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Philosophy, Autobiography and Historical Knowledge: A Nexus
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2010-12-22 08:49:34
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Donald Phillip Verene. The New Art of Autobiography:  An Essay on the Life of Giambattista Vico, Written by Himself. Oxford University Press, 1991.

Autobiography as Philosophy The Philosophical Uses of Self-Presentation  Editors: Thomas Mathien; D. G. Wright 2006.

Fred Inglis, History Man: The Life of R. G. Collingwood, Princeton University Press, 2009.


                          “Biography, at its best, is poetry; at its worst, an obtrusive egotism" 

                                                                --R.G. Collingwood, in The Idea of History

                         “Scrissela da filosofo” (He wrote it as a philosopher)

                                                                                 --G. Vico, on his Autobiography


The above three books have become an essential guide for anybody interested in researching and studying the nexus between autobiography and the philosophy of history. They are a veritable treasure throve on autobiography as written by great philosophers and its relation to their  philosophy. The aim of this article is modest: to briefly present those books to the readers hoping that it will encourage them to go deeper in this fascinating subject matter. For indeed philosophical biography is as old as philosophy and human history itself.  All the way back in the third century we can discern Diogenes Laertius writing about the lives of philosophers.

In the first of the three above mentioned treatises we have the first full-length study of Vico's highly original autobiography by  a widely recognized Vico expert, Donald Phillip Verene, a professor of philosophy who has dedicated some forty years of scholarship to Giambattista Vico. He  discusses Vico’s autobiography’s place in the history of the genre generally, and shows it to be the first work of modern intellectual autobiography that uses a genetic method. Moreover, he views the autobiography as a work in which Vico applies the principles of human history already discussed in The New Science, making the telling of his own life an application and verification of his own philosophy. He then considers it in relation to Augustine's Confessions, Descartes' Discourse, and Rousseau's Confessions. Vico is clearly shown to be not only the founder of the modern philosophy of history predating Hegel, an historical phenomenon this disputed only by a few eccentrics attempting to attract attention to themselves, but Vico is also shown to be the originator of a philosophical art of methodological self-narrative which is the response by a modern thinker to the ancient problem of self-knowledge. Surely one can discover autobiography even in Socrates’ self-defense before the prosecuting Athenian court of justice, or injustice as the case may be, but we have to wait for Vico to establish and elucidate the nexus between philosophy, history and autobiography. That is not to say that many important philosophers have not written historical accounts of their own lives eschewing the more impersonal, abstract and argumentative style of philosophical writing.

The second book edited by Mathien and Wright (2006) fills a glaring gap, it is a text focusing on autobiography as philosophy, a collection which discusses several such autobiographies in the light of their authors' broader work, and considers whether there are any philosophical tasks for which life accounts are particularly appropriate.  Particularly interesting in Autobiography as Philosophy is  a general discussion about the nexus between philosophical and autobiographical writing; also brilliant essays on the specific writings of Augustine, Abelard, Montaigne, Descartes, Vico, Hume, Rousseau, Newman, Mill, Nietzsche, Collingwood and Russell. The contributors are all recognized specialists and authorities on the works of these philosophers.

Besides being original and distinctive in its sustained effort to think about the writings of historically recognized philosophers as communicative acts governed by their own distinctive interests and purposes, this book also reveals that it is as much about the texts and the authors as it is about their doctrines and arguments. As a result the book steps back from many of the issues of substantive philosophical discussion to reflect on certain forms of writing as means to philosophical ends, to consider what those ends have included. In other words, attention is paid not only to philosophical content, as important as that is, but also to the form which informs the content, form and content are related, a Vichian operation at its best.

The third book, like the first, focuses more sharply on one particular philosopher: R. G. Collingwood who was very familiar with both The New Science and Vico’s Autobiography, was greatly influenced by those works, and wrote extensively on the philosophy of history. The assumption throughout  is not only that major works in philosophy warrant a biography of the philosopher, but that the life will illuminate the work in ways that reflection on the work alone will fail to do. This of course is a debatable assumption which seems to contradict the notion that what makes a major philosopher is precisely the work and the work alone, not the hagiography around it, often degenerating into a veritable cult of a particular pet philosopher and philosophy  conforming to one’s own particular mind-set.

To be sure, R. G. Collingwood's An Autobiography written several decades ago is justifiably considered a classic of its kind. What is intriguing about it is that Collingwood insists in its preface that his work stands apart from his life. That work, Collingwood reminds us, comprises a rapprochement between philosophy and history, theory and practice. Exactly what we also find in Vico’s autobiography. But this important distinction between work and the life is what Fred Inglis does not seem to stress in his biography of Collingwood. To be sure, philosophical biography sheds greatest light on its subject when the biographer displays a firm grasp not only of the work and life of the philosopher, but also of the connections between them. But Inglis seems to reject Collingwood's autobiographical determination to tell the story of his life solely in terms of his work.

So, when Inglis speaks about the job of the biographer as the re-enactment of his subject's thought, he does so in the context of his view that the philosopher's thought as a philosopher and his life are indistinguishable. Now Collingwood certainly rejectes the picture of philosophy as a form of logical analysis akin to mathematics, but if, for Collingwood, philosophy lacks the impersonality of mathematics, something also found in Vico’s historicism (which declares that what man makes, history being one of the things he makes, can be known even more precisely than what he does not make), it does not necessarily follow that he thought philosophical difficulties the same as personal ones. So, Inglis must either separate biography from history or turn biography into art form. What he ends up doing is wavering between the two.

Enthusiastic defenders of philosophical biography will insist that it enables us to understand a philosopher's work not differently, but better. Collingwood, however, is absolutely clear, as Vico also is, that biography and mere documentation and chronological recounting of life events is not history. Equally important for Collingwood is his view that historical knowledge is more like a condition of human understanding in general than simply a specialised part of it. Further, the rapprochement which Collingwood looked for in the relation between history and philosophy could only be achieved if history was conceived in this way. There can, therefore, be no rapprochement between philosophy and biography. While the rapprochement between history and philosophy is possible, the rapprochement between philosophy and biography is not.

So, for Collingwood as well as for Vico, it is not sufficient for philosophical biographers to claim that they are showing us previously unseen connections between the work and the life. Those connections are better left to the philosophers themselves who know the development of their own thought. That avoids the risk of misunderstanding the work while explaining the life. Which is to say, it is better by far to read Collingwood’s own autobiography than Inglis’s biography of the same. If a biography needs to be written, it is essential that the one who writes the biography of a philosopher report its philosophy in an undistorted mode. This is rarely the case, either because the narrator is not a philosopher or because he is not a clear prose writer, or even worse, because he wants to simply subsume a particular philosopher’s thought under that of another, more to his liking. Historicism may get turned into abstract Platonism, never mind the intention of the philosopher and what the text itself and the interpretation of its frontispiece. This operation  has been attempted with Vico’s New Science.

I submit that only an autobiography consistent with the philosopher’s understanding of history and re-enacting a philosopher's work historically, allows us to get to the core of his philosophical difficulties unhindered by the artificial abstract fusion of life and thought often found in the biography of a philosopher. The danger of such fusion is that the life of the philosopher begins to overshadow his philosophy and a bizarre cult of the philosopher, rather than an understanding of his thought, begins to appear and flourish. Just to mention one example, it is well known that some of those who ardently promote and defend Leo Strauss’s philosophy in America have formed a sort of Masonic cabala, complete with secrets and relics of the master; manuscripts of the same are passed around classified with “for your eyes only.” That, I suggest, goes a long way in explaining why Collingwood relegated biography below history. It is through history alone that both Collingwood and Vico’s philosophy can be kept alive, as indeed the very title of Inglis’ book amply suggests.

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Thanos2010-12-22 22:02:56
Emanuel, I have the feeling that every year before Xmas you find a way to lead me to the bookshops!!! :) Cheers!!!

Francesco2010-12-23 14:42:07
Auto and hetero biography as philosophy
By Francesco Tampoia

In reference to Emanuel Paparella’s article, allow me briefly to add some marginal notes.
In my recent essay, just published on Journal Symposium, titled ‘Autobiography-Heterobiography, Philosophy and Religion in Derrida’, I tried to show how the movement of never stable meanings that links biography and religion, the personal version of his life that Derrida gives us, and his philosophical-theological reflection, especially on Judaic and Christian religious traditions, are interwoven in an inextricable whole to the point of describing a kind of ineffable literary and philosophic notion of religion. But, why does Derrida, similarly to other philosophers, turn explicitly in his later writings to speak of himself? Is the autobiographical genre a way of seeking the truth, of doing philosophy? I think so. Need only to remember the classical examples, the well known Augustine, Montaigne, Rousseau and Nietzsche, or Vico and Collingwood, as Paparella writes. In support of my argument, by means of a close reading, I considered the stimulating Another Abraham, in French Abraham, l’autre to demonstrate the inseparability between autobiography, philosophy, religion and literature in J. Derrida. After, I made reference to the most provocative of all of Derrida’s texts Circumfession, provided with autobiographical testimonies, where the friendly relation between Bennington and Derrida is the setting of a sort of relation in four that includes Augustine and God. Derrida tells us about his marginal notes, Circumfession, that they are a kind of Jewish Confes-sions, a sort of diary-cum-dialogue with St. Augustine, his equally weepy compatriot, a sort of haunting and enigmatic journal he kept while his beloved mother lay dying in Nice. Fine example of auto-heterobiography! In Circumfession, the son of tears (Augustine/Jacques) cir-cum-fesses (to God/―you‖) about his mother (Monica/Georgette) who went out on the northern shores of the Mediterranean (Ostia/Nice), from which both families had emigrated. In the same discussion, he took the opportunity to pay attention to those analogies, saying, and says: I play with some analogies: that he came from Algeria, that his mother died in Europe, the way my mother was dying in Nice when I was writing this, and so on. I am constantly playing, seriously playing, with this, and quoting sentences from Confessions in Latin, all the while trying, through my love and admiration for St. Augustine—I have enormous and immense admiration for him—to ask questions about a number of axioms, not only in his Confessions but in his politics, too.
To be sure the research and the study of the ‘nexus between autobiography and the philosophy of history. They are a veritable treasure throve on autobiography as written by great philosophers and its relation to their philosophy’. Recently I had read the book Plasticity at the Dusk of Writing: Dialectic, Destruction, Deconstruction by Malabou presented as her personal conceptual portrait, her auto-portrait, -the book has the form of an intellectual autobiography-. Malabou invites us to consider it as a sort of transformational masks built of the profiles of Hegel and Heidegger, Hegel and Freud, Heidegger and Lévi-Strauss, Hegel and Derrida. That is to say, structuralism (Lévi Strauss) and the two logics of negation particularly circulating through the thought of Hegel, Heidegger and Derrida. In such a way the philosopher re-discovers himself and renews himself. Not only. What I would emphasize is that the autobiographical genre is a way of seeking the truth, of doing philosophy.
Francesco Tampoia, ‘Autobiography-Heterobiography, Philosophy and Religion in Derrida’, Symposium, 2010
Francesco Tampoia, forthcoming review of Catherine Malabou, Plasticity at the Dusk of Writing: Dialectic, Destruction, Deconstruction, Carolyn Shread (tr.), Columbia UP, 2010, PIR.

Emanuel Paparella2010-12-23 15:29:57
I wish to thank my friend Francesco Tampoia for adding some pertinent, illuminating and relevant reflections, via Derrida’s philosophy, to this subject which in some way or other accompanies philosophy in general but the philosophy of history in particular. Indeed, the topic is so vast and complex that it is practically inevitable that important omissions would occur. As mentioned in my review essay, the presntation of the subject here merely skims the surface and is meant as an invitation to plumb the depths; it is up to the reader to accept the invitation to explore this fascinating philosophical subject.

Marco Andreacchio2010-12-23 21:04:46
One striking and fundamental difference between Vico's classical "Autobiography" and Nietzsche's ultra-modern autobiographical writings is marked by the former pointing always away from himself. Thus, for instance, in his "Vita," Vico speaks always in the *third-person*; he never says "I," but replaces the Cartesian ego ("thrown" in the midst of material change) with a metaphysically rooted political *object* (a poetic mask).

In the "Vita," Vico invites readers to rise into the objectified "Lord Vico" as form/vehicle for a journey of discovery of "the true civil nature of man," or of the centrality of virtue in the constitution of human experience. In this respect at least, the pilgrim Vico is one with the pilgrim of Dante's Commedia. Both authors present their respective compositions as edifying works in Ethics or political philosophy.

Nothing could be father from or more inimical to these authors than deconstructionists.

Eugenio Montale's words are most pertinent. In 1965, the Nobel laureate spoke of Dante as

"foremost example of poetic objectivism and rationalism, [who] remains extraneous to our own times, to a civilization that is subjectivist and fundamentally irrational because it places its meanings in facts and not in ideas. Why, it is properly the reason of facts that escapes us today. Concentric poet, Dante cannot furnish models to a world that distances itself progressively from the center and declares itself in perennial expansion" (Montale. 1976. Sulla Poesia. Milano: Arnoldo Mondadori; p. 33).

Best regards,
Marco Andreacchio

Jack2010-12-23 22:00:41

The very fact that the philosopher is part historian is validated nicely in the works of Robin George Collingwood. The very fact that he held history as a recollection of the thinking of a historical personage was under-girded by his consideration as to whether two different people can have the same thought and not just the same content, concluding that "there is no tenable theory of personal identity" preventing such a doctrine.

It would seem impossible to separate the historian and history from the philosopher and philosophy and vice versa since and that the autobiography of one that is both is a consummation of both.

Merry Christmas to you Emanuel, and to all the readers and staff at Ovi.

Emanuel Paparella2010-12-24 00:05:21
Another reliable source for those who wish to move from mere glib generalizations to substantive research in this area is an interesting article by David M. Perry which appeared in “The Personalist Forum, Vol. 10, n. 2, Fall 1994 (Personalism is not only an academic viewpoint but a social movement; an applied philosophy) and is titled Reconstructing the Self: Philosophical Autobiography in Vico and Nietzsche.

Emanuel Paparella2010-12-24 06:31:46
Another source is Michael Sprinker’s essay “Fictions of the Self”. There Sprinker addresses the tension that exists between the concepts of the individual with a unique identity, and the person as a sign, an unidentifiable image, a tension that specifically comes forward when one considers the author of an autobiography. It is in this context that Sprinker talks about Vico's Autobiography. As every text is a product of discourses between texts, the autobiography can be read in this way too, and Vico's Autobiography is a brilliant example, as it is a work that constantly reminds the reader of its origins in other works and discourses. Indeed, in his Autobiography Vico endeavors to investigate the sources that led to his own writings, especially the New Science, and offers insight into his intellectual background and the genesis of his thoughts as Vereene also points out. The paradox here is this: in his autobiography Vico makes it clear that he considered himself an autodidact, independent from other philosophers and writers, and yet the Autobiography portrays itself as a product from the influence of their works. To understand the paradox we have to take into account that Vico regarded history as repetition, with every period being unique because of its differences from the others, yet "a recurrence of the universal pattern." The Autobiography should be read with a similar attitude. Vico's work is unique and independent because it is influenced by other works and ideas and produces differences from these influences. He is influenced by Plato but he is no Platonist as some would misguidedly and erroneously claim. It is a case of a simultaneous confirmation of similarity and discontinuity. Without understanding that paradox one is bound to distort Vico.

Emanuel Paparella2010-12-24 15:20:39
And here are the opening lines of Samuel Beckett's first work titled "Dante, Bruno, Vico, Joyece":

“Giambattista Vico was a practical roundheaded Neapolitan. It pleases Croce to consider him as a mystic, essentially speculative, “disdegnoso dell’ empirismo.” It is a surprising interpretation, seeing that more than three-fifths of his Scienza Nuova is concerned with empirical investigation. Croce opposed him to the reformative materialistic school of Ugo Grozio, and absolves him from the utilitarian preoccupations of Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, Bayle and Machiavelli. All this cannot be swallowed without protest. Vico defines Providence as: “una mente spesso diversa ed alle volte tutta contraria e sempre superiore ad essi fini particolari che essi uomini se avevano proposti; dei quali fini ristretti fatti mezzi per servire a fini piu ampi, gli ha sempre adoperati per conservare l’umana generazione in questa terra.”

Marco Andreacchio2010-12-24 16:51:26
There is a twofold problem with Verene's account of Vico. De facto, Verene replaces Vico's "authors" with Kant-Hegel-Romanticism, which in turn are understood and presented as "intellectual background" for Verene's own reading of Vico. The authority of Vico's "objects" is symbolically appropriated for Verene's fusion of object&background.

Here Verene confuses Vico's objective poetic masks with a new underlying source (subjectum); he confuses the old authors with a novel substantive sources, fusing "occasions/motives" with "reason/ground," into a historicist or evolutionary cocktail alien to Vico himself.

This Verene does in the very act of dismissing Vico's actual arguments as mere appendixes to a project brought to fruition, not by Vico, but by Verene himself (via a radicalizing of Cassirer's neo-Kantianism).

It would be a mistake to assume that Vico understands his thought as the product of his authors, not to speak of his environment. His VITA's argument-and-action indicate that Vico acquired a heterodox understanding of (scrittori), independently of (autori) and their contemporary self-satisfied representatives: free from the strictures of dogmatic pseudo-education, Vico sought his way back to the truth about Plato, Aristotle, and other classical philosophers, independent but also at the heart of the authoritative masks they had been conceived as by the fossilized tradition of his times.

Seeking the truth about Plato, or even the true Plato--no less than "the true Homer"--Vico leads his careful reader to the discovery of a virtue latent in the depths of philosophy as commonly conceived--a metaphysically-rooted "strength of mind" (as he calls it) serving as unifying factor of our common experience of things, and thereby of the world of nations.

Verily, the only true source Vico acknowledges for his work is metaphysically-rooted virtue, a VIS VERI allowing him to speak of *constancy* in reasoning about the source of all authority.

Buon Natale.

Marco Andreacchio

Emanuel Paparella2010-12-24 20:50:34
The readers who may still be following this thread and may be a bit confused at this point by some of the inaccurate and misguided statements proffered in these commentaries ought to be aware that Donald Phillip Verene is a widely recognized and eminent Vico scholar who had dedicated his whole academic career to Vico studies and challenging the assumptions of modern philosophy, not excluding 18th century Enlightenment and 19th century Romanticism. He is the Charles Howard Chandler Professor of Metaphysics and Moral Philosophy at Emory University. Among his various acclaimed and well reviewed books on Vico he wrote a book which followed the book mentioned here in 1997 with one titled Philosophy and the Return to Self-knowledge (New Heaven, Connecticut, Yale University Press). It was reviewed positively as a distinguished contribution to Vico studies in the Journal of Aesthetic Education in 1999, among others. In this book, as the same title intimates, Vereene proposes that philosophy must return to self-knowledge as the Renaissance (not Romanticism) defined it and completely rejects the modern philosophical view of the self as an object of knowledge among many. But as already mentioned, let the reader read those books themselves and make up their mind. Mine is a mere warning to be aware of self-declared experts their interpretation of Vico. Let Vico and those scholars who have studied and interpreted him for the last 300 years or so, speak for themselves.

Emanuel Paparella2010-12-24 20:59:25
P.S. I failed to mention that the scholar who reviewed Verene's book on the return to Self-knowledge in Vico, in the Journal of Aesthetic Education, is Professor John D. Schaeffer.

Marco Andreacchio2010-12-25 03:13:58
Mr. Paparella,

On p. 30 of his "Science of Imagination," Verene states that three works, respectively by Kant, Hegel, and Cassirer, "are the background from which I [i.e. Verene] have read Vico and against which in large part I wish to place his ideas."

V's recent work on "speculation" ("Speculative Philosophy") presents a decisive reiteration of his earlier works. Verene openly uses Vico as a stepping stone on the way to a "new philosophy" that is supposed to rise at the end of Western civilization--a philosophy understood as "tragicomic" (p. xxiii) literature or narrative (pp. 4, 23, etc.) or totalizing "eloquence" (p. 33) made to "instruct, delight, and move" (p. xii).

In this--as in his rejection of philosophical argumentation (pp. 2 and 47ff) and "reflection" in favor of "speculation" (pp. xx, 3, 35ff) and myth (pp. 11 and 97-126)--V writes in the unacknowledged shadow of Spengler.

On Verene's replacement of Vico's Authors with a new set of authors serving as novel "intellectual background," see (aside from "Science of Imagination"), ibid., pp. xxi-xxii.

On V's historicist synthesis of objectum and subjectum, see ibid. pp. 36-45 (esp. V's defense of a conception of the philosophy as "child of his own time" reflecting the totality of time "symbolically").

It would be a mistake to conceive of Renaissance philosophers in line with V's neo-Romantic project to appropriate all previous ages for itself.

No C.V. or academic pedigree can serve as accurate and well-guided basis for dismissing the above reflections as inaccurate and misguided.

Best wishes,
Marco Andreacchio

Emanuel Paparella2010-12-25 06:27:22

Marco Andreacchio2010-12-25 18:19:53
Mr. Paparella,

In reference to the article you pointed to:

Nowhere in Vico's writings does "Vico insist [...] that in order for Man to understand himself and avoid the danger of scientific objectification, he needs to attempt a re-creation of the origins of humanity."

Nor does Vico state or even suggest that "it was Man himself who created his own origins, and therefore he can return to them."

Perhaps you would wish to refute the two negations stated above with counter-evidence from primary sources.

In reality (in critical response to Hobbes' doctrine of "the state of nature") Vico calls his reader to "intend" (*not to imagine*) the beastly, wild natures of pre-civilized men as hypotheses--by "covering-up the utter-forgetfulness [oblio] of their own imaginations and of their own memories, so as to leave a place free for the sole intending-mind" (Scienza Nuova 1730/1744, "Of the Method," par. 1).

Vico's call is set in the context of a treatment of the origins or "principles of Gentile Humanity," i.e. authorities (or Authors) in the order of time. Here, Vico (after, inter alia, Dante's Convivio and Commedia) states that "we must go to a Vulgar Metaphysics, which was the Theology of Poets, and from that repeat the principle that to the beastly passions of those lost [perduti] men set mode and measure, and rendered them human passions. This Principle cannot be other than the conatus, which is proper of human volition..." (ibid., par. 2). Instead of any "re-creation of the origins of humanity," what we have here is a regaining for ourselves ("ripetere" is a recalling of what is our own to begin with) of the civilizing principle of poetry, i.e. the virtue personified by the poets of classical antiquity.

It would be a grave error to assume that Vico presents the virtue in question as being in any way something we create.

Best regards,

Emanuel Paparella2010-12-25 20:34:59
I am not so naïve as to believe that those out to subsume and distort will ever be convinced, not matter how many primary sources and quotes they are presented with, but for the sake of those readers (if indeed there be any) who may continue to follow this thread and may be by now wholly confused and dumbfounded, let me finally offer a few of those from the New Science of Vico. I will not offer any other. I reiterate, the reader can make up her/his own mind in this matter. I will place at the bottom of this comment a site which may be helpful to those who are new to Vico, but there are many others. I think it bears mentioning, as necessitated by the egregious general statements about Vico’s philosophy found abouve, that I have written a Ph.D. dissertation on Vico’s paradoxical concept of Providence at Yale University supervised by another recognized Vico scholar: Giuseppe Mazzotta (1990) and have studied Vico at New York University with another such: Elio Gianturco. I mention this because unfortunately nowadays we have various self-declared Vico experts who cavalierly challenge the scholarly reputation and credential of genuine scholars and believe they can continue doing so with impunity. Here again, let the reader judge for herself from the quotes below.
In his discussion of method in section IV of the Scienza Nuova Vico specifically notes that the path his science should follow is “to begin where its subject matter began; that “we must therefore go back” with the philologians and philosophers to fetch what interests us from the myths of the first humans. “Our treatement of it may take its start from the time these creatures began to think humanly.” (NS, 338) That is to say, when faced with any “civil thing,” our first question should always be, What are the archai, or governing roots? It is such reasoning as this, which thinks from the origins, that Vico calls logical proofs (SN, 345). Such proof operates in a way quite different from that of a deductive system, for it functions in terms of memory, and the logic of memory is not found in a linear series of linked truths. Vico specifically states that “in reasoning of the origins of things divine and human in the gentile world, we reach those first beginnings beyond which it is vain curiosity to demand others earlier, and this is the defining character of principles. We explain the particular ways in which they came into being; that is to say, their nature the explanation of which is the distinguishing mark of science” (SN, 346). In other words, what Vico is urging upon us is a heroic journey which paradoxically (as in Dante’s Commedia) is at the same an ascent in that it is a return to the beginning principles which structure the birth, growth, and end of human society. The journey is a descent that is also an ascent, reversing the familiar logical principles of coherence. It is a paradox, but those who fail to grasp it are condemned to distort of subsume Vico’s philosophy. We have seen the phenomenon in the very comments under this posting.
Here is the site with various published articles on Vico. I also have a book out titled “Hermeneutics in the Philosophy of G. Vico” (Mellen Press, 1993) which the reader may wish to peruse.

Marco Andreacchio2010-12-26 01:00:58
Mr. Paparella:

It is not at all clear that anything you quote from the Bergin translation of Vico's work contradicts in any way my earlier interventions.

Otherwise, you state:

"Vico specifically notes [...] that 'we must therefore go back' with the philologians and philosophers to fetch what interests us from the myths of the first humans."

This is your personal interpolation, not Vico's own suggestion. If you wish to refute my suggestion, you are welcome to let Vico speak for himself.

Incidentally, Vico's "descent" takes its explicit bearings from Plato's "descent" (cf. VITA and DE ANTIQUISSIMA). What about it should strike the common folk as incoherent?

If I understand you correctly, you are suggesting that Plato's "descent" follows from his "ascent." But it would be a mistake to assume that Plato descends upon us as if from the heavens, or dogmatically (after having ascended). The classical Platonic ascent (unlike the ascent of pre-Socratics)--or Socrates' "second navigation"--is reflective or rational quest for principles (the Ideas) sought within the City of men (not the heavens) as the reason of authority (the eternal reason in which for us authority necessarily partakes; the reason *imitated* by authorities).

Vico is resurrecting a classical quest, indicating that the Ideas are none other than the Authors of civil society in their essential nature. Not for nothing in his "Principi di Scienza Nuova" Vico explicitly invites solely political philosophers, and above all the Platonic ("...vi ammette solamente i Filosofi Politici, principalmente i Platonici": http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=60Vaffm0sJsC&pg=PA93&dq=filosofi+politici+principalmente+i+Platonici&hl=en&ei=VXAWTZ25DMimhAfNxuG3Dg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=6&ved=0CD8Q6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=filosofi%20politici%20principalmente%20i%20Platonici&f=false).).
[A philological gloss: Vico's "solamente" follows after a reference to "solitari" or "monastici"--solitary philosophers who are NOT admitted. Not without irony, Vico's "solamente" suggests the solitary condition of political philosophers, who are solitary/monastic in the midst of political things: essentially undivided in division, unmoving movers.]

Mr. Paparella,
Does your understanding of Plato allow you to speak as Vico does when he invokes Platonic political philosophers as *principal* inhabitants of jurisprudential science or wisdom?

Best regards,

Marco Andreacchio2010-12-26 01:04:49
The source cited above sould read:


Emanuel Paparella2010-12-26 07:30:39
Let the reader take notice that SN stands for New Science (in Italian titled Scienza Nuova) and that therefore all the quotes in my previous posting followed by SN and a number are quotes from Vico himself as translated by Fish and Bergin, the most authoritative and widespread translation available in the Anglo-Saxon world since 1948 by two widely recognized and reputable Vico scholars.

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