Benedetto Croce is one of the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century. His work in aesthetics and historiography has been controversial, but enduring. When the first edition of Aesthetic appeared in 1902, Croce was seen as foremost in reasserting an idealistic philosophy, which, despite its source in continental idealists from Descartes to Hegel, offers a system that attempts to account for the emergence of scientific systems. Croce thus combines scientific and metaphysical thought into a dynamic aesthetic. Croce regards aesthetics not merely as a branch of philosophy, but as a fundamental human activity. It is inseparable from historical, psychological, political, economic, and moral considerations, no less than a unique frame of artistic reference. Aesthetic is composed of two parts: Part One concentrates on aesthetic theory and practice. Among the topics it covers are: intuition and expression, art and philosophy, historicism and intellectualism, and beauty in nature and in art. Part Two is devoted to the history of aesthetics. Croce analyzes such subjects as: aesthetic ideas in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, Giambattista Vico's contribution to aesthetics, the philosophy of language, and aesthetic psychologism. In his new introduction to a classic translation, John McCormick reviews Croce's impact in the fields of aesthetic theory and historiography. He notes that the republication of this work is an overdue appreciation of a singular effort to resolve the classic question of the philosophy of art: art for its own sake or art as a social enterprise. Both find a place in Croce's system.
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