Bonatelli, Francesco (1830–1911)

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Francesco Bonatelli, an Italian spiritualist philosopher, was born in Iseo, Brescia. He studied at the University of Vienna and taught philosophy at the universities of Bologna (18611867) and Padua (18671911). Bonatelli belonged to the tradition of Catholic spiritualism. He was one of the principal editors of Filosofia delle scuole italiane, a review founded in 1870 by Terenzio Mamiani to defend a Platonizing position, but he resigned in 1874 when the Platonist Giovanni Maria Bertini published criticisms of Catholicism that Bonatelli considered too bold. Bonatelli introduced the analytic method of German psychological research into Italy.

Bonatelli attempted to distinguish consistently between the unity of the ego and the multiplicity of psychic events. In his first work, Pensiero e conoscenza (Thought and consciousness; Bologna, 1864), Bonatelli distinguished two ways of life for the soul, one that is subject to the laws of fate and another that, although it recognizes these laws, is able to rise above them and use them as tools.

The conscious subject can be aware of other things only if it is capable at one and the same time of being modified and of remaining identical with itself, or inalterable. The solution of this apparent contradiction might lie in distinguishing between consciousness, understood as thought or pure mentality, and sensibility. In his most important work, La coscienza e il meccanismo interiore (Consciousness and the internal mechanism; Padua, 1872), Bonatelli insisted that consciousness neither is changed by the object nor changes it. The act of consciousness detaches the psychic event from its matrix in reality and thinks its possible essence or its "possibility or quiddity or whatever you wish to call it." Bonatelli investigated both consciousness itself and the relation between the psychic mechanism external to consciousness and consciousness, between the existing object and the object thought in its "quiddity."

He regarded consciousness as thought turned back upon itself and almost creating itself, but also as freely accepting the "yoke of logic." If consciousness were not of this nature, it would be reduced to a "logical machine," whereas it is free reflection on itself, grasping itself by directing itself toward objects. However, although the distinctive essence of consciousness is its infinite turning back upon itself (la riflexione infinita degli atti, "the infinite reflection of acts"), this reflection is not an infinite succession in which consciousness would lose itself in an endless postponement but rather a completed penetration of self, the fullness and richness of the activity of thought.

See also Consciousness.


additional works by bonatelli

La filosofia dell'inconscio di Edoardo von Hartmann. Rome, 1876.

Elementi di psicologia e logica. Padua, 1892.

works on bonatelli

Alliney, Giulio. Francesco Bonatelli. Brescia, 1947.

Gentile, Giovanni. Le origini della filosofia contemporanea in Italia. Messina: G. Principato, 1917. Vol. I, pp. 220227.

Scatturin, Umberto. "Francesco Bonatelli." Filosofia 3 (1952): 433439.

Varisco, Bernardino. Francesco Bonatelli. Chieri, 1912.

See also "In onore di Francesco Bonatelli," by various authors. La cultura filosofica 4 (2) (1910). Contains a bibliography.

Eugenio Garin (1967)
Translated by Tessa Byck

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Bonatelli, Francesco (1830–1911)

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