Vico and Naples

Vico and Naples: The Urban Origins of Modern Social Theory

Barbara Ann Naddeo
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    Vico and Naples
    Book Description:

    Vico and Naples is an intellectual portrait of the Neapolitan philosopher Giambattista Vico (1668-1744) that reveals the politics and motivations of one of Europe's first scientists of society. According to the commonplaces of the literature on the Neapolitan, Vico was a solitary figure who, at a remove from the political life of his larger community, steeped himself in the recondite debates of classical scholarship to produce his magnum opus, the New Science. Barbara Ann Naddeo shows, however, that at the outset of his career Vico was deeply engaged in the often-tumultuous life of his great city and that his experiences of civic crises shaped his inquiry into the origins and development of human society.

    With its attention to Vico's historical, rhetorical, and jurisprudential texts, this book recovers a Vico who was keenly attuned to the social changes transforming the political culture of his native city. He understood the crisis of the city's corporate social order and described the new social groupings that would shape its future. In Naddeo's pages, Vico comes alive as a prescient judge of his city and the political conundrum of Europe's burgeoning metropolises. He was dedicated to the acknowledgment and juridical remedy of Naples' vexing social divisions and ills. Naddeo also presents biographical vignettes illuminating Vico's role as a Professor of Rhetoric at the University of Naples and his bid for the prestigious Morning Chair of Civil Law, which foundered on the directives of the Habsburgs and the politics of his native city. Rich with period detail, this book is a compelling and vivid reconstruction of Vico's life and times and of the origins of his powerful notion of the social.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6087-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Introduction: Vico and Naples
    (pp. 1-18)

    In this book I specifically examine the oeuvre of Giambattista Vico (1668–1744), the famed professor of Rhetoric at the University of Naples, whose magnum opus, the Scienza nuova (3rd ed., 1744), has been hailed by so many contemporary scholars as the precursor of modern social theory and its disciplinary affiliations.¹ Since the 1960s, Vico has often been cited by historians of the social scientific disciplines as a most precocious forerunner, and, as such, a legendary sort of founding figure whose genius transcended his own circumstances. Consequently, as concerns Vico’s own social science, sight of the forest has been lost...

  5. Chapter 1 The Origins of Vico’s Social Theory: Vichian Reflections on the Neapolitan Revolt of 1701 and the Politics of the Metropolis
    (pp. 19-49)

    In 1697 the civic political career of Giambattista Vico was stillborn. In that year, Vico competed for a position in the municipal government of Naples for which he qualified as a citizen of the capital, a title and identity that he proudly touted at the time. Indeed, that same year Vico prominently had signed his elegy on behalf of the deceased Catherine of Aragon as “Giambattista Vico, Citizen of Naples,” lending the luster of his civic qualifications to his yet modest literary credentials.¹ Given his lineage, Vico’s claim to citizenship in the City of Naples must have been a point...

  6. Chapter 2 Vico’s Cosmopolitanism: Global Citizenship and Natural Law in Vico’s Pedagogical Thought
    (pp. 50-89)

    The earliest evidence of the significance of the Coniuratio for Vico’s social theory can be found in the Orationes, the inaugural addresses Vico delivered before the student body and faculty of the University of Naples on 18 October between 1699 and 1708. Despite their pedagogical task to exhort the student body to study, taken as a whole the Orationes equally represented a foray into social theory that elaborated a new vision of cosmopolitanism.

    In the European tradition, the theory of cosmopolitanism had been most fully articulated by the ancients, for whom it first and foremost had signified the apprehension of...

  7. Chapter 3 Vico’s Social Theory: The Conundrum of the Roman Metropolis and the Struggle of Humanity for Natural Rights
    (pp. 90-160)

    With hindsight, Vico would reflect that the argument of De ratione (1709) represented a first draft of those ideas he would develop only a decade later in his legal works, the three-volume treatise commonly known as the Diritto universale (1720–22), which constituted a most protean disquisition on the origins and development of society and law.¹ In the interim, beyond the polemic concerning De antiquissima, Vico’s intellectual life was less spectacularly marked by his duties as a pedagogue and by his acceptance and execution of literary assignments that won him more remuneration than glory. Therein, Vico undertook the first formal...

  8. Chapter 4 From Social Theory to Philosophy: Vico’s Disillusions with the Neapolitan Magistracy and the New Frontier of Philosophy
    (pp. 161-188)

    To date, the political postures of Vico’s texts have been neglected by most scholars and pondered by others with notable frustration. As one critic of the Scienza nuova has admitted with some dismay: “Vico’s writing is frustratingly vague as to its connections and application for his own time. Commentators are even uncertain as to whether he saw himself as living at the end of the heroic age, possibly entering a period of democracy, or as writing in the last phase of monarchy just before a time of renewed barbarism.”¹ And the reasons for their uncertainty derive from Vico’s texts themselves....

  9. Note on References and Translations
    (pp. 189-190)
  10. Abbreviations
    (pp. 191-194)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 195-270)
  12. Sources Cited
    (pp. 271-290)
  13. Index
    (pp. 291-300)