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Showing posts from August 15, 2010

Vico and the failure of the revolution of 1799

The Gnostic historian, like the universal historian, has a strong sense of epochs – which, as Bossuet pointed out in his essay on universal history, are stopping points, still moments that frame a sequence. They are in history and not in history. They are signaled by royal deaths, falls of empires, the rising of the son of god from the clutches of death, etc. Instead of the grand events that punctuate the march of universal history, however, the gnostic’s epochs happen in corner conversations, or in a glance at a sign in a window, or in the lyrics of a popular song. Herzen had a nose for these things – in his writing, one finds moments in which suddenly, the forces at dialectical play, usually disguised in a thousand blind intentions, suddenly become naked and twofold, under a harsh and unforgiving stage light. In his beautiful essay on Owen, the proto-socialist English radical, Herzen reports on a conversation Owen had with Gentz, in Herzen’s words, “the literary sycophant of Mettern

Vico and l'esprit geometrique

In the preface to his translation of Vico’s Le Méthode des études de notre temps, Alain Pons notices that Vico, in contrast to his opponent Descartes, recognizes the distinct cognitive and cultural and philosophical status of childhood and youth. “. It is doubtlessly in their respective attitude to childhood that best reveals the depths that separate Vico from Descartes. Descartes could not console himself from the fact that “we have all been children before being men, from which it is almost impossible that our judgments are as pure and solid as they could have been, if we had had the entire use of our reason from the instant of our birth and had never been led but by it. The Research of the Truth is even more explicit: “One of the principle causes why we have so much pain in knowing” is that, with the child, “the best comes last, which is understanding”, and that before this, for years, we remain given to the senses, “which see nothing beyond the most vulgar and common of things,” to