The Neapolitan Enlightenment

No, it has nothing to do with debt-collecting strategies of the Sopranos.  Rather it refers to the kind of book I dream ofThe Case for Enlightenment: Scotland and Naples 1680-1760, by John Robertson, compares the Neapolitan and Scottish Enlightenments.

There is Ferdinando Galiani, the brilliant midget who understood supply and demand, outlined subjective value theory, formulated an early version of the price-specie flow mechanism, and yet opposed freedom of the grain trade.

Antonio Genovesi held the first European chair of political economy.  He believed economic growth was the path to happiness.  No clergy were allowed in the post.

Giambattista Vico — well, where does one start?  History is cyclic, rhetoric is all-important, poetry is a primary source of knowledge, and the Cartesian method does not apply to the public sphere.  He believed, correctly, that the true wisdom of mankind could be received through a sufficiently deep reading of Homer.  The history of ideas is never quite the same after reading Vico. 

If you want to know how these people relate to Hume and Bayle, this is your book.  It does not go far enough or deep enough — why so little talk of Plato and the Gnostics? — but it is about time we can hold something like this in our hands.  In the meantime we should get this guy to publish his stuff.


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