2024, from

Article Summary

Best known as the self-styled philosopher of Fascism, Gentile, along with Benedetto Croce, was responsible for the ascendance of Hegelian idealism in Italy during the first half of the twentieth century. His ‘actual’ idealism or ‘actualism’ was a radical attempt to integrate our consciousness of experience with its creation in the ‘pure act of thought’, thereby abolishing the distinction between theory and practice. He held an extreme subjectivist version of idealism, and rejected both empirical and transcendental arguments as forms of ‘realism’ that posited the existence of a reality outside thought.

His thesis developed through a radicalization of Hegel’s critique of Kant that drew on the work of the nineteenth-century Neapolitan Hegelian Bertrando Spaventa. He argued that it represented both the natural conclusion of the whole tradition of Western philosophy, and had a basis in the concrete experience of each individual. He illustrated these arguments in detailed writings on the history of Italian philosophy and the philosophy of education respectively. He joined the Fascist Party in 1923 and thereafter placed his philosophy at the service of the regime. He contended that Fascism was best understood in terms of his reworking of the Hegelian idea of the ethical state, a view that occasionally proved useful for ideological purposes but which had little practical influence.

Citing this article:
Bellamy, Richard. Gentile, Giovanni (1875–1944), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-DD022-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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