Philosophy of the practical - PDF book by Benedetto Croce

Philosophy of the practical

Philosophy of the practical

economic and ethic

From the translator's preface:
In saying that we are experts in moral practice I do not, of course, refer to the narrow conventional morality, also common with us, which so often degenerates into hypocrisy, a legacy of Puritan origin; but apart from this, there has long existed in many millions of Britons a strong desire to live well, or, as they put it, cleanly and rightly, and achieved by many, independent of any close or profound examination of the logical foundation of this desire. 

Theology has for some taken the place of pure thought, while for others, early training on religious lines has been sufficiently strong to dominate other tendencies in practical life. Yet, as a speculative Scotsman, I am proud to think that we can claim divided honours with Germany in the production of Emmanuel Kant (or Cant). The latter half of the nineteenth century witnessed with us a great development of materialism in its various forms. 

The psychological, anti-historical speculation contained in the so-called Synthetic Philosophy (really psychology) of Herbert Spencer was but one of the many powerful influences abroad, tending to divert youthful minds from the true path of knowledge.

 This writer, indeed, made himself notorious by his attitude of contemptuous intolerance and ignorance of the work previously done in connection with subjects which he was investigating. He accepted little but the evidence of his own senses and judgment, as though he were the first philosopher. But time has now taken its revenge, and modern criticism has exposed the Synthetic Philosophy in all its barren and rigid inadequacy and ineffectuality. Spencer tries to force Life into a brass bottle of his own making, but the genius will not go into his bottle. 

The names and writings of J. S. Mill, of Huxley, and of Bain are, with many others of lesser calibre, a potent aid to the dissolving influence of Spencer. Thanks to their efforts, the spirit of man was lost sight of so completely that I can well remember hearing Kant's great discovery of the synthesis a priori described as moonshine, and Kant himself, with his categoric imperative, as little better than a Prussian policeman. As for Hegel, the great completer and developer of Kantian thought, his philosophy was generally in even less esteem among the youth; and we find even the contemplative Walter Pater passing him by with a polite apology for shrinking from his chilly heights. 

I do not, of course, mean to suggest that estimable Kantians and Hegelians did not exist here and there throughout the kingdom in late Victorian days (the names of Stirling, of Caird, and of Green at once occur to the mind); but they had not sufficient genius to make their voices heard above the hubbub of the laboratory. We 'all believed that the natural scientists had taken the measure of the universe, could tot it up to a T — and consequently turned a deaf ear to other appeals. Elsewhere in Europe Hartmann, Haeckel, and others were busy measuring the imagination and putting fancy into the melting-pot — they offered us the chemical equivalent of the wings of Aurora. 

We believed them, believed those materialists, that treacherous neo- Kantians, perverters of their master's doctrine, who waited for guileless youth with mask and rapier at the corner of every thicket. Such as escaped this ambush was indeed fortunate if they shook themselves free of Schopenhauer, the (personally) comfortable philosopher of suicide and despair, and fell into the arms of the last and least of the Teutonic giants, Friedrich Nietzsche, whose spasmodic paragraphs, full of genius but often empty of philosophy, show him to have been far more of a poet than a philosopher.

 It was indeed a doleful period of transition for those unfortunate enough to have been born into it : we really did believe that life had little or nothing to offer, or that we were all Overmen (a mutually exclusive proposition !), and had only to assert ourselves in order to prove it.

 To the writings of Peter, I have already referred, and of them, it may justly be said that they are often supremely beautiful, with the quality and cadence of great verse, but mostly (save perhaps the volume on Plato and Platonism, by which he told the present writer that he hoped to live) instinct with a profound scepticism, that revelled in the externals of Roman Catholicism, but refrained from crossing the threshold which leads to the penetralia of the creed. 

Ruskin, also we knew, and he too has a beautiful and fresh vein of poetry, particularly where free from irrational dogmatism upon Ethic and Aesthetic. But we found him far inferior to Pater in-depth and suggestiveness, and almost devoid of theoretical capacity. 

Sesame for all its Lilies is no Open Sesame to the secrets of the world. Thus, wandering in the obscure forest, it is little to be wondered that we did not anticipate the flood of light to be shed upon us as we crossed the threshold of the twentieth century. 
It was an accident that took me to Naples in 1909, and the accident of reading a number of La Critica, as I have described in the introduction to the ^Esthetic, that brought me in contact with the thought of Benedetto Croce. But it was not only the aesthetic, it was also the purely critical work of the philosopher that appeared to me at once of so great importance. 

To read Hegel, for instance, after reading Croce's study of him, is a very different experience (at least so I found it) to reading him before so doing. Hegel is an author most deeply stimulative and suggestive, but any beginner is well to take advantage of all possible aid in the difficult study. To bring this thought of Hegel within the focus of the ordinary mind has never been an easy task (I know of no one else who has successfully accomplished it); and Croce's work, What is living and what is dead of the Philosophy of Hegel, as one may render the Italian title of the book which I hope to translate, has enormously aided a just comprehension, both of the qualities and the defects of that philosopher. 

Some contents:

Practical and theoretic life — Insufficiency of descriptive distinctions
— Insufficiency of the psychological "method in philosophy —
The necessity of the philosophical method — ConstataAon and deduction— Theories which deny the practical form of the spirit —The practical as an unconscious fact: critique — Nature and
practical activity — Reduction of the practical form to the theoretical : critique — The practical as thought in action — Recognition of its autonomy.
https://draft.blogger.The practical and the so-called third spiritual form: feeling- Various meanings of the word: feeling, a psychological class — Feeling as a state of the spirit — Function of the concept of feeling in the History of philosophy: the indeterminate — Feeling as a forerunner of the aesthetic form — In Historic: preannouncement of the intuitive element — In philosophical Logic: pre-announcement of the pure concept — Analogous function in the Philosophy of the practical — Negation of feeling — Deductive exclusion of it


Precedence of the theoretical over the practical— The unity of the spirit and the co-presence of the practical — Critique of pragmatism— Critique of psychological objections — Nature of theoretic precedence over the practical: historical knowledge — Its continual mutability — No other theoretic precedent • — • Critique of practical concepts and judgments — Posteriority of judgments to the practical act — Posteriority of practical concepts — Origin of intellectualistic and sentimentalistic doctrines — The concepts of 'end and means — Critique of the end as a plan or fixed design — Volition and the unknown — Critique of the concept of practical sciences and of a practical Philosophy.

The coincidence of intention and volition — Volition in the abstract and in the concrete: critique — Volition thought and real volition: critique — Critique of volition with unknown or ill-known base — Illusions in the instances adduced — Impossibility of volition with erroneous theoretical base — Forms of the theoretic error and problem as to its nature — Distinction between ignorance and error: the practical origin of latter — Confirmations and proofs — Justification of the practical repression of error — Empirical distinctions of errors and the philosophic distinction.


Volition and action: intuition and expression — Spirit and nature — Inexistence of volitions without action and inversely — Illusions as to the distinctions between these terms — Distinction between action and succession or event — Volition and event — Successful and unsuccessful actions: critique — Acting and foreseeing: critique — Confirmation of the inderivability of the value of action from success — Explanation of facts that seem to be at variance.

the book details :
  • Author:  Benedetto Croce
  • Translator:  Douglas Ainslie
  • Publication date:1913
  • Company: London: Macmillan and co., limited

  • Download  Philosophy of the practical  - 10 MB

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