Giambattista Vico‘s concept of the Heroic Mind forms the pedagogical basis for his view of the liberal arts in university education. It is also the key to understanding his humanist critique of Cartesian epistemology. This essay studies Vico’s Heroic Mind concept as revealed in his 1732 De mente heroica Oration, discusses the nature of Vico’s challenge to Descartes’ view of the human person and of knowledge, and points out the development of Vico’s ideas on mind, education, and knowledge from his earlier works. Vico’s writings not only offer a portrait ofeighteenth century European intellectual and cultural thought, but also prophesy the change, disruption, and dehumanization that result from the exaggerated emphases on rationality as the end of all knowledge divorced from other physical, emotional, natural, or historical contingencies and from a neglect of the de mente heroica concept at the foundation of the humanistic world view. His understanding of the state of learning, wisdom, and culture in his own age as well as his exposure to the aversion of the Cartesian mathematical paradigm which discounted the Heroic Mind issues forth in an understanding of the forces driving modern technological society and the problems plaguing contemporary consciousness and life. He has influenced and inspired much modern thinking in sociology, politics, anthropology, language, pedagogy, literature, psychology, and even science. It is the concept of the historical and cultural evolution of the Heroic Mind which Vico passionately pursued in his monumentally creative The New Science.
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