The Enlightenment at the Margins: Giving Place to William Blake and Giambattista Vico

Opposition is true Friendship -William Blake

What is Enlightenment? At the end of the age of the Enlightenment, Immanuel Kant was asked this question. His answer: enlightenment is the release from self- imposed tutelage; it is the release that comes through the daring to know (1). Enlightenment as release, however, as Kant knew well, is different from an enlightened age, or even for that matter, from an age of Enlightenment. The enlightenment of which Kant speaks centers on the individual and his or her ability to transcend the circumstances of history. It is an historical transcendence that is also a self-transcendence and which paradoxically discovers the self as free only as there is the simultaneous discovery of the self as historically conditioned and morally obligated. For Kant, therefore, the answer to the question of enlightenment comes through the reflection on the present and the freedom the individual discovers once situated in the fundamental contingency of existence.

In a response to Kant's essay on the Enlightenment, Michel Foucault argues that Kant's rallying cry, "Dare to know!" is the emblematic phrase of the Enlightenment as an attitude that is not confined to an historical period. Foucault writes that the distinctive mark of the Enlightenment, given expression by Kant, "has to be conceived as an attitude, an ethos, a philosophical life in which the critique of what we are is at one and the same time the historical analysis of the limits that are imposed on us and an experiment with the possibilities of going beyond them" (50). For Foucault, then, enlightenment is a critical attitude that is both an historical analysis and a transgressive experiment. This critical attitude, Foucault argues, is the singular achievement of eighteenth-century thought, and Kant's essay which answers the question posed to him concerning the nature of the age, is the singular expression of that achievement. That is not to say that there were not those either before or after Kant who do not also give such critical attention to the question of the nature of the present age, but none with such focus, none with such insight, and most of all, none with such dare. Put otherwise, Kant's essay stands out not simply because of the question it addressed, but that he asked and addressed it with precisely the daring attitude which characterizes the age. Therefore, "Dare to know!" is an age that is even more an attitude that culminates in the radicality of a pervasive criticism turned back on itself. From science, to religion, to politics, and beyond, no form of institutional life was left unchallenged.

Yet what becomes of a period that ends with an attitude that subjects its revolutionary beginnings to questions? One obvious response, suggested by Foucault, is that the end of the Enlightenment is not its end, that as long as questions persists, together with the longing they embody, the age of Enlightenment, which remains only an anticipation of an enlightened age, perseveres as the ghost of the contemporary consciousness. The Enlightenment, therefore, ends with a reconsideration of its beginning, a rethinking of its present, and yet still is marked by that daring attitude that envisions a promising future.

That the Enlightenment is a critical attitude on the present that anticipates a future and acknowledges an indebtedness to a past is, admittedly, a generous reading of the Enlightenment, but by such an approach, those thinkers who stand on the margins of the age find their place. Two such thinkers are the English poet, artist, and engraver, William Blake, and the Italian rhetorician and philosopher, Giambattista Vico. The visionary Blake looked towards the future by fashioning a new mythology in which he inhabited a present of his own making. Vico, on the other hand, reconstructed a history, which rendered the taken for granted present as a contingent after-effect of structural possibilities. In Foucault's terms, Blake is the transgressive experimentalist looking forward to the world as possibility, while Vico is the historical analyst looking backward in the search for origins. Though both are historically situated in the period of the Enlightenment, each in his own way brings to question the unified spirit of the age. This paper will examine both in turn and then return to the question with which we, along with many before us, began--namely, 'What is Enlightenment?' That Kant's dare to know finds expression in such idiosyncratic figures as Blake and Vico suggests that the Enlightenment attitude is more diverse than traditionally recognized. Specifically, Blake's creative forward look and Vico's hermeneutic look at the past remind us that Kant's articulation of an age is not one left simply to itself in its present, but that the Enlightenment present is built by a past that gives sense and meaning to its future hope. As one Vico scholar notes, "A study of a thinker leads to a new understanding of the time in which he or she wrote. An understanding of Vico [and Blake] leads to a redefinition of the Enlightenment" (Miller 638).

Blake: The Transgressive Experimentalist

William Blake (1757-1827) does not fit the expected profile of an Enlightenment thinker. For much of his life he lived in poverty. He survived on the money he earned not as a writer or an artist, but as a tradesman. He was self-taught. And at the time of his marriage, his wife could neither read nor write. Blake's poetry did not enjoy a wide readership during his lifetime. He lived in relative obscurity in a city that had grown strange to him by the spread of industry. But more than any thing else, Blake's existence was one of isolation, an isolation that Alfred Kazin describes as "absolute:" "It was the isolation of a mind that sought to make the best of heaven and earth, in the image of neither. It was isolation of a totally different kind of human vision; of an unappeasable longing for the integration of man, in his total nature, with the universe." Kazin continues:

Blake was a lyric poet interested chiefly in ideas, and a painter who did not believe in nature. He was a commercial artist who was a genius in poetry, painting, and religion. He was a libertarian obsessed with God; a mystic who reversed the mystical pattern, for he sought man [sic] as the end of his search. He was a Christian who hated the churches; a revolutionary who abhorred the materialism of the radicals. He was a drudge, sometimes living on a dollar a week, who called himself 'a mental prince'; and was one. (2-3)

In genuine Blakean fashion, Kazin focuses on the inner man of Blake, his imagination, his vision, which set him apart, and which secluded him in an absolute isolation of his own making.

While isolated, indeed, Blake was never completely cut off, for he still lived in a world, in a culture, and in a city. [1] That city was London during the onset of the Industrial Revolution. The culture was at the peak of the Age of Reason, the most radical of times when the Enlightenment attitude had come into its own and given birth to a revolutionary spirit that shook the very social and political foundations of the Western world. Blake's world was like that of Charles Dickens. Indeed, it was both the best and worst of times. It was a time of great economic prosperity, the growth of industry and the wealth of nations. Art flourished with the musical genius of Beethoven, the creation of the novel, and monumental works in philosophy. Simultaneously, people were uprooted from their homes and moved to the great cities were jobs were scarce, housing inadequate, and disease and poverty rampant. The spread of industry had transformed the landscape right before Blake's eyes. Blake lived in a time and in a city that was at the center of it all. Thus, while his isolation was due in great part to his unique imaginative vision, his experience in that particular world and culture funded his mind with the images and ideas that could not help but to inform his life and work. [2] Blake was in the world but not of it, and his art and poetry betray a longing for a vision that would make this world his home.

That longing found expression in at least three way in Blake's work. First, Blake saw poetry as that which gives expression to the prophetic, the expansive, and the true. Poetry is creative; it speaks the truth of the infinite desire of the inner life of the human. It is not bound by experience, but instead, through its vision, it renders experience infinite. The poetic genius is the truth of humanity, but that is a truth from which the human is cut off and bound by the self-imposed limits of the senses. In the work entitled, "There is no Natural Religion," Blake concludes, "If it were not for the Poetic or Prophetic character the Philosophic and Experimental would soon be at the ratio of all things, and stand still, unable to do other than repeat the same dull round over again" (77). But as Blake's poetic vision testifies to, the world of experience is not confined to the same again and again, because there is a perception that is "more than sense . . . can discover" (78). This more of sense is the measure of poetry. It is that which continues to cry "More! More!", hoping for satisfaction, giving name to desire, layering name upon name in an ever-expanding accumulation that finally bears forth the truth that "less than All cannot satisfy Man" (78). For Blake, poetry sees the infinite and the poetic vision allows humanity to see itself. Poetry, then, is a creation that is also a revealing of the inner sense hid by a world more and more determined by industry. Poetry is creation that is prophetic because it speaks the truth of the unlimited human longing for the infinite.

Second, Blake's longing for a world that would be his home is expressed by his attempt at achieving a unity of creation. It is a unity that joins word and image, image and color, and creation and craftsmanship. In fact, more than anything else, it is this achievement of Blake that sets him against the stream of the Enlightenment. In an essay entitled, "William Blake Rejects the Enlightenment," Jean Hagstrum writes:

Blake's rejection of enlightened Europe is expressed in poem, design, fiery epigram, and angry comments on the margins of books. . . . Though it is nowhere reasoned out, it is not therefore intellectually despicable. Quite the contrary, Blake's position has living nerve and muscle, that bind all its members together in organic unity. . .

But though Blake's rejection of the Enlightenment is conceptually firm and consistent, it is his artistic embodiment of meaning that ought to command the attention of the twentieth century. For even though we may reject Blake's rejection on philosophical grounds, his achievement as poet- painter is inescapable. (76)

What Blake achieved in the unity of his creation was the embodiment of his highly stylized, richly textured vision. As has already been said, Blake's poetic words were creative and revelatory at once, and not by chance but by intention, an intentionality that was only reinforced by the prints that housed the words on pages of rich colors, concrete images, and elaborate, intricate, and imaginative designs, apart from which the words are incomplete. As Kazin writes, "Blake was artist and poet; he designed his poems to form a single picture" (16-17). We have, then, poem as picture, together with creation and revelation. In Blake's poems, that were also images that were designed by himself and products of his own craftsmanship, there is a longing for a unity that, like the isolation of a man set apart from his time, was absolute. Blake conceives of his poetry and his books as beautiful by their unity which is a longing for completion. Like name layered on name, image is piled on image, page after page, until finally even the most stubborn reader is forced to acknowledge that something other, something more, is going on in Blake's works. The unity of the other of word and image, art and craft, genius and skill, is the more of the senses that recalls us again to that inner sense which exposes humanity to its infinite longing for nothing more or less than the all.

The pages of Blake's books are each constituents of the creation of a world. In this world of Blake's creation, there is a profound inner-relatedness that builds upon itself to the point of its completion. But this unity of creation that strives for completion was not for its own sake, but rather windows that opened up one's vision to the world. In Blake, therefore, worlds were created as windows, but only for the sake of the world. "He wrote and drew," Kazin writes, "as he lived, from a fathomless inner window, in an effort to make what was deepest and most invisible capturable by the mind of man. Then he used the thing created--the poem, the picture, joined in their double vision--as a window in itself, through which to look to what was still beyond. 'I look through the eye,' he said, 'not with it'" (21).

Third, like the unity of his creation, Blake also perceived the unity of the religious. That is to say, in Blake's vision of religion, there is innocence and also experience, good and also evil, reason and also energy, and God as well as the devil. Religion is that which incorporates into a unity while maintaining the distinctiveness of each particular. It is the tension of the concrete that can never be resolved by a sublation, an erasure, or even a privileging of any sort. [3] Religion is the marriage between Heaven and Hell, a marriage, like any marriage, that is not without strife. But as Blake notes, "Jesus Christ did not wish to unite, but to separate them, as in the Parable of sheep and goats! and he says: 'I came not to send Peace, but a Sword'" (259). By Blake's vision of religion, we find ourselves situated again in the in-between. Where we stand now, the Devil speaks and we listen, because "energy is eternal delight" (251). But so too does God, and we listen, and respond. That response itself is a creation by its creative refashioning of a world that has grown strange by the confines of a culture that makes a single way the ratio of all. The religious vision of Blake is the unity of extremes, the forward looking progression of contraries so that opposites find their place and the genius of Blake can find a home.

Vico: The Historical Analyst

If Blake's work betrays a longing for a home, Giambattista Vico (1668-1744) [4] represents a redirection of Blake's imaginative vision. This is not to suggest a necessary connection between the two Enlightenment figures, especially not one that conceives of Vico in response to Blake, for indeed, not only were the two separated by culture, language, and occupation, but by the time of Vico's death, Blake had not even been born. Yet still, Blake's creative drive and orientation to the promise of the future were in certain respects emblematic of the Enlightenment age. In fact, it is because Blake shared much with, and was indebted to, the Enlightenment sensibility that he was able to situate himself and his work in the margins of what is sometimes thought to be a unified cultural and philosophical movement. As was shown earlier, Blake was isolated but not completely cut off, for his isolation was only relative to his already being in a world that failed to correspond to his vision of possibility. Thus, Blake's dissatisfaction with the world of his age led to his artistic endeavor at the fashioning of a new one. Vico, on the other hand, obsessed himself not with the vision of what could be, but rather with what is now, and why and how it came to be as it is. This makes Vico no less creative or imaginative than Blake, only his energies were directed elsewhere and thus he represents a counter trajectory to Blake.

This difference between these two anomalous Enlightenment figures is all the more interesting when one considers how their distinctions in regard to each other are often times overlooked by being lumped together as exemplars of the counter- Enlightenment tradition. According to this strand of scholarship, both Vico and Blake are thought of as standing over against the dominant rationalist paradigm of the Enlightenment. Yet what this paper has demonstrated with Blake and hopes to do with Vico, is that each of them both belongs and does not belong to the Enlightenment. If the age of the Enlightenment were thought of simply as a period, then the question of whether and to what extent they belonged to the Enlightenment would come easily. But this ease would also come at a cost of our understanding the continuing legacy of the Enlightenment as an attitude that continues to inform and shape our orientation to reality. Therefore, with Blake, we can assert that the Enlightenment attitude finds expression in the creation of a world in which one hopes to find a home. And with Vico, that there are diverse worlds currently inhabited that come to be by different origins, yet there remains the possibility to seek a common ground in history as hermeneutics.

In the analysis of Vico that follows, we will focus on three insights that find expression in Vico's New Science: (1) Like Blake, Vico gives a special significance to poetry. This represents a counter-trend to the Enlightenment's valorization of reason. Unlike Blake, Vico's stress on poetry is as a hermeneutical key that allows for understanding in the search for origins. (2) Like Blake, Vico understands that the understanding must incorporate the more of sense. Again, this runs counter to the Enlightenment and its trust in the sciences. Vico's understanding, by contrast, does not take for granted the sense given at a particular time and place as self-evident. And in distinction from Blake, while Blake stresses the unity of understanding through the unity of his creation, Vico stresses the unity of the understanding through the unity of interpretation which incorporates the vast array of forms of cultural and institutional life. (3) Like Blake, Vico gives priority to the importance of religion. While many during the period of the Enlightenment were attacking religion as superstition, both Blake and Vico understood it as fundamental in the creation of meaning. Unlike Blake who looks to religion as the unity of opposites and the progression that comes through contraries, Vico looks back to religion as that which originally gives sense to becoming human.

The question of Vico and poetry is wrapped up in the broader category of Vico and language which itself is tied to Vico's understanding of the periods of human history. That is to say, language is made in history even as it participates in the making and transforming of history from one period to the next. The periods of human history that Vico borrows from the ancient Egyptians are, first, the age of Gods, next, the age of heroes, and finally, the age of humanity. The language that corresponds to each are, first, the mute language of signs and physical objects. Second is the language of similitudes, comparisons, images, and metaphors. And third comes the ordinary language of public discourse (20-21). By utilizing this periodization of history and its corresponding understanding of language, Vico has already complicated the task of the interpretation of historical texts. Now what is required for the particular understanding of a given text is the more general understanding of the historical period in which it was written and to which it was addressed. In other words, Vico has raised the question of hermeneutics and has anticipated the post-Enlightenment concern with the circular nature of history and interpretation.

By this rather sophisticated understanding of history as hermeneutics, Vico brings the reader to the controlling methodology of his new science--namely, "Doctrines must take their beginning from that of the matters of which they treat" (92). This methodology itself rests on an even more basic understanding of the nature of reality, which Vico asserts when he writes, "Things do not settle or endure out of their natural state" (62). The task, then, that Vico sets for himself in his hermeneutical exercise, is to determine the all important starting point, that is, the beginnings of language, history, and humanity. Only by an understanding of the beginning can one rightly identify the natural state out of which words were given their sense and meaning and humanity were given their origins. Vico's new science, then, is a search for origins, a search that traces back through the history of language the origins out of which language and humanity first came to be. The history of language is not confined to language alone, but also tells the story of the whole history of human relations which includes the reflection on the "public moral institutions or civil customs, by which the nations have come into being and maintain themselves in the world" (5).

Where, then, does language, and by implication, all of human history, begin? We have already seen, according to Vico, that the first language corresponding to the age of the gods was the mute, hieroglyphic language that was communicated exclusively by the exchange of physical objects and the signs of bodies in relation with one another. The original language, then, was no language at all if one understands by language the possibility of verbal communication. What the original language did accomplish was to situate bodies of people together; it began the creation of the world of human institutions, and also, set in motion the making of the human. Interestingly, according to Vico, before language as verbal communication there were nations, conceived of as bodies of people mutually dependent upon one another through the structures of institutions. Language as words comes only after the founding of nations. As Vico says, there are laws before there are letters (39), and "the order of ideas must follow the order of institutions" (78).

What follows the birth of the nations is the birth of language, now differently understood by its different means of communication. Language is no longer mute, but finds verbal expression in similitudes, comparisons, images, and metaphors. Language is now symbolic and finds its beginning in poetry. That poetry was the original spoken language is the hermeneutical key that opened the door for understanding in Vico's search for origins. He writes of its importance:

We find that the principle of these origins both of languages and of letters lies in the fact that the first gentile peoples, by a demonstrated necessity of nature, were poets who spoke in poetic characters. This discovery, which is the master key of this Science, has cost us the persistent research of almost all our literary life, because with our civilized natures we [moderns] cannot at all imagine and can understand only by great toil the poetic nature of these first men. (21-22)

When reading Vico on the importance of understanding the poetic nature, one is reminded of Blake and his implicit critique of the limited and limiting empiricism of the modern age. For both Vico and Blake, the poetic word is marked by the vitality of the power of creation. It is poetry which expands the notion of sense, which breaks free from the ordinary and points to possibilities otherwise unimagined. The difference between Vico and Blake on this point is that Vico situates the poetic word at the beginning of human history, but a beginning that has never left and never ended. The importance of poetry for Vico is that the appreciation of the poetic nature of human origins lends understanding to the continuity of history and provides the possibility of finding a common ground in spite of the diversity of languages, cultures, and institutions.

Already, then, we have shown how Vico incorporates the more of sense in his effort at understanding human history. Like Blake, Vico seeks to expand human understanding and, to a certain extent, this effort necessitates a transgression of the confines of an Enlightenment epistemology. For Blake, this transgression comes in the form of the unity of his creation--that is, the bringing together of word and image in the pages of the books put together by his own craftsmanship. For Vico, there is a unity and bringing together of a different sort, one that challenges the most fundamental notion of the philosophies of the Enlightenment--namely, the thinking self as self-evident. [5]

Beginning with Descartes, philosophy had taken on a new trajectory, from philosophies of being to philosophies of consciousness. [6] Through Descartes' method of doubt, all knowledge was rendered questionable except for the knowledge of the self which is a thing which thinks. After Descartes, the thinking self becomes the arbiter of reality and the foundation from which knowledge of any sort is even possible. Epistemology becomes the central and prevailing concern of Enlightenment philosophies and the quest for a philosophical ground that is stable and secure shapes all that follows. Vico, however, is alert to the dominance of this line of thinking, as he is to the self- contradiction it entails. In his autobiography he writes of Descartes, "The rule and criterion of truth is to have made it. Hence the clear and distinct idea of the mind not only cannot be the criterion of other truths, but it cannot be the criterion of that of the mind itself; for while the mind apprehends itself, it does not make itself, and because it does not make itself it is ignorant of the form or mode by which it apprehends itself" (136).

To put Vico's point in language more consistent with the New Science, if the self as mind is the arbiter of reality, what becomes of the self--and by extension, reality--when the human is conceived of not only as maker but also as being made by his or her participation in the forms of institutional life. Vico describes his project as a search for origins, as the determination of things in their natural state. Also, he states again and again the importance the beginning plays in the nature of things. That the beginning of human beings reveals a becoming of humanity shows the fundamental inadequacy of a Cartesian anthropology by rendering the philosophical ground once thought stable, secure, and indubitable as an after-thought of the whole of human history. The historical character of humanity is that it is in history that humans find their origin and through history that humans participate in the fashioning of the world. In an essay entitled, "Vico and the End of History," Patrick Hutton writes, "History is our lot, not our way to salvation. To put it another way, our destiny is to strive to be reconciled to our history. While we cannot free ourselves from the struggles in which we are historically immersed, history gives us the freedom to create a human world in the process. Thus, Vico reaffirmed the historical character of the human condition" (556). What Vico has accomplished is the resituating of the human within a complex web of human relationships. He has demonstrated the truth of the human as both the maker and product of history. And he has shown that the reason the human is is because nature is always becoming natural as humanity interacts with the forms of its institutional and cultural life that originally gave it birth.

Finally, we have come to the question of Vico and religion. Like Blake, Vico has neither a simple notion of religion as morality, nor a conception of God uncomplicated by the vicissitudes of history. For Vico, religion is that which remains at the end of his backward search for origins. Religion was the first of the three human institutions (97). The religious language of fables and myths were the original language of poetry. Religion is humanity's immediate nature by its proximity to human origins. Religion, like poetry, is formed by the passions and comes before philosophical reflection. Religion, through the poetic word, gives the sense to the human race, without which human existence would simply be meaningless (109-110). And finally, it is "religion alone [that] has the power to make us practice virtue. . . And piety sprang from religion, which properly is fear of divinity" (176).

Why is it that religion is given this privileged status in Vico's New Science? Because it is only religion that accounts for the uniformity of human history. Indeed, for Vico, "God . . . is naught else than eternal order" (214). Vico has chronicled a diversity of human origins, and yet still claims a common ground that unites them all, a common ground of divine ordering. The proof of such an ordering is in the structure of human history that continually reoccurs in spite of the variances and particularities of a given history:

for a divine argument which embraces all human institutions, no sublimer proofs can be desired than the [three] just mentioned: the naturalness [of the means], the [unfolding institutive] order [in which they are employed], and the end [thereby served], which is the preservation of the human race. (102-103)

The importance of religion for Vico is the importance of its place in the beginnings of humanity. It brings us again to the controlling methodology with which we began our study of Vico--namely, that doctrines must begin where the matters they treat begin. The matter of Vico's New Science is the becoming of human beings, thus the search for human origins through a history as hermeneutics. The end result of such a method is the practice of wisdom, "since wisdom," Vico writes, "in its broad sense is nothing but the science of making use of things as their nature dictates" (94). Religion dictates human nature by its being the original sense of a humanity always becoming.

What is Enlightenment?

We have said that Enlightenment is an attitude that critically reflects on the present through the means of transgressive experimentation and historical analysis. William Blake and Giambattista Vico are two figures during the age of the Enlightenment that do not quite fit the dominant sensibility. Yet both demonstrated not only the dare to know, but even more, the dare to create, the dare to fashion and refashion the world in which they were situated. Blake's creation was through poetry, art, and craft. He transgressed the empirical rationalism of the Enlightenment by giving body to his words through image and color. There was unity to his work that exposed a longing for a more complete accounting of the human condition, one free from, among other things, the confines of industrialization and urbanization. That longing also found expression in Blake's fashioning of a mythology through which one finds images of a world more hospitable to an isolated genius.

Vico's creation was achieved in his search for origins by the means of his hermeneutics of history. Through this hermeneutics, Vico discovered the origins of humanity in institutions and cultures, and thus paved the way for a renewed appreciation of the historical character of humanity. Key to this discovery was the realization that poetry was the original spoken language, and that the ancient poetry gives expression to the beginnings of humanity in religion. For Vico, the beginning of a thing determines its nature, because the beginning is an ongoing becoming. That the nature of the Enlightenment is best expressed in its daring attitude, reminds us of its possibility continually to recreate itself as it anticipates alternative futures and refashions the making of its past. That Blake and Vico run counter to much of what one expects when one thinks of the Enlightenment, only recalls us again to question the nature of the Enlightenment's beginning. That Vico renders Descartes beginning as an after-thought of historical possibilities points to the possibility of a different future to the Enlightenment, a future, perhaps, that might give those like Blake and Vico a home.


[1] Jean H. Hagstrum writes, "Blake must never be regarded as a cultural orphan, living out his days in solitary anger, hostile to the society in which he was bred. He was deeply involved in what he rejected. The man who mounted the fiercest, longest, and most effective attack on the neoclassical and enlightenment establishment ever made always revealed the mark of his origin in the age of Johnson" (67).

[2] For an extended reading of Blake's writings as a response to and informed by his contemporary situation, see the landmark work by David V. Erdman, Prophet against Empire: A Poet's Interpretation of the History of His Own Times.

[3] Harold Bloom writes, "His doctrine of image of contraries is his own, and the analogues in Heraclitus or in Blake's own contemporary, Hegel, are chiefly interesting as contrasts. For Heraclitus, Good and Evil were one; for Blake they were not the inseparable halves of the same thing, but merely born together, as Milton had believed. For Hegel, opposites were raised to a higher power when they were transcended by synthesis; for Blake, opposites remained creative only so long as each remained immanent" (76).

[4] Not to neglect the importance of the biographical in the making of Vico, I borrow the following from Mark Lilla: "The audience for his own philosophical writings--on metaphysics, jurisprudence, and finally a 'new science concerning the common nature of the nations'--hardly extended beyond Naples during his lifetime. He admired Leibniz and Newton as 'the two foremost minds of our age,' but all his efforts to engage their pan-European intellectual circles ended in bitter, embarrassing failure. He died at home in poverty and obscurity, a provincial curiosity having left no apparent trace on the European thought of his time" (32-33).

[5] Isaiah Berlin has identified seven "time-defying notions" that Vico articulated as alternatives to this fundamental notion of Enlightenment philosophy. Mark Lilla expresses them as follows: "that human nature is changeable, and that humans themselves contribute to this change; that man only knows what he creates; that therefore the human sciences are distinct from and superior to the natural sciences; that cultures are wholes, that cultures are created essentially through self-expression; that art is a major form of such expression; and that we may come to understand the expressions of other cultures, in the present or the past, through the exercise of reconstructive imagination" (Lilla 35).

[6] See Jurgen Habarmas.

Works Cited

Blake, William. The Portable Blake. Ed. Alfred Kazin. New York: Penguin Books, 1976.

Bloom, Harold. Blake's Apocalypse: A Study in Poetic Argument. Garden City: Anchor Books, 1965.

Erdman, David. V. Prophet against Empire: A Poet's Interpretation of the History of His Own Times. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1954.

Foucault, Michel. "What is Enlightenment?" The Foucault Reader. Ed. Paul Rabinow. New York: Pantheon, 1984.

Habarmas, Jurgen. The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity: Twelve Lectures. Trans. Frederick G. Lawrence. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1996.

Hagstrum, Jean H. "William Blake Rejects the Enlightenment." Critical Essays on William Blake. Ed. Hazard Adams. Boston: G. K. Hall and Company, 1991.

Hutton, Patrick H. "Vico and the End of History." Historical Reflections 22 (Fall 1996).

Kant, Immanuel. "What is Enlightenment?" The Portable Enlightenment Reader. Ed. Isaac Kramnick. New York: Penquin Books, 1995. 1-6.

Kazin, Alfred. Introduction. The Portable Blake.

Lilla, Mark. "G. B. Vico: The Antimodernisit." The Wilson Quarterly 27 (Summer 1993).

Miller, Cecilia. "Interpretations and Misinterpretations of Vico." Historical Reflections 3 (Fall 1996).

Vico, Giambattista. The Autobiography of Giambattista Vico. Trans. Max Harold Fisch and Thomas Goddard Bergin. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993.

________. The New Science of Giambattista Vico: Unabridged translation of the Third Edition (1744) with the additon of "Practic of the New Science". Trans. Thomas Goddard Bergin and Max Harold Fisch. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1984.

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