Arturo Ardao is a major scholar of the history of ideas in Latin America. His early work dealt with the opposition between positivism and spiritualism in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Ardao is a leading scholar on the work of Uruguay's most prominent twentieth-century philosopher, Carlos Vaz Ferreira, as well as on other influential Latin American thinkers.
Italian. b: 28 January 1928, Casteldione, Cremona, Italy, d: 15 September 1920, Mantua. Cat: Positivist. Appts: Professor of the History of Philosophy, Padua, 1881-1909.
After studying classics Ardigò entered the priesthood and taught philosophy at Mantua. Following a long crisis of faith his thinking took a positivistic turn, rejecting every form of transcendence, and he left the priesthood. In the heyday of late nineteenth-century positivism Ardigò was its chief representative in Italy, his thought contrasting, however, with such positivists as Spencer. Spencer argued that philosophy does not have its own subject matter but is reducible to the particular sciences. Ardigò thought that philosophy was not merely the collection of these sciences. It was, first, the special disciplines concerned with the phenomena of thought (including logic and ethics). It is also 'peratology', the study of the indistinct which lies outside the subject matter of science, the distinct. Ardigò also used the notion of the indistinct to rework Spencer's evolutionism, claiming that the formation of everything, from the solar system downwards, is a journey from the indistinct to the distinct. The distinct and finite never exhausts the infinitude of the indistinct. Evolution is endless. Ardigò, like many positivists, was sceptical about free will. He wished, however, to mitigate the determinism of many positivists, and believed in a degree of unpredictable chance in sequences of events. The self and natural things are syntheses of sensations and differ only in the nature of the synthesis (a view later to be found in Mach). Human freedom, therefore, is an effect of the unpredictability of sequences that constitute our psychic lives. Ardigò's moral philosophy, fiercely critical of religious and rationalist ethics, has-like that of Comte and Spencer-a sociological basis. Society, through judicial norms and sanctions, causally produces the altruistic sentiment of moral obligation and an ever growing hope for justice that far exceeds its causal origins.