Originally published in English in 1980, Rhetoric as Philosophy has been out of print for some time. The reviews of that English edition attest to the importance of Ernesto Grassi’s work.
By going back to the Italian humanist tradition and aspects of earlier Greek and Latin thought, Ernesto Grassi develops a conception of rhetoric as the basis of philosophy. Grassi explores the sense in which the first principles of rational thought come from the metaphorical power of the word. He finds the basis for his conception in the last great thinker of the Italian humanist tradition, Giambattista Vico (1668–1744). He concentrates on Vico’s understanding of imagination and the sense of human ingenuity contained in metaphor. For Grassi, rhetorical activity is the essence and inner life of thought when connected to the metaphorical power of the word.
Ernesto Grassi, former student of Martin Heidegger and the author of numerous books in German and Italian, was a professor of philosophy at the University of Munich and director of the Institute of Humanistic and Philosophic Studies. Well known and respected in Europe as a scholar and philosopher, Grassi died in 1991.
“Rhetoric as Philosophy is a surprisingly refreshing examination of the history and significance of the Italian humanistic tradition. . . . In an atmosphere which is heavy with technical and formal languages, this suitably elegant account of another tradition is timely and ecumenical.”—Radical Philosophy
“The cogency of argument, the wealth of detail in so brief a volume, and the attention to some long-forgotten humanist texts make Rhetoric as Philosophy important reading for those who care about the role of language in human affairs.” —Quarterly Journal of Speech
“Grassi is convincing in his argument that modern philosophy has attained the prize of ‘critical’ or analytic rigor at the cost of forsaking the concrete reality of the human situation.”—Faith and Reason
“[Rhetoric as Philosophy is] extremely suggestive and points to a number of exciting fresh departures from our entrenched academic routines.”—The Review of Metaphysics