1902 Encyclopedia > Antonio Rosmini-Serbati

Antonio Rosmini-Serbati
Italian philosopher

ROSMINI-SERBATI, ANTONIO (1797 -1855), perhaps the most important figure in modern Italian philosophy, was born at Rovereto in the Italian Tyrol in 1797, and died in 1855. With every worldly advantage as the eldest son of a noble and wealthy family, from an early age he resolved to devote himself to God's service in the Catholic priest-hood. He became the founder of a new religious order, named the Institute of Charity, but known in Italy gene-rally as the Rosminians. The members may be priests or laymen. All are prepared to do any works of charity - corporal, intellectual, or spiritual - to which they may be directed by divine providence, under obedience to their superior, to the bishops, and to the pope. They have branches in Italy, England, Ireland, France, and America. In London they are attached to the ancient church of St Etheldreda, Ely Place, Holborn, where the English translations of Rosmini's works are edited.

Rosmini's Sistema filosofico set forth the conception of a complete encyclopedia of the human knowable, synthet-ically conjoined, according to the order of ideas, in a perfectly harmonious whole. This conception Rosmini developed in more than forty volumes. Here a brief notice of the characteristic principle of his philosophy must suffice.

Rosmini, contemplating the position of recent philosophy from Locke to Hegel, and having his eye directed to the ancient and fundamental problem of the origin, truth, and certainty of our ideas, wrote : - " If philosophy is to be restored to love and respect, I think it will be necessary, in part, to return to the teachings of the ancients, and in part to give those teachings the benefit of modern methods " (Theodiey, n. 148). Pursuing therefore the now generally approved method of the observation of facts, he most carefully examined and analysed the fact of human knowledge, and obtained the following results : - (1) that the notion or idea of being or existence in general enters into, and is presupposed by, all our acquired cognitions, so that, without it, they would be impossible ; (2) that this idea is essentially objective, inasmuch as what is seen in it is as distinct from and opposed to the mind that sees it as the light is from the eye that looks at it ; (3) that it is essentially true, because " being" and " truth" are conver-tible terms, and because in the vision of it the mind cannot err, since error could only be committed by a judgment, and here there is no judgment, but a pure intuition affirming nothing and denying nothing ; (4) that by the application of this essentially objective and true idea the human being intellectually perceives, first, the animal body individually conjoined with him, and then, on occasion of the sensations produced in him not by himself, the causes of those sensations, that is, from the action felt he per-ceives and affirms an agent, a being, and therefore a true thing, that acts on him, and lie thus gets at the external world, - these are the true primitive judgments, contain-ing (a) the subsistence of the particular being (subject), and (b) its essence or species as determined by the quality of the action felt from it (predicate); (5) that rellexion, by separating the essence or species from the subsistence, obtains the full specific idea (universalization), and then from this, by leaving aside some of its elements, the abstract specific idea (abstraction); (6) that the mind, having reached this stage of development, can proceed to further and further abstracts, including the first principles of reasoning, the principles of the several sciences, complex ideas, groups of ideas, and so on without end ; (7) finally, that the same most universal idea of being, this generator and formal element of all acquired cognitions, cannot itself be acquired, but must be innate in us, implanted by God in our nature. Being, as naturally shining to our mind, must therefore be what men call the light of reason. Hence the name Rosinini gives it of ideal being ; and this he laid down as the one true fundamental principle of all philosophy, and the supreme criterion of truth and certainty. This he firmly believed to lae the teaching of St Augustine, as well as of St Thomas, of whom he was an ardent admirer and defender. The above seven points could only be hinted at here. A complete and exhaustive treatment of them will be found in Rosmini's New Essay on the Origin of Ideas, which has lately been rendered into English (London, 1883-84).

Rosmini's Sigma' Filasofico has been translated into English by Davidson (Rosmini's Philosophical System, London, 1882). The volume contains also a biographical sketch of the author, with a complete catalogue of his writings, ninety-nine in all, on philosophical, religions, and miscellaneous subjects, and a copious list of works relating to his life and philosophy.

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