E. Belfort Bax

Benedetto Croce

(13 June 1918)

E. Belfort Bax, Benedetto Croce, Justice, 13th June 1918, p.7. (review)
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Proofread by Chris Clayton (May 2007).

The Philosophy of Benedetto Croce, by H. Wildon Carr (Macmillan & Co., St. Martin’s Street, W.C.2.), 7s. 6d. net.

Among the men who have recently made a name for themselves in philosophical writing, a Neapolitan, Benedetto Croce, is a notable figure. But so far as we are aware the present volume is the first attempt to introduce the new Italian “light” to the English student in a condensed and readable form. The author, Mr. Wildon Carr, in his exposition of Bergson and elsewhere, has already shown his faculty for making clear expositions of other men’s thought. His reputation in this respect is well sustained by the present volume, and those who would obtain a succinct and all-round view of the Crocean philosophy will be well advised to study the latter as distilled through Carr rather than undertake the somewhat portentous labour of wading through the five volumes of Croce’s works in Mr. Douglas Ainsley’s translation – excellent though it be.

Justice is of course not exactly the place for detailed criticism of a book like the present. We may say, however, that the claims of Croce as an original thinker seem to us to have been somewhat exaggerated by his admirers. His criticism of Hegel is no doubt able, although some might possibly contend he had failed to interpret correctly the Hegelian method. However, the theory of “the four moments” is certainly interesting, though au fond it does not strike one as quite new.

For the readers of Justice and for Socialists generally the following observations on Marx will be of interest. Karl Marx, says Croce, “proclaimed a new god, Economy, and conceived the history of the human race as the expulsion from the Garden of Eden of primitive communism and the effort to regain an entry into it after an age long struggle of the classes, by the restoration of a higher and more reflective communism.” This from an outsider as regards Socialism is not so very bad. It should be said that a book consisting of a selection of articles and critical notices by Croce, translated into English by Mr. C.M. Meredith under the title Historical Materialism and the Economics of Karl Marx, appeared a few years ago, Mr. Carr says the contents of the book are earlier than Croce’s chief published writings, but contain his later theories in fragmentary form.

There is a good deal in Croce’s thought which strikes the present writer as being somewhat forced. This applies certainly to some of his applications of the doctrine of Immanence versus Transcendence, a doctrine, by the way, by no means peculiar to Croce, but which in one or another form is common to well-nigh all modern systematic thought on philosophy. Thus Croce tilts against the notion of philosophy of history as representing a dualism because, forsooth, “the act of thanking is always philosophy and history at the same time, history being identical with the act of thinking itself.” Now this either conceals a mere verbal quibble, or it is an absurdity sans phrase. We have here, it seems to me, essentially the same fallacy we find in Bergson’s interpretation of philosophy, viz., the failure to recognise that all the “higher” thought as such is necessarily abstract that it does not profess to be reality per se, but reality per aliud, if I may use the expression. It is the translation of reality itself into the terms of reflective thought, which is not reality as a whole, but only an element of reality, but which element – for purposes of intellectual life – represents the whole, i.e., the living reality itself. That there are dangers in mistaking for, or identifying with, the terms of reflective thought, reality as such, is obvious, but the modern philosopher of certain schools assuredly overdoes the protest against this in making his chief point consist in denying a legitimate sphere to the abstract thought of reflection altogether

Yet whatever may be our criticisms, Benedetto Croce has succeeded in establishing for himself a niche in the temple of contemporary thinkers, and is certainly worthy of the attention of the philosophical student of today. And to the latter, as we said at the beginning of this notice, we heartily commend Mr. Wildon Carr’s readable and lucid exposition of Croce’s doctrines in the book before us.




Last updated on 28.5.2007