Vico, Giambattista

Vico, Giambattista

biographical name

(born June 23, 1668, Naples—died Jan. 23, 1744, Naples) Italian philosopher of cultural history and law. In his major work, New Science (1725), he attempted to combine history and the more systematic social sciences into a single science of humanity. He described human societies as passing through stages of growth and decay. The first is a “bestial” condition, from which emerges “the age of the gods,” in which man is ruled by fear of the supernatural. “The age of heroes” is the consequence of alliances formed by family leaders to protect against internal dissent and external attack; in this stage, society is rigidly divided into patricians and plebeians. “The age of men” follows, as the result of class conflict in which the plebeians achieve equal rights, but this stage encounters the problems of corruption, dissolution, and a possible reversion to primitive barbarism. His work is recognized as a forerunner of cultural anthropology.

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