- Gentile, Giovanni
- (1875–1944)Italian philosopher. Born in Sicily, Gentile followed a career in education before becoming professor of history of philosophy at Palermo in 1906. He taught at Pisa, was Minister of Education in Mussolini's government in 1922, and in 1924 became first President of the National Fascist Institute of Culture. His support for both Italian and later German fascism led to his assassination by Italian communist partisans towards the end of the Second World War. Philosophically he is now identified with the ‘theory of the spirit as pure act’ (sometimes called actual idealism, or actualism), a form of idealism with historical antecedents in both Berkeley and Kant . Gentile, however, was not content with an unanalysed basis for knowledge in experience or sensation, but conceived of sensation in terms of an act of self-constitution or self-affirmation. This act is at the same time a discovery of the self as participant in a language and in a social world defined through norms and values. The social aspect of Gentile's thought too easily became part of an apologia for the organic state of fascism, but cleansed of this association, for instance in the hands of followers such as Collingwood, it represents a valuable insistence on the place of language and communication in the constitution of our identity as thinking persons. In Italy, Gentile's actual idealism was influential at least in spirit on both Christian and left-wing thinkers.
Philosophy dictionary. Academic. 2011.