What was unusual about Vico’s autobiography?

Counter-Enlightenment Figures Read more from
Chapter The Enlightenment Period

Vico told the story of his life, Life of Giambattista Vico Written by Himself (1725–1728), in the third person, and he analyzed both the effect of his circumstances on his temperament and how his ideas developed before he began writing. His autobiography is thus his intellectual history. Here is how it begins:

Signor Giambattista Vico, he was born in Naples in the year 1670 of upright parents, who left behind them a very good reputation. The father was of cheerful humor, the mother of a quite melancholy temper; and both came together in the fair disposition of this little son of theirs. As a boy he was very lively and restless; but at the age of seven he fell headfirst from high on a ladder to the floor, and remained a good five hours motionless and senseless, fracturing the right side of the cranium without breaking the skin, hence from the fracture arose a shapeless tumor, and from the many deep lancings of it the child lost a great deal of blood; such that the surgeon, having observed the broken cranium and considering the long state of unconsciousness, made the prediction that he would either die of it or he would survive stolid. However, neither of the two parts of this judgment, by the grace of God, came true; but as a result of this illness and recovery he grew up, from then on, with a melancholy and acrid nature which necessarily belongs to ingenious and profound men, who through ingenuity flash like lightning in acuity, through reflection take no pleasure in witticism and falsity.


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