Vico: “Man becomes all things by not understanding them.”


GiambattistaVicoI ran across this quotation from the Neapolitan philosopher Giambattista Vico (1668 – 1744) in Robert Pogue Harrison‘s new book Juvenescence – and I have been thinking about it ever since. I hope to give the book a fuller discussion later (although we included it briefly in a discussion here). Meanwhile, consider these provocative words from Vico a sort of down payment in a busy week:

So that, as rational metaphysics teaches that man becomes all things by understanding them … this imaginative metaphysics [of early humans] shows that man becomes all things by not understanding them … and perhaps the latter proposition is truer than the former, for when man understands he extends his mind and takes in the things, but when he does not understand he makes the things out of himself and becomes them by transforming himself into them.



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