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Contents:
  1. Early life and career
  2. The Uniqueness of Giambattista Vico’s Poetic Philosophy
  3. Vico and Plato - Nancy Du Bois Marcus - Google книги

What Vico is suggesting is that the reader of his work needs to be heroic too but in doing so he ought not consider T he New Science something esoteric, reserved to a select few initiates into the mysteries, but rather exoteric in the sense that the human mind has certain common traits and can therefore narrate to itself The New Science and arrive at the same conclusions as Vico did; that is, discern within itself the ideal eternal history narrated by Vico and thus experience the same divine pleasure.

Early life and career

What are the ideas to which Vico guides the reader? Basically they are wisdom, heroism, tragedy, barbarism of both sense and intellect , memory, providence, imagination, ingenuity. All ideas which the Western philosophical tradition considers superseded. And yet these ideas contain principles which are basic to the shaping of any modern humanistic thought. The greatest danger to those who would correctly interpret Vico is that of placing his thought at the service of a position that is not his own by pigeon-holing him into a school of thought or a discipline.

Giambattista Vico

One such is the philosophy of history, another is cultural anthropology. Thus Croce insured that for the first half of the 20th century Vico would be seen through the eyes of a philosophy of the idea, or Idealism. Thus Vico is robbed of his own originality. In his Autobiography Vico speaks of his hope to be an influential thinker but in Vici vindiciae he warns of the distortions of his thought already afoot in the Acta Eruditorum where his book was reviewed.

Indeed, both are still alive and well in Europe. And how could Vico expect otherwise? To go from these antecedents to the principle of history made by humans, man who is his own history, was not an easy nut to crack within the prevalent Cartesian philosophical approach of the times. Cologne: , p.


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But these men are usually regarded as mere literati and accorded little if any philosophical study. But once again his ideas have been connected to seminal thinkers in semiotic, phenomenology, structuralism, genetic psychology, myth analysis, literary criticism, linguistics, and so on. And here indeed Vico has been most helpful. This is a thought that has forgotten its connection with the imagination of the whole, a loss of the human image of itself; the inability of the thinker to reflect its own wholeness into the products of his own thought.

This barbarism of thought is a kind of human experience deprived of a cultural guide or center, without a perspective on the human mind. As Elio Gianturco used to comment in his magisterial lectures on Vico at New York University : we live in a Cartesian world dominated by procedures, efficient ordering and technological know-how as fix-all for whatever ails us. We should remember that Vico was for most of his academic career an Assistant Professor of Eloquence at the University of Naples. This is all well and good, but there is a caveat of which Vico himself warns us about; namely that the human mind has a propensity to reduce what is unfamiliar and distant to what is familiar and at hand.

And Vico goes pretty far back into the origins of the human world. This is astonishing indeed when one thinks that Vico himself takes pains in his oration De Antiquissima Italorum sapientia to declare that he belongs to no school of thought as such. So the crucial question is this: How should the reader approach Vico?

Vico ends his first oration on self-knowledge by encouraging the students to try these wings, not to remain ignorant of themselves. The praise of human greatness as our natural potential spurs them to want to learn what Vico inspires them to believe is already theirs. All the students must do is just look for it and accept the models offered to them for moderating the passions and cultivating virtue.

Vico encourages them to be the "earthly Mercuries" Pico speaks of in his Oration O , cf.

But as for Pico, one first must bathe in the living river of moral philosophy if one would climb the ladder to become angelic oneself. There are no shortcuts to wisdom, and those who "rush ahead" will fail to reach their goal IO 6. So far we have seen how Vico has considered human beings as they ought to be. But the account is not complete until this ideal is related to the way human beings are, not by nature but in actuality. Vico opens the second oration with a litany of the paradoxes of the human condition: "men are lovers of truth but surrounded by errors; they are gifted with reason but subservient to passions; they are admirers of virtue but full of vices; they are searching for happiness but oppressed by miseries; they have a desire for immortality but languish in their idleness of which, as of death, it is best not to speak" IO 2.

How does Vico hold both that the mind is divine and that most human beings are fools? The answer involves understanding that the dignity of human beings is a goal, not a given. As is evident from the selections from the orations, Vico embraces calling human beings "divine" and makes free will central in his thought in the orations, because as an educator he sees the importance of inspiring confidence in human potentiality. As in Pico, freedom is what makes human beings great as well as miserable.

Vico echoes Pico's claim that human beings have "to become what they are to be" in order to get the students to recognize their potential for greatness in the third oration O ; IO 3. Vico emphasizes that freedom is unique to human beings; "man alone is whatever he chooses to be. He becomes whatever he desires to become.

The Uniqueness of Giambattista Vico’s Poetic Philosophy

He does whatever pleases him. Because of his freedom, which no other created thing possesses, the world would recognize him as being, if not its lord, then nearly its lord" IO 3. However, Vico is far from claiming that human beings are divine more often than bestial. We may be capable of becoming god-like, but we tend to fall short of our potential.

Vico even exclaims that we would be better off without such extensive freedom; "O would that God Eternal had made man subservient to his own nature like all other creatures! With his will thus shackled man would then follow the course of right reason for which he was intended" IO 3. Wisdom indeed is the improvement of man. And man is mind and spirit.

While mind is misled by error, the spirit is corrupted by passions. Wisdom heals both ills, ordering the mind by truth and the spirit by virtue" IO 5.