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The purpose of the present work is threefold: first, to introduce the most important of modern Italian philosophical systems to the notice of English-speaking thinkers who have not had an opportunity of studying it in the original language ; second, to present it fairly to those for whom it has been systematically misrepresented; and, third, to furnish an introductory handbook to the study of modern Italian thought, so little known outside of Italy.
With the exception of a small work edited by Father Lockhart, a brief notice in the American translation of Ueberweg's Handbuch der Geschichte der Philosophie, an essay by Monseigneur Ferrè, a few notices in Brownson's Quarterly Review, and a few sketches by myself in various periodicals, there exists hardly anything in English on Rosmini.* Of systematic attempts that have been made to stir up an odium theologicum against Rosmini's system, it would be inedifying to say anything more than is said in the Introduction. The present condition of thought in Northern Europe is such that no apology
seems needed for directing the attention of English thinkers to a school of philosophy which professes, by combining ancient with modern thought, to find an absolute criterion of certainty, and to afford a firm assurance of much that more one-sided systems are constrained to abandon. Rosmini has exerted a wide and most beneficial influence on the thought of Italy, an influence equalled in degree only by that of Aristotle and Kant. Indeed, it may be safely affirmed that no one can read Rosmini's works without, voluntarily or involuntarily, being impressed by them.
When I first resolved to present an outline of Rosmini's philosophy in an English dress, three courses seemed open to me-either to translate some one of the numerous résumés of it, which have appeared in Italy, to write an original account of it myself, or in some way to introduce Rosmini as speaking in his own person. That the first of these courses was hardly feasible, I discovered on carefully examining the résumés referred to. Even those of Buroni, and of Calza and Perez, which would best have answered my purposes, I found open to grave objections. The former, as its title sufficiently indicates,* contains a good deal of irrelevant matter; while the latter is not only too extensive, but, thanks to underhand ecclesiastical influence, has never been completed, the third volume remaining unpublished. As to the second alternative, frequent attempts to convey the true meaning of Rosmini's thought to others in my own language convinced me that the difficulty of presenting it was far greater than I had supposed. Seeing myself, therefore, shut up to the third course, I came to the conclusion that I should best attain my end by adopting, as the basis of my work, the Sistema Filosofico or résumé of Rosmini's system, compiled by the author for Cantù's Storia Universale, accompanying it with explanations of my own and parallel passages from his longer works. In this way, I hoped to afford a general notion of the whole, and at the same time to impart a special knowledge of its more characteristic and essential features. The sections of the Sistema, therefore, correspond to the Dictate which German philosophers not unfrequently read to their students to be written down verbatim, while the notes or excursus answer to their vivâ voce explanations or lectures. The Introduction is intended to show the position which Rosmini's philosophy occupies with reference to other systems, ancient and modern, and in the universal history of human thought.
* Dell Essere e del Conoscere. Studii su Parmenide, Platone e Rosmini.
As far as possible I have allowed Rosmini to speak for himself. Only in a few cases have I introduced condensations, explanations, and criticisms of my own, and several of these last deal with the relation of Rosmini's doctrines to systems that have been promulgated since his death. In all ways it has been my aim to make clear what seem to me the essential points of the system, those points which constitute it a remedy against the idealisms, materialisms, and scepticisms by which the thought of the present day is wasted.
In reference to the sketch of Rosmini's life, I ought to say that I have written it from a standpoint not entirely my own. This I deemed both courteous and permissible, all the more so that in an article in the Fortnightly Review I have dwelt with sufficient emphasis on what seem to me the limitations of his character and the defects of his religious creed.
The Bibliography is as nearly complete as I have been able to make it. Of its defects I have spoken in a note prefatory to it.
The footnotes, which are all due to me, will, it is hoped, be useful to the reader, and will not draw upon the writer the charge of excessive pedantry.
I have tried to turn Rosmini's somewhat diffuse Italian into readable English, and, I am well aware, with only partial success. Those, however, who best know the difficulties of rendering the philosophical style and terminology of one language into those of another, will, I am sure, be most indulgent toward my shortcomings. I would respectfully ask those who may feel inclined to blame me for employing such words as intuite, exigence, etc., to suggest other less objectionable words fitted to fill with credit the places of these. I would likewise ask those who, from an outside point of view, whether Hegelian, Comtian, Spencerian, or any other, may, at the first glance, feel inclined to cast aside Rosminianism as