vicoVico is the first developer of western philosophy.  He is also the first to develop a view of history as an attempt to explain human existence.  According to Vico, man makes history, and man is at the center of history.  The medieval world saw man as a part of nature, but Vico rejected that idea because he believed that man was a unique creation.  Vico also believed that history is the process by which man comes to be and man is the mover of history.  Man’s choice, not fate, is responsible for history.  Since man is responsible for history and his character is responsible for him, Vico said that in order to know man a historian must know man’s history.  History for Vico is the presence of the human subject.

Vico’s The New Science is important to modern historians and philosophers.  Vico showed the process of how human cultures emerged in time, closely relating ideas with language.  He also saw history as linear cycles with three phrases.  Based on his theories, Vico introduced comparative history because different societies could now be compared based on their cycles and phases.  Comparative history developed into a broad study including ancient histories, linguistics, mythology, sagas, and literature.

Vico did not like the Enlightenment because it centered on science and the idea of law.  Vico proved that natural law did not work.  He denied Cartesian philosophy and argued that philosophy based solely on reason is not worth anything.  Nature is not made understandable through philosophy but rather through man’s ideas and language.  Historicism began because of Vico’s work, forever changing the way people looked at history.

– Hannah S. Bowers