Gioberti Vincenzo

Gioberti Vincenzo, a distinguished Italian philosopher and statesman, was born at Turin, April 5, 1801. He studied theology in the university of his native city, was received doctor in 1823, and in 1825 was ordained priest and appointed professor of theology in the university. He acquired great reputation, and became court chaplain in 1831. Soon afterwards he was implicated in a republican conspiracy (said to have been instigated by the Jesuits, in order to destroy the liberal sympathies of the king), was thrown into prison, and then exiled without trial. He went first to Paris, thence to Brussels, where he remained until 1843, in the humble position of tutor in a private school. Some time after he declined a professorship of philosophy offered him by cardinal Wiseman, preferring to devote all his time to his literary labors. His first publication was the Teoria del Sopranaturale (Capolago, 1838). In 1839 he published his Introduzione allo studio della Filosofia. This remarkable work was followed in 1841 by his Del Bello, in which the author analyzes Christian epopee, and especially Danta's Divina Comedia. Gioberti next employed himself against the modern Geraiman philosophers and the French encyclopedists, whose ideas outlived the Revolution. He wrote successively the Lettres polemiques contre La Mennais (Paris, 1840); Del Buono; and Errori filosofici di Antonio Rosmini (Capolago, 1842). In opposing the pantheistic tendencies of La Mennais and Rosmini, Gioberti evinces great argumentative talent, and a vivid imagination. He aimed at making Italy throw off the yoke of foreign doctrines, with the ultimate view of enabling her subsequently to expel foreign political interference. He was careful always to profess orthodox opinions, no as not to give either time Italian princes or the pope any hold against him. His new catholic system found many adherents. In order to raise the clergy in the popular esteem, be advocated such reforms as the spirit of the times required, and advised the priests to head the social movement and to disseminate instruction among the people. He also called on the learned men of Italy, inviting them to regain their former ascendency by uniting faith with science and art. In this view he wrote his Il Primato civile e morales degli Ital. (Paris, 1843). This remarkable work, which proposedthe plan of a Roman confederacy headed by the pope, and which has had great influence on the recent history 'of Italy', was not at the time in harmony with public opinion. The substance of the book is as follows: "Italy has been twice at the head of European civilization; once is antiquity, and again in the Middle Ages. In the latter period Italy owed its supremacy to the popes, who were then the natural arbiters of princes and the spiritual sovereigns of the nations. The downfall of Italy is due to the downfall of the papacy. The problem now is to restore the papal power, as a moral dominion based on religion and public opinion." Gioberti aims at "restoring the papal arbitration between the sovereign and the 'people; lie wishes to lead it back to the' time of Gregory VII and of Alexander III, and in this restoration of the past finds the best means of repulsing foreign oppression by the unaided efforts of Italy alone. As for the form of government, he inclines to a constitutional monarchy, sand, like Alfieri, considers Piedmont as the most compact, best organized, and most vital state of Italy; calls it to closer union with the other provinces, and by showing to it the perspective of a united Italy, invites it to become the champion of national independence." The work was published under the most unfavorable circumstances, during the last years of the pontificate of Gregory XVI. The Jesuits, despite a few compliments to their order, which the author had skilfully introduced in his book, were alarmed at its tendencies. Gioaberti, however, answered their objections in I Prolegomeni (1845); II Gesuita moderns (Capolago, 1847, 8 volumes; German transl. by Cornet, Lpz. 1849, 3 volumes). This work, written ab irato, had an immense effect; the Jesuits were expelled from Piedmont, and from all the other states of Peninsular Italy.

After the events of 1848 Gioberti was recalled from exile, and his return was a triumph. He went to Milan, started the project of union between Lombardy and Piedmont, and traversed Central Italy, inviting all parties to unite for the good of the country. He declined the office of senator which was offered him by Charles Albert, but was elected to the House of Representatives by the inhabitants of Turin, and at once chosen for its president. In 1848 he was minister of public instruction, and president of the so-called Democratic council. Austrian intrigues defeated Gioberti's plans, and he was obliged to withdraw from the cabinet. He then advocated his views in a newspaper entitled Il Sagnsatore. The misfortunes of Italy and the abdication of Charles Albert rendered it necessary for him to take again an active part in state affairs. Victor Emmanuel appointed him in the Deaaunae-Pinelli cabinet, without any special department; vaet the conservative party managed soon after to have him appointed ambassado- to Paris, as a means of getting rid of him. He understood it so, sent in his resignation, and on the arrival of his successor, count Gallina, returned to private life. He afterwards published his Del Rinnovamento civile dell' Italia (Paris and Turin, 1851, 2 volumes). In this work he examines with great impartiality into the causes of the present position of Italy. Among the chief obstacles to its independence he signalizes on the one hand, the exaggeration of the principles of municipal and ecclesiastical power, and, on the other, the dangerous influence of Mazzinianism. Sympathizing with the loyalty and liberalism of Victor Emmanuel, be, so to say, traces out for him the line to be followed to arrive at the regeneration of Italy. Gioberti was preparing a philosophical work, entitled Protologia, when he. died suddenly at Paris, October 25, 1851. His most important work is the Introduzione, which has been translated into French under the title Introduction al teltude de la Philosophie (Paris, 1847, 3 volumes, 8vo). The Christian Remembrancer (July 1853, art. 1) remarks upon it as follows, "With regard to the Introduction to Philosophy, it is extremely difficult to express an opinion, because (speaking with the utmost seriousness) we have a great difficulty in deciding, upon internal evidence alone, whether it was the product of a sane mind. The excitement visible throughout; the lofty tone in which he passes judgment upon others, and pours forth his own 'utterances;' the virulence with which he treats some who differ from him, combined with the obscurity and dreaminess of the opinions expressed; the extraordinary nature of the premises be assumes, and his dogmatism, not the less arrogant from his entire unconsciousness. All these things on the one hand, and, on the other, his acuteness, depth, information, and power of argument, leave us much at a loss to discover whether the author was in his sober senses or not. We give a brief abstract of his views, so far as we have been enabled to comprehend them. He conceives that the source of all human knowledge is in God, and that it is one whole, and in a manner identical with God himself; and the name which he gives it is 'L' Idea,' or Thought. This divine thought is communicated to man in proportion as he is capable of receiving it; and it is 'the light which enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world.' Man receives it by means of his reason, which is capable of directly beholding it; and this direct beholding (or intuition) of the 'Idea' is the origin and first cause of all the knowledge of natural things which the mind of man possesses. It is innate, inasmuch as it rises to the mind at the same moment as the thought which apprehends it; but it does not rise within the mind, but enters it from without. It is the principle of knowledge to the human mind, from the very first exercise of its powers as a thinking being. The similarity of this view to that of Plato, revived and modified by Malebranche and Leibnitz, is sufficiently evident. But this direct intuition of the divine thought by the reason, although the origin of all thoughts in the soul, is by itself but inchoate and imperfect. In order to render it available, it requires that this intuition should be reflected on; and this can be done only by means of language, for man cannot reflect on and (so to speak) repeat the original intuition except by means of language, which renders determinate what was before imperfect. For this purpose language was given to man, and by means of language God originally reveals to man that which he has caused him to behold by internal and direct intuition; and by means of language this same revelation is repeated and carried on from generation to generation; and by the same medium, employed analogically, the knowledge of the divine thought is more and more revealed. Yet language is not the cause of human knowledge, nor is it, in the case of ordinary knowledge, the medium of the exhibition of the divine thought to the mind (for that shines immediately upon the mind), but it is the occasion of its being completely revealed. For the purposes of ordinary and natural knowledge this combination of intuition with language is the method ordained; but supernatural knowledge can be conveyed only by means of language; and divine truths are not seen by intuition, but believed. Yet all knowledge of every kind has its source in the divine thought, and consists of such views of it as the individual is capable of. Besides reason, which is capable of beholding the divine thought, man has likewise internal and spiritual feelings or emotions, which are modifications of the mind, and preserved by feeling; and, in addition, he possesses material and external feelings, having reference to the properties of bodies, and perceived by sensation and the outward senses. The ordinary range of modern metaphysics is confined to these internal and external feelings; and it is a common error to substitute the internal feeling as a first principle, instead of that which is apprehended by the reason through direct intuition, and revealed to the soul by language and reflection. It is likewise an equally common error to substitute reflection on these internal and external feelings for reason, as the initiatory instrument of that knowledge which is the basis of philosophy. (Here he is evidently alluding to Locke and his followers.) But it is by the view or intuition of the divine thought that meaning is given to these various feelings, external and internal, and to the various sensible objects by which they are surrounded. The basis of all knowledge is the knowledge of being; yet not of an abstract idea, but of the concrete personal Being, God himself, acting as a cause and producing existences, who is, in fact, the only being, because he alone has being in himself. The knowledge of this being is gained by revelation, by means of the written word, wherein he declares himself, 'I am that I am;' and the mind beholds him, and has him made known to it internally, through the reason, independently of all external sensations. God being the only being, all other things are only existences; and man learns from the revealed word that the one being created existences; not that he extends himself into these various manifestations (as Hegel teaches); not that he causes these existences to emanate from himself, as other Pantheists teach, but that he creates them. Man thus learns their proper nature, viz. that they are distinct, individual, real things, having a kind of personality; that it is the act of creation which gives them this reality and individuality; and that it is only by the fact of their being created that their reality is assured to us; that, in short, nothing but the act of creation could assure to us the reality of external things. Gioberti holds, moreover, that all our knowledge of philosophy must begin with a knowledge of being and existences, and their relation to each other; and that not of abstract being or abstract existence, but of one concrete Being, and of many concrete individual existences; and he thinks that the divine thought gives us a knowledge of the latter by a direct view of them, which gives life and meaning to all our sensations and feelings in connection with them. He likewise teaches that principles of knowledge are objective, eternal, and absolute; that they are not the creation of the' mind, nor sought out by it, but that they present themselves to the mind unsought, and are first truths — the foundation of other truths. He teaches that the permanent possession of the divine thought depends in a degree on man himself; that he may rebel against it, and thus fail to receive it, and fall into error. He teaches that it is by the participation of it that individuals possess a moral personality; that it is the vital principle, and that if it were entirely withdrawn the consequence would be annihilation; that inasmuch as the divine thought creates and governs the universe, it is the soul of the world; inasmuch as it dwells in men's minds, it is knowledge; inasmuch as it actuates, produces, determines, and classifies the powers of nature, it is the generic and specific essence of things; that the basis of generality is the Divine Being himself, having in himself the ideas of all possible things, and the power of giving effect to those ideas." He left a number of MSS., which were edited and published by G. Massari, under the title Opere inedite di Vincenzo Gioberti (Torino, 1856-60, 6 volumes, 8vo). There is an excellent article on the life and writings of Gioberti in the Christian Examiner, 1861, page 237. See also Massari, Vita e Morte di Gioberti (Flor. 1848), and Etudes sur Gioberti; Cruger, Esquisses Italiennes; Spaventa, La filosofia di Gioberti (Naples, 1864); Risorgimento (October 1851); Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. Generale, 20:585 sq.; New American Cyclopcedia, 8:259 sq.; North British Review, volume 11; Brownson's Review, 4:409 sq.

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