Academic journal article The Seventeenth Century

The New Map of the World: The Poetic Philosophy of Giambattista Vico

Academic journal article The Seventeenth Century

The New Map of the World: The Poetic Philosophy of Giambattista Vico

Article excerpt

Giuseppe Mazzotta, The New Map of the World: The Poetic Philosophy of Giambattista Vico, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1999, pp. xviii + 267, £27.50 ($45), 0691001804

Vico's Scienza nuova, published first in 1725 and in a second version in 1730 (rev. ed. 1744), looks backward to the seventeenth century as a criticism of Descartes's conception of knowledge and a challenge to the views of the natural-law theorists - Hobbes, Grotius, Pufendorf, and Selden. When Vico's work is looked at forward, in terms of the eighteenth century it appears as the leading representative of the counter- Enlightenment, at least as Isaiah Berlin has portrayed it. The philosophical analysis of Vico's thought has focused on these two aspects. Vico is the critic of Descartes and Hobbes and the early enemy of the Encyclopaedists.

Giuseppe Mazzotta's work is predicated on the claim that a great deal has been established concerning the philosophical interpretation of Vico's work, from various viewpoints including Benedetto Croce's connection of Vico to Hegel and Ernesto Grassi's connection of Vico to Heidegger. Mazzotta's work 'seeks to provide a preliminary reconnaissance into the specific cultural context nurturing Vico's thought' (xi). Mazzotta's aim is to approach Vico's work in a framework of literary and historical analysis. He traces the connections the Scienza nuova has to the traditions of Renaissance and early modern thought, to such figures as Bacon, Campanella, Bruno, Machiavelli, and Galileo. He gives attention to the politics of Naples, aspects of Augustinian and Thomistic theology, and the myth of Egypt.

All of these themes have been analyzed by Vico scholars, but Mazzotta's interpretations differ in that he approaches Vico from the inside. He wishes to present what in Cassirer's terms could be called the 'inner form' of Vico. Mazzotta speaks of uncovering Vico's 'extraordinary visionariness' (xi). To accomplish this he emphasizes the primary attention Vico places on poetry, on 'poetic wisdom' (la sapienza poetica) as essential to the formation of human society and history and on the sense in which Vico's grasp of the poetic allows him to advance a version of the mappamundi, as captured in the title of Mazzotta's work. …

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