No Comment, Quotation — December 6, 2007, 12:00 am

Vico’s New Science

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Ma, in tal densa notte di tenebre ond’è coverta la prima da noi lontanissima antichità, apparisce questo lume eterno, che non tramonta, di questa verità, la quale non si può a patto alcuno chiamar in dubbio: che questo mondo civile egli certamente è stato fatto dagli uomini, onde se ne possono, perché se ne debbono, ritruovare i princìpi dentro le modificazioni della nostra medesima mente umana. Lo che, a chiunque vi rifletta, dee recar maraviglia come tutti i filosofi seriosamente si studiarono di conseguire la scienza di questo mondo naturale, del quale, perché Iddio egli il fece, esso solo ne ha la scienza; e traccurarono di meditare su questo mondo delle nazioni, o sia mondo civile, del quale, perché l’avevano fatto gli uomini, ne potevano conseguire la scienza gli uomini. Il quale stravagante effetto è provenuto da quella miseria, la qual avvertimmo nelle Degnita’ della mente umana, la quale, restata immersa e seppellita nel corpo, è naturalmente inchinata a sentire le cose del corpo e dee usare troppo sforzo e fatiga per intendere se medesima, come l’occhio corporale che vede tutti gli obbietti fuori di sé ed ha dello specchio bisogno per vedere se stesso.

Or, poiché questo mondo di nazioni egli è stato fatto dagli uomini, vediamo in quali cose hanno con perpetuità convenuto e tuttavia vi convengono tutti gli uomini, perché tali cose ne potranno dare i princìpi universali ed eterni, quali devon essere d’ogni scienza, sopra i quali tutte sursero e tutte vi si conservano in nazioni.

But in the night of thick darkness enveloping the earliest antiquity, so remote from ourselves, there shines the eternal and never failing light of a truth beyond all question: that the world of civil society has certainly been made by men, and that its principles are therefore to be found within the modifications of our own human mind. Whoever reflects on this cannot but marvel that the philosophers should have bent all their energies to the study of the world of nature, which, since God made it, He alone knows; and that they should have neglected the study of the world of nations, or civil world, which, since men made it, men could come to know. This aberration was a consequence of that infirmity of the human mind by which, immersed and buried in the body, it naturally inclines to take notice of bodily things, and finds the effort to attend to itself too laborious; just as the bodily eye sees all objects outside itself but needs a mirror to see itself.

Now since this world of nations has been made by men, let us see in what institutions all men agree and always have agreed. For these institutions will be able to give us the universal and eternal principles (such as every science must have) on which all nations were founded and still preserve themselves.

Giambattista Vico, La scienza nouva secs. 331-332 (1725) (Fisch & Bergin transl.)

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