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The Other Renaissance

Italian Humanism between Hegel and Heidegger

A natural heir of the Renaissance and once tightly conjoined to its study, continental philosophy broke from Renaissance studies around the time of World War II. In The Other Renaissance, Rocco Rubini achieves what many have attempted to do since: bring them back together. Telling the story of modern Italian philosophy through the lens of Renaissance scholarship, he recovers a strand of philosophic history that sought to reactivate the humanist ideals of the Renaissance, even as philosophy elsewhere progressed toward decidedly antihumanist sentiments.
Bookended by Giambattista Vico and Antonio Gramsci, this strand of Renaissance-influenced philosophy rose in reaction to the major revolutions of the time in Italy, such as national unity, fascism, and democracy. Exploring the ways its thinkers critically assimilated the thought of their northern counterparts, Rubini uncovers new possibilities in our intellectual history: that antihumanism could have been forestalled, and that our postmodern condition could have been entirely different. In doing so, he offers an important new way of thinking about the origins of modernity, one that renews a trust in human dignity and the Western legacy as a whole.

408 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2014

History: European History, History of Ideas

Philosophy: General Philosophy, History and Classic Works


The Other Renaissance will be of immense interest to historians of the Italian Renaissance, especially to those who wonder how humanism, despite the term’s ubiquity in scholarship, became a bad word. Philosophers too, whether interested in German or Italian thought in the modern era, will benefit from Rubini’s account, especially if they tend to view philosophy in a transnational context and with an eye toward historical influences. If there is a strand of philosophical thought backstitched into Italian historiography but lost to historical memory, shaped by Vico, Hegel, Gentile, and Heidegger, then The Other Renaissance is the first, necessary step toward its fruitful recovery.”

Renaissance and Reformation

The Other Renaissance is a welcome addition to the growing body of literature on the Italian philosophical tradition. Well-constructed, bolstered by meticulous documentation, and presenting a highly original take on its subject, Rubini’s book is an outstanding example of intellectual history at its very best.”

Review of Metaphysics

“This erudite and vastly illuminating book, which seeks to extend the boundaries of ‘modern philosophy’ back past Descartes, offers at its core an account of interpretations of the Italian Renaissance put forward in the years 1860­–1947. . . . In the course of telling this story, Rubini meditates on the origins and limits of modernity; on the nature of humanism and the anti-humanism; on the need to cultivate an affective and futural, as well as scientific, relation to the past; on the undesirability of the prevailing schism between philosophy and history; on the honorable character of rhetoric truly understood; and on the cunning of scholars.”

committee statement, Morris D. Forkosch Prize

“Rubini’s thought-provoking and elegantly written The Other Renaissance: Italian Humanism between Hegel and Heidegger participates in the recent international trend in unearthing the contribution of modern Italian philosophy to Continental philosophical discourse. Given that Italian philosophy has been construed as only marginally important in the wider European context, its rediscovery and re-collocation requires, as Rubini himself rightly puts it, ‘a thorough genealogical reconstruction.’ This meticulous reconstruction is achieved in Rubini’s exhaustively researched book, which thus makes a fundamental contribution to the recent intellectual shift toward creating ‘Italian theory.’. . . Rubini’s book more than successfully accomplishes what it sets out to achieve. It is most certainly a consistent and ‘vivid evocation of how the Renaissance was (re)experienced by some of its leading interpreters’ in Italy and Europe in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The Other Renaissance: Italian Humanism between Hegel and Heidegger enlightens the modern-day reader by offering a broader, more comprehensive picture of the ‘philosophical merits of historical humanisms.’”

Quaderni d'Italianistica

“Intellectual history at its finest. I recommend it not only for its content, but for its style, too, which manages to be both engrossing and engaging without sacrificing any of its rigor. In other words, it is a book about ‘afterlife’ that deserves to have a quite lengthy one itself.”

Annali d’italianistica

“An excellent and important book, one that will prove indispensable to the history of philosophy, dramatically changing our understanding of Italian Renaissance humanism, its legacy, and its future. Working out of the tradition of Grassi and Garin, Rubini’s narrative allows us to see past the limited and often severely limiting judgments of modern critics and philosophers about Renaissance humanism—a legacy of judgments reaching as far back as Descartes—to again to discover what was philosophical about the movement, and what may still be philosophical about it today.”


"The Other Renaissance is a call for Anglo-American historians to examine the philosophical implications of research more seriously, and to take on, so to speak, an Italian accent, for Rubini maintains that the figures he analyzed have yielded a wealth of valuable research down to today. The productive avenues they paved included a presentism that appropriates the humanist method of engaging the past for frankly contemporary purposes and that also understands that contemporary states of affairs have allowed historians to converse empathetically and insightfully with their historical dialogue partners."

Sixteenth Century Journal

"The wealth of evidence and close readings that Rubini marshals through the text is complemented by the elegantly written prose...The Other Renaissance is a book of great importance for the interpretation of Renaissance Humanism. Not only it challenges the current understanding of Renaissance Humanism, often still treated as mere rhetoric, but also its future developments, providing a more comprehensive picture of its philosophical merits." 

Modern Languages Notes

"A brilliant and rich study that will surely become an indispensable point of reference in future work on the history of Renaissance scholarship."

Bollettino del Centro di Studi Vichiani

"[T]he author rewards the reader’s diligence and patience with a thorough immersion in the archival sources and personal correspondence of major Italian philosopher historians. Rubini hopes that coming to terms with post-WWII intellectual history’s engagement with philosophy might lead to a revitalization of the field of Renaissance studies, in which our own engagement with the past might serve as a conversation with our Risorgimento and interwar predecessors who felt a spiritual kinship with the Renaissance period itself."

Canadian Journal of History

“The story Rubini tells is befittingly as intricate and character-filled as the Italian Renaissance itself. And to his credit, Rubini treats the Renaissance not as some pre-modern historical past but as a crucial intellectual horizon from which modern thought emerges and that is therefore of ongoing relevance.” 

Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal

The Other Renaissance is a major achievement in intellectual history. Rubini demonstrates an impressive mastery of sources across disciplines and epochs. His argument is tightly-woven and his examples judiciously chosen. The book combines sharp portraits of major thinkers and convincingly demonstrates how the various and multiple interpretations of the Renaissance radically re-made modern Italian philosophy.” 

Forum Italicum

“Rubini’s book is not just for Renaissance aficionados and historians—it is a study that sets standards of how intellectual history should be done: through entering the minds of the partners in the debate, understanding the philosophical issues from the inside, locating them in the human/personal as well as social and political contexts, and paying attention to the shifts and changes over time.”

Paul Richard Blum, Loyola University Maryland

“Rubini has done something unique in this exhaustively researched, passionately argued book: he has shown definitively that interpretations of Italian Renaissance intellectual life are linked to modern Italian philosophy. His work has important ramifications for the history of literature and the history of philosophy as a whole. As he demonstrates, the Italian Renaissance and twentieth-century Italian intellectual life aré linked, both by subject matter (a strong focus on the ethical) and method (the prizing of dialogical, intellectually stimulating ambiguity, rather than syllogistic system-building, with the latter being the basis for Enlightenment-era historiography of philosophy). And the twentieth-century thinkers on whom Rubini is focused, Eugenio Garin and Ernesto Grassi especially, were themselves interested in the Italian fifteenth century, both as a neglected scholarly subject, consequently worthy of serious investigation, and as a source of modern philosophical reflection. No one has gone nearly as far as Rubini in developing a deep, precise, and exhaustively researched understanding of these thinkers and of these phenomena. His book will represent a touchstone, not only on the historiography of the Italian Renaissance, but also on the history of philosophy in Italy in the twentieth century.”

Christopher S. Celenza, Johns Hopkins University

"Rubini’s substantial book The Other Renaissance is an overview of modern Italian philosophy from the early nineteenth century till the end of the twentieth century. . . . Rubini’s study is based on archival sources that have only recently become accessible, and on the close reading of texts. The result of his wide-ranging research is a fascinating narrative of the development of modern Italian thought. . . .  this book, rich in ideas and points of view, will appeal to anyone with an interest in philosophy, in the Renaissance, and in modern Italian studies."

The European Legacy

"Magnificent. . .Rubini’s The Other Renaissance is a book that was needed."


Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations
Introduction: How We Came to Be Such As We Are and Not Otherwise
            Humanism as Cartesianism
            Humanism as Vichianism
            A Peninsular Philosophy
            Supplementing a Well-Known Story
            Renaissance Scholarship and the History of Philosophy
            A Note on Method
1. Philosophy and Revolution: Italian Vichianism and the “Renaissance Shame”
           Vincenzo Cuoco and Italy’s “Passive Revolution”
           Italians as Disciples of God: Vincenzo Gioberti and Neo-Guelphism
           Overcoming the “Renaissance Shame”: Italian Hegelianism
           Humanism Reborn and Fulfilled: From Positivism to Giovanni Gentile’s Actualism
           Conclusion: A Problem Unsolved
2. The (Re)Generation of Italian Thought: The Interwar Period
            Introduction: Philosophizing in the Time of Fascism and Beyond
            Twentieth-Century Humanists and Scholastics
            Problematicism and Dialogism: Ugo Spirito and Guido Calogero
            Philosophers in the Middle: The “Outsiders”
            Rehearsing Deprovincialization: Enrico Castelli and Nicola Abbagnano
            Positive Existentialism
3. Averting the End of Tradition: Ernesto Grassi
            Between Italy and France: A Christian Thinker’s Discontents
            Heideggerianism Is a Platonism
            Heideggerian Platonism May or May Not Be a (Nietzschean) True Humanism
            Italian Renaissance Humanism Is Also a Humanism
            Conclusion: Starting from Scratch (More or Less)
4. Holding It Together: Eugenio Garin
            Pichian Existentialism
            Cassirer, Gentile, and the History of Italian Philosophy
            The Making of the Italian Paradigm: Garin, Grassi, and Castelli
            The Italian Paradigm Continued: Baron’s “Civic Humanism” Is Also an Existentialism
            Conclusion: Historicizing the Present through Gramsci’s “Humanism”
5. A Philosopher’s Humanism: Paul Oskar Kristeller
            Introduction: The Italian(s’) Renaissance beyond Italy
            Italy in the Interim: Between Gentile and Saitta
            Ficino, a Diamond in the Rough: Kristeller’s Neo-Kantianism
            Conclusion: Renaissance Scholarship as Philosophical Discourse
Conclusion: Humanism before Cartesianism (despite Heidegger)


American Association of Italian Studies: AAIS Book Prize

Journal of the History of Ideas: Morris D. Forkosch Prize

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