The entry ‘Authority’ by philosopher Augusto del Noce becomes a book

“The eclipse of the idea of ​​authority is one of the essential features of the contemporary world: indeed, it is certainly its most immediately perceptible feature”. This consideration began the entry ‘Authority’ written in 1975 by the philosopher and political scientist Augusto Del Noce (1910-1989) for the Encyclopedia of the Twentieth Century, one of the most important works of the Institute of the Italian Encyclopedia, now republished by Treccani Libri with a preface by the general director Massimo Bray. An ever-timely entry which, as Del Noce wrote, draws attention to that void of authority understood as guidance or ‘direction’, according to the etymological origin of ‘auctoritas’ which derives from ”augere’, ”to make grow’, which includes the idea that “humanitas is realized in man when a principle of a non-empirical nature frees him from the state of subjection and leads him to his goal, that of being rational and moral”.

But today – a today of fifty years ago that seems like now – for Del Noce “the current sensibility mostly associates the idea of ​​authority with that of repression, makes it coincide, contrary to what the etymology expresses, with that which stops growth, which opposes it”. The book “Autorità” contains a reflection on the contemporary Western world, closely connected with the crisis of tradition and with the affirmation of the primacy of well-being and freedom, with the help of the thought of many nineteenth-twentieth century philosophers such as Weber, Guènon, Arendt, Weil or Adorno and declined in the most important historical phenomena of the last centuries: revolutions, world wars, totalitarianism.

The decline of authority as a guide has ended up touching, as Bray recalls in his preface, “some of the fundamental structures of collective life, unfortunately the object in recent decades of processes of delegitimization and deprivation of authority: family, school and political institutions, while continuing to play an essential role, appear today weakened and increasingly struggling to fulfill their traditional task of direction and guidance in the path of participation of individuals in community life”. In this sense, Bray concludes, “the rereading of the entry written by Augusto Del Noce will certainly be able to represent an experience rich in references and food for thought that are more relevant than ever”.

By Editor

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