Who is Giambattista Vico?

Who is Giambattista Vico?

June 25, 2021 Off By Felso

Giambattista VicGiambattista Vico was a famous Italian philosopher, historian and lawyer who lived from 1668 to 1744.


Giambattista Vico was born in Naples in 1668 and died in the same city in 1744. His father is a poor bookstore with eight children. Vico, whose life story he wrote in 1728, we learned that he had an introverted and melancholic personality as a result of an accident in his childhood, had an education life that was interrupted and far from integrity.

He studied grammar and philosophy at the Jesuit College1 in Naples, and also educated himself in the fields of law and history. In his own words, Vico is an autodidact, that is, self-learning.

Contacting atheist and materialist intellectual circles, Vico began his career as professor of rhetoric at the University of Naples in 1699. Due to the inadequacy of the salary he received from this position, he also gave private lessons.


Having developed a unique understanding of history, Vico opposed Descartes’ approach to history with clear and distinct thoughts and sought accuracy and certainty not in clear thoughts but in what was created and realized by human beings in activity.

vico; He influenced Hegel and Marx philosophically. He stated that while examining the cycles of history, each era should be considered in its own subjective conditions.

Vico has given culture a privileged position by seeing the historical work of man. He has conducted multi-faceted research in fields such as law, philology, history, mythology and art.

Between 1699 and 1708, his main intellectual activity was the extremely remarkable speeches he delivered at the opening ceremony of the university each year. The last of these, on theory of science, was published in 1709 under the title “On the Method of Studies of Our Time” (De nostri temporis studiorum ratione).

Beginning in 1723, he started to prepare his famous work “New Science“. When it came time to publish his book, he received no help from the Papacy or elsewhere, and had to pawn his most valuable possession, the ring, in order to pay the publisher.

The final version of the “New Science”, the first version of which was published in 1725, was published in 1744, the year of the author’s death.

New Science proposes to understand the human and social world in the context of law, tradition, language, literature and art, thus giving special importance to culture. In this sense, Vico (2007), who developed a methodology for the study of human society, determined that each period should be examined according to its own reality with a cyclical understanding of history.

Vico, which separates human life from other lives and the social environment from other environments, has made a great contribution to cultural sociology as well as to cultural sciences.

“Vico’s work has made possible the systematic separation of the sciences that seek to explain nature, and the cultural sciences, which seek to explain the inter-individual relations specific to the human habitat. It is not possible to think of Max Weber’s verstehende sociology, which aims to explain and understand the cultural meanings of historical and social processes, without the works and influence of Vico. Vico was of the opinion that a historical study can only be possible with the category systems of social and cultural sciences and that social and cultural sciences cannot be considered separately from each other” (Doğan, 2011: 87).
According to Doğan Özlem (2000: 63), Vico is the ‘science of the spirit‘ theorist identified with Dilthey. Because the ‘new science‘, of which he speaks, is an effort that wants to understand history and human society in a rational way. It examines historical and social events, as well as deals with forms of sovereignty, private property, laws and customs. Moreover, the new science studies the ‘history of human ideas, so it is the science of the historical-social world.

These views are very important for his own age dominated by the understanding of natural science. He is of the opinion that human social reality cannot be understood from the point of view of natural science. Because natural sciences study nature that was not created by man; Since man does not create nature, he cannot reach its full knowledge.

However, man knows his own world, the historical-social world, the social-civil world better, because he himself created it and lives here. Therefore, man can find the principles of this world in which he lives in the orientations of his own spirit. However, these principles are not directly given; they are only fictional as ‘directions of our own spirit‘ from the darkness of the past.