Knowledge of Things Human and Divine

Knowledge of Things Human and Divine: Vico’s New Science and "Finnegans Wake"

Copyright Date: 2003
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 278
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  • Book Info
    Knowledge of Things Human and Divine
    Book Description:

    This is the first book to examine in full the interconnections between Giambattista Vico's new science and James Joyce'sFinnegans Wake.Maintaining that Joyce is the greatest modern "interpreter" of Vico, Donald Phillip Verene demonstrates how images from Joyce's work offer keys to Vico's philosophy. Verene presents the entire course of Vico's philosophical thought as it develops in his major works, with Joyce's words and insights serving as a guide.The book devotes a chapter to each period of Vico's thought, from his early orations on education to his anti-Cartesian metaphysics and his conception of universal law, culminating in his new science of the history of nations. Verene analyzes Vico's major works, including all three editions of theNew Science. The volume also features a detailed chronology of the philosopher's career, historical illustrations related to his works, and an extensive bibliography of Vico scholarship and all English translations of his writings.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-12793-5
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Part I. A Portrait of Vico
    • 1 The Joycean Vico: A New Key
      (pp. 3-39)

      In the sixth book of theAeneid, Virgil describes the descent of Aeneas into the Underworld. Aeneas has left the coasts of Troy and, after suffering the tribulations and wanderings caused by the wrath of Juno, he arrives at the Greek settlement of Cumae on the western coast of Italy, just north of the Bay of Naples. On one of the two summits at Cumae is the temple of Apollo, built by Daedalus in gratitude for his safe flight from his imprisonment on Crete by King Minos.

      With his ships at anchor and his men ashore, Aeneas seeks out the...

    • 2 The Life of Vico: A Career in Naples
      (pp. 40-65)

      On the first page of his autobiography Vico describes his descent from the timeless world of childhood to the underworld of a coma, from which he emerged as a child of Saturn, of Chronos, with the melancholic and acrid nature of a philosopher. Vico was transformed from a lively and restless child of fair disposition into a youth whose temperament is associated with ingenious and profound thinkers who, as Vico says, ‘‘through ingenuity flash like lightning in acuity, through reflection take no pleasure in witticism and falsity.’’¹

      The cause of this transformation was Vico’s fall, at the age of seven,...

    • Illustrations
      (pp. None)
  6. Part II. Vico’s Voyage
    • 3 The New Art of Pedagogy: Wisdom Speaking
      (pp. 69-95)

      Joyce said that in writingUlyssesthe ‘‘ports of call were known beforehand’’ (LI:204). In theNew ScienceVico says that ‘‘whenever Ulysses makes a landing or is driven ashore by the tempest, he always mounts a hill to look inland for a trace of smoke which will indicate that the land is inhabited by men’’ (634). Achilles and Ulysses are Vico’s major examples of the imaginative universal of the hero. Achilles embodies the virtue of valor. Ulysses is the figure to whom are attached all the properties of heroic wisdom. It is this wily wisdom that allows Ulysses...

    • 4 The Most Ancient Wisdom: Metaphysics
      (pp. 96-118)

      Vico completed the first phase of his odyssey at the age of forty-one when he published his first major work, the expanded version of his seventh oration, on the method of studies. The following year he announced a complete system of philosophy, under the titleDe antiquissima Italorum sapientia ex linguae latinae originibus eruenda(On the Most Ancient Wisdom of the Italians Unearthed from the Origins of the Latin Language), and published the first book of it,Liber metaphysicus(1710).¹

      Having found a way out of the great cave of Cartesian pedagogy in the seventh oration, Vico arrived quickly on...

    • 5 The Universal Law: Jurisprudence
      (pp. 119-142)

      Although Vico did not write the third part of his system of philosophy that he had intended in theAncient Wisdom, he did not abandon the subject. The focus of Vico’s later work is, in fact, moral philosophy, that is, moral philosophy in its broadest sense, as a science of law, custom, and history, a science of the human world. The first step in this process is his original conception of jurisprudence, developed in his three books ofUniversal Law(Il diritto universale), published in the 1720s, which led to the first and second versions of theNew Science. To...

  7. Part III. Vico’s Science
    • 6 The New Science: The Life of Nations
      (pp. 145-203)

      In the synopsis Vico prefixed to theFirst New Science(1725), he introduced the first book with a line from theAeneid: ‘‘We wander ignorant of the men and the places’’ (Aen. 1.332–33;FNS3). The first book concerns not only the aim of the work but also the difficulty of the means of finding a new science. Vico is both Odysseus and Aeneas, both Greek and Roman, Socrates and Cicero, their heroic wisdom joined to Christian providence. His name means road. His wanderings in pedagogy, metaphysics, and jurisprudence bring him finally into a new country, where everything looks...

  8. Postface
    (pp. 204-206)

    Joyce has been a constant companion in this journey through Vico’s life and writings, providing at various points a new perspective from which to view them. What is Joyce’s overall relation to Vico, whose science he did not necessarily believe in, but whose theories, he said, he would use for all they were worth?

    Joyce called Vico a ‘‘roundhead,’’ the same term he applied to his Italian teacher Ghezzi, ‘‘little roundhead rogue’seye Ghezzi’’ (P 271). Beckett, writing his famous essay onWork in Progressunder Joyce’s direction inOur Exagmination, describes Vico as ‘‘a practical roundheaded Neapolitan,’’ the same phrase...

  9. Chronology
    (pp. 207-220)
  10. Notes
    (pp. 221-240)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 241-254)
  12. Index
    (pp. 255-264)