In Emilio Zucchetti & Anna Maria Cimino (eds.), Antonio Gramsci and the Classics. London, UK: pp. 86-100 (2021)
AbstractThis chapter investigates the precise ways in which Antonio Gramsci engaged with ancient philosophy. A brief examination of the longest discussion in the Prison Notebooks of any ancient philosopher or text, Plato’s Republic (Q8, §22), raises many questions about Gramsci’s approach to ancient philosophy. These questions motivate an investigation into Gramsci’s surprisingly minimal discussion of ancient philosophy and philosophers, which is best explained in the light of his theoretical commitments to his distinctive species of historical materialism. Rather than responding to specific critical insights advanced about politics or human nature by ancient philosophers, such as Plato and Aristotle, Gramsci is shown to appropriate ancient philosophy into a broad-spectrum project of the history of philosophy, which interrogates the specific conditions under which historical epochs and the philosophical ideas that characterise them emerge. Tracking the conditions and characteristic ideas is revealed to be the project of the ‘specialist philosopher’, who must grasp both general methodological principles and particular historical examples. Gramsci’s treatment of ancient philosophy reveals more about his universal theories of history, and his engagement with the ideas of his contemporaries (including Benedetto Croce), than a special concern with ancient philosophy itself.
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