Italian positivism is generally considered as a movement which began in 1865 with Villari’s inaugural lecture in Florence. Likewise, Angiulli’s La filosofia e la ricerca positiva (1869) is regarded as the first Italian work dedicated entirely to positivist thought. But Francesco Poletti, a proponent of legal positivism, had published already in 1864 an extensive treatise on the principles of positivist philosophy applied to criminal law: Principii di filosofia positiva applicati al diritto penale. The author of this article tries to reconstruct Poletti’s philosophical development in relation to the growth of positivism in Italy. He shows that Poletti, probably influenced by Ausonio Franchi, adhered to Comte’s positivism in his work of 1864 but considered psychology to be different from physiology and that he modified the law of the three stages.
Keywords: Francesco Poletti, Italian positivism, legal positivism, positivist methodology, Auguste Comte, Ausonio Franchi, Kantianism