105 Greatest Living Authors Present the World's Best Stories, Humor, Drama, Biography, History, Essays, Poetry

By Whit Burnett | Go to book overview

BENEDETTO CROCE

The soliloquy of Italy's most famous living philosopher was written
January, 1942, and speaks for itself. He placed it at the end of his
latest collected volume of essays and it is a representation of his
consistent and passionate belief in the liberty of the individual.


Soliloquy of an Old Philosopher

ANYONE who like myself was born and grew up in the early years of the unity and liberty of Italy must proclaim in every company and against all opponents, that he knows what it is to have lived the greater and best part of his life in a sublime spiritual atmosphere. He 'knows,' he does not merely 'feel' it; for these words of his are no mere effusion of a nostalgic sentiment for the past, or even an imaginative picture of it, but an affirmation of the very truth. And as an affirmation, in the strict sense, it claims to be distinguished from that sort of utopia projected into the past, which leads men to think that some golden age ever fleeted the time in 'blissful ignorance,' a phrase which is purely nonsensical. At the time of which I speak, as in every other, men lived a human, not a superhuman or heavenly life, a life marred by cares and griefs, sorrows, solitude, despair, sullied by reprehensible deeds. It could not even be called more moral or less moral than the life of earlier or later generations, for morality is an inner energy, whose quality cannot be measured, and whose external manifestations, which alone can be measured, are mere events, and as such neither moral nor immoral. A sophistical trick used to discredit the age of liberalism, and invented by the vulgar for the vulgar, is to air all the dirty linen of this period, the poverty, the blunders, the pride, the scandals, the crimes, of which it may have been guilty, in order to show that it was politically inferior and contemptible; as if a similar collection of anecdotes could not be made, and a similar picture as fairly painted of any other stage or period of history.

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