History, being, and absolutist temptations.

Author:Gottfried, Paul
Position:Book Review

The two books under discussion here--one a translation by Nino Langiulli and Bruno Martini, with an accompanying commentary, of a late work by the Italian philosopher Nicola Abbagnano, and the other a study of the relation between philosophy and history by Gabriel Ricci--exhibit shared features. Both are written by former Jesuit seminarians, Langiulli and Ricci, who share Italian ancestry plus a passionate interest in Italian philosophy. Each one, perhaps because of his theological training, is drawn to questions about being and looks at historical consciousness from a distinctly metaphysical perspective. But while Langiulli, who has introduced and annotated this work by his now deceased teacher once associated with academic life in Turin, is making available to English-language readers the political views of a celebrated philosopher, Ricci is less constrained by his material. Thus he can discuss the philosophical uses of history from Vico to Heidegger and Gadamer without having to work around observations that touch only peripherally on what he wants to discuss. In Langiulli's case, what makes the translation done with Bruno Martini worth reading is, above all, his learned introduction, which focuses on the connection between Abbagnano as a (non-practicing) Catholic philosopher of being and as a critic of Marxist millennialism and Abbagnano as an interpreter of the current state of Western society. Although these stated opinions of Abbagnano were published as far back as 1980, partly by way of a strenuous interview with the journalist Giuseppe Grieco, they could have come from someone looking at the Western world today. A word of caution might be in order: For anyone who is interested exclusively in Abbagnano's work in philosophy, which Langiulli has also knowledgeably explored, these critical observations may not be the best place to start.

What the text does provide, however, is a sense of Abbagnano as a man of his time. Although he certainly did not see as well as he might have the imprisoning bureaucratic structures of the present age and seems to lean toward what eventually became the politically correct prison of nationalities known as the European Union (EU), Abbagnano is a truer friend of freedom and critical thought than his longtime associate and fellow ontologist Umberto Eco. Unlike Eco, who wishes to impose "multiracialisrn" and diversity on European peoples by criminalizing opposition to his own progressive projects, Abbagnano...

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