At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

30 May 2017

Giovanni Gentile – philosopher

The principal intellectual spokesman for fascism

Giovanni Gentile wrote part of The Doctrine of Fascism for Benito Mussolini
Giovanni Gentile wrote part of The Doctrine
of Fascism for Benito Mussolini
Giovanni Gentile, a major figure in Italian idealist philosophy, was born on this day in 1875 in Castelvetrano in Sicily.

Known as ‘the philosopher of Fascism’, Gentile was the ghostwriter of part of Benito Mussolini’s The Doctrine of Fascism in 1932. His own ‘actual idealism’ was strongly influenced by the German philosopher, Georg Hegel.

Gentile's rejection of individualism and acceptance of collectivism helped him justify the totalitarian element of Fascism.

After a series of university appointments, Gentile became professor of the history of philosophy at the University of Rome in 1917.

While writing The Philosophy of Marx – La filosophia di Marx – a Hegelian examination of Karl Marx’s ideas, he met writer and philosopher Benedetto Croce. The two men became friends and co-editors of the periodical La Critica until 1924, when a lasting disagreement occurred over Gentile’s embrace of Fascism.

Gentile was Minister of Education in the Fascist government of Italy from October 1922 to July 1924 carrying out wide reforms, which had a lasting impact on Italian education.

In 1925 he served as president of two commissions on constitutional reform, helping to lay the foundations of the Fascist corporate state.

Gentile is buried in the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence
Gentile is buried in the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence
After acting as president of the Supreme Council of Public Education and as a member of the Fascist Grand Council between 1925 and 1929, he saw his political influence steadily decline.

His most important achievement was the Enciclopedia Italiana, which he began to plan in 1925 and edited until 1943 and he also wrote prolifically on the subjects of philosophy and education.

After the fall of Benito Mussolini in 1943, Gentile supported the Fascist Social Republic established by the Germans at Salò. He served as president of the Academy of Italy, Italy’s foremost intellectual institution, until his death.

In 1944 a group of anti-Fascist partisans shot Gentile dead as he returned from the prefecture in Florence. Ironically he had been there arguing for the release from prison of anti-Fascist intellectuals.

The church of Santa Maria Assunta, also known as the Chiesa Madre - mother church - in Castelvetrano
The church of Santa Maria Assunta, also known as the
Chiesa Madre - mother church - in Castelvetrano
Travel tip:

Castelvetrano, the birthplace of Giovanni Gentile, is in the province of Trapani in Sicily. It is first mentioned in historical records dating from the 12th century. The Church of St John, which is just outside the city walls, was founded in 1412. The mother church, Chiesa Madre, which dates back to the 16th century, is in the town’s main square, Piazza Tagliavia. The remains of Selinunte, an ancient Greek city, are just outside the city, on a site overlooking the sea.

The Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence
The Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence
Travel tip:

Gentile was living and working in Florence when he was shot dead by anti-Fascists on 15 April, 1944. He is buried in the church of Santa Croce beside the remains of Galileo and Machiavelli. The Basilica of Santa Croce is the principal Franciscan Church in Florence and is the burial place of some of the most illustrious Italians. It is also known to Italians as the Temple of the Italian Glories.

More reading:

Why Luigi Einaudi signed the Manifesto of the Anti-Fascist Intellectuals 

Benito Mussolini and the Founding of the Italian Fascists

How the Republic of Salò was Mussolini's last stand

Also on this day:

1924: The anti-Fascist speech that cost a socialist politician his life

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