Giambattista Vico

Vico, Giovanni Battista

Giovanni Battista Vico (jōvän´nē bät-tē´stä vē´kō), 1668–1744, Italian philosopher and historian, also known as Giambattista Vico, b. Naples. In 1699, Vico became professor of rhetoric at the Univ. of Naples, and in 1734 he was appointed historiographer to the king of Naples. Vico is regarded by many as the first modern historian; he was the first to formulate a systematic method of historical research, and he developed a theory of history that was far in advance of his times. For Vico, history is the account of the birth and development of human societies and their institutions. He thus departed from previous systems of writing history—either as the biographies of great men, or as the development of God's will. Opposing the antihistorical elements of the prevailing Cartesianism (see Descartes, René), he asserted that history is a valid object of human knowledge because man himself created history. Vico urged the study of language, mythology, and tradition as techniques for the investigation of history. As a philosopher, Vico believed that every period in history had a distinct character, and that similar periods recur throughout history in the same order. He departed from the old cyclical theories of history, however, in asserting that these periods do not recur in exactly the same form, but are subject to the modifications that new circumstances and developments impose. Thus the historian can never be a prophet. Vico also wrote on law, affirming an innate human sense of justice and natural law. Vico's major theories were developed in his New Science (1725), which he revised completely (1730; 1744). Vico's work was little known in his own time, and his importance was not recognized until the 19th cent.

See his autobiography (tr. by M. H. Finch and T. G. Bergin, 1944); G. Tagliacozzo and H. V. White, ed., Giambattista Vico (1969); H. P. Adams, The Life and Writings of Giambattista Vico (1935, repr. 1970); B. Croce, The Philosophy of Giovanni Battista Vico (1913, repr. 1970); F. Vaughan, The Political Philosophy of Giambattista Vico (1972); L. Pompa, Vico: A Study of the New Science (1975); C. L. Stephenson, Giambattista Vico and the Foundations of a Science of the Philosophy of History (1982); P. Burke, Vico (1985).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Giambattista Vico: Selected full-text books and articles

Rhetoric on the Margins of Modernity: Vico, Condillac, Monboddo By Catherine L. Hobbs Southern Illinois University Press, 2002
Vico and Plato By Nancy Du Bois Marcus Peter Lang, 2001
The Quest for the New Science: Language and Thought in Eighteenth-Century Science By Karl J. Fink; James W. Marchand Southern Illinois University Press, 1979
Librarian’s tip: Contains "Vico's Scienza Nuova: An Alternative to the Enlightenment Mainstream"
Seeds of Italian Nationalism, 1700-1815 By Emiliana Pasca Noether Columbia University Press, 1951
Librarian’s tip: Chap. II "Giambattista Vico"
High Points in the History of Italian Literature By Domenico Vittorini David McKay, 1958
Librarian’s tip: Contains "Giambattista Vico and Reality: An Evaluation of De Nostri Temporis"
Approaches to History: Selections in the Philosophy of History from the Greeks to Hegel By Pardon E. Tillinghast Prentice Hall, 1963
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "Giambattista Vico (1668-1744)"
Reappraising Political Theory: Revisionist Studies in the History of Political Thought By Terence Ball Clarendon Press, 1995
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 9 "Vico and Marx on 'Making' History"
The Antimodernist By Lilla, Mark The Wilson Quarterly, Vol. 17, No. 3, Summer 1993
Expecting the Unexpected in Vico By Goetsch, James Robert, Jr CLIO, Vol. 23, No. 4, Summer 1994
The Many Faces of Philosophy: Reflections from Plato to Arendt By Amélie Oksenberg Rorty Oxford University Press, 2003
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 16 "Giambattista Vico Imagination, Language, and the Inventions of Philosophy"
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