Franco Manni (Bio)

Truth and opinion

Plato thought that ideas and their relations (theories) were timeless and subsistent. Hegel was the philosopher who most powerfully sought to refute Plato: in the third part of the “Philosophy of the Absolute Spirit” he argues that philosophy is nothing but the history of philosophy.

However, the Platonic idea is powerful and has had a greater following, at least up to the present time, than Hegel’s. Whereas “philosophy” is seen as the realm of absolute and immutable truth, “history” is seen as the realm of relative and mutable opinion.

Influential and long-lived 20th century philosophies have argued and argued for this: I cite Bergson’s Spiritualism, the Existentialism of Sartre and Heidegger, Husserl’s Phenomenology, the Neopositivism of Carnap and Neurath, and the Analytic Philosophy of the later Wittgenstein, Ayer and countless others. I would like in this paper to dwell on this last philosophical school so widespread and powerful in the English-speaking world, under which the study of the History of Philosophy has been slowed down and sometimes blocked for decades in hundreds of philosophy departments across the World.

Not everywhere, however. In my paper I would like to present how some Anglophone philosophers, the British R.G. Collingwood, and the Americans David D. Roberts and Claes Ryn, all three influenced by the thought of the neo-Hegelian philosopher Benedetto Croce, have discussed and pointed out how theory without history is empty and how history without theory is blind. They did so with particular acuity and depth, with particularly sophisticated arguments, because they found themselves speaking and writing in an intellectual environment strongly inclined to dualistically separate the two disciplines.