THE RADICAL IMPACT IN ITALY
Vico and Doria are often characterized as 'anti-moderns' and it is not hard to see why Cartesianism initiated the assault on received ideas and tradition in Italy in the last two decades of the seventeenth century. But having first espoused Descartes' ideas, like the rest of the Neapolitan philosophical coterie at that time, both philosophers subsequently abjured Cartesianism—Vico during the first decade of the new century, Doria rather later. In his On the Most Ancient Wisdom of the Italians (1710) Vico roundly rejects Descartes' ideas on substance, mind, matter, and motion.1 Later, in the 1730s, as Locke's ideas penetrated Italy, Doria became the leading opponent of the new empirical philosophy in Italy, while his learned colleague, if less outspoken in this regard, at any rate has nothing positive to say about Locke or the Lochisti.2 Vico moreover was a vigorous advocate of absolute monarchy. Not only does he claim that 'monarchy is the form of government best adapted to human nature when reason is fully developed,' he apparently frowns on the Glorious Revolution, deeming early eighteenthcentury England an arrested, or retarded, monarchy, like Poland, countries which, however, 'if the natural course of human civil institutions is not impeded… will become perfect monarchies'.3
Yet spurning the systems of Descartes, Locke, and Newton is by no means necessarily a sign of anti-modernity in the Early Enlightenment. Superficially, Vico may sometimes sound like a traditionalist, with his acerbic comments on Machiavelli, Hobbes, Spinoza, and Bayle.4 But, as has been shown, there is much that is paradoxical in his rebuttals of these writers from whom, in reality, he derives a great deal.5 Like Doria, Vico knows them all thoroughly, as he does Bacon, Grotius, and Le Clerc, a form of intellectual engagement which is in itself, whatever else one says about Vico, an entirely modern one.6 Indeed, there are grounds for regarding Vico's whole enterprise, his quest to uncover the true nature of morality, law, institutions, and politics, as these evolved through the ages, as not just a profoundly modern but also, though today—in contrast to the later eighteenth century—this is usually denied,7 essentially
1 Vico, On the Most Ancient Wisdom, 74–4, 79–92.
2 Croce, Filosofia, 129, 222.
3 Vico, The New Science, 379, 413.
4 Lilla, G. B. Vico, 61–1.
5 Morrison, 'Vico and Spinoza', 48–80; Remaud, 'Conflits', 35, 56–60.
6 Vico, Autobiography, 139, 146, 154–4, 158–8, 164–4; Sina, Vico e Le Clerc, 10–04.
7 See, for instance, Stone, Vico's Cultural History, 243.