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Spirito, Ugo (1896-?)

Spirito, Ugo (1896-?)

Professor of philosophy who wrote on parapsychology. He was born on September 9, 1896, at Arezzo, Italy, and he studied at the University of Rome (LL.B., 1918; Ph.D., 1920). He taught at the University of Pisa (1932-34), the University of Messina (1935), the University of Genoa (1936), and the University of Rome (beginning in 1937).

Spirito developed an interest in parapsychology as it related to his own scholarly discipline, and he wrote several related books. He also attended the First International Conference of Parapsychological Studies in Utrecht, Netherlands, in 1953.


Spirito, Ugo. Il Problematicismo (Problematicism). Firenze: G. C. Sansoni, 1948.

. Scienza e Filosofia (Science and Philosophy). Firenze: G. C. Sansoni, 1950.

. La vita come amore (Life as Love). N.p., 1953. Reprint, Firenze: G. C. Sansoni, 1970.

. La Vita come arte (Life as Art). N.p., 1941.

. La Vita come ricerca (Life as a Search). 2d ed. Firenze: G. C. Sansoni, 1943.

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Spirito, Ugo (1896–1979)


Ugo Spirito, the Italian idealist philosopher, was born in Arezzo. He began his academic career as assistant to Giovanni Gentile at Rome and first established his reputation as an acute interpreter and trenchant defender of "actual idealism." He was also one of the founders of "corporative" economic studies in fascist Italy and always maintained an active interest in economics and in political and social science.

Spirito held that Gentile's "pure act" was not merely a philosophical concept but was also necessarily a concept of philosophy itself as an activity. This belief led Spirito in 1929 to proclaim the identity of philosophy and science, because all actual knowledge must be the solution of a determinate historical problem and neither philosophy nor science as they occur in actual experience can claim an absolute status independent of the history of their genesis and of the progress of further research. According to Spirito, the actual unity of philosophy and science is what is realized in the process of scientific research; his claim that the "pure act" is the conscious achievement of this unity led to the conception of life as research, set forth in his best-known book La vita come ricerca. In this work the absolute philosophical knowledge of traditional metaphysics was presented as the ideal limit toward which scientific research must forever tend but which it can never attain.

In later works, Spirito was led to an ever more strictly negative or critical conception of the task of philosophy because of the difficulty of defining this ideal goal and the paradox involved in discussing it without knowledge of it (which could only come from the secure possession of an eternal standpoint). The philosopher must confine himself to the task of identifying and exposing all claims to absolute knowledge and all forms of antihistorical dogmatism or superhistorical metaphysics wherever they occur. Such claims will otherwise impede the free advance of positive research, which includes all types of inquiry leading to the acquisition of knowledge, whether theoretical or practical. In aesthetics, for example, the philosopher must concentrate on removing prejudices created by definitions and philosophies of art; he must leave to artists, critics, and competent students the construction of the positive science of aesthetics.

This negative conception of the philosopher's task necessarily presupposes a positive philosophy of scientific research itself as a cooperative and progressive solution of problems that organized social groups of researchers define for themselves. Theoretical problems are solved when science replaces personal opinion. Similarly, practical disagreements will be properly resolved only when scientific planning replaces the selfish initiatives of private individuals. The ideal of social competence must replace the ideal of personal culture in ethics and education, for only through commitment to membership in the community of positive research can an objective criterion of moral and practical values be found without recourse to any metaphysical or religious absolutes. Thus, Spirito inverted the conception of the relation between philosophy and science and between technical competence and general culture, which he found in Benedetto Croce and Gentile. He became one of the leaders of a new Hegelian left in Italy.


works by spirito

Scienza e filosofia. Florence, 1933.

La vita come ricerca. Florence, 1937.

La vita come arte. Florence, 1941.

Opere complete, 12 vols. (as of 1965). Florence, 1950.

La vita come amore. Florence: Sansoni, 1953.

Critica della democrazia. Florence: Sansoni, 1963.

Storia antologica dei problemi filosofici. Firenze: Sansoni, 1965.

Il comunismo. Firenze: Sansoni, 1965.

Dal mito alla scienza. Firenze: Sansoni, 1966.

Machiavelli e Guicciardini. Firenze: Sansoni, 1968.

Giovanni Gentile. Firenze: G.C. Sansoni, 1969.

La vita come amore; Il tramonto della civiltà cristiana. Firenze: G.C. Sansoni, 1970.

L'idealismo italiano e i suoi critici. 2nd ed. Roma: Bulzoni, 1974.

La fine del comunismo. Roma: G. Volpe, 1978.

Tamassia, Franco. L'opera di Ugo Spirito: Bibliografia Roma: Fondazione U. Spirito, 1986.

Il Pensiero di Ugo Spirito. Roma: Istituto della Enciclopedia italiana, 19881990.

Memoirs of the Twentieth Century. Amsterdam; Atlanta, GA: Rodopi, 2000.

H. S. Harris (1967)

Bibliography updated by Michael J. Farmer (2005)

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
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"Spirito, Ugo (1896–1979)." Encyclopedia of Philosophy. . 11 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Spirito, Ugo (1896–1979)." Encyclopedia of Philosophy. . (December 11, 2017).

"Spirito, Ugo (1896–1979)." Encyclopedia of Philosophy. . Retrieved December 11, 2017 from