6510/7510 - Session 4 (9/24): Rhetorical Antimodernism: Vico

Now that we have some background in Cartesianism and its influence on 17th-century rhetorical theory and education, we move to an important reaction to Cartesianism, especially to the rejection of "topical" invention that we saw most forcefully stated in the Port-Royal Logic of Arnauld and Nicole. This is the reaction of Giambattista Vico, who taught rhetoric at the Royal University of Naples beginning in 1699 until his retirement in 1741. Vico is typically remembered for his Scienza Nuova (1725) and its influence on Goethe, Rousseau, Coleridge, Marx, and James Joyce among others, especially its fundamental claim: verum ipsum factum, or "the true is what is made." We will be reading excerpts from his 1708 commencement address, De nostri temporis studiorum ratione (On the Study Methods of Our Time), in which advocates rhetorical education over the influence of Cartesianism in the university curriculum. I will also use this opportunity to talk a bit about the shortcomings of using translations, since the translation contained in our anthology contains some misleading errors.

In addition to Vico's text, I've selected three secondary articles, the first two of which provide important historical background. As you can see from the title of the first, Barnouw's article provides us an opportunity to revisit Bacon (after all, our first visit was rather brief). And as you can see from the title of Levine's article, it locates Vico's thinking within the "quarrel between the ancients and moderns," an idea we first encountered in Bruns's "What Is Tradition?" Finally, in his article, the Italian philosopher Ernesto Grassi is less interested in history than in using Vico's ideas to remodel contemporary philosophy. He adopts Vico's basic position from On the Study Methods of Our Time and argues that contemporary philosophy should reject its Cartesian inheritance and be re-conceived as a "topical," or rhetorical philosophy.

Required - Primary

Required - Secondary


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Dr. James N. Comas (James.Comas@mtsu.edu)
Middle Tennessee State University
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