Mario Dal Pra was one of the main exponents of the Italian neo- Enlightenment, but his most important contributions dealt with the history of empiricism in the eighteenth century (Condillac and Hume in particular). The author of this essay shows how this historical research intertwined with a strong interest in the development of contemporary philosophical discourse on twentieth-century empiricism, under the influence of Dal Pra’s close friend Giulio Preti. The focus of this connection was, from Dal Pra’s perspective, on retrieving an active function for the subject, against the current view of empiricism as a philosophy of passive reception from the outside. Starting from the "new image of sensualism" suggested by Condillac (1942), Dal Pra moved on to Hume’s philosophy and his interpretation of him shifted from the assumptions of the first outline (1949) to the more mature and balanced monograph of 1973. The author analyzes in depth the changes that occurred in this lapse of time, which led to a new position that was called by Dal Pra "critical empiricism".
Keywords: Mario Dal Pra, David Hume, Etienne Bonnot de Condillac, empiricism, Enlightenment