In this important essay, Joseph Mali argues that Vico's New Science must be interpreted according to Vico's own clues and rules of interpretation, principally his claim that the 'master-key' of his New Science is the discovery of myth. Following this lead Mali shows how Vico came to forge his new scientific theories about the mythopoeic constitution of consciousness, society, and history by reappraising, or 'rehabilitating' the ancient and primitive mythical traditions which still persist in modern times. He further relates Vico's (...) radical redefinition of these traditions as the 'true narrations' of all religious, social, and political practices in the 'civil world' to his unique historical depiction of Western civilisation as evolving in a-rational and cyclical motions. On this account, Mali elaborates the wider, distinctly 'revisionist', implications of Vico's New Science for the modern human sciences. He argues that inasmuch as the New Science exposed the linguistic and other cultural systems of the modern world as being essentially mythopoeic, it challenges not only the Christian and Enlightenment ideologies of progress in his time, but also the main cultural ideologies of our time. (shrink)
Jules Michelet: Vico and the origins of nationalism -- James Joyce: Vico and the origins of modernism -- Erich Auerbach: Vico and the origins of historism -- Isaiah Berlin: Vico and the origins of pluralism.
The ArgumentDuring the last two decades the debate on the use and abuse of narrative in historiography has taken a new form: ideological instead of methodological. According to poststructuralist critics, the representation of past events and processes in the form of a coherent story turns history into mythology, which is (or serves) conservative ideology. This is so because the fabrication of organic continuity and unity between the past and the present (as well as the future) of society depicts its most (...) fundamental laws and institutions as divine-natural rather than human creations and thereby renders them impervious to any rational or historical refutation. The main aim of this essay is to reclaim some credibility for narrative history against its critics, both ancient and modern, and on both methodological and ideological grounds, by reappraising the role of myth in the constitution of all norms and forms of life. Setting out from the observation that the narratives and other symbolic interpretations of historical reality in which the people believe are as real as the conditions and events in which they actually live, the author calls upon historians not to eliminate, but to illuminate, myths in history, by showing their extension or configuration of historical reality. (shrink)
The ArgumentScience consists in progress by innovation. Scientists, however, are committed to all kinds of traditions that persist or recur in society regardless of intellectual and institutional changes. Merton's thesis about the origins of the scientific revolution in seventeenth-century England offers a sociohistorical confirmation of this revisionist view: the emergence of a highly rational scientific method out of the religious-ethical sentiments of the English Puritans implies that scientific knowledge does indeed grow out of – and not really against – customary (...) modes of thought.In tracing the intellectual origins of this view back to the religious controversy between Protestants and Catholics, the essay demonstrates that the essential conflict between them with regard to natural science stemmed from their antagonistic conceptions of tradition and its function in the production of genuineknowledge– of religious as well as of natural affairs. Whereas the Protestants believed only in those truths that are immediately revealed by God to each man through his reason, the Catholics adhered to truths that are related to men or “made” by them through culture and history. (shrink)