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Vico, Giambattista (1688–1744)

The theories of law and society developed by the Neapolitan philosopher Giambattista Vico were responses to the rationalist, ahistorical thinking dominant in his day, such as the philosophies of René Descartes (1596–1650) and Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679) and the natural law theories of Hugo Grotius (1583–1645), Samuel Pufendorf (1632–1694), and John Selden (1584–1654).

In his critique of Descartes, Vico went beyond his early pedagogical writings, those of a typical Renaissance humanist, to adopt a principle delimiting human knowing to the things that humans had made themselves, and identified mathematics as a human construct. A reading of Grotius led to the insight that making was not an intellectual act, but took place in sociohistorical practices, and that law and custom were human creations that were even more ...

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