Robert C. Miner
In this lucid and probing study, Robert C. Miner argues that Giambattista Vico (1668–1744) was the architect of a subversive, genealogical approach to modernity. Miner documents the genesis of Vico’s stance toward modernity in the first phase of his thought. Through close examination of his early writings, centering on Vico’s critique of Descartes and his elaboration of the ‘_verum-factum’_ principle, Vico, Genealogist of Modernity reveals that Vico strives to acknowledge the technical advances of modernity while unmasking its origins in human pride.
Miner’s careful analysis of the often neglected Universal Law shows how Vico uses Augustine to articulate a new conception of natural law that mediates between the idealism of Plato and Aristotle and the realism of Tacitus and Machiavelli. Vico emerges as a penetrating reader of traditional philosophy and philology, as well as a radical pioneer of modern historical consciousness.
Miner also traces important connections between Vico’s magnum opus, the New Science, and his earlier writings, arguing that the New Science is not merely a work of scientific history. Miner contends that this work is more fundamentally a genealogy that enacts Nietzsche’s desire to treat etymology and language as signposts for understanding the development of moral concepts. Miner shows how Vico’s genealogy attempts to disclose hidden continuities between the culture of secular modernity and the pagan institutions of idolatry, divination, and sacrifice.
Throughout this engaging work, Miner portrays Vico’s genealogy as expressly Augustinian and Catholic, yet sufficiently complex to resist assimilation to reactionary anti-modernism. According to Miner, the goal of Vico’s genealogy is to encompass the best of ancient and medieval traditions within an “encyclopedic” fusion of history and philosophy that is both modern and Christian. Although Vico sees the “age of man” as moving toward the “barbarism of reflection,” his trust in divine providence saves him from nihilistic despair. Miner concludes that Vico’s thought not only anticipates later efforts to infuse philosophy with historical consciousness, but also contains the seeds of a coherent alternative to the program of postmodern genealogy.
“. . . Miner has given us nourishing food for thought, and this work deserves attention, not least for Miner’s meticulous scholarship. . . . it should . . . rekindle an interest in this engaging, often neglected Neapolitan thinker.” — Modern Age
“Miner’s book rests on a thorough knowledge of Vico’s work . . . [It] offers original insight and understanding into a seminal, if occasionally neglected, figure and is therefore highly recommended.” — Library Journal
“Miner contends that reading Vico to understand his critique of secular modernity is the key to discovering him. his text is rich in probing questions and comparisons. . . . His style is clear and interesting and ends with helpful notes, bibliography, and index.” — Choice
“. . . Many novel and positive insights . . . Chief of these is the way he incorporates Vico’s Catholicism into his analysis of Vico’s thought. He is really the first Vico scholar to try this kind of synthesis in a systematic way. . . . he deserves great credit for calling attention to the New Science_, and Vico’s thinking as a whole, as an important episode in the study of the history of ethics and religion.” —_New Vico Studies
“. . . Written with ease and enthusiasm.” — Renaissance Quarterly
“. . . Well structured and stimulating.” — Philosophy in Review
“. . . Interesting interpretation of the significance of Vico’s thought. . . .” — The Sixteenth Century Journal