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Croce on History

Aesthetic Defiguring

Massimo Verdicchio

The book is the first critical reading of all the major writings on history by Benedetto Croce. The study is not a summary but a critical assessment based on the relevance of Croce’s aesthetics for his concept of history. This account differs from previous studies which are characterized by the excluding or by minimizing the aesthetic, a process the author calls “defiguring.” Within this framework Croce’s concept of history is not a total philosophy but only an allegory of history: a narrative of the impossibility of history. In other words, Croce’s history is not unlike his definition of Hegel’s Phenomenology or his system as fiction. It is also not unlike Vico’s New Science, the other major influence on Croce’s concept of history, as an imaginative science. This study realigns Croce’s concept of history with Hegel’s and Vico’s to redefine, thanks to Croce, how we understand history.
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Acknowledgments

Extract

This study is based on three lectures on “Croce e la Storia” I gave at the Istituto Italiano per gli Studi Filosofici, September 22, 23, and 24, 2009, in Naples. I would like to thank the Institute and its director, Professor Antonio Gargano, and Professor Ernesto Paolozzi, who kindly introduced the lectures, for the opportunity to test my ideas, which have taken me eleven years to develop and put in writing.

I would like to thank all the scholars who have written on Croce’s concept of history and his philosophy, whose work has inspired me, if not directly, then indirectly. I also want to make known my life-long appreciation for the philosophy of Benedetto Croce, whose work I first came to know when I was gifted a copy of his Storia della letteratura italiana as an undergraduate in Italian at the University of British Columbia. It is my hope that with this work I have repaid in part the trust placed in me then, and that it may serve as stimulus for a continued interest in Croce’s work. I also like to express my gratitude to my teacher Paul de Man, whose studies on Hegel have been valuable to negotiate the difficult path from history to philosophy. I also would like to thank the anonymous reader of the manuscript who made valuable suggestions which have greatly improved it. My gratitude also goes to Cindy Chopoidalo, who edited the book into an intelligible and acceptable format. Needless to say,...

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