Italian philosopher. Born 1866 in Pescasseroli in the Abruzzi. Died in Naples/Napoli in 1952.
As a fairly wealthy landowner, Croce lived a life of economic independence. In 1883, on the island of Ischia, Croce and his family fell victim to an earthquake. Both Croce's parents and his sisters died, and Croce himself was buried alive for several hours and badly injured. He went to live in Rome (with his uncle) and studied law. He never took his final exams, and therefore never graduated from the university. Even so, he is one of the most influential Italian philosophers of his time.
In 1910, he was appointed a member for life of the Senate, and he served as Minister of Public Information (education) from 1920 to 1921. Like Giovanni Gentile, Croce belonged to the Italian Neo-Hegelian school, but when Gentile turned to fascism in 1925, Croce broke off their collaboration and friendship of many years. Croce became the leading intellectual anti-fascist, in part via his single-handed publication of the periodical La Critica (1903-1944). During the remainder of Mussolini's time in office, Croce lived a reclusive life. In 1943, following the fall of the fascist government, he became the leader of the Liberal Party and served a brief term as a minister without portfolio. He retired from political life in 1947, establishing the Institute for Historical Studies in his home in Naples, where he later died (November 20, 1952).
Inspired by Vico and Hegel, Croce developed an idealist philosophy of history. In Croce's philosophy, history expresses the actual reality, which is evident in the four basic forms of the human spirit: the aesthetic, the logical (scientific), the economic-political, and the moral. History is not a mere series of events, but the interpretation of the interaction of these basic forms. Croce distinguished between logical (positivist) epistemological process, which makes use of common references, and the far more important intuitive (hermeneutical) epistemological process, which directly addresses the individual, and which therefore is the basis of all epistemology.
Croce's most influential philosophical work was Estetica come scienza dell' espressione e linguistica generale ("Aesthetics as Science of Expression and General Linguistics", 1902). In it, the aesthetic object, the objet d'art, is considered as an ideal which can only be grasped intuitively. Art thereby becomes an expression of the individualised universal, which stretches beyond logical comprehension and physical materialism. With this view of art criticism, Croce was in strong opposition to, and a sharp critic of, Giovanni Morelli, but partially in agreement with Roger Fry's and Henri Focillon's contemporary aesthetics of art. Croce influenced modernist understanding of art well into the time of the American abstract modernist movement.
- Estetica come scienza dell' espressione e linguistica generale (1902, "Aesthetics as Science of Expression and General Linguistics")
- Filosofia come scienza dello spiritu (1902-1917, "Philosophy as Science of the Spirit")
- Breviario di estetica (1913, "Breviary of Aesthetics")
- Teoria e storia della storiografica (1917, "History: Its Theory and Practice")
- Etica e politica (1931, "Ethics and Politics")
- Filosofia, poesia, storia (1951, "Philosophy, Poetry, History")