Volume 16, 2008
Alexander L. Gungov
Vico’s Critique of Descartes’ Cognitive and Moral Optimism
The purpose of the present essay is to explain how the basic notions of Modern philosophy, forming Descartes’ optimistic attitude towards knowledge and human relations, were altered in order to be critically implemented into Vico’s more sober teaching. Several decades after Descartes took up the fight against skepticism, an Italian thinker, Giambattista Vico, critically approached the Cartesian project of Modernity. While Descartes believed that the essence of a human being consists in applying reason properly and using free will according to its guidance in order to achieve the greatest success in science, mathematics, and philosophy, Vico insisted that human imagination and ingenuity ought to be directed to the humanities and legal studies and should aim at practical results. This was the eighteenth century Humanistic reply to Descartes.