BANFI ANTONIO—philosopher and historian of philosophy, b. September 30, 1886 in Vimercate, d. June 20, 1957 in Milan.
Antonio Banfi studied literature and philosophy with Professor Martinetti in Milan. In 1910 he began further studies in Berlin where he attended lectures by Riehl, Simmel, Harnack, Spranger, and others. After returning to Italy in 1911 he devoted himself to teaching. In 1922 he published his first work: La filosofia e la vita spirituale, where, among other things, he discusses the views of Mach, Rickert, Cohen, Natorp, Windelband, and Husserl on the meaning of philosophy and its relation to other domains of culture. In 1926 one of his major philosophical works was published: I principi di una teoria della ragione (Mi 1926, 19602) devoted to epistemological problems. From 1932 he was a professor of the history of philosophy at the University of Milan. In the journal he established in 1940, “Studii filosofici”, he published his own studies in aesthetics, contemporary philosophy, and the connection of philosophy with religion and the sciences. His work, L’uomo copernicano (Mi 1950, 19652), showed his interest in Marxist thought. In 1948 he was elected by the Popular From as senator. The Communist Party ratified this election in 1953.
Besides the above mentioned publications, Banfi’s major works include: Pestalozzi (Fi 1929, 19612); Vita di Galileo Galilei (Mi-R 1930, 19622); Nietzsche (Mi 1934); Socrate (Mi 1943, 19632); Vita dell’arte (Mi 1947, 2nd ed. in: Problemi di un’estetica filosofica, Mi 1961); Galileo Galilei (Mi 1949, 19612). His most important articles are contained in: Scuola e società (R 1958); La ricerca della realtà (I–II, Fi 1959); Saggi sul marxismo (R 1960); Filosofi contemporanei (Mi 1961, ed. R. Cantoni); La problematicità dell’educazione (Fi 1961, ed. G. M. Bertin); Filosofia dell’arte (R 1962, ed. D. Formaggio).
Banfi’s thought was shaped by various influences: vitalism, phenomenology, neo-Kantianism, neo-Hegelianism, and historical materialism. Banfi analyzed the philosophy of his time and stated that while it started to develop on Kantian presuppostions it had become distant from them and had come to appreciate the value of the meaning of experience (positivism) or of what is a-rational or irrational (pragmatism, intuitionism, existentialism). Yet there is a need for philosophy once again to study what is by necessity fundamental for it: the construction of a new systematic that would allow it to embrace all the findings of dogmatic systems and interpret them in a dialectical manner. According to Banfi, the “new” rationalism should be characterized by its essential critical character in order to resolve the dualism between the wealth of infinitely variable experience and the abstract and vague schematics of absolute rationalism, and—with the help of a transcendental analysis of cognition&mdquo;to offer a new “theory of reason”. This theory is based on the conception of a transcendental type of reason. According to Banfi, reason is a certain ideal requirement, a principle for organizing and integrating the plurality and fragmentary character of all the aspect of experience (personal, cultural, and social aspects) into increasingly complex and wider forms of knowledge. Knowledge—scientific or philosophical—is the form where reason becomes concrete in cultural life. An essential property of scientific knowledge is universalization (insofar as the reason establishes connections between the data of experience), but in the case of philosophical knowledge the aspect of autonomy is essential (for the reason is order and structure in itself, independent of experience).
According to Banfi, the ideas of Marxist philosophy correspond tot he conception of critical philosophy. Historical materialism offers a new ethics of a social character that is not an ethics of intentions but an ethics of deeds. It shows the human person as a reality who realizes himself while being engaged in the life of all humanity and, at the same time, taking responsibility for it.
Banfi devoted much attention to the problematic of aesthetic experience (he carried on a polemic with Croce’s conception in particular). He emphasized the need for analyses of artistic experience free of doctrinal biases.
E. Paci, Idea e fenomonologia della ragione, in: Pensiero—esistenza—valore, Messina 1940 (passim); L. Pasquetto, Il pensiero di Antonio Banfi, RFNS 38 (1946), 307–322; G. Bontadini, Dall’attualismo al problematicismo, Bre 1947; A. Vasa, La problematica di razionalismo critico e pragmatismo sociale in Antonio Banfi e nella sua scuola, RSF 3 (1948), 34–44; Antonio Banfi, La mia prospettiva filosofica, Pd 1950, 9–27; E. Garin, Cronache di filosofia italiana (1900–1943), Bari 1955 (passim); G. M. Bertin, Banfi, Pd 1943; V. Miano, Problematicismo e educazione, R 1960, 48–84; G. M. Bertin, L’idea di ragione e il pensiero etico-pedagogico di Antonio Banfi, R 1961; F. Papi, Il pensiero di Antonio Banfi, Mi 1961 (bibliogr.); F. Fanizza, Il principio trascendentale e l’autonomia dell’arte nell’estetica filosofia di Antonio Banfi, Rivista di estetica (1962), 442–458; E. Garin, La cultura italiana tra ’800 e ’900, Bari 1962 (passim); L. Sichirollo, Antonio Banfi: la culture italienne e l’Europe, ArPh 52 (1989), 267–278; F. Minazzi, The Presence of Phenomenology in Milan Between the Two World Wars, in: European Cities and the Birth of Modern Scientific Philosophy, A 1997.