History and Liberty: The Historical Writings of Benedetto Croce

History and Liberty: The Historical Writings of Benedetto Croce

History and Liberty: The Historical Writings of Benedetto Croce

History and Liberty: The Historical Writings of Benedetto Croce

Excerpt

The thought and achievement of Benedetto Croce surely need no introduction in the English-speaking world. During the past half-century his fame and reputation have spread, quite literally, to the farthest reaches of the world. Translations of his writings and discussion of his ideas are to be found, not only in the principal, and even the lesser, languages of Europe, but in the tongues of the Middle and Far East, in Russian and in Japanese. Greater testimony to the universal resonance of his ideas could scarcely be asked. The English-speaking world, however, anticipated all others --even Germany, from which he drew so much inspiration--in appreciation of this universal relevance of his thought. His impress, moreover, was not only early, but deep. Certain of his ideas have entered into the permanent intellectual patrimony of English-speaking culture. That expressionism is now the point of departure of aesthetic theory, in England and America, as well as in Italy, is principally the effect of that impress. To speak of an introduction would, consequently, be both anachronistic and superfluous.

There would, however, seem to be ample occasion for, and fruit to be hoped from, a discussion of Croce's historical writings. This persuasion has its roots in a variety of reasons, both immanent to these works and circumstantial to the mutual receptivity between continental and English-speaking culture. A fresh interest in, and appreciation of, the problems of history, both as the theory of historical process and as historiography, has become one of the marked characteristics of twentieth-century thought. In general, the source of this interest is humanistic and stems from a diffidence toward the human potential of a science unguided by human sympathy and ethical insight. This interest has been felt with special force in the English-speaking world, in which both humanism and scientism have profound attachments. It has received its most vigorous logical development, however, in Italy, precisely in the historiographic practice of Croce. As in the case of aesthetics, a profound community reveals itself between the preoccupations of the two cultural . . .

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