Sunday, May 04, 2008

Kemp, Gary. "Croce's Aesthetics." STANFORD ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PHILOSOPHY May 4, 2008.

The Neapolitan Benedetto Croce (1860–1952) was a dominant figure in the first half of the twentieth century in aesthetics and literary criticism as well as philosophy generally, but his fame did not last, in either Italy or the English speaking world. He did not lack promulgators and willing translators into English; H. Carr was an early example of the former, R. G. Collingwood was both, and D. Ainslie did the latter service for most of Croce's principal works. But his star rapidly declined after the Second World War. Indeed it is hard to find a figure whose reputation has fallen so far and so quickly; the fact is somewhat unfair not least because Collingwood's aesthetics is still studied, when it is mostly borrowed from Croce. The causes are a matter for speculation, but two are likely. First, Croce's general philosophy was very much of the preceding century. As the idealistic and historicist systems of Bradley, Green, and Joachim were in Britain superseded by Russell and Ayer and analytical philosophy, Croce's system was swept away by new ideas on the continent—from Heidegger on the one hand to deconstructionism on the other. Second, Croce's manner of presentation in his famous early works now seems, not to put too fine a point on it, dismissively dogmatic; it is full of the youthful conviction and fury that seldom wears well. On certain key points, opposing positions are characterized as foolish, or as confused expressions of simple truths that only waited upon Croce to articulate properly. Of course, these dismissals carry some weight—Croce's reading is prodigious and there is more insight beneath the words than initially meets the eye—but unless the reader were already convinced that here at last is the truth, their sheer number and vehemence will arouse mistrust. And since the early works, along with his long running editorship of the journal La Critica, rocketed him to such fame and admiration, whereas later years were devoted among other things to battling with while being tolerated by fascists, it's not surprising that he never quite lost this habit. . . . Read the rest here:

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