Vico and modern scientism

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The aspect of Giambattista Vico's work most relevant to contemporary debates is the one least addressed in the often brilliant scholarship on his work. We hear of the verum/factum distinction, his work on roman law, his theories of rhetoric, and his cyclical view of history, but his critique of scientism (as distinct from the natural sciences, to which he was drawn) receives little attention. this critique of scientism - the sterile rationalism of the deductive method, the application of natural laws to cultural facts, the invasion of scientific methods into humanist inquiry - took the form not only of a famous set of one-sided debates with Descartes, Spinoza, and locke, but in his philosophical challenge to the "paralogisms" (Vico, Opere 1.145) of the major figures of the scientific enlightenment. In a period like our own that seeks alternative intellectual traditions to undergird new political and ethical turns, Vico is the original enfant terrible confronting today's scientistic incursions into literary theory (surface reading, distant reading) as well as the posthuman strains of science studies itself (Hayles, latour). By contrast, he offers us a concise argument for the impossibility of any science that does not account for the civic origins of all inquiry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)129-142
Number of pages14
JournalItalian Culture
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 2017


  • Civic theology
  • General intellect
  • Labor
  • Materialism
  • Modern epicureanism
  • Modern stoicism
  • Scientism
  • The posthuman


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