Luigi Stefanini, the Italian personalist philosopher, taught at Messina and Padua. He was a founder of the Gallarate movement and the founder and first editor of the Rivista di estetica. Much of Stefanini’s own philosophy is to be found in his work on the history of philosophy.
He tried to demonstrate by careful historical analysis that authentic religious and metaphysical needs are adequately met by certain historical positions, especially those of St. Augustine and St. Bonaventure.
His guiding principle, “paradigmatism,” is of Platonic and Neoplatonic origin and may be stated thus: that which is created in the image of another (as is man) has as its constitutive imperative, or life vocation, the expression in itself of its transcendental model.
Stefanini professed in turn Christian idealism, spiritualism, and personalism. His Christian idealism was based on a critique of Giovanni Gentile’s claim that the self generates the self and the world and hence is the paradigm of the world.
Stefanini held that the self apprehends itself not as self-generating but as created and therefore has its paradigm in an other. Art is an immediate expression of that other and provides an approach to the Christian experience, in which the image of God in the human subject is remodeled on the higher paradigm of Christ.
Stefanini’s spiritualism began in a critique of historicism, phenomenology, and existentialism. All of these, he claimed, divide the transcendental from the existential. He sought to heal this split by the analysis of the self. The self is not existence as given (Dasein) but existence that utters itself.
The self is spirit, or word, and this word does not utter, but alludes to, the Absolute; in this way it reveals its dependence. The purest form of this allusion to the Absolute is the Word of God, Christ. The vocation of the Christian is to utter that Word in himself.
Stefanini called his most mature thought “personalism.”The self is central to every form of participation and is the only ultimate point of reference. But the self cannot sustain itself; it rests upon the other, and the transcendent is therefore the principle of the self ’s being.
The self realizes itself as a person by its relation to the transcendent. It seeks to realize the transcendent in itself according to the limits and form of its own being.